To Bishop John Gimenez, America today is in the grips of Satanic subjugation, manifested by seven spirits or evil demons which threaten to destroy the nation, especially its children. The pastor and founder of the Rock Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said God spoke to him in November 1992 and asked for an expiatory gathering of Christians at the center of American power, Washington, DC.
So, on April 29-30, 1996, a march for Jesus took place on the mall which connects many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Like similar marches in 1980 and 1988, this year's event was billed as apolitical. But inescapably, features of the march had political implications as America faces important presidential and congressional elections in the fall.
The rhetoric of the 1996 march was a strange blend of Christian triumphalism, religious tribalism, Old Testament imagery, and American exceptionalism. The premise, allegedly based on several Biblical passages, was that Christians should apologize to the Almighty for the nation's corporate sins in order to win a stay of execution from God's certain and just punishment.
In an interview with Freedom Writer Magazine, Gimenez enumerated the seven spirits afflicting America: persecution of Christians, homosexuality, abortion, racism, addiction, the occult, and HIV/AIDS. The first letters, he said, spell pharaoh, which symbolizes the triumph of evil in the United States today.
Gimenez attacked "spiritual wickedness in high places" and attributed the rise of evil to the Supreme Court's 1962 decision against compulsory prayer and religious exercise in public schools. Gimenez endorsed a school prayer amendment and the so-called Religious Equality Amendment recently introduced in Congress, which would strengthen majoritarian religious group activity in public places. "Prayer never hurt nobody," he affirmed, and said the Ten Commandments should be taught in public schools. (Gimenez's church, however, maintains a private school.)
While steadfastly maintaining an apolitical stance, Gimenez called for the election of "righteous" people to public office, said that voters should look at the personal lives of candidates before voting, and called abortion, which he insisted on labeling the killing of babies, the bottom-line issue. Gimenez compared America to the ancients who sacrificed their children to the false god Moloch.
Gimenez was born in Spanish Harlem in 1931, grew up in the South Bronx, was a drug addict for 16 years and spent some time in prison. In 1963 he became a born-again Christian and five years later established the Rock Church with his wife, a fellow preacher.
Gimenez's church is about a mile down the road from the headquarters of Pat Robertson's empire. Gimenez admires Pat and sees him about once a year, but they "don't hang out together," he says. Gimenez speaks in the direct language of the streets and rarely minces words. He bitterly opposes the "gay agenda" and says people are not born gay because "God could not create what he condemned as perversion."
There is little room for complexity or ambiguity in Gimenez's worldview. While claiming that his inspiration is apolitical, his religious vision clearly excludes certain political positions and mandates others, and his supporters are likely targets for manipulation by the forces of the Right. This was symbolized by appearances by Jerry Falwell and Jay Sekulow on April 30 to smaller than expected crowds. Few Christians outside of the Pentecostal orbit attended.