At first blush, it could be the premise of a terrible airport novel: A group of self-proclaimed “apostles” have a plan rooted in biblical prophecy to “invade” every sphere of life as we know it — and they have the ear of the most powerful man in the world. Unfortunately, the Seven Mountain Mandate is not a work of bad fiction, but a manifesto for evangelical Christians to “conquer” what proponents see as the seven key facets of life: education, religion, family, business, government, entertainment, and media. And while the Democrats are slugging it out to see who becomes the party’s nominee for the 2020 election, 7M, as often called, is coursing through the decrepit veins of the Republican party, offering a vision for total domination at a time when its core constituency is in demographic decline.
The center of evangelical gravity may have shifted from firebrand Southern Baptists to slick Californian megachurches infused with the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is clear that 7M is being used to bring together a new and determined Moral Majority for the 21st century. And while the late televangelist Jerry Falwell and his cohorts might have wanted to save your soul or stop your abortion, this new breed of Prophets, Apostles, and Seven Mountaineers want nothing short of transforming society.
The Seven Mountain Mandate came into being in 1975, when God allegedly delivered a concurrent message to missionary movement leader Loren Cunningham, Campus Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, and televangelist Francis Schaeffer to invade the “seven spheres.” The largely dormant idea was resurrected in 2000, when Cunningham met with “strategist, futurist and compelling communicator” Lance Wallnau, and told him about the vision of 25 years earlier. The “prophetic” Wallnau, a 63-year-old business consultant based in Dallas, with a “Doctorate in Ministry with a specialization in Marketplace” from Phoenix University of Theology immediately saw the idea’s potential and began promoting seminars and training courses on the theory as a “template for warfare” for the new century. Its real surge in popularity began in 2013, when Wallnau co-authored the movement’s call to arms, Invading Babylon: The 7 Mountain Mandate, with Pastor Bill Johnson from the prominent California megachurch Bethel Church.
To understand how the Seven Mountain Mandate has taken hold, it is important to place it in the context of its origins in Charismatic Pentecostalism, the fastest growing religion not only in America, but around the world. It is estimated that of the world's two billion Christians, one quarter are now Pentecostal — a figure that has grown from 6 percent in 1980.
While the late televangelist Jerry Falwell and his cohorts might have wanted to save your soul or stop your abortion, this new breed of Prophets, Apostles, and Seven Mountaineers want nothing short of transforming society.
Pentecostalism came to life in 1906 with preacher William J. Seymour’s Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, the culmination of a new form of religious expression from the late 19th century. It’s named for the miracle of Pentecost, when, 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and gave them “tongues of fire” to convert foreigners by preaching in their languages. Its focus on healing and the miraculous saw it for a long time as a poor people’s religion, before its “second wave” Charismatic movement in the 1960s pulled in disaffected new agers and other mainline protestants with its focus on believers’ direct experiences with God through the Holy Spirit.
Today we’re in the “third wave,” generally called Neo-Charismatic Pentecostalism (and sometimes the New Apostolic Reformation, a branch which focuses on the roles of “apostles” and “prophets” such as Wallnau), that is trying to cement itself as a fifth pillar of Christianity (alongside Catholicism, Protestantism, and two branches of Orthodoxy).
All of this might sound as old as a preacher owning a private jet but, politically, it looks a lot like the right wing wave of populism that is heating up the planet. Culturally, it is something between a music festival and a self-help seminar. Confusingly, it’s all largely academic, as you’ll rarely hear leaders or believers self-identify as Pentecostal. The movement, which many call “non-denominational,” is best defined by the way it practices.
Make no mistake, it still takes plenty of its authority from selective reading of the Good Book. In the case of 7M, the authority to take over the world comes from Isaiah 2:2, which says “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains.” The number seven is significant in the Book of Revelation, where the apocalyptic prophecy is preached to the “seven churches of Asia.” For Wallnau and Johnson, the mission of today’s apostles is to “set people free from torment and disease, to destroy the works of darkness.” They throw red meat to other key conservative touchstones, saying that there is “no such thing as secular employment for the believer,” that the role of government is to “create a realm of safety and a realm of prosperity,” because “poverty is demonic.”
Prosperity is but one area in which the Lord helps those who help themselves, as we also need him to deal with the many spirits and demons in our midst. At least that’s according to self-proclaimed “apostle” Paula White, President Donald Trump’s “spiritual advisor” and 7M devotee who was recently the subject of a viral video clip decrying the "witchcraft in the marine kingdom” and “commanding any satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now.”
