Saturday morning, thousands are expected to begin arriving at Reliant Stadium in Houston to spend the day in prayer and fasting. It is described as a family day, complete with food, nursing rooms, and security at the door. There is a $15 fee to park but the day is free. The event was promoted by Governor Perry.
In line with his previous action of calling for a weekend of prayer to end the draught and wild fires of dry and dusty Texas, this event has brought about much criticism, including my own. I do not think this is what our Governor should be investing in so heavily as he prepares to run for President, and as a sitting Governor.
The event smacks of political posturing, intended or not. The 'invitation' to the event called for Christians to gather for prayer and fasting for our nation's woes. From the beginning it was exclusionary and targeted to the evangelical, fundamentalist,religious right among us. They are the group Perry's upcoming Presidential campaign will lean on most heavily in the primary race. Recently, Perry made a comment that he feels "called" to run for President.
Perry is quite invested in the event - he recorded robocalls inviting people to the event. I know that to be true, as our household received one. Now, with the pushback from the public and a lawsuit or two, Perry is distancing himself from the whole thing. Now his spokespeople say it is unclear the role in which Perry will play and if he will speak to the crowd.
I read an interesting article in the Sunday Houston Chronicle about the sponsors of the event. Turns out, the people behind the organization of this extravaganza are quite icky folks, in my opinion. The first mentioned was Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association from Tupelo, Mississippi. What began as an organization fighting television programming deemed inappropriate, they now oppose "gay rights, feminism, and evolution", according to the Chronicle article.
Also listed was the International House of Prayer and "its affiliate, The Call, both based in Kansas City, Mo. In 1999, Mike Bickle founded this group and sponsors "perpetual prayer to help usher in the Final Days", the Chronicle reports. He warns of something he calls "Harlot Babylon". This is where Oprah Winfrey come in to the story. "I believe that one of the main pastors of the Harlot movement - it's not the Harlot movement yet - is Oprah" Bickle has proclaimed. "She is winsome, she is kind, she is reasonable. She is utterly deceived."
Then there is The Call's founder. Lou Engle "is an outspoken opponent of gay rights who journeyed to Uganda last year to support religious activists backing a law that would have imposed the death penalty on homosexuals." Any problems with that, my fellow Christians?
And, last to be mentioned were the organizers of The Response, who are being helped by the New Apostolic Reformation. "With roots in Pentecostalism, the movement emphasizes ecstatic worship, prophecy and political activism. According to their writings, followers of the movement believe they are leading an army of God that will take over society and civilian government."
I guessing if such an emphasis from, say, a fundamentalist Muslim group was stated for an event, all kinds of commotion would be going on. Just a thought.
If I were Governor Perry's campaign advisor, which I am not, I would have never given the nod to this. This is exclusive, not inclusive, and though it may help in the primary, it will be a big negative in the general election, should he get the nomination. Frankly, these people would vote for him in the primary anyway. If he is strong against his competition for the religious right voter - say, Rick Santorium and Michele Bachmann - and I think he will be, then this is courting unnecessary hurdles down the road.
I do not necessarily doubt the sincerity of the Governor in his turn to religion when times are so tough in our nation. We all feel it. This is the problem when politics and religion merge. Asking supporters to pray for our nation is fine. That is what he did for the much needed rain for Texas. To support organization of this event, however, is wrong.
For full disclosure - yes, I consider myself a Christian. I was raised in the First Presbyterian Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. My father was asked to be a Deacon there and my mother was active with the ladies circles. My sisters and I were in the youth choir and were all baptised there.
Maybe my idea of Christianity is different, but I don't think it is out of the mainstream. I sure hope not.