If you were Lou Engle, you would. He would call all of you Jezebel. In fact, he did last Tuesday night in St. Louis at a revival at the Gateway House of Prayer. As Wayne reported on Friday, Lou Engle and the team from TheCall are holding a series of revivals/schools every night from June 19 to July 12, open to the public. Thus, it was as a member of “the public” that I traveled to St. Louis on Tuesday to attend one of these sessions, alongside approximately two hundred of Engle’s faithful followers.
Most of the crowd was under thirty, and the striking thing was that most wouldn’t have looked out of place at Starbucks. They were suburban, to be sure, but there were also more than a few visible tattoos in the room. This is Lou Engle’s “Elijah Generation,” which represents a shift away from the overly coiffed, good-haired fundamentalist men of stereotype as well as reality. Quite frankly, I didn’t feel out of place, physically. However, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, it was soon made very clear that, though no one in the Gateway House of Prayer made so much as a move to speak to me or welcome me*, they considered me not only to be an enemy, but moreover one of the greatest threats to their well-being. This was disconcerting to experience as an adult, fully removed from the angst-ridden, closeted paranoia of my conservative Christian adolescence, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.
The evening began with a worship team leading the crowd in singing what some might call “songs,” for almost an hour and a half. However, they really weren’t “songs,” but more repetitive kindergarten-level chants. The praise leader would seize on a line like “I love you Jesus” or “Worthy is the lamb,” or a short, equally simple verse, and then lead the group in singing it over and over again, sometimes for more than ten minutes, before going seamlessly into another simple phrase and melody. The overall effect, I noticed, was a sort of hypnosis that fell over the crowd, as the young people in that room showed how serious they were about praising God by swaying, dancing, holding their hands in the air, and the like. Those in the front were the first to stand and sway and raise their hands, and, like a slow wave, the physical expression moved backward through the rows until it reached, and passed behind, me. The congregants would call this “The Holy Spirit,” perhaps, but really, it was just good old fashioned peer pressure. More than anything, the word that kept going through my head was “occult.” They were doing nothing less than going into ceremony, as Lou Engle’s bodyguard/bouncer kept a watchful eye from the front corner of the room, perhaps peering into the crowd for evidence of uninitiated outsiders or insiders not fully toeing the line.
Behave as a member of the tribe, or be discovered. And so I did, until Lou Engle finally stopped rocking back and forth in his seat in the front row and began to speak. I have embedded, in several segments, most of Lou Engle’s talk.** For each, I will summarize, analyze and comment on what was said, and the implications therein. If you’re pressed for time, I’m putting the most significant/egregiously awful quotes in bold print. The summary starts after the jump.
1. Lou Engle starts his message on the theme of governmental intercession, through prayer and fasting. He asserts at the beginning that he is a prophet, and not a teacher, which is telling, for several reasons. It shows that we’re dealing with a person who is not only delusional, but also not really a scholar of his chosen subject, the Bible. Engle introduces the story of Jezebel and Ahab, found in 1 Kings, to draw a parallel to modern times where, Engle believes, other Christians who he views as unorthodox are the root of most problems. On one side are Lou, his followers and like-minded people. He will later refer to them as the “Yahweh Separatists.” On the other is basically everyone else in the world, including most Christians, who he refers to as a “Jezebel” generation. He intones the call of the Calvinist reformers, “Sola Scriptura!“, which I think would probably amuse those old Calvinists, considering.
“If we’re struggling with a homosexual, same-sex desire, LET THE BIBLE KILL YOU, rather than make it easier for you, and say well, there must be a better scriptural answer to this … Brothers and sisters, let the Bible kill you rather than you twist the scriptures! And in that killing, it will break you so that you can find a redeemer and a savior! Oh, I believe there are those struggling with same-sex desires who will stand, having done everything to stand, and maybe they won’t find the deliverance they’ve been looking for, but they refuse to let the world dictate their theology; they’re gonna stand on the Bible. And they may go for thirty years in an agonizing struggle, but they go into heaven because they stood with God rather than standing with the ideologies of this world.”
