At Beni Johnson’s Instgram account in 2019 she pushed a really warped view of John C Fremont. John C Fremont is a well known explorer in American history who became the first Republican candidate for presidency in 1856. Johnson tied Fremont to End Times theology and prophecy and spoke highly of his faith. Her account left out his role in genocide against Indian tribes in California and Oregon. It also shows why the charismatic movement is warped and has an agenda. History is not simple and not meant to be treated in this way. But for someone like Beni Johnson the harm is done. Word to the Bethel leader leave history to the historians and those serious to treat it with respect and wrestle with the topic no matter where the truth may take one.
“I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold.“
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
California’s key role in End Times theology? (scratches head…)
The other day I saw something on Beni Johnson’s Instagram account that made my jaw drop. Its about some posts she pushed in 2019. Its troubling especially as I have a grad degree in history. Sometimes I think I have seen everything, and then I see publications or articles that give me pause. Leave me to scratch my head. From the charismatic movement the garbage that comes forward is stunning, and what I see coming form Beni Johnson and the Bethel Church culture is no exception. Before I proceed let me give you a brief history lesson on an individual that comes up in American history.
Who is John C Fremont?
John C Fremont was born in Virginia in 1813 but after married settled in Georgia. He became a known American explorer, military officer, politician and opponent of slavery on contributor to American Indian genocide in the west. His work laid the foundation for the Mormon Church to go to Utah and the west. Fremont is a storied individual. This is a brief write up of him and I will leave you with some history books that you can read if you want to pursue this topic further.
In 1837 John L O’Sullivan founded a magazine in Washington, D.C. called United States Magazine and Democratic Review. He coined the term that would be called “Manifest Destiny” in a column. You can read the original column here. Missouri Senator Thomas Benton used the phrase and support annexation of Texas and also the Oregon territory. John C Fremont would lead five expeditions into the Western United States. His 1843 or second expedition explored the Great Basin of Nevada, Wyoming and Utah. His description and maps garnered the attention of the Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois. When Joseph Smith was killed in 1844 Brigham Young upon reviewing Fremont’s maps decided to take the Mormons west starting in 1846, before arriving in Salt Lake in 1847. Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center wrote about John C Fremont’s influence on Mormon migration west which you can read about here.
His third expedition is the one historians are still discussing today. Fremont after arriving at Sutter’s Fort and moving onto Monterey, California was told to leave by the Mexican government. At this time California was property of Mexico. On the way north to Oregon Fremont and his men committed the Sacramento River Massacre. The dispute as to how many Wintu Indians were massacred is unknown but accounts vary form 150 up until 700 people. One of the attackers under Fremont’s command described it as follows. “It was the perfect butchery.” Fremont moved north to Klamath Lake in Oregon killing the Indians they came in contact with. The Indians retaliated on May 9, 1846 by attacking his party and Fremont retaliated by ordering an Indian village named Dokdokwas the following day, though there are doubts that the Indians at this encampment are responsible for the attacks. Fremont believed the British armed the Indians and encourage them to attack. It is believed by some that John C Fremont’s Indian actions laid the foundation for the genocide against the Plains Indians and those of the Inter-Mountain West. Shortly afterward the Mexican-American War broke out and Fremont claimed California from the California Republic. The California Republic is the breakaway state from Mexico and it lasted for 25 days, or from June 14, 1846 until July 9, 1846 when “The Bear Flag revolt” ended. It was declared on July 7 that California would become a part of the United States, and the California Bear Flag was lowered on July 9, and the stars and bars with 29 stars for states was raised. According to some of my research the original Bear Flag Republic Flag was lost in the fire after the destruction of San Francisco after the great 1906 earthquake. John C Fremont was the military governor in 1847.
Fremont settled in California within Monterey but purchased a ranch in Mariposa outside Yosemite. But what would put California on the map occurred on January 24, 1848 when James Marhsall found gold in the river. He and a few others found more gold and while trying to keep it a secret it broke out. It led to one of the biggest migrations in United States history. By the time the California Gold Rush was completed over 300,000 came to California. The California Gold Rush is what led to San Francisco’s rise as a dominant American city. The Gold Rush had a direct impact on American culture. Levi Straus moved to San Francisco in 1853 and founded a food and clothing story to serve miners going out to the field. His company would invent Levi Straus Jeans in 1873. The banking company Wells Fargo came to be in 1852 when Henry Wells and William Fargo created a company to handle express delivery and banking to serve California miners. John C Fremont would find some gold on his ranch on Mariposa and that would make him wealthy. Due to the gold rush California statehood was expedited and it entered the Union on September 9, 1850. John C Fremont became one of California’s first senators to represent the state in Washington, D.C. In response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act the Republican Party was formed and later its name in a school house in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854. John C Fremont became the first Republican Presidential candidate in 1856 and was opposed to slavery. He lost the race to Democrat James Buchanan in part because the Know Nothings split the vote. After the breakout of the Civil War he was given a command of the Department of the West in 1861. Fremont became known for his autocratic rule and made major decisions without consulting Lincoln. For insubordination he was fired by Lincoln. After the Civil War Fremont made some bad investments and suffered financially. His first bad investment was in the Southwestern Pacific Railroad which was not completed. The eastern part went to what would become the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. The Western part became a part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The rest of his finances were wiped out in the Panic of 1873. He briefly served as the Governor of Arizona from 1878 until 1881, where the then resigned form office and also politics. He went to New York City and died on July 13, 1890, destitute having fallen far in life. His wife got a Civil War pension after his death.
