Sunday, January 3, 2016

OneThing 2015: Mike Bickle and Fear

To read about Stuart Greaves at OneThing 2015, click here.

The International House of Prayer (IHOP) hosted its annual OneThing conference on December 28-31 at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri. (More here and here.) IHOP director Mike Bickle delivered a December 30th talk entitled "Being Strengthened to Stand in Victory in the End Times", in which he warned worshipers that they were living in a "dangerous generation". Bickle instructed listeners not to be afraid during the chaos to come, only to devote much of his talk to paranoia.

Mike Bickle began his talk by citing Luke 21, claiming that the passage described this time in history. The people of this era are part of "a very glorious but very dangerous generation", he argued. Nations will be in distress and people will be afraid during this generation, but salvation will be very close. Spiritual dangers will be more intense than physical dangers if people drift away from Jesus during this time, he claimed. At the 2:48 mark, Bickle described what was allegedly to come.
"The enemy will rage, man will sin, but the Lord will overrule it all to bring his church to the greatest place of victory and power of any time of history, even far beyond what happened in the book of Acts."
At the 9:42 mark, he admitted that it was only his opinion that the current generation was the End Times generation described in Luke 21. In spite of this, he impressed upon the audience the importance of warning the next generation about impending End Times crises.
"It's my opinion [that] we're in the early days of that generation right now. I believe that Luke 21 is talking about events that some of you in this room will see in your lifetime, in the fullness of them ... It may be your children. Maybe it's their children, I don't know. Nobody knows the day or the hour. It could go longer, it could stretch out a little bit, or it could speed up, but either way it goes, it's not too early to start paying attention to these kind of passages from the lips of Jesus. ...

I don't know that I will see the fullness of it in my day. I'm sixty years old. I might, I might not. But I know one thing. I'm pouring out all of my life, strength and energy to prepare a generation in understanding to prepare the generation after them in understanding so they're not surprised by the escalation of negative crisis and they're participating with the Lord in the great harvest and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the End Times."
Bickle reminded listeners not to be afraid at the 6:02 mark, insisting that God would be with them during the chaos.
"Millions and millions of people will be overcome in fear as the distress of the nations increases. The problem is, many believers will be among those overcome with fear. And the Lords heart is, 'I don't want my people surprised. I don't want you losing perspective. I'm leading this whole plan! I'm the king! I'm the bridegroom king! You are my beloved bride. I am with you. Don't be afraid. I am leading the nations.'"
After urging his followers not to be afraid, Bickle proceeded to instill fear in the audience for the rest of his talk. As the "crisis in nations" intensifies, people will self-medicate with "immorality" and "drunkenness", he claimed. After reading a Bible passage about the distress of nations, he insisted that the world was about to plunge into a downward spiral at the 20:27 mark.
"This is not a distress like all the other nations. This isn't like--you know, there's five years of difficulty, then we go back to normal. We are never going back to how it was in the 1980s and 1990s. The world is going to get darker and darker and more hostile to the gospel."
Again, Bickle warned that fear and "internal defilement and confusion" would be dangerous in the coming dark times. At the 21:14 mark, he had this to say.
"Fear is dangerous because it will make people respond to Jesus' leadership in a really inappropriate way. When even sincere believers are overcome with fear ... they won't respond. They will be unresponsive to the Lord. And Jesus is saying that's not good. 'I am your only hope. I am the king of the nations.'"
2015 was a year of "seismic shifts" into darkness, he said, recycling some of the same fear-mongering claims he used at OneThing 2014. Predictably, Bickle blasted the "gay agenda", claiming that legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. was one of the events helping darkness escalate in the world. At the 31:22 mark, he claimed that June 26th, 2015 was a "day of infamy". (If that sounds familiar, it should.)
"Crisis event number one that I want to highlight [is] the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. That will go down as a day of infamy, one of the most disastrous, dangerous, destructive decisions in America's history ... Why do we care about what somebody does in the privacy of their bedroom? That's not what I'm concerned with, what someone does in the privacy of their bedroom. That's not at all what I'm focused on.

This decision, June 26th ... it will be one of the most significant dates in America's history for negative. Immorality was institutionalized in America. What do I mean by that? Because of that one decision, our entire culture and out legal system will demand by law, from that day forward, that the gay agenda is systematically presented in all the elementary schools across the nation, year by year. That's unbelievable! The negative consequences of that in ten to twenty years! Millions of seven and eight year-old boys and girls being presented with ideas that are normalized to them, that will cause emotional and sexual chaos to explode in our nation in the next ten to twenty years."
Bickle also disapproved LGBTQ progress in Scandinavia, depicting LGBTQ messages as toxic for children. "That will be in America before long, minus a miracle intervention of God," he warned.

Of course, Bickle denied that he was a hateful man, insisting that he loved gays at the 32:46 mark.
"I have a heart for people that are struggling in the issue of identity and gay agenda and all this. I have tremendous compassion and love for people that are gay. Tremendous love. I'm not talking about them. I'm [inaudible] embrace them and love them. I want them a part of what I'm doing. I want to know them and understand and talk with them. I want to show them the love of God and the way out of the confusion."
Yeah, you love them as long as they wallow in self-hatred, I thought. If LGBTQ people demand equality, then they're part of some evil agenda.

