Texas Governor Rick Perry’s much-discussed prayer rally, “The Response,” began this morning, after a truly depressing week in American politics. The event, held in Houston’s Reliant Stadium, had about 20,000 attendees when the program began at 10 am. The stadium can hold over 70,000 people, so there were many empty seats.
Rick Perry, who still hasn’t announced whether he’s running for the Republican presidential ticket, has been promoting the event all summer as a solution to America’s many woes. ”With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God’s help,” Perry explained in a video on the event’s website. “That’s why I’m calling on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did.”
But the alliance of radical Christian pastors who will be speaking at the event have raised significant criticism, even from fellow Christians, who denounce the event as divisive and exclusive. Several groups will be protesting the event, while a spokesman for a coalition of African-American clergy urged Perry to speak out against the rhetoric of the American Family Association, one of the event’s sponsors. The AFA has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group” because of its homophobic statements.
Right Wing Watch has coverage of “The Response” as it unfolds, as well as ample background on the checkered histories of the event’s speakers. So far, after words from Luis Cataldo (who is affiliated with the International House of Prayer, an organization which, among other projects, is “is waging a ‘spiritual war’ on the Supreme Court to get abortion outlawed in America”), “Response” attendees have been treated to a prayer to end abortion and a call from James and Shirley Dodson to rescue God from the evil that surrounds America.
We’ll have more thorough analysis of the event tomorrow. But for now, keep checking Right Wing Watch to see just what people are praying for at this supposedly inclusive, redemptive event. And if you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you can even watch the live web stream as the event unfolds.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.