As the Response rally livestreams, more awaited speakers are appearing on stage. At approximately 12:22 p.m. Eastern, rally organizers Gov. Rick Perry of Texas spoke to an elated crowd, headlining the "corporate repentance" phase of the rally.
Gov. Perry acknowledged those who have lost hope due to affliction or hardship during these difficult times, reminding listeners that a loving God wipes away darkness and gives hope to those who trust in him. God does not require a show of religion, Perry insisted, but rather connection with worshipers' deepest being. God's agenda is not a political agenda, but rather a salvation agenda, he told the audience, adding that God is not affiliated with any political party or man-made institution. Perry quoted from Joel 2:12-17, Isaiah 40:28-31, and Ephesians 3:14-21, telling the audience that God is calling Americans to return to him and know his love and grace.
Gov. Perry then led prayer, lamenting the problems confronting America such as "discord at home," "fear in the marketplace," and "anger in the halls of government." As a nation, Americans have forgotten who made them, blesses them, and protects them, he said. Perry asked God for forgiveness, beseeching believers to pray to God to guard the president's family and impart wisdom on the president. He also urged listeners to pray for the military, particularly the families of special operations troops who died yesterday.
Next, at approximately 12:38 p.m. Eastern, Tony Evans delivered a rousing sermon, brimming with sports metaphors and calls to repair the church. Evans likened life to football in which there is a home team, a visiting team, and the "team" of officials who are loyal to the NFL rather than any competing team. The team of officials are guided by their rulebook and ultimately answer to the NFL commissioner, but if they ally with either team on the field, they immediately lose their legitimacy. Believers are to live by their rulebook (scripture) and their commissioner (Jesus Christ), he argued, likening idolatry to officials who ally with one of the teams on the field rather than their commissioner. When the church loses its faith, it loses the backing of God, just as officials who fail to remain impartial lose the support of the league office.
Evans claimed that the church has lost its "corporate perspective." He lambasted idolatry, defining an idol as an illegitimate person or thing to which God's followers look to for help and answers. Evans reminded listeners that believers have God and thus do not need idols. How can America be one nation under God, he asked, if the church cannot be one church under God? Evans argued that the church should model what the nation should be, insisting that fixing the nation involves fixing the church so that God can utilize the church to repair the nation. He quoted 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 which urges believers to flee from idolatry.
The Response rally schedule included repentance for the "shedding of innocent blood," which I suspected would involve prayers against abortion. I was correct. Some time after 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Doug Stringer lamented that the "blood of innocents" is crying out to God, urging believers to be a force of tangible justice in the land. The church, he grieved, has allowed the sins of racism, injustice against Native Americans, and the "shedding of innocent blood" to take place, thereby placing abortion in the same moral category as racist oppression. Speaking of abortion in the same breath as race issues is an increasingly common tactic among anti-abortion activists, I've observed, and Stringer's talk demonstrated this strategy as well.
Stringer lamented that a generation has sacrificed young "prophets" and "prophetesses" on the "altar of ease and comfort," which seemed to condemn abortion as an act of convenience. The pulpit is responsible when a nation spirals downward morally, he noted.
At approximately 1:25 p.m. Eastern, individuals offered up short prayers on stage, most of which focused on the ending of abortion. An African-American woman warned that the country was nearing spiritual collapse, as its moral fiber is weakening and the blood of innocents runs freely. She urged God to end abortion and bring about spiritual revival in the country. Another young caucasian woman grieved for the 52 million unborn children "sacrificed" through abortion, urging others to repent of their "apathy" and "selfishness." Likewise, she urged God to end abortion and forge a culture of life. A Hispanic man said that the Lord knew that the only innocent blood that needed to be shedded was his own, and that lives have been wasted. A second Hispanic man prayed that God dispel the "spirit of Herod" (a reference to Herod's role in the slaughter of children in the Bible.) An African-American clergyman asked for forgiveness for failing to rescue pregnant mothers and valuing convenience over human life, stressing the need for laws that glorify God's name. Finally, a woman passionately led the audience in the Life Prayer against abortion. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)
* UPDATE: Right Wing Watch has identified several of the anti-abortion voices on stage as Alveda King, Lila Rose, Harry Jackson and Susan Tyrrell.
To return to part I, click here. To read part III, click here.
For additional commentary, visit the following links.
Talk to Action: Will Samuel Rodriguez and a Rebranded Religious Right Save Perry's Controversial Prayer Event?
CNN: Perry prayer event hopes to pray away the malaise
Right Wing Watch: Fact Sheet: Gov. Rick Perry's Extremist Allies
Right Wing Watch: The Response: Praying to End Abortion in America