I like how Wikipedia summarizes John C Fremont in the opening. “Historians portray Frémont as controversial, impetuous, and contradictory. Some scholars regard him as a military hero of significant accomplishment, while others view him as a failure who repeatedly defeated his own best purposes. The keys to Frémont’s character and personality, several historians argue, lie in his having been born illegitimately, ambitious drive for success, self-justification, and passive–aggressive behavior. His direct involvement in the California genocide of Native Americans throughout the state has also contributed to the degradation of his legacy. A biographer, Allan Nevins, wrote that Frémont lived a dramatic life, of remarkable successes and dismal failures.”
If you would like to read more about John C Fremont you can do so in the following books.
- John Bicknell, “Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856.”
- Tom Chaffin, “Pathfinder: John Charles Fremont and the Course of American Empire.“
- Steve Inskeep, “Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War.“
- David Roberts, “A Newer World : Kit Carson John C Fremont And The Claiming Of The American West.“
- John C Fremont’s memoirs, “Memoirs of My Life and Times“
Bethel’s Beni Johnson Pushes ‘God, Gold and Glory’
Now having spent time up above let’s look at what Beni Johnson pushed on her Instagram account in 2019. Beni pushed a book that is popular among evangelicals and fundamentalist homeschoolers which has a warped view of John C Fremont. Look at what she posted below.
The views that attract Beni Johnson to Henry Faleny’s book are indeed warped. Faleny and his wife Grace lead the Mariposa Revvial Center outside Yosemite National Park. Henry Faleny speaks about apostolic events and his wife is a prophetess. He likes to speak about the role that California will play in End Times theology, and how it will be reborn. It appears his book is used by some to argue that Christians need to retake Sacramento so the state government can be guided back to God and its roots. According to what Benji Johnson wrote God commissioned California to play a key role in ministry. Gold is symbolic to the state, and also there is a link between the mineral gold and the Holy Spirit. But the ninth chapter deals with John C Fremont and this is what is taught about him. God told John C Fremont to conquer California for his glory and that apparently he would do ministry work among the Indians? Fremont was a deep man of faith according to Beni Johnson and that he memorized 300 Bible verses a day and was a devout Bible reader. And again according to the Bethel leader Fremont was guided by the Holy Spirit and displayed supernatural powers that helped his men in difficult situations. His favorite hymn was “Lead Kindly Light.” And he goes back to charismatic theology in pointing out that California is saturated by the strong faith of John C Fremont. Fremont was kind to the Indians, and was anti-slavery. And Christians need to return California to these kinds of roots. She pushes the hashtags #godgloryandgold3 #prayforcalifornia #gold Some of this theology about California and End Times was pushed out on The Elijah List.
History is More Complex Than Beni Johnson Would Believe Those Who Say History is Simple are Fools
In working this post I listened to Henry Faleny’s talk at a charismatic church in Modesto, California. I cringed when listening to it. There’s bad and there’s bad…and then there is horrific but we’re talking about the Bethel cult. This is really twisted to attach prophecy to the California Gold Rush, John C Fremont, Yosemite National Park, and much more. Henry Faleny indicated that many evangelicals are suckers and fools. Chief among them would be Beni Johnson. After being trained in history I was horrified when I saw those posts by Beni Johnson. It shows her disconnect from reality. Her ignorance and rejection of basic facts is stunning. She’s holding someone up as a model of faith who played a key role in Indian extermination in California and Oregon. And I’m not hear to bag on Fremont either. But I don’t see genocide as expletory forms of Christian faith and service. Johnson says Fremont was kind to all natives. Kind to natives? Is that why they were massacred? What’s kind about massacring 150 to 700 people in the Sacramento River? God good what is the weather like on Beni Johnson’s planet?
History as a subject is nor for the meek or the mild. My first time wrestling with history was when someone I knew told me about his family being interned during World War II in California. You can read about it in, “What a College Kid Learned from a Japanese-American who was Interned During World War II; Are Evangelical Christians Going to Take Responsibility for the Current Refugee Crisis?” History is not simple, far from it. Every nation has its dark spots – Peru, Canada, France, Egypt, Israel, etc… That doesn’t mean you ignore the dark situations but it also doesn’t mean you neglect them either. You face them for discussion. That’s what I learned as a history grad student. I listened to a scholar who admired Thomas Jefferson talk about Jefferson owning slaves and even fathering a child through at least one. My professor spoke about how he wrestled with that concept as compared with the Jefferson he was taught growing up. The lesson as I was told is that history is complicated. Great men do makes mistakes and can have a dark side. John C Fremont is no different. But this blog doubts Beni Johnson can rise to this point of understanding. When everything is viewed though the lens of prophecy and End Times theology there is not much room for facts or discussion. That is why charismatic theology is so toxic in the end. You dig your head in the sand and then dig deeper. Which is exactly what Bethel does. So Beni Johnson before you vomit your Christian nationalism warped facts about John Fremont my advice is to leave that to historians, students and people honestly truing to learn. If you want to be productive and helped to your church instead of pushing material like this go get your COVID-19 vaccination shot.