How Many Americans Believe in Modern-Day Prophets? What Does that Entail?

Paul A. Djupe, Denison University

Though they have been around for much longer, the appearance in mainstream outlets of self-described prophets who make declarations of God’s intentions for current events is striking. In particular, it was clear from the onset of Donald Trump’s campaign in 2015 that something was different about the evangelicals that surrounded him. Some of them were establishment evangelicals – leaders of Christian Right organizations and denominations – but many of them are more accurately labeled charismatics and some labeled themselves prophets. How extensive are these views in the American public? Until recently, we only had a general sense, but now we have much more certainty.

But first a plug. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend Bradley Onishi’s Straight White American Jesus podcast. They are highly entertaining, deeply informative, and wide-ranging in content. But if you are interested in the political machinations of modern-day prophets, I can’t recommend enough the series that Matthew Taylor put together with Onishi called Charismatic Revival Fury. It will give you unprecedented detail about the politics of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) over, especially, the last 8 years. I already knew some of this and I still learned a considerable amount. I can’t wait for Taylor’s book to come out.

But the one thing that Dr. Taylor doesn’t have is public opinion data to estimate how extensive NAR-consistent beliefs are in the American public. I say “NAR-consistent” beliefs, but not “NAR-exclusive” beliefs because there is a larger group of Pentecostal/Charismatics with loose boundaries that likely believes much the same things. (Dr. Taylor and I had a very nice conversation and he nudged me to adjust my prior questions about prophecy to get a tighter, better estimate. It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway, that he’s not responsible for any claims I’m making here.) In previous posts, I’ve explored whether people still believe after so many prophecies were just plain wrong about placing Trump back in the White House in 2020. Since so many did, it was natural to find a strong link between prophecy and belief in election fraud. And, pulling them together, belief in prophecy appears to be an accelerant of support for extreme, even violent political behavior. Now, as part of a larger project, Andy Lewis, Jake Neiheisel, and I are using prophecy as a core component of our Four Horsemen of Apocalypticism measure. Stay tuned for more from that collaboration.

It is clear from past work that many Americans believe in prophecy, that “God has revealed his plans for the future to humans as prophecy.” With 2021 data, we found that 37 percent of Americans agreed with that statement and, as shown below, 38 percent believe that in 2023. That’s incredibly stable and gives us confidence that we’re probably measuring that adequately.

What we don’t know is whether people believe in modern-day prophets who are generating *new prophecy*. So, I asked for respondents’ agreement with the statement, “Modern-day prophets continue to reveal God’s plans to humanity.” Agreement is lower, but not that much lower – 28 percent agree, 35 percent are on the fence, and 37 percent disagree. I also asked for the explicit rejection of modern prophecy by asking, “God’s prophecies and laws are limited to those found in the Bible.” Overall in the sample, 23 percent say they agree with this, but it would be more meaningful to look just among prophecy believers (who agree with the first statement – God reveals his plans…). Among prophecy believers, only 45 percent agree that prophecy is limited to the Biblical accounts, while about 64 percent say they believe in modern prophecy (yes, that means some agree with both, which doesn’t make sense – welcome to surveying). So, all told, this suggests that about a quarter of the population believes in modern-day prophecy and prophets.

The results also suggest that modern-day prophecy believers are more likely to believe in faith healing as the following figure shows. 92 percent of those who strongly agree that there are modern prophets also agree that God has allowed some people to heal others through prayer. That belief was clearly on display during the pandemic when certain churches refused to shut down that appeared concentrated among charismatics who believed they were “covered”. Our prosperity gospel scale is highly correlated with prophecy (r=.67) – it’s no surprise that believing that everyday people can channel God’s intentions and power will also entail material health and wealth.

In my hearing of Matthew Taylor’s telling of the NAR prophets’ involvement with Trump, Lance Wallnau stands at the forefront of a large cast. Not only was Wallnau one of the first to suggest that Trump was the equivalent of King Cyrus (anointed by God to enable Jews to rebuild the Temple as described in the book of Ezra and Isaiah 45), he also was the originator of the so-called 7 mountains mandate – the call for Christians to conquer the 7 mountains of family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government, which would constitute the domination of society (though, dominionism has deeper roots). Perhaps that’s why Wallnau (and Bill Johnson’s) book has the militaristic title Invading Babylon – The 7 Mountains Mandate.

So, let’s look at these two ideas – are believers in modern prophecy also believers in Trump’s anointing and in the 7 mountains mandate? It’s no surprise that belief in Trump’s anointing has declined since his presidency – it was as high as 21.4 percent in 2019. By 2023, it had declined to 13 percent (but is still 13 percent!). Some are more likely to believe in Trump’s anointing and they are believers in modern prophecy as the following graph shows. As many as a third of prophecy believers think Trump was anointed.

What about the 7 mountains mandate? We asked people if they agree or disagree that, “God wants Christians to stand atop the ‘7 mountains of society,’ including the government, education, media, and others.” Overall in the sample, 20.4 percent agree with the mandate. Since the 7 mountains mandate has been frequently touted by modern prophets in the last 8 years, I would expect a relationship here. And that’s exactly what we find – a majority of modern prophecy believers also adopt the seven mountains mandate.

I want to end with something that is vastly underappreciated – modern prophecy belief cuts across the major fault lines of American political life. They are racially diverse and, perhaps most surprising, they are politically diverse. In fact, as the following graph shows, the most ardent prophecy believers are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.

And, to an extent, their religious views trump their partisan ones (though to what extent is still to be explored). For instance, the same proportions of Democratic and Republican prophecy believers see Trump as anointed by God to be president.

There is a lot left to explore about modern prophecy believers. But we should acknowledge that these are not fringe Americans, at the very least in the sense that they are an enormous segment of the population given my estimates here. I suspect it is unlikely, however, that all of these people attend congregations that practice modern prophecy, though that is yet to be determined. They certainly have distinctive and consequential religious and political views that pose challenges to both democracy and the medical system as we know them.

Paul A. Djupe directs the Data for Political Research program at Denison University, is an affiliated scholar with PRRI, the series editor of Religious Engagement in Democratic Politics (Temple), and co-creator of Further information about his work can be found at his website and on Twitter.


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