People For the American Way

Prop 8’s Call to Extremism

November 1, 2008 stadium rally is ‘blitzkrieg moment’ for organizer Lou Engle, who recruits young people for an extremist brand of “dominionist” Christianity

Who’s Making “The Call?”

Tens of thousands of marriage equality opponents, including Religious Right leader James Dobson, are expected to attend “The Call,” a November 1 rally at Qualcomm stadium. On a July 30 conference call among pastors mobilizing support for the proposition to strip marriage equality from the California constitution, Lou Engle enthusiastically described the event as a “blitzkrieg moment.” The language of war is standard for Engle, who has built a ministry around recruiting young Christians into a radical religious movement that believes the church is meant to conquer and rule the world.

Engle, who moved his family to California temporarily to help lead the fight to pass Prop. 8, believes that the battle against marriage equality is a war against Satanic forces of darkness.

Among his other charms:

  • he is an anti-abortion zealot who prays for God to “terrorize the judicial terrorists until they acknowledge you or fall from heaven.”
  • he believes California is dominated by a “Jezebel spirit” — represented on the state seal by the goddess Minerva — and that the Nov. 1 Call event could drive that demon out and “heal” San Francisco’s gay population
  • he believes Sarah Palin was sent by God to be a modern day Esther, and that George W. Bush — “the burning Bush” — is will go down in history as a great emancipator because in answer to prayer he named anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court
  • he believes that the nation is at a “death moment” — doomed if the elections do not bring an end to marriage equality and to courts that permit legalized abortion

In pursuit of their shared goal of denying marriage equality to same-sex couples, Mormon, Evangelical Protestant, and Catholic conservatives have put their theological differences aside and focused on running a political campaign. “Our enemies are greater than our differences,” in Engle’s words. But parents who might be considering sending their teens to attend the Qualcomm stadium event on Saturday, November 1, should consider with whom they’re getting involved.

Engle, introduced to many Americans for the first time leading shouted prayers for “righteous judges” in the documentary Jesus Camp, considers himself a modern-day John the Baptist — who heralded the coming of Christ — and so do many of his supporters. Engle views mass prayer and fasting as a spiritual weapon that will bring power from heaven to strike down wayward Supreme Court justices who have protected a woman’s right to abortion, defeat the powers of darkness that he believes are holding California captive, and bring the church to its rightful place of power over the earth.

Hundreds of thousands of people have attended Engle’s events in stadiums and on the national mall since 2000. “The Call” events and an affiliated training institute are part of a larger movement that has emerged within Pentecostal Christianity, but is considered heretical by some evangelical Christians.

Journalist Sarah Posner has just published a new piece on Engle and the Call on Religion Dispatches. Talk2Action has a series of articles on the theology and politics of the New Apostolic Reformation, the religious movement of which Engle is a part.

Just What is The Call?

Engle held his first “Call” on the national mall in Washington, D.C. in 2000, and hundreds of thousands of people have attended similar events held around the country — and one in Jerusalem — since then. Engle says he is trying to mobilize a “John the Baptist extreme generation” through the public events and through more intensive training available at The Call Institute. Here’s how The Call describes its mission:

The Call Institute exists to equip, disciple and commission an emerging generation of radical Nazirites to prepare the way of the Lord by embracing a lifestyle of prayer and fasting that is energized by intimacy with Jesus.

In this historic hour of human history, God is raising up a new breed of young men and women who refuse the status quo of religion and seek to explore the depths of God. In past history, this holy breed was called the Nazirites. With lifestyles based in prayer with fasting, Nazirites frequently surfaced in the darkest hour of Israel’s history. They emerged as voices who challenged the waywardness of Israel and awakened the nation back to the Lord.

The Nazirite lifestyle is not something reserved for the select few or the elite. It is a summons extended to anyone and everyone that will heed its invitation. The Nazirite call gives permission to the most “ordinary” among us to enter into the radical devotion of the forerunners (Luke 1:1517). Today, it serves as a call to be abandoned to the Lord and His purposes.