This is the first of many egregiously offensive quotes from Engle’s talk, and it merits a moment’s examination. Engle will claim later in the talk that this sort of speech is symbolic, but I find that explanation to be lame for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the penalty for same sex (male) intercourse in Torah was indeed death. In some parts of the world, we have evolved past that sort of animal behavior, but in some places, we obviously have not. Uganda, for instance, from which Lou Engle just returned, and by some accounts, expressed support for the anti-gay genocide bill in that nation. This is the beginning of a pattern that runs rampant throughout Engle’s talk to his followers: Say something extremely violent, and then attempt to gloss over it or reframe it as something less violent and hateful. (This, as you will hear, also is occasionally followed by a third step: Openly worry about whether this is being taped.) So I believe it’s a fair criticism to point out that not only is Lou Engle invoking some of the most violent imagery in scripture, but is putting his feet on the ground and lending aid and comfort to people who are likely to act on that teaching in the most literal way possible.
Engle then proceeds to begin his explanation of why marriage equality is not a civil right, by invoking Isaiah 28, which mentions the “plumbline of righteousness.”
“You weigh every decision, say, for instance, the way you vote — OH, we’re getting political, Lou — God never abdicated one sphere of society to the Devil! It’s all his! Let me tell you, there’s gonna be…anyway.”
At this point, Engle catches himself, and chooses not to say more. He knows when he’s teetering close to the edge of Things He’s Not Supposed To Say. But, as you’ll see, Engle quite often comes back to this idea that everything that is, including the secular American government, is under the purview of God.
2. At the end of the last clip, Lou has begun talking about why gay rights are not civil rights. As we move into the second clip, he concedes that equal rights may “seem right,” but asserts that, when you align the idea of equal rights for all people with the “plumbline of righteousness,” equal rights don’t measure up. But note, again, that Lou is fully aware that he is teaching on the idea of CIVIL marriage rights. He hasn’t mentioned a word about those old Religious Right scare tactics of gays forcing churches to marry us, etc. He’s talking about the government, and why our secular government should deny equality to its citizens, based on his interpretation of the Bible. This is also his argument against abortion. In an almost mocking tone, he derides the idea of abortion having anything to do with women’s rights and autonomy, but explains that his interpretation of the Bible trumps that. Remember, again, though: Lou is a self-styled prophet, not a scholar.
“Voting is not just a political act! It is not just a choice that you make. It’s not some kind of decision. I’m shouting it. The Bible says that God gave Adam the responsibility to govern! From the beginning, man was given the government of the earth! Romans 13 says all government is derived from God’s government. It’s all delegated authority, and that those governors are to rule in such a way, in the fear of the Lord, Psalms chapter 2. So, if all government comes from God, then THE GOVERNMENT WE HAVE IN AMERICA IS FROM GOD! So, who is the government? Not Barack Obama! It’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Therefore, when you vote for those who shed innocent blood, you are making a governmental decision under the government of God! You are actually in the rebellion of Psalms 2! You will actually be held accountable for how you govern! We have to tremble in the voting booth. We should tremble in voting booths! You don’t choose a person because you feel good about him, or he feels like maybe he’s going to change the world, YOU VOTE ON THEIR STAND ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF BIBLICAL TRUTH! Because if you don’t, you’re actually handing the keys to people who have anti-Christ spirits! You are actually giving authority to someone who is in rebellion to God! … There is a higher government than the governments of men. We are a citizenship of heaven, and that citizenship of heaven influences everything we do, every decision in our lives. I want to stand before the Lord and say ‘When you gave me the government in America, I did what you wanted me to do.’ Because if I don’t, then we’ll hear those same words of Psalms 2, Therefore you kings be warned, Tremble you judges of the earth. Who are the kings?”
