The Trump Prophets Regroup

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Beyond the spiritual test of unrealized prophecies, there are very earthly stakes here: Under Mr. Strang’s stewardship, Charisma had grown from a church magazine to a multipronged institution with a slew of New York Times best sellers, millions of podcast downloads and a remaining foothold in print media, with a circulation of 75,000 for its top magazine. It is widely regarded as the flagship publication of the fast-growing Pentecostal world, which numbers over 10 million in the United States. With its mash-up of political and prophetic themes, Charisma had tapped a sizable market and electoral force. In 2019, one poll found that more than half of white Pentecostals believed Mr. Trump to be divinely anointed, with additional research pointing to the importance of so-called prophecy voters in the 2016 election.

In his new book, Mr. Strang mentions the former president only in passing, with far more attention going to topics such as the coming Antichrist and loathed government overlords seeking to stamp out religion wholesale.

Mr. Strang summed it up, “The fact is there are people who want to cancel Christianity.”

“Christians and other conservatives need to wake up and stand up,” Mr. Strang said in an interview. “It says that right on the cover of the book.”

The supernatural and mass media have long been fused in the story of Pentecostalism. In 1900s Los Angeles, Aimee Semple McPherson broadcast news-style reports of miracles and prophetic words over her own radio station in Echo Park. Oral Roberts conducted healing crusades through the TV screen. The duo Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker mastered the flashy style of prime time talk shows.

Mr. Strang’s journalism career began in Florida as a rookie reporter at The Sentinel Star, where he covered more mundane topics like police and town hall meetings. In 1975, Mr. Strang founded Charisma, then a small periodical put out by Calvary Assembly of God, a congregation in the Orlando area that he attended with his wife. Mr. Strang bought the magazine from the parent church in 1981 and dove into religious publishing.

In time, Charisma prospered. The editorial voice had the sunny boosterism of a hometown newspaper, covering the personalities of the Pentecostal world, an audience that Mr. Strang believed was woefully underserved. While competitors such as Christianity Today courted the buttoned-up elite of American evangelicalism, Charisma cornered a niche market of what are called charismatic Christians, set apart by their interest in gifts of the spirit, including things like healings, speaking in tongues and modern-day prophecy. Mr. Strang eschewed matters of stuffy dogma for eye-popping tales about the Holy Spirit moving through current events. Editorial meetings would focus on looking for what one former employee called “the spiritual heat” behind the headlines of the day.

“We didn’t want to become the kind of boring publications many ‘religious’ journals are,” Mr. Strang wrote in an early editor’s note. “That is why we went first class with this publication.”

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