“We command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now” — Special Adviser to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative Paula White pic.twitter.com/gtdZyGfkxy— Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons (@GuthrieGF) January 25, 2020
It might sound bizarre, but she’s referencing the letter to the church at Ephesus, credited to Saint Paul the Apostle, who tells Christians that their enemies are “the powers of this dark world” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” As Andre Gagne, an associate professor of religious studies at Concordia University, has pointed out, conjuring up fears from the spirit world is a disciplining force that keeps believers on constant war footing in both their real and spiritual lives. “This way of life is time consuming,” he says, “and one easily becomes paranoid and scared of being constantly attacked by forces of darkness.”
To true believers, it is incumbent upon them to prepare God’s kingdom for his arrival to rule. So far, that looks like stacking Washington D.C. and any number of state capitols with believers in this resurgent dominionist theology
Invoking the presence of evil forces all around us also serves a purpose in this culture of signs, wonders, and thick metaphors. If demonic spirits are descending on society like fog, the peak of the mountain is the one thing that rises up above them. Of course, those on top of the peaks, like Wallnau and White, are able to look down on our envelopment in the demonic fog, and call upon our minds, bodies, spirits, and wallets to act. The funny thing is that God’s authority looks a lot more earthly than the florid language of prophecy might have us believe. Behind the looming marine terror, positive Instagram posts, and Silicon Valley-speak, the movement remains a 21st century version of hardcore Christian Dominionism — that is the belief that God has called conservative Christians to exercise authority over all of us by taking control of cultural and political institutions. They are merging the biblical and secular worlds through President Trump, their heathen “King Cyrus,” the Persian leader in the Bible who conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Israel. Their modern day King’s decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, and the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani believed to be accelerating America into the prophesied last days on earth, where, as Wallnau puts it, “there is no neutral territory.”
To true believers, it is incumbent upon them to prepare God’s kingdom for his arrival to rule. So far, that looks like stacking Washington D.C. and any number of state capitols with believers in this resurgent dominionist theology. National security advisor Mike Pompeo has spoken of the “never-ending struggle” until “the Rapture,” while Paula White said that Trump “will play a critical role in Armageddon as the United States stands alongside Israel in the battle against Islam."
These modern apostles want to use the Seven Mountain Mandate to reshape America and the world ahead of the end times. The movement provides supernatural justification for the politics and theory of government of the Christian Right (not to mention an emphasis on prosperity), and one that understands the shifting demographics of the U.S. that will see white Christians become an ever increasing minority in the coming decades. The doctrine is already making its way into conservative political circles beyond those who believe that God speaks to them directly. At the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, college campus activist and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk declared that “finally we have a president that understands the seven mountains of cultural influence.”
Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority wanted the lot too, but appeared content with the influence they gained by bringing America’s evangelicals into the political fold, and embraced a trickle-down approach to ideology through their lobbying efforts and cosy appointments in the Reagan administration. In contrast, Wallnau and 7M is the theocratic wave of populism, using charismatic leaders to inspire change from the bottom-up, through a decentralized movement which emphasises conquering” the mountains that may mean agitating for “Kingdom-led” approaches in your workplace, preaching through your social media channels, or embracing Kanye West as a modern Saint Paul the Apostle who is taking back cultural power from those damned Hollywood liberals.
Cultural power is a particular preoccupation of the movement, but that’s not to say that these self-professed Davids are only interested in Hollywood — and nor are they leading this fight on their own. Project Blitz, a Christian dominionist version of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity which recently rebranded as “Freedom for All,” is providing model legislation bills for state governments, such as allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Last year, it claimed a network of 950 legislators in 38 states. The steering committee for this shadowy organization includes David Barton, a close ally of Lance Wallnau, who has said that “if you’re going to establish God’s kingdom, you’ve got to have these seven mountains.”
The Moral Majority dissolved after the Reagan presidency satisfied its leaders that they had changed the political landscape, even if their core ideals had gone largely unfulfilled. The Seven Mountain Mandate shows that there is an aggressive heir to this movement, and it is one powered by the belief that in fulfilling the criteria for God’s return to earth, the religious right can justify walling themselves off from the demographic shift that is pushing them further into the minority.
This is a power grab before it’s too late, employing what Wallnau decrees as the “authority to administrate over earth and all demonic opposition.” Instead of evangelicals dunking heads in swimming pools ahead of the Second Coming, the Seven Mountain Mandate has become their inspiration to actively bring it on.