That’s a long quote, but it’s important, because it establishes that the style of Christianity Lou Engle teaches is one which doesn’t really respect the ideals of the United States very much. It certainly doesn’t respect the Constitution, and has no time for such quaint notions as the separation of church and state. As Lou Engle teaches, people are to vote on two planks, really: a candidate’s position on abortion and homosexuality. He doesn’t go as far as to name candidates, but it doesn’t take much guessing to figure out what he’s saying. For instance, in 2012, Barack Obama will be running against a GOP candidate who will likely be a bigot who does not support women’s rights and autonomy. He may play cute with the guidelines for what he can and cannot do, but there’s Lou Engle’s endorsement right there: Not Barack Obama.
Later in the clip, he draws more parallels to the story of Jezebel and Ahab, a government he describes as “demonized to the max…and they are hostile.” He then says that “The Yahweh separatist prophets gotta kill those guys!” Again, note the violent rhetoric. Does Engle ever suggest that his followers should kill anyone in the American government? No. He simply tells the story of Jezebel and Ahab, what they did, what their ideological opponents did, and lets the people in the room connect the dots. You’ll notice that after he says “kill those guys,” several in the room audibly voice their approval. Now, am I suggesting that the average person in that room that night was a violent threat? Goodness, no. But this is the kind of eliminationist rhetoric that, when it goes into the ears of certain kinds of crazies, can be deadly.
3. “Our president two days ago came out and said ‘We bless the fathers of families that have two fathers’! This is a decree, a blessing, called this month, LGBT pride month. When decrees come from high places, it actually opens doors! It is a key! It unlocks the spiritual realm for the fueling of the demonization of culture! Is this being taped?” <voice from bouncer/heavy off to the side interjects “We can erase it.”>
When Barack Obama talks, demons are unbound. Gotcha. This is one of several moments in the night where Buffy the Vampire Slayer suddenly shot through my mind and I had to stifle a smile. Oh no, Spike is evil again, and the Hellmouth is about to open and that means it’s gonna be an active night, Buffy. You will have to stand your guard, but don’t worry, Willow will be with you!
Again, because Barack Obama had the audacity to acknowledge that there are lots of kids out there with two dads, and that it’s Fathers Day for them too.
“Where the battle most rages to be silent, that is where the demonic powers are actually focused, because Jezebel’s whole goal, the things she hates the most, are the prophets, and at all costs, she wants to silence the prophets.”
Note the quick back and forth again, between the Jezebel story and the present day. This is a subtle victimization ploy, as Lou is telling his followers that the places where he is most pressured to stay silent are actually the places where the demons are cavorting most freely. Lou believes he has been appointed by God to fight the “homosexual ideology” (whatever that is), but we’ll get into that later.
Lou then suggests that they are beginning, with their twenty-one days of revivals, a movement that will turn America “back to God,” as Lou imagines it. This is, of course, a world without gays (which does not exist), and a world where women are once again forced into childbirth. He recounts dreams and prophecies he claims to have been given, and explains that he is under a personal commission from God to take America back.
Then a guy comes up and explains a dream he had in which he violently killed Jezebel, and the congregants clapped and cheered. Now, I understand that there is a very Lord of the Rings quality to all of this, so it could be interpreted that way, but I don’t think it’s insignificant that a man is standing in front of a congregation inspiring everyone by telling them about a dream he had wherein he violently killed a woman. This is not normal.
“Either we are insane…or we believe that God is bigger than the devil, and that prayer is the most powerful force in the universe.”
4. Engle teaches that God is going to release the spirit of Elijah on him and on his followers, as a fulfillment of Revelation 2, so that they can defeat “the spirit of Jezebel,” which, he says, now exists in the Christian church.
“When men leading this nation as Christian leaders speak of gay Christians, they are actually false prophets! There are Christians struggling with same-sex desires, but those who are gay Christians, who say, “This is my lifestyle, and God is pleased with it!”, this is false prophets! I’d like to just shout it in the news, but they’ll vilify me.”