At events with young people, Engle urges them to abandon their video games and “chilling out” time to dedicate themselves wholly to this kind of devotion. He took the same tone at the Call on the national mall in August:

“I know it’s hot, but thank God He’s given us a breeze. We are not here for our convenience, but to move heaven. I did not come here to have a nice meeting while America is going to hell.” [Washington Times]

Pastor Jim Garlow of San Diego’s Skyline Church, one of the leaders of the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign, asked Engle to bring “The Call” to California to help pass the anti-marriage initiative. Engle, who says he was anointed by God to bring an end to abortion in America, has made ending legalized abortion the primary focus of his stadium prayer and fasting events, as well as vigils he has organized for years outside the U.S. Supreme Court. But recently Engle has spoken of abortion rights and marriage equality as two “false justice movements.”

Engle and Prop. 8

In addition to the November 1 stadium rally, Engle is leading a 40-day fast leading up to Election Day. For Engle, the campaign to pass Prop. 8 is a stark battle against Satan and the spiritual forces of darkness that hold California captive to sexual immorality. He’s not alone, of course. Religious Right leaders view the Nov. 4 vote on marriage equality as the Armageddon of the culture war. At the Call’s California Grassroots Mobilization prayer luncheon fall, San Diego’s Garlow said, “We’re not in a war. We’re in the war. You were born for such a time as this.”

Introducing Engle on a September 24 conference call among Prop. 8 backers, Garlow said, “some people say he’s weird. I say ‘thank God, so was John the Baptist and he brought us Jesus.’” Garlow also urged pastors to embrace the 40-day fast being promoted by Engle. Engle believes mass prayer and fasting are the most powerful weapons that the church has for bringing God’s “intercession” to earth.

At the launch of the “Facedown 40” fast leading to November 4, Engle prayed, “Call forth thousands now, those who have found their place in the Rock, and out of that place are committed to war in the spirit for a great awakening in California, our universities, among our children, and in the cultural power centers of our nation….God restrain homosexual marriage and send revival to California.”

As unhappy as Engle is about the Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality, Engle believes that marriage equality could be “the greatest gift to California” because it has stirred the church to action. “What was meant for evil, the Lord wants to turn it around for good,” he said. “I believe the church has been wakened by this moment in California.”

Engle tells about a prophetic dream had by “a young man in South Dakota” who saw a man weeping because he was imprisoned by homosexuality, and then “massive praying hands arose over the skyline of San Francisco.” Engle has used televised appearances and online video to ask “the whole world” to pray on November 1 for divine intervention that would restrain the powers of darkness and unleash a new great awakening.

A commentary from Engle on the sixth day of the fast said, “My brothers and sisters, many of my friends are saying that The Call California will be the most significant Call we have ever done. It is not just about California — it is about the whole nation.” More:

“As California goes, in many ways, so goes the nation. A major prayer leader from Egypt spoke to me and said that he had been weeping over California because he knew that if this law is not reversed by the vote of Californians on November 4, a spirit will spread across the world that will be stronger than Islam. It is a spirit of lawlessness, and that spirit will affect every nation.”

I am appealing to you who have stood by The Call these years to drop everything to come to Qualcomm Stadium and join this mighty prayer battle that is going on….There are certain spiritual powers of darkness that will not be restrained unless we are willing to gather. God promises if we will do that. He will fight for us.”

Engle’s Theology: Dominion over Earth, the Defeat of Demons Controlling California

Engle is based in Kansas City, Missouri at the International House of Prayer. Engle is an elder — author Bruce Wilson calls him “a Prophet in one of the inner circles of leadership” — in the New Apostolic Reformation, also called the Third Wave, a controversial outgrowth of Pentecostalism that has been denounced by the Assemblies of God denomination even though many individual churches are influenced by its theology. has published a series of articles about the movement and its influence on churches attended by Sarah Palin.


