Dominionism in Guatemala (David Choiniere)

by David Choiniere – Guatemala / Guatemala-City site: Dominionismo en todas sus formas 03/01/2014

Dominionism in Guatemala (David Choiniere)

Dominionism is a theology that says the church is called to set up God’s rule here in earth. They believe they have been called by God to take over governments and establish God’s rule through a theocracy. In the USA dominion theology is represented by people like Peter Wagner, IHOP, Bethel Church, the Kansas City prophets, and Rod Parsley. Many movements teach dominion theology without using the term. In fact, many reject the term dominion theology and claim that the term does not apply to them. That does not mean they do not teach dominionism. To compound things there are many variations and teachings including Latter Rain, Manifest Sons of God, Kingdom Theology, The Seven Mountains of God, Joel’s Army, the Elijah List, and the Shepherding movement. Some of these churches may eschew political involvement as well.

Dominionist churches also exist around the world and  in Spanish the churches that teach dominionism are often called neo-pentecostal to distuinquish themselves from the older pentecostal movement. These neo-pentecostals have created controversy with their prosperity doctrines which most other churches reject. They are often accused of adding to the word of God with their constant new ‚revelations‘.

Guatemala is one of the countries in the world most affected by Dominionism. Probably dominion theology first came to Guatemala through some Argentinian preachers, Claudio Feidzón and Carlos Annacondia. An earlier influence was Juan Carlos Ortiz of Argentina too. Ortiz spent time recently preaching at the Crystal Cathedral and Annacondia also played a role in the Toronto Blessing as he went there and exposed them to the doctrine.

Rios Montt might be considered the first case of dominionism applied literally in a country. He was rabidly anticommunist and the country was being besieged by guerrillas desiring to apply Marxist-Leninism to a country well known for it’s concentration of wealth where a handful of wealthy families controlled most of the country’s economy and most of the population was either poor or extremely poor. When Rios Montt was president his regime was accused of  committing massacres. He was accused ordering massacres and to this day denies any involvement in them. To be fair he did not start the conflict but his role in it cannot be easily dismissed. He was a lay pastor with the Church of the Word (El Verbo). He was converted to the evangelical faith as an adult. He saw his mission as de facto president as messianic, one in which he was called to crush the Marxist guerrilla movement that had so divided the country. He ordered the crushing of the guerrilla movement at all costs and was famous for saying that „In order to kill the fish you had to remove its water“ lending credence to the idea that he believed that in order to crush the guerrillas it was necessary to kill lots of innocent people as they were aiding the guerrillas. That was how the guerrillas were to be defeated. He applied a carrot and stick policy that gave food to poor people in order to wean them from their support to the guerrilla combined with severe punishment to anyone suspected of aiding and abetting the guerrilla.

Montt was deposed a year and a half later as he aroused too much ire as he spoke harshly against the Catholic faith and dissed the pope on his visit to Guatemala. Rios Montt have friendships with Pat Robertson who met with him shortly after Montt took power as president. Robertson’s Operation Blessing, an organization created to respond to humanitarian crises, was then put into action to try to wean the support of the peasants away from the guerrilla and towards Montt. Many American evangelical missionaries operating in Guatemala refused to denounce the abuses they saw and claimed they were apolitical and did not want to detract from their evangelizing mission. Some were sympathetic to the plight of the poor while others saw religious conversion to the evangelical faith as the  best antidote to the Marxist-Leninist threat.

It bears mentioning that Rios Montt is a very polarizing fiugure these days. He was tried for genocide and was convicted , then that was annulled and a new trial was called for but not started. He has few friends these days. He has lost his voice among most evangelicals.

In 1986 a civilian government was restored to Guatemala and elections were held. Evangelicals were on the rise as they began to impact the country. Soon Evangelicals started getting involved with politics. Serrano Elias became the first evangelical elected to power. He was a member of the Elim church, which long as had dominionist ties. He was a prominient businessman and not expected to place well but surprised everyone by winning the election. He took office in 1992 and in 1993 he suspended the constitution alleging it was the only way to combat widespread corruption. Due to widespread discontent he was removed after two weeks of autocratic rule. He left with 25 million dollars he stole proving that his motives were not exactly innocent. He runs a ranch in Panama where he lives today and breeds thoroughbreds all the while continuing to claim innocence in face of all accusations.