It should now be apparent that Engle and his followers literally believe these things, and that no amount of intervening reality is likely to change that. Lou takes the stance of faux-victimization in this quote — “they’ll vilify me!” — but unless “vilify” now means, “recount one’s words verbatim,” then no, I’m not vilifying Lou Engle. That being said, there is something profoundly disturbing about a group of people existing in the year 2010 in the United States, with access to Google, with ease of travel, with the ability to acquire library cards, who understand so little about sexuality that they’re willing to suggest that those who teach that God’s kingdom is open to all, even gay people, are “false prophets.” Not in Lou’s world. The intersection of faith and sexuality is really not my thing, but I know many, many gay Christians who are, themselves, the living negation of Lou’s hateful teachings.
About halfway through the fourth clip, Engle refers to Revelation 2 as “the words of Jesus…red letter edition!” This is interesting, since Revelation was written as the result of a vision or hallucination of John when he was imprisoned at Patmos, and was in no way a “firsthand account” of Jesus. But this is the Jesus Lou Engle comes back to continually: the Jesus of vengeance and judgment. Scarcely present is the more familiar Jesus of redemption and love. I don’t get the feeling Engle and his followers draw much inspiration from that Jesus. The Jesus represented here is killing and maiming, and Lou teaches that this is because Jesus wants a “pure bride,” in a world of immorality. Indeed, Jesus is reading our minds looking for immorality, because he “loves us so much” that he will stalk us to the ends of the earth, making sure we’re worthy to be his “pure bride.” I hope I don’t have to explain how creepy that is, and how misogynistic its imagery is.
“If you overcome Jezebel in your generation, you get power and authority over the nation!”
Yeah, that still sounds pretty separatist to me. It’s a strange kind of separatist, which seeks to gain power by defeating the imaginary spirit of an ancient slut lady, but it’s still separatist. Buffy the Vampire Slayer shoots through my mind a second time.
5. Between the fourth and fifth segments is one of the missing sections, which will be uploaded as soon as possible. However at the beginning of the fifth segment, we jump in on one of the creepiest moments of the entire night, as Lou Engle is explaining the “prophetic dreams” he had which called him to his work in St. Louis. Basically he says that God told him that, on the spiritual plane, he is like Charles Lindbergh flying the “Spirit of St. Louis,” that he, on the spiritual plane, IS “St. Louis” (of Engle?), and that his mission IS “The Spirit of St. Louis.” People, the man is delusional, and he’s got a flock of followers behind him who believe every word he says. He’s a cult leader.
“Saint means HOLY and Louis means WARRIOR. Holy war! I like that!”
For the record, Lou Engle is down with the idea of “holy war.” He likes it. In Arabic, they call that jihad.
He then moves into another dream he supposedly had, where God told him he had given him authority over Jezebel, and indeed told him to open his St. Louis church on Lindbergh Boulevard. This, to Lou Engle, is all the fulfillment of divine prophecy, but if you’re not familiar with St. Louis, let me explain something. It’s hard to drive around St. Louis without hitting Lindbergh Boulevard over and over again, because the road is very, very long. Think of the longest, busiest streets in your town. Lindbergh is one of those. Also, as Charles Lindbergh hailed from St. Louis, his name is on quite a few things there! But instead Lou Engle believes this is all evidence that in St. Louis is some sort of “well” that God has “deposited” for them.
Lou Engle continues to recount his dreams, with his followers oohing and aahing at him, as he explains how, he believes, God is giving him a “word of authority” over the government of the state of California, starting with the recall of Governor Gray Davis.
“I’m invited to go to San Francisco and preach at a black church. I’m speaking on the Elijah – Jezebel revolution, showdown, and the homosexual movement that’s going on and coming out of San Francisco. In walks a tall white man, sits in the front row, I don’t know who he is, and everybody’s looking at him. At the end of my message, the pastor says, “the mayor of San Francisco is here today. He’s just been elected and he wants to say something.” The mayor gets up and says something, then they ask me to pray for him, I lay my hands upon Gavin Newsom, and I pray, “Lord, I thank you that ALL government is derived from your government, therefore let this man know he will be held accountable for everything he does in this city under the government of God.” Psalms 2. Thirteen days later, Gavin Newsom, 2004, began to marry the homosexuals ILLEGALLY, in California … God sent a man to him to warn him that he’d be held accountable.”