The core of Engle’s theology is Dominion — the imperative for the church, led by modern-day apostles, to rule over government and other institutions. As Talk2Action’s Bruce Wilson told a buzzflash interviewer, “Third Wavers on the other hand, believe that God is anointing them with special powers in order for them to battle the ungodly themselves, and that Jesus can’t actually return until they have finished conquering the world.

This is clearly reflected in a Engle’s teaching guide, “The Keys to Dominion,” which is sold on his website. You can get a good flavor for the nearly hour-long recording by listening to the first minute and a half. The themes are consistent throughout:

“The church’s vocation is to rule history with God…The same authority that has been given to Christ Jesus for overwhelming conquering and dominion has been given to the saints of the most high….We’re God’s rulers upon the earth…We will govern over kings and judges will have to submit…We’re called to rule! To change history! To be co-regents with God!”

The divine mandate to conquer means no toleration for sexual immorality, support for evil (abortion or marriage equality), “fellowship” with iniquitous politicians or governments legalize evil, or people within or outside the church who might disagree. At a Passion for Jesus conference organized by the International House of Prayer, where Engle’s ministry is based, Engle spoke of civil war within the church. The Call’s website echoes the theme: “This is a time to resist mightily the spirit of peaceful coexistence and apathetic resignation in the face of this prevailing darkness.”

In short, Engle and the religious movement he helps lead believe that a select group are called by God to rule the earth, that “the posture of the church needs to be aggressive.” [Dominion audio]

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently profiled “Joel’s Army,” an especially militant strain of the New Apostolic Reformation that Engle is linked to. The leader of Joel’s Army stirred controversy recently by kicking a patient with advanced colon cancer in the stomach at a “healing” service. SPLC quotes Engle:

“I believe we’re headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown on the Earth, not just in America but all over the globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no middle ground,” said Engle. He was referring to the Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose followers were slaughtered under orders from the prophet Elijah.

There’s an Elijah generation that’s going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion,” Engle continued. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire.

The Elijah/Jezebel analogy is one of Engle’s favorites. Here’s his take on the story:

Elijah, at the height of Jezebel’s cultic dominion over Israel fasted 40 days, broke the spell of Jezebel off of his own life and received a mandate to anoint the next generation. Elijah’s fast unleashed a movement that toppled Jezebel’s regime of hell, which perpetrated the destruction of family, the killing of innocent children, the silencing of the voice of God’s people and the widespread culture of sexual immorality. The fruit of this fast culminated in the utter destruction of Baal worship in Israel.

Mass Prayer and Fasting Brings God’s Intercession Against Political Enemies

Engle’s 40-day “Facedown Fast” and “The Call” stadium events are grounded in a theology that mass prayer and fasting open a door to God’s intercession in the world. Engle says fasting is “the most powerful weapon and arsenal of the Christian church….Remember Jesus said that some demons wouldn’t come out except by prayer and fasting.”

In organizing for his 2007 fast, Engle wrote that America cannot survive another 40 years: “Unless a massive spiritual shift occurs at this moment, our children will live under an antichrist system and Godless enculturation that will bring about the demise of America as we know it.”

Engle believes that two “Call” events in California in 2003 led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. Even more dramatically, Engle attributes the downfall of communism to the prayer-and-fasting inspired death of Politburo members in the Soviet Union — “God’s killing fields” — and he prays for God to make life miserable (or worse) for Supreme Court justices who uphold a constitutional right to abortion.

California’s Demons and the Defeat of Jezebel / Minerva

Engle believes in geographical demons and calls for “taking conquest of cities that are resisting the gospel due to the presence of territorial demons and generational curses.”

In California’s case, Engel points to the image of Minerva on the California state seal, and cannot talk about the Prop. 8 initiative without talking about Jezebel. In a commentary posted on the eighth day of his current fast, he refers to a realization in 1999 that the Roman goddess Minerva is on the state seal of California.

“This goddess, this Roman counterpart to the Greek Athena, was the goddess of war (who especially targeted men); protector of the city; and goddess of the arts, the universities and commerce. Could this be the controlling spirit of California, influencing our institutions of Hollywood (arts), our universities (wisdom), and the Silicon Valley (wealth)?”