Dominionism in the form of NAR teachings began making a bigger impact in Guatemala with the rise of several megachurches such as El Shaddai, pastored by Harold Caballeros and closely associated with Peter Wagner of the New Apostolic Reformation. He later took on the title of apostle. Another megachurch pastor was Edmundo Madrid who began as a presbyterian pastor, then turned Pentecostal, was ejected from the Presbyterian church and then founded Lluvias de Gracia (Showers of Grace) and who also took on the claim of being an apostle. He has connections to Peter Wagner as well. Another man is Jorge López, a former Baptist pastor who started La Fraternidad preaching a message of prosperity as did Harold Caballeros.

In 2007 Harold Caballeros resigned as pastor of the El Shaddai church to start a new political party called Viva. Many Christians were stunned that the pastor of a major megachurch would resign to run for president. The reaction was mixed at best as many Christians saw politics as dirty and were still licking their would for having voted for Serrano. Christians who were surprised by Caballeros‘ candidacy do not understand dominion theology which states that the church is called to take over the government and more.
Caballeros was rejected from campaigning in the 2007 election. He campaigned without prohibition for the 2011 election with mediocre results. After his loss in the 2011 elections he supported the party Patriota candidate for presidency in the runoff and Perex Molina won. After Otto Perez Molina won, Perez Molina, who was a former military officer, chose Caballeros to be minister of foreign affairs. Caballeros is still in politics and is expected to run for presidency in 2015 election. Harold Caballeros had little support in the past elections and there is little reason to believe he will get a lot more next time.

Harold Caballeros also runs a Christian university called San Pablo. It is located on the property of the El Shaddai ministries. He also runs a string of private schools around the country. When campaigning for the presidency he emphasized that he emphasized that he was a businessman and that is partially true as his schools were expensive and made him a millionaire, over and above his high salary as head and founding pastor of the El Shaddai church. Caballeros has also written several books, most dealing with spiritual warfare. He also has contacts with many of the shadowy figures of Guatemala’s dark past.
Another figure in the movement of dominionism is Sergio Enrique who runs the Ebenezer ministries. All these men, besides the main megachurch, run a group of satellite churches around the country and even outside the country. Not all these pastors necessarily preach prosperity.

Previous to these pastors and their prosperity message the evangelicals had attracted mostly the lower classes. Thanks to the prosperity message evangelical churches soon began attracting the middle and upper classes. Many of these persons  increasing felt alienated from  with what they saw as a drift to the left in the Catholic church through the teaching of Liberation Theology. Evangelicals were happy to welcome the wealthier classes and the political connections with right wing politicians.

Another man teaching dominionism is Cash Luna, who founded the church Casa De Dios The church grew quickly to become the largest church in Guatemala. Cash Luna implements a discipleship program that was copied from the one Cesar Castellanos implemented in Colombia. Castellanos built one of the largest churches in the world; Misión Carismática Iternacional.

Under the Colom administration, who was president from 2008 tp 2012, several members of the El Shaddai church were involved with the Colom government. Among them was Erwin Sperisen who was police chief from 2004-2007. He is currently awaiting trial in Switzerland for his role in some extrajudicial killings during a prison cleanup.

I should not forget to mention Sálvador Gándara, who was minister of the Interior under Colom from 2009-2010. He is also under investigation for his rokle in extra-judicial killings but he first started getting involved in scandals when he was accused of using his government helicopter for personal use. Then he was accused of misappropriating public funds. Still, he claims to be an evangelical Christian. He is under house arrest still.

Approximately 25% of the current congress profess the evangelical faith yet the congress is just as corrupt and inefficient as ever.

Another man professing the evangelical faith and involved in politics is Amílcar Rivera Estévez who was mayor of Mixco, a city bordering on Guatemala city. He served from 2004-2012. He still has political ambitions and is expected to make a run for the presidency in the 2015 elections. He also has been under scrutiny for financial mismanagement.


additional articles about dominionism in Guatemala:

The Most Influential Dominionist You’ve Never Heard Of (Daily Kos)

Rios Montt, Yonggi Cho, New Life, and the strange history of dominionist juntas (Daily Kos)

posted by Siegfried © David Choiniere all rights reserved.


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