Today's the day! The Response Rally is taking place today in Houston's Reliant Stadium, and the event's Twitter feed claims that there are over 25,000 people in attendance. The rally is currently livestreaming here, and I'll be watching the event throughout the day. For a full rally schedule, click here.
Much like a contemporary worship service or prayer gathering, the Response rally started this morning with Christian musical performances. Houston's Reliant Stadium was packed with thousands of worshipers from many races and walks of life, praying and swaying to the Christian music. At approximately 10:10 a.m. Eastern, a man on stage blew into a shofar, perhaps a reference to the practices of the ancient Hebrews.
Even amidst innocuous worship music, political commentary found its way into the Response. At approximately 10:21 a.m. Eastern, a performer in a white shirt and red tie prayed that God would save the nation and return it to its "Judeo-Christian roots." At approximately 10:24 a.m. Eastern, a woman with light hair said that those who are free in Christ are free indeed, but that "freedom has always had its detractors." She urged listeners to be "freedom's advocates," adding "we pledge allegiance to the lamb, the true source of liberty and justice for all." Her words startled me, especially the words she borrowed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Was she implying that God, rather than worldly authorities, truly ensures freedom and justice? Was she indicating that loyalty to faith trumps loyalty to country? I don't know.
At approximately 10:35 a.m., Richard Land and the Response's co-chairs appeared on stage. Land introduced the co-chairs by name, including James and Shirley Dobson, Tony Evans, Bishop Harry Jackson, Tom Minnery, Penny Nance, Tony Perkins, and the Wildmans. Although they could not be present, Land also gave mention to Frank Provone and Sammy Rodriguez. After the introductions, Land prayed for God's intercession, asking for revival, reformation, and clean hearts.
Shortly before 11:00 a.m. Eastern, Luis Cataldo rejoiced at the racial, national, and age diversity of the Response attendees, exclaiming "The body of Christ is responding to a call to prayer!" He reminded listeners that they were not there as passive spectators, but as active participants praying to God. Acknowledging the presence of Christians of different denominations, he urged people to pray to Jesus rather than fixate on forms of worship. The Response, he argued, was not about denominational theological differences, but about unity and humility before God.
At approximately 11:09 a.m., James and Shirley Dobson came to the podium, smiling at the assembled worshipers. James Dobson spoke first, reciting the story of the Battle of Dunkirk during World War II. British Parliament and the Church of England called for a national day of prayer at the time, and on May 28th, 1940, 70% of Londoners were allegedly in church praying for their nation, he claimed. As a result, he insisted, 350,000 soldiers were rescued from the onslaught of German troops. Dobson argued that America needs its own miracle of Dunkirk today, as the nation is surrounded by forces it cannot control and problems its leaders cannot surmount. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)
Shirley Dobson, chair of National Day of Prayer task force, led a prayer after her husband spoke. Claiming that the nation is surrounded by "evil and immorality," that families are in "disarray," and that the economy is faltering, she beseeched God for forgiveness and guidance. People have run out of answers and solutions, she said, asking God to heal the land and restore it to a city shining on a hill.
Other speakers gave brief talks and prayers before the audience. Luis Cataldo shared the story of an industrial accident that took off the fingers of his right hand, describing how this tragedy shaped his faith. A tearful Paula Allred urged the Holy Spirit to reveal things that believers had put before the Kingdom of God, such as career, finances, or pursuit of the American dream. Billy Humphreys from the Atlanta International House of Prayer quoted Proverbs 28:13 and 2 Corinthians 6:17 as he preached on "sexual immorality," although he did not specify what constituted sexual immorality. He stressed that the church must come clean on sexual immorality and take responsibility for the sin it saw in the world. Interestingly, he added that believers must stop "pointing fingers" at what they believed was immoral and start addressing the immorality they've allowed into their homes and hearts.
Click here to read parts II and III.
For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
Right Wing Watch: The Response: Dobsons Ask God To Give America A "Miracle At Dunkirk"
Right Wing Watch: The Response: Non-Christians Are "Excluding Themselves" From Our Christians-Only Prayer Rally
Mother Jones: What to Expect From Rick Perry's Prayer Festival
Austin American-Statesman: Plenty of ties between Team Perry and Response, super PAC
NPR: Rick Perry's Religious Revival Sparks A Holy War