HAMILTON, Ala. — There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth among supporters of The Ramp ministry in Hamilton Sunday night as it became evident that ‘Prophet’ Damon Thompson had either left or been removed from the ministry.
Damon Thompson, you may recall, is the charismatic youth minister who drew national attention last summer when reports and videos of his gay reparative prayer service and a vitriolic rant against “queers” went viral.
In the rant, he claimed that the gay teen suicide epidemic isn’t caused by bullying, but by the “demonic force of homosexuality.”
Did the negative attention surrounding his views on gays contribute to Thompson’s departure? As of yet, there is no clear indication; there has been no official statement from The Ramp, its staff, or Thompson himself. But the signs don’t point to an amiable departure; it doesn’t appear Thompson even had the chance to offer a farewell.
Supporters first noticed something amiss when Thompson’s name and picture were quietly removed from the leadership page on The Ramp’s website, leaving only a picture of Ramp founder Karen Wheaton. His name also disappeared from upcoming events that he was scheduled to participate in.
A source did confirm that the ministry team was privately informed of Thompson’s departure last week.
The only clue from Thompson himself may have been cryptic hints in a sermon at a church in Panama City, Fla. Thursday night.
“The reason I’m fighting like I’m fighting now is because hell is sore afraid of where God’s about to take me in the
days to come,” he told the congregation at High Praise and Worship Center. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Sunday night’s service at The Ramp seemed to confirm the worst fears Thompson’s supporters as they watched the live stream on The Ramp’s website. The service, normally a high energy atmosphere with lots of jumping and the Christian equivalent of a mosh pit, was highly subdued. Audience members were audibly wailing and crying.
Lindell Cooley, who once led worship at the famed Brownsville Revival in Pensecola, Fla., spoke on the stage where Thompson preached just one week before. Without naming him, Cooley seemed to allude to his exit. “When people leave, you hurt,” Cooley told the crowd. “You’re not angry with them. You’re not frustrated. You don’t think they’re evil. You just hurt.”
Those words didn’t do much to soothe the faithful. “We need to pray. I am so grieved!” one supported said. Another just wanted answers: “I wanna know what happened. It’s freakin’ Damon Thompson! He’s The Ramp. I love his spirit.”
Is it possible that Thompson’s ‘spirit’ could’ve led to his departure? Such resistance had built to his ministry that Thompson shut down his Facebook page after his page and The Ramp’s page were inundated with angry response’s to his anti-gay rhetoric.
In fact, he drew so much attention last summer that it appeared he was still wallowing in feigned martyrdom on New Year’s Eve. Pro-LGBT people had made 2011 the “greatest year” of harassment in his ministry’s history, he claimed. “Stupid stuff happened,” he said at the annual Winter Ramp. “I made a statement about homosexuals and got 250,000 emails in 24 hours. I’ve been preaching about Jesus for years and get 12 emails. I got 250,000. I said this is crazy stuff going on, so I just kept preaching.”
While the volume of email he received is likely grossly exaggerated, it is clear that the backlash had an effect on the ministry at The Ramp. Thompson continued to rant against LGBT people and AIDS victims, but he ceased using more inflammatory words like “queer.”
As recently as January, he made clear his intention to carry on a fight against a culture that accepts perceived social ills like gays and abortion.
In a sermon at The Ramp last month, he signaled a yearning
for the days when The Ramp associated closely with Lou Engle, an evangelical firebrand who exerts significant influence over sympathetic politicians like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.
Like Engle, Thompson
embraces Christian dominionist theology. Last year, Thompson ‘prophesied‘ that the Christian church would assume a “radical voice” that would allow it to
shape the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.
Yet if Sunday night’s guest speaker Lindell Cooley’s words are any indication, The Ramp may be seeking to move away from such overtly political dominionist Christianity. Cooley slammed the tendency of churches to embrace the political. “We decided to be political,” he said. “And in the middle of this, the dove of the Holy Spirit flew because he suddenly realized that, ‘I’m not the focus anymore.’”
In the midst of all this, Damon Thompson’s more prophetic statement yet may have come while he was preaching to the crowd in Pensacola last week:
“People operating under the wrong spirit are being forced into a quick repentance or quick exit,” he said.