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Friday, October 21, 2011

Cindy Jacobs and Lisa Miller's Lingering Samuel Rodriguez Problem

It has been two months, but an upcoming event planned by a leading light of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), Cindy Jacobs, invites a reexamination of how one of America's leading religion reporters has reported on Samuel Rodriguez and NAR. You will recall that back in August concerns were first raised about the New Apostolic Reformation because of its major role in Governor Perry’s Response prayer rally that served as the unofficial launch of his run for presidency. In a column written in the heat of that debate Lisa Miller of the Washington Post made a claim about NAR that to this day she has not corrected or explained further. She claimed that NAR was a “previously unknown group” when in fact her own paper had been publishing article after article by Samuel Rodriguez, a man who was at the time of those articles a leading apostle in NAR’s very own International Coalition of Apostles (ICA).  Rodriguez, the apostle for Miller’s “previously unknown group”, is one of the most significant evangelical leaders in America. Known as the “Hispanic Karl Rove”, Rodriguez has risen to a stature unparalleled in Hispanic evangelicalism—he is today on elite leadership committees for the National Association of Evangelicals, Christianity Today International, Gordon-Conwell Seminary and the Assemblies of God. Rodriguez has parlayed that status into a virtual media machine—his resume of national media appearances and accolades gives credence to Rodriguez’s claim to be “by God’s grace…America’s voice for Hispanic Christianity”.

I revisit this history today because the sharp contrast between what Miller said about NAR being some sort of minor, “previously unknown group”, and the reality of Samuel Rodriguez’s own stature in that same group will be on very public display nine days from now. On October 31 Samuel Rodriguez will join three other internationally known NAR leaders, Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs and C. Peter Wagner,  in a “Reformation Day” gathering. Any lingering doubt that anyone might have had about Samuel Rodriguez’s embrace of the NAR agenda should be erased by his decision to throw his lot in with these three people who are unquestionably the most ardent leaders of NAR. If Lisa Miller really thinks that NAR and these internationally known individuals were “previously unknown” she needs to turn in her resignation as the “overseer” of all of “Newsweek’s religion coverage”, as her Washington Post bio describes her.

Now it is understandable that people like Miller want to convince themselves that these four figures, none of whom can reasonably be called unknowns by anyone who knows American evangelicalism, are not committed to a troubling theological agenda. Acknowledging that would require a major shift in perception about the state of evangelicalism in America for people like Miller who are experts in counseling Americans to view critics of NAR’s political aspirations the same way as they view people who believe Obama is the antichrist (exactly the comparison Miller made here). But before people continue to push concern over NAR safely to the side they should take a long look at the promotion page for Reformation Day. When they do they will see this explanation for why Rodriguez, Wagner, Jacobs and Pierce are gathering together:

"We really believe that recent weather reports of hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are signs that the earth is groaning for the revelation of the sons of God."

For Cindy Jacobs and the NAR family this kind of "reading the signs of the times" is nothing new. In the leadup to a 2008 prayer event In New York City Jacobs claimed that “We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion’s Market,' or God’s control over the economic systems...While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.” This kind of crazy "prophetic analysis" is spreading into American evangelicalism and yet the people who point this out are the ones who get condemned by the Lisa Miller's of the world. It is time for individuals and institutions that are choosing to not report information about Samuel Rodriguez and NAR to face the uncomfortable fact that reporters who are doing that reporting are not the ones who invited people like Samuel Rodriguez to stand as voices of mainstream evangelical institutions—it is those institutions themselves. It is not Rachel Tabachnick and other critics of NAR who have chosen to “really believe” that recent weather reports signal the coming return of Christ, it is people like Samuel Rodriguez. And it is not websites like Talk to Action that have failed to report on Samuel Rodriguez's tortured resignation from his leadership in one of the most virulently anti-Muslim groups in America, but major news services like the Washington Post and Christianity Today that have.

This coming Reformation Day event, scheduled as an international webcast, presents the perfect opportunity for institutions who have helped to elevate the standing of the New Apostolic Reformation by their years of promotion of Samuel Rodriguez to stop marginalizing and ignoring the work of those of us who are exposing NAR and start marginalizing and ignoring the work of anyone who chooses to cast their lot with the theological and political agenda of C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation. 

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