Texas Gov. Rick Perry is joining a strange alliance of leaders for The Response, a prayer summit which will be held in a Houston stadium in August. According to the event’s website, “People of all ages, races, backgrounds and Christian denominations will be in attendance to proclaim Jesus as Savior and pray for America.” But the most high-profile sponsors are radical Christian pastors, and the American Family Association, which is the host organization, has been described as a “hate group.” The newest addition to the list of sponsors, via Salon, is the Rev. C. Peter Wagner, whose brand of evangelical Christianity is notoriously hostile to other faiths.
Perry, although he did not organize or sponsor the summit, is described as one of the “initiators.” He also invited the other 49 governors to attend (luckily, only the uber-conservative Sam Brownback of Kansas has RSVP’ed yes). In a short video on the event’s website, he admits to politicians’ limitations in “fixing things that are spiritual in nature,” and asks his viewers to join him at The Response, to pray and ask for God’s forgiveness. He is abundantly clear, however, that he is speaking about a Christian God, and that this will be a Christian event.
Rev. Wagner, who is connected to a kind of evangelicalism called the New Apostolic Reformation, recently commented upon the natural disasters in Japan, saying that had more Japanese turned to Christianity, perhaps the crisis could have been averted.
“I believe that God has a Kingdom destiny for Japan,” Wagner wrote, “but the enemy has built seemingly impenetrable strongholds to prevent it from manifesting. God did not cause the natural disasters; satan and his forces did. They came to steal, kill and destroy. However, this time God did not choose to use His sovereign powers to prevent them from wounding Japan.”
And Wagner is just one of the recent arrivals. Among the other sponsors of The Response are Mike Bickle, the founder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP), who condemned Oprah’s “spirit of deception” and denounced her as a “harlot,” and Doug Stringer, who blamed America’s failure to embrace God for the September 11th attacks.
Rick Perry is currently being hailed as one of the new favorites of the Christian Right. Back in May, Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Pozner analyzed his conservative Christian credentials, from signing a gay marriage ban into law at a Christian school in Fort Worth, to supporting (and benefiting from) the Texas Restoration Project, a group designed to increase conservative pastors’ involvement in politics, and dubbed them “impeccable.” However, as late as June, Perry wasn’t being seen as a serious contender. That’s quickly changing, in part because conservative Christian leaders seem reluctant to support Michele Bachmann, whether because she’s a woman or because she’s so unpredictable.
So Perry’s alliance with these conservative pastors for The Response isn’t just disturbing because the governor of a state should not endorse an exclusively Christian event to pray for the country’s future. Since these pastors are often intimately involved in the choice of a Republican candidate, it may also be a herald of things to come. According to a recent AP news story, a Perry presidential campaign may not be as unlikely as we thought last month. And if he becomes a serious contender for the Republican ticket, these radical pastors will be right behind him.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.