A recent event at Bethel Church involving a Lord of the Rings-like staff and a line from the film has sparked a social media debate over its appropriateness.
The moment took place toward the end of the two-hour “Transformation NOW!” event on June 12 that featured multiple speakers, including Bethel Church pastor Bill Johnson, addressing ethnic reconciliation and social justice. It was livestreamed on Bethel.TV, YouTube and Facebook Live. The congregation is located in Redding, Calif.
A Twitter video of the moment has been viewed more than 300,000 times.
Marlyne Barrett, a pastor at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, held the wooden staff on stage, surrounded by the speakers.
“I am an artist,” said Barrett, an actress known for her role in NBC’s Chicago Med and Chicago Fire. “... One of the movies that has really touched my heart is Lord of the Rings.”
Barrett referenced the night’s speakers and how they had impacted and inspired her to help bring the body of Christ together. She then mentioned a scene in the film trilogy in which Gandalf battles a demon known as Balrog on a bridge over a hellish-like abyss. In the scene, Gandalf holds his staff and shouts, “You shall not pass!” Half the bridge crumbles, and Balrog falls into the abyss.
Speaking of the “racist spirit in America,” Barrett said, “We are going to lift the staff -- and we'll command the spirit, not only to leave, but it shall not pass. … We will say together, 'no more, no more, no more.'”
Each speaker then touched the staff as Harvest Rock Church pastor Ché Ahn said, “As an apostolic team, with the authority that God's given to us, we decree and declare that racism will end. It's over in the ekklesia, from this night forward in Jesus' mighty name.”
The team then shouted while the staff hit the floor: “Thou shalt not pass.” Barrett added: “In the name of Jesus Christ.”
A clip of the moment was posted on Twitter by The Berean Millennial and received 373,000 views and 600-plus comments.
Well y’all...Bethel has officially ended racism by doing a ritual and quoting a phrase found in LORD OF THE RINGS. I can’t. 🤦🏼♀️ end the madness. pic.twitter.com/nL8q7Pr8G4— The Berean Millennial (@thebereanmillen) July 13, 2020
Some criticized it.
“They don’t worship the God of the Bible. Don’t get me started on their Jesus they worship,” one person tweeted.
Not really turning on “eachother” when we are calling out false teachers. They don’t worship the God of the Bible. Don’t get me started on their Jesus they worship. 🤦🏽♀️🤯— loveleelife (@thisloveleelife) July 13, 2020
Others said Barrett was using an illustration.
“They used a great example of spiritual authority displayed in LOTR to get everyone in attendance to understand they are ALL standing in agreement to repent from AND demolish racism in their hearts & homes,” one person tweeted. “So funny to see y’all not get it.”
Another person wrote, “This is called prophetic action. By using the authority we ALL have through Jesus Christ (i.e. the Great Commission.) it isn’t ritual or spell, it’s declaring what is already done in heaven, on earth. Proverbs 18:21 tells us how powerful this is.”
This is called prophetic action. By using the authority we ALL have through Jesus Christ (I.e the Great Commission.) it isn’t ritual or spell, it’s declaring what is already done in heaven, on earth. Proverbs 18:21 tells us how powerful this is. 👍🏼— Hailey Grace (@haileygracemo) July 13, 2020
Photo courtesy: Bill Johnson Ministries
Video courtesy: Bill Johnson Ministries
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.