He describes a fast he undertook in 2002 in preparation for two “Call” events in California:

“I knew Jesus was inviting me to take part in his own fast for apostolic breakthrough. Every day in that fast I prayed, ‘God cleanse me from any inward toleration of Jezebel and declared the victory of the cross over the spirit of Jezebel in California.’ In Revelation 2, Jesus declares, “I have this against you, you tolerate that woman Jezebel who teaches and seduces my bondservants into sexual morality.”

He claims that a dream revealed that God has given him authority: “because Lou has been faithful, I have given him authority over the spirit of Jezebel…the church has the final word….we don’t play for a losing team, we are with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

Engle and the 2008 Elections: Obama Evil, Palin a Modern-Day ‘Esther’ Sent by God


Engle’s top priority — for which he believes he has personally been given a divine mandate — is the ending of abortion in America. He is passionately opposed to the election of Barack Obama.

His video commentary on Day 30 of his current fast is all about abortion and the current elections:

Abortion literally fuels the demonic powers over a nation, particularly when it’s legalized and government sanctioned…..nations begin to come to a place when God will not pardon them…America is at a place like that… the nation is being given a choice, life or death….two candidates… when I vote for those who support the shedding of innocent blood, I’m personally accountable before God…I believe America is at a death moment…”

Engle made the same point at a press conference in Washington D.C. this August the day before his day-long Call on the National Mall, denouncing Obama’s record on abortion in graphic terms and warning young evangelicals if they compromised on abortion, history would stand in judgment of them the way it stands in judgment on churches’ silence on slavery.

McCain and Palin

Earlier this year, Engle suggested that Huckabee had God’s backing and complained that he was under spiritual attack. Engle said that he did not trust John McCain [RWW April 11] and could never vote for him because he was not sufficiently pro-life given his support for stem-cell research. He said that voting for a candidate who supports the shedding of innocent blood is having fellowship with a “throne of iniquity.” At the August press conference in Washington, Engle and Bishop Harry Jackson threatened that McCain would be committing political suicide if he chose a pro-choice running mate.

For Engle, McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin changed everything:

“When Senator John McCain courageously chose Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate, he drove family values back into the conscience of America… This election is a battle for family values and to the victor goes the soul of the nation.””Governor Palin is more than just a brilliant choice for Vice President. She and her family stand as a sign and a wonder for life and for children. They are a living parable parading in blazing Technicolor before the eyes of the whole nation. This goes way beyond elections. This is about us healing our families, regaining moral responsibility, and exhibiting forgiveness.”

“The ideological beast of Obama’s worldview has been drawn out of its lair and now stands naked and exposed by Palin’s compassion and conviction… The rage of the media against Palin simply further exposes the moral bankruptcy, bigotry, and lack of compassion of liberalism. The media, Obama’s court prophets, have become Selma’s new sheriffs of the South beating the new heirs of the civil rights movement — the millions of unborn children attacked in the womb and countless women hurt by abortion — with their Billy Clubs and loud hectoring.

“With his choice of Governor Palin as his running mate, John McCain has once again gone to war. However, this time, not in the distant lands of Vietnam and Iraq, but he has gone to war for America, for our families, and for our children. And this war, we cannot afford to lose.”

Engle is convinced that Sarah Palin was sent by God to enact an “Esther” moment. In Jewish scripture, Esther risks her own life to save the Jewish people from a death decree by a corrupt advisor to the King of Persia by revealing to the King who loves her that she herself is Jewish. Engle sees Palin as sent to put an end to abortion, and save the nation from God’s wrath. Before the vice presidential debate, Engle asked for prayers “for God’s supernatural hand to attend this profound Esther moment.”

George Bush

Engle calls George W. Bush — who he refers to as “the Burning Bush” — “one of the greatest emancipators in history” because he nominated Supreme Court justices who are beginning to roll back a women’s right to abortion. He cites Bush’s elections and judicial nominations as evidence that “prayer and fasting shapes history and moves government.”