Lou Engle believes he was sent personally by God to warn Gavin Newsom that he would be judged.
“This point could be the high water mark of the homosexual revolution in America. Do not get me wrong. We do not hate homosexuals! We love homosexuals, we pray for them, we get involved in their lives … but we stand firm against ideologies!”
No. They do not. It is as simple as that. They tell themselves that they love us, because it makes them feel better about the rest of their ideology, which envisions us dying in a battle between angels and demons. They cling to a belief that sexuality is simply “behavior” or “ideology,” though all the forces of reality know differently. Make no mistake, people. They are at war with us, as people.
6. “I get on television, and oh, the pressure to be politically correct, because I know EVERY WORD is being weighed by the prophets of Ba’al in the media.”
Lou Engle believes the only reason they are called “haters” is because they are the only ones who are willing to call things “evil.” He believes that the media is another front for their jihad, and that if they pray and fast hard enough, then God will give them authority over the media. Again, they are strange separatists.
“I speak intensely and that’s the stuff that gets on YouTube. I think I’m gonna erase this … don’t distribute this message. Or maybe I should!”
Well publicized event, dude, open to the public.
Lou continues recounting the dreams and visions experienced by him and by his friends. A friend, apparently has a dream about two tornadoes, with the letters “HA” and “HA” inscribed on them. These, we will find out, stand for “abortion” and the “homosexual agenda.” So basically, they were traveling on Highway 70 after this dream, and decided to look up Psalm 70 for support. I don’t know what they do when there’s no Psalm with the number of the highway they’re on. I imagine that’s a lonely feeling. Anyway, among all the words of that Psalm, there appears a line which contains the words “A-ha, a-ha.” The followers ooh and aah. Now, I don’t know if Lou made a mistake the first time when he said “H-A, H-A,” but somewhere in the middle that story, “Haha” turned into “Aha,” and I’m the only one who seems to have noticed.
“It’s the rod of God! I am looking for the secret of heaven that can penetrate the homosexual agenda with the love of Jesus and the truth!”
Rod. Penetrate. Homosexual Agenda. Got it.
“I sent my son to San Francisco with a group of people to pray for three years. They actually had a dream. They saw a three-story homosexual man, a huge giant, and they were throwing like rocks at it and nothing would happen to it, and then suddenly the foreman rolled a scroll and it read “Jehu’s Covenantal Community,” and the giant shriveled to nothing!”
Nightmares about three story tall homosexuals. Got it. This, of course, is another prophetic dream.
That is the end of the audio I have, at the moment. There are two more segments which I will upload later, but these should suffice for now. In one of the missing segments, though, Lou wonders whether the talk is being taped for a third time, and that is when he refers to this meeting as “The Stealth Bombers Meeting,” a message not tailored for public consumption, but meant only for the flock. I’m glad to be able to share it with you.
To sum up, I’d like to go back to my experience of the people in the room for a moment, if I could. They bristle at being called haters, because I honestly believe that hatred is not their intention. Yet they have been spoonfed a system of false beliefs about LGBT people for so long, and with such frequency, that they believe that we are evil by rote. I highly doubt that many of them have any real, tangible experience with gay people, and what little experience they do have is likely with approved gay people, i.e. those who have “repented” of their “lifestyle” and “turned to Jesus.” They have experience with gay people who have hit rock bottom and thus become susceptible to the truly evil message that the way God created them is intrinsically bad, and that they have to abandon who they are in order to be loved. However, their antipathy and animus toward gays isn’t actually toward us, because they don’t believe that we actually exist, or rather, they are unwilling to accept what science and human experience has taught us about human sexuality. They simply believe that we are “broken” people and that something as integral as one’s natural sexuality can be abandoned if we simply “die to Christ.” Yes, it is preposterous, but nonetheless they accept it, because they’ve been trained to view all other competing information as if it came from the Devil himself. Those are their intentions.
