It doesn’t sound like a name, but it is—of a person from Middletown, Ohio, who exercises an out-sized influence in one quadrant of the grid created by the intersection of politics and religion.
Every morning, Dutch (or his wife Ceci) speaks into a camera for 15 minutes, calling people to prayer. His message is always some variation of his mission: the saving of America.
By America, of course, he means the United States; and by saving, he means pulling the country back from its liberal, secular, and cosmopolitan trajectory into the conservative, religious, and traditional territory he imagines it once occupied.
Sheets is Pentecostal, prepared in that direction by his father, an evangelist in the Church of the Nazarene. He was educated, in a way, in an unaccredited Bible college in Dallas, with which he has been associated for many years. That Bible college, in turn, is connected to an impressive network of such institutions on four continents and many islands.
In his Pentecostal community, Sheets is a celebrity. He is, first of all, an apostle; or so he contends (as do many of his associates). Apostle is one of five offices of the Christian church (according to Pentecostals), the others being prophet, evangelist, teacher, and pastor. According to Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (4:11).
This five-fold ministry is at the center of an emerging wing of the Pentecostal movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation. Prophets have gotten the most attention because they—I mean, some of them—predicted the presidency of Donald J. Trump. When their “prophecies” were confirmed by his election in 2016, their status in their own camp (and Trump’s) was dramatically elevated.
When their “prophecies” four years later were undermined by his loss, it created a crisis. Some apologized and retracted their public word; but others, including Sheets, doubled down, assuring their people that it was only a matter of time before Trump’s rightful place in the White House was restored.
These Pentecostal prophecies are a central element in “the big lie” and continue to undermine confidence in the legitimacy of the voting systems in the United States. The failure of many election deniers in the voting this week will impact both the religious and political wings of the MAGA movement.
A good way to understand the Dutch Sheets and his influence is to watch the five-minute video of an event this past July. Dutch and four friends are standing on a stage before a crowd of thousands. With their backs to the audience and their faces looking up at a large screen, they lead the people in reciting what is known as the Watchman’s Decree.
The Watchman language is pulled from Holy Scripture, of course: Ezekiel 33:7—“I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; thou shalt hear the word at my mouth and warn them from me.” The Decree idea arises from a form of prayer popular in Pentecostal circles in which a person declares (or decrees) some course of action. “I decree that America shall be saved” is a good example, as is “I decree that demons are banished from this house.”
The Watchman Decree is composed of decrees about government and about life in these United States. Of the first:
We decree that America’s executive branch of government will honor God and defend the Constitution…. that our legislative branch (Congress) will write only laws that are righteous and constitutional…. that our judicial system will issue rulings that are biblical and constitutional.
Clearly the separation of church and state, politics and religion is anathema to these believers.
Then comes their summary of what’s wrong with America and what must be done to make it right—
We stand against wokeness, the occult and every evil attempt against our nation… we now take back our God-given freedoms, according to our Constitution… we take back influence at the local level in our communities… we take back and permanently control positions of influence and leadership in each of the Seven Mountains…
We decree that the blood of Jesus covers and protects our nation….that our nation is energy independent, is strong spiritually, financially, militarily and technologically… that evil carries no power, authority or rights in our land nor over our people …that we will operate in unity, going beyond denominational lines in order to accomplish the purposes of God for our nation.
This rhetoric does not appeal to me, nor do I think it reflects the moral and spiritual vision of Holy Scripture as interpreted by Jesus of Nazareth. But the whole thing fascinates me. I’m going to invite Dutch Sheets into TheMeetingHouse to talk with me (and you) about these things.
If that does not work, I may just get in my car and drive less than one hundred miles to his home and knock on his door. Because, like me, his life journey has brought him in a round about way to the beautiful state of South Carolina.
Dutch Sheets is my neighbor, in more ways than one.