This Christian ‘Prophet’ Backed Trump in 2020. Now He Says God Favors DeSantis
Charlie Shamp — a bearded Christian “prophet” with a jet-black pompadour — appeared as a guest on the Jim Bakker Show last week to share a heavenly vision about Republican politics. And for once, it wasn’t about Donald Trump. “We need to watch Ron DeSantis,” Shamp told the televangelist’s audience. “Because the Lord is going to use him in a powerful way.”
Shamp shared a “vision” he’d received of two palm trees —- one planted in California, the other in Florida. He’d asked, “Lord, who are these two palm trees?” And God responded: “This palm tree from California is Ronald Reagan. This palm tree that is in Florida is Ron DeSantis.”
The self-styled prophet said his vision presented the Florida governor as a “tree of righteousness” that God would replant in Washington D.C. to stand strong against “the storms.” Shamp then gave a bold prophetic word: “There’s something about Ron DeSantis that we need to begin to pray for. Because his ultimate future is to have a position in the United States as the president.”
Charismatic Christians offering prophecies about politics is not new. But for years, the divine visions of presidential triumph have centered on one man: Donald John Trump. Shamp’s shift to praise a new heavenly standard bearer in DeSantis marks the latest (terrestrial) sign that Trump is struggling to recapture the influential faith leaders who helped key his 2016 victory — and who stuck with him to the bitterest ends in 2021, when the reality of Biden’s victory exposed prophecies of a second Trump term, including Shamp’s, as bunkum.
White evangelical Christians are the beating heart of the GOP base. Perhaps the wildest feat of Trump’s political career was convincing the fundamentalist faithful that he — a philandering, thrice-married, “pussy” grabber — could advance the cause of Godliness in the White House. If this bloc were to lose faith in Trump, it could doom his dream of recapturing the GOP nomination.
Shamp’s DeSantis prophesy leaves some wiggle room. He didn’t insist DeSantis would win the White House in 2024, specifically. But in painting “Ronald” DeSantis as the second coming of the Ronald Regan he sent a strong signal that the prophetic Christian community is open to turning the page on Trump, in favor of a more authentic spiritual warrior.
For secular Americans who rely on polls, fivethirtyeight.com and the Cook Political Report for their election forecasts, the notion that God is handpicking the nation’s political leaders — and tipping his moves to Christian prophets — can seem bizarre.
But within the world of Charismatic Christianity, prophets and apostles are not things of the past. They are here now. This community believes direct messages from God can predict the course of America’s future. And many hold that the United States is destined to remake the world in line with biblical dictates, to prepare the Earth for the Second Coming of Jesus. This faith community also believes in a supernatural dimension, adjacent to our own, where heavenly spirits clash with literal demons, and that this “spiritual warfare” influences events in our material world.
The Charismatic community built an unlikely bond with Donald Trump over more than a decade says Matthew Taylor, who is the protestant scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS). Taylor monitors the rise of Christian nationalism and in particular the political power of the Charismatic apostolic and prophetic movement.
Long before Trump made a serious bid for the White House, he had been the subject of Charismatic prophesy. In 2007 a prophet named Kim Clement predicted the Lord would make Trump his “Trumpet” in Washington. For his part, Trump courted this band of evangelicals early in his political career, tapping the televangelist Paula White-Cain as his spiritual adviser building up to 2012 when he flirted with a run for the GOP nomination.
When Trump jumped into the 2016 primary, White-Cain was again his point person on religion. But as she began Trump’s outreach, White-Cain didn’t connect him to evangelical A-Listers, like James Dobson or Ralph Reed. “The people she knows are televangelists, and messianic rabbis, and prophets. Those are the people who get in on the ground level,” Taylor says, and became “the tip of the spear.”
To build confidence in the infamously sinful Trump, Lance Wallnau — a self-styled Charismatic prophet and apostle — offered evangelicals a biblical frame for Trump as a Cyrus, recalling an irreligious and chaotic Old Testament King who nonetheless used his power to advance the cause of believers.
Against long odds, Trump quickly gained converts among this devout crowd. Taylor attributes the affinity to Trump’s televangelist chic. “Trump has always had the big hair, the endless positivity, the bombast. He really fits the aesthetics and imagination of the Charismatic folks.”
Once in office, White-Cain became Trump’s gate-keeper and enforcer — and continued to coordinate with leaders in the prophetic movement. On at least a pair of occasions Trump invited Charismatic leaders into the White House to lay hands on him. By the time 2020 rolled around, the prophets were all hearing the same divine message for Trump: Re-election. “You had this total prophetic mind-meld around Trump in 2020,” Taylor recalls.
