A charismatic preacher inveighing against imminent devastation is nothing new. America has long been fertile ground for would-be doomsday prophets, stretching back centuries.
Matthew Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University and the author of “American Apocalypse,” said Mr. Cahn fits a unique American mold. “In key historical moments, religious figures like this find a way to step in,” Mr. Sutton said. “They draw from apocalyptic theology and say, ‘We have this secret knowledge and can explain what’s going on.’ It fosters this sense that God’s judgment is hanging over your head.”
Among several of Mr. Cahn’s recent predecessors of this ilk would be televangelists like the Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee, whose books include “Can America Survive?” and Jim Bakker, the controversy-prone preacher who now hosts an end-times TV program and sells disaster survival products.
Mr. Cahn brings the tradition fully into the social-media age: many of his fans first saw him on Facebook; hundreds of posts and reposts of his sermons are uploaded on YouTube, slipped into the corners of the web where esoteric religion and conspiracy theories overlap.
Into this mix came Mr. Cahn’s latest book, “The Paradigm,” which could be his most polarizing, tying his prophetic work to the election of Donald Trump.
The book, published in the months after Trump’s win, again likens America to the ancient nation of Israel — two peoples, Mr. Cahn says, who have a unique relationship with God. He then argues that all sorts of figures in contemporary politics have biblical counterparts. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, for example, are the modern-day analogues to wicked Ahab and Jezebel. Trump is the warrior-king Jehu, who took control of the nation and cast idols out of the capital. “Jehu also sought to drain the swamp,” Mr. Cahn said.
Trump, “like his ancient predecessor,” Mr. Cahn writes in his book, was a “flawed vessel” being used by God. “The unlikely and controversial warrior was destined to become the new ruler of the land,” Mr. Cahn goes on. “The template would ordain that Donald Trump would become the next president.”