At the 35:50 mark, Bickle recycled another warning from OneThing 2014: outlandish claims of impending Christian persecution. Christians will be harshly penalized for their faith and will even have their children taken away, he ranted.
"The laws are being added, multiplied quickly that if you stand for God's word, what is says about marriage and sexuality and truth, it will be a hate crime with severe penalties, and those laws, they are just whispering right now. They're just slipping out of the gate. Ten years from now, without a major intervention ... they will criminalize believing and telling your five year-old that Jesus is the only way to heaven and there is a real hell, and there really are biblical values. Parents will actually lose their children, taken by state agencies for abusing their children by by teaching those doctrines. That's where this is going."
At the 36:54 mark, he tried to instill more fear in the audience by claiming that an impending economic crisis would trigger "chaos in the cities".
"The economic crisis. That is such a big subject. Beloved, we are in a place in the nation in 2015 [that is] very different from the crisis of 2008. There is no more bailout plan. Nations are going bankrupt, like Greece, or on the verge of it. Half of the states in America are on the verge of bankruptcy, but they're not legally letting them do it ... When the economic rubber band breaks, the entitlements are going to be withheld. [When] those entitlements are withheld, there will be chaos in the cities of America."
Bickle also denounced the Iran nuclear deal, maintaining that it would launch a "nuclear arms race" in the Middle East, place nuclear weapons in the hands of extremists, and endanger Israel. At the 38:42 mark, he had this to say.
"Terrorist groups, not just ISIS, they will end up with nuclear weapons. With a terrorist agenda, they will force Israel into a preemptive strike mode to save the nation of Israel, and then Israel will be presented in the nations as the aggressor of a world war.

The enemy is fueling anti-semitisim in the nations. And beloved, the people of God that understand the Bible, they're standing with God's purposes for the nation of Israel."
Bickle advised listeners to reject bitterness and the impulse to feel offended about not receiving the honor one deserves, which I found odd. Is there grumbling within IHOP? I wondered.

Now is the "worst hour in history to be bored in your prayer life", he insisted, encouraging attendees to continue praying to God. Christians should not isolate themselves during the impending "local disasters", but should instead bond with others in their communities and listen for God's solutions together. At the 54:50 mark, Bickle ended his talk by reminding listeners to connect with each other and "know the biblical narrative" in the days ahead.
"I don't want to be part of the confusion of that hour of history. I want to be with people that are part of the solution. I don't want to be a people overwhelmed with fear and confusion and offense. -- 'I thought you were a God of love! How dare you let this get to this place, God in the nations!' -- Many believers will be contributing to the confusion in the decades ahead. -- 'I don't know! I'm freaked out! Ahhh! Somebody help me!' -- I appreciate all that, but I want to be with people who can be part of the solution. I want to come and help people. I want to raise up young people that know how to stay connected to the Lord, connected to each other. They know the biblical narrative. They know what's happening. They're not retreating in fear."
Like so many of his Religious Right brethren, Bickle uses fear to steer his followers. Be afraid of the impending End Times! Be afraid of gays! Be afraid of economic collapse! Be afraid of terrorists with nukes! But pray and live as we say, and you'll be okay! Despite his admonishments to followers not to give in to fear, his talk was heavily laden with fearful warnings. As much as he projected fear onto future panicky bystanders and inadequate Christians, his own speech brimmed with fear.

I suspect that this fear is meant to keep followers close to IHOP. If young worshipers are fearful of external dangers and their own "internal defilement", they will cling to IHOP so as to avoid catastrophe.

The problem is, those catastrophes aren't coming. Gays aren't spoiling America. Economic collapse is not imminent. Jackbooted thugs aren't arresting Christians. Israel isn't going anywhere. The End Times aren't approaching. IHOP's followers must realize this. I hope they can rise above the fear that preachers are trying so desperately to instill in them.


  1. It seems that a big part of the value these people get from their religion is that it makes them feel important by allowing them to imbue their shabby little antics and obsessions with cosmic significance. As the fundie sees his neighbors and co-workers rolling their eyes in dismissive incomprehension at his weird rants about gays and sin and so forth, he clings to his inner "knowledge" that those issues are actually grand harbingers of the imminent End Times and then everybody will see I was right hahaha. Of course, the End Times have been imminent for over a millennium now, so religious grandiosity has been doing good service for its adherents for at least that long.

    I have tremendous compassion and love for people that are gay. Tremendous love.....I want to show them the love of God and the way out of the confusion.

    Yes, he likes gay people as long as he can convince them to stop being gay. The ones who just want to get on with their lives and ignore him, well, he's no doubt gloating about what deep shit they'll be in when Jesus comes back.

    1. Infidel -- When one has no prospects, no excitement, and tons of bewilderment at all the changes taking place it the world, preaching like this can be very seductive. It absolutely makes them feel important, but that importance is an illusion, as we both know.

      I'd love to know what happens to these people when the End Times never arrive and the gloom-and-doom prophesies never come to pass. What happens when the spiritual high wears off? When these people become disillusioned, what psychological toll does it take on them?

  2. Fear and doublespeak. The same playbook has been used to manipulate the religious for at least centuries. You'd think our species would have learned enough by now to see through it but it's obviously still working.

    1. Agi Tater -- I'm baffled that humans haven't learned to see through fear-mongering by now. Generation after generation, fear remains a crude but effective tool for manipulating people.

  3. The end times are always here. Whatever it takes to keep the cash flowing will be the stuff of their sermons. How many times has the end been predicted? What happens when "prophecy" fails? Another prophecy shows up to keep the cash flowing. It must be highly profitable and all you have to do is spew bullshit.

    1. Jono -- It's a time-tested money-maker, that's for sure. And people fall for it, generation after generation, to my dismay.

  4. If only a handful of those members open their minds, it'll be a victory. I can only hope.

    1. Heather -- I hope some of them come to their senses, and soon.


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