When Biden emerged victorious instead, it did not create a crisis of faith or self-doubt for the many mistaken prophets. Part of this has to do with the distinction this community draws between prophecy and prediction. Charismatic prophets believe that they “declare the will of God,” but that the future is not preordained, Taylor explains. Fallible human actors must work in concert with God to bring about the world He wants; yet they risk being stymied by demons and Satanic forces.
“In the world these folks inhabit,” Taylor explains, “the 2020 election was stolen from Trump by demonic powers in collaboration with Democrats and disloyal Republicans.” Through Jan. 6 2021, the Charismatic prophetic community — led by Trump-backing Christian nationalists like Dutch Sheets — sought to use “spiritual warfare” to reverse the election result and make real the prophecies of a second Trump term.
In the run-up to 2020, Shamp himself had insisted that God had “singled [Trump] out for favor and promotion,” declaring: “I prophesy that he will be elected to a second term!” The North Carolina prophet clung to that vision following the election, and even showed up on the ground in D.C. on Jan. 6 seeking divine intervention to block a Biden presidency. (Shamp did not respond to an interview request.)
The Charismatic faith community has done little to grapple with the prophesy debacle of 2020. In early 2021, a group of faith leaders released a call for enhanced “prophetic standards” — including that those who promote erroneous prophesies should “take full responsibility, demonstrating genuine contrition before God and people.”
Yet the few prophets who’ve admitted they blew it on the 2020 election have been punished, not rewarded. Jeremiah Johnson prophesied a Trump election in 2015 and joined the prophetic chorus again in 2020. In the aftermath of Biden’s victory, he was genuinely contrite, filming a YouTube series called, “I Was Wrong.”
In the videos, Johnson insisted it was time for Trump-promoting prophets to “humble ourselves” and “ask the hard questions.” Johnson criticized “many in the prophetic movement” who preferred to keep “acting like their prophecy was correct” — that Trump had been robbed by fraud or that there was some still-unseen event on the horizon that would reinstall him in the White House. Johnson denounced this as “pride and arrogance” and he carried a stark word of warning to his fellow mistaken prophets: “If we do not wake up… there is greater judgment that’s going to come.”
Far from gaining favor as a truth teller, Johnson was pilloried. “He got death threats,” Taylor says. “There were people who were like, ‘How dare you, you heretic! God spoke to you! And now you’re backing down from the word that God spoke?!’” The backlash was so intense that Johnson had to shut down his ministry. “Jeremiah Johnson became a cautionary tale to other prophets who would back down from their prophecies.”
Moving into 2024, many evangelicals are looking at Trump as a sinner who served his purpose — installing three arch conservatives on the Supreme Court bench, who have since overruled Roe v. Wade — and are eager to entertain other options.
Taylor sees Shamp’s DeSantis prophesy as a “trail balloon” — a hedging away from Trump that simultaneously opens the door for the Florida governor to make his case to the Charismatic community. (The prophet, it should be noted, didn’t actively diss Trump, telling the audience, “I still believe that the anointing of God is upon him.”)
DeSantis has a theological obstacle. He’s Catholic. But the Florida Governor has already made inroads with the Charismatic world. In Jan. 2022, DeSantis appeared on stage with Charismatic Christian activist rocker Sean Feucht, who prayed on stage over Casey DeSantis, the governor’s wife, then being treated for cancer. (Feucht later gave the Lord credit for her recovery, posting on Facebook:: “HE STILL HEALS TODAY! All praise to God!”)
In a dog whistle to the Charismatic crowd, DeSantis has repeatedly used the language of spiritual warfare in his speeches, tweaking a passage from Ephesians about putting on the “full armor of God” to defeat, not the devil as the bible says, but “the left’s schemes.”
And in the closing days of his 2022 gubernatorial reelection campaign, DeSantis unveiled a video that portrayed him as on a heavenly mission. The surreal, vaguely sacreligious voiceover begins: “And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, I need a protector. So God created a fighter.”
Taylor sees DeSantis trying to convince the Charismatic world that he, like Trump, is willing to battle for biblical principles. “That was the Charismatic justification for Donald Trump. ‘He’s a fighter.’ Right? He might not be perfect. He might be an asshole, he might not even be a Christian, but he’s a fighter; he’ll fight for us.”
Taylor sees DeSantis “trying to kind of cast himself in that in that same vein.” But the struggle the Florida governor will face, the religion scholar believes, is that DeSantis lacks Trump’s mega-preacher magnetism. “Both in in public and also behind closed doors,” Taylor says, “he’s not super charismatic — charismatic in the lowercase.”