However, they are not blameless. As I alluded to above, I didn’t feel out of place in the room, at least not physically. I saw tattoos, I saw trendy clothes, I saw dyed hair, and a number of the people in the room looked like they were on their way to a Dave Matthews concert. I also saw a lot of iPhones, which, as you might be aware, can access the internet quite easily. Lou Engle visits Uganda, but these people were in an upscale white neighborhood in suburban St. Louis, in the United States of America. They have all of the resources and access they need to make truly informed decisions about the world, if they so chose. They have vehicles which could take them just a few minutes down the road to neighborhoods where LGBT people live, work, drink coffee, go out for cocktails, and everything else. They all, presumably, know how to use Google, and they all, presumably, have working minds, capable of questioning and analyzing what they’ve been taught and how it compares to the experience of reality. Having been brought up in a religious environment with similar ideology (but not similar expression), I’m well aware that groupthink is a powerful force, and that questioning long held beliefs and biases can be one of the most frightening things imaginable, because it requires us to take the active step of separating ourselves from the comfort of the tribe. Often, an impetus of some sort is required which forces such questioning to the forefront. In my case, it was reconciling what I had always known about myself — that, among my many other characteristics, I was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually attracted to men — with the beliefs under which I was raised, and which I indeed held for a long time. Unfortunately, though, and all too often, the impetus in families like that doesn’t come from the liberating experience of self-questioning and research, but through tragedy. The suicide rate among young gay people is still miles higher than that of the general population, and the streets in major cities are full of gay teens who have been kicked out of their homes and disowned. Their families are the living embodiment of “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” So I would encourage any who might have been in that room on Tuesday night, or who may have been in similar rooms, to take the bold step and ask yourselves the following question: Is it possible that there is a part of this story I don’t know? Would it possibly be valuable for me to try to get to know a gay person who hasn’t been “healed” in Lou Engle’s religious organization? Is it possible that we could be wrong about this?
Because let me tell you something: Despite what Lou Engle and similar leaders may teach, I don’t hate a single person in that room, including Lou Engle. I don’t want to take your freedom away, and I certainly don’t want to take your faith away, if it’s meaningful to you. But you do hate me. You may gloss over that truth with catchphrases like “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” but any and every gay person could tell you that those are meaningless sentiments, because we understand what so many of you are unwilling to accept. Sexuality is not like alcoholism, or cheating, or gambling, or drug addiction. A person can fight and conquer a drug addiction. A person can make a solid effort to stop lying or cheating and be largely successful. But as Timothy Kincaid said in a piece several months ago, once those people conquer their sins, I’ll still wake up in the morning attracted to men, just as straight people will be attracted to the opposite sex.
The tide is turning on acceptance for gay people, to the point that around 70% of the nation believes gay couples should have some sort of legal recognition. These numbers are only going up. Lou Engle’s followers can go on believing that this is all the work of Satan, that a great spiritual battle is being waged in the heavens wherein angels and demons are fighting for the souls of men, and they can go on believing that happy, healthy LGBT people are the reincarnated Jezebel, a spirit which they must violently kill. Or they can open their eyes and look around them and consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, gay people aren’t out to get them. We will defend ourselves, to be sure. But I certainly don’t wish them any ill will. I challenge them to examine reality, learn about worlds outside of their own, and answer this: What good reason, that is factually verifiable, do you have to continue hating me?
*I hate to say that I was not surprised by this, but I wasn’t. If, upon seeing a new person, several people had come up to introduce themselves, I would have been shocked and been able to say “At least they were friendly.” However, in my myriad experience with different kinds of Christian congregations, I have found, almost to a T, that the more liberal a congregation is, the sooner a complete stranger will walk up and welcome a newcomer, and that conservative congregations of all kinds tend to keep to their tribes.