All over the country this year, figures hailing from the right wing of prophetic and charismatic Christianity have been appearing with candidates as part of a growing U.S. religious phenomenon that emphasizes faith healing, the idea that divine signs and wonders are everywhere, and spiritual warfare.
“For two millennia of church history, people have been claiming to be prophets,” said Matthew Sutton, a Washington State University historian of American religion who has focused on apocalyptic and charismatic Christians. “But it’s a new tactic in the United States for it to be part of waging culture war.”
What it’s meant to be a “prophet” has changed many times, but the term has typically been used as an adjective, not a noun, Sutton said; anyone might say something “prophetic” against sin or injustice. Most Christians in the United States, he said, have emphasized other spiritual roles mentioned in the Bible, such as “teacher” or “elder” — not “prophet” or “apostle,” which they believed ended with the biblical text. But in recent decades, some Americans have been resurrecting the title of prophet and giving it new meaning.