30,000 Christians Pray With Perry for “Nation in Crisis”

In the aftermath of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer rally, “The Response,” commentators are marveling at the governor’s ability to combine religion and politics so seamlessly that he was able to “cry out” for God’s “forgiveness” and “pray for our nation’s leaders,” for a moment seeming to forget that he was, in fact, one of those leaders.  Perry was clearly trying to de-politicize the event’s rhetoric as far as he could, considering that early in the event, several speakers took the stage to pray for the end of abortion in America.

“[God's] agenda is not a political agenda,” Perry said. “His agenda is a salvation agenda.”  He seemed understandably eager to stress that he, like all leaders, was bound ultimately to obedience to a higher power.  ”Father, our heart breaks for America,” he said. “We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.”

The estimated attendance – 30,000 – was smaller than organizers hoped, but still significant.  Although many of the upper rows of Houston’s Reliant Stadium were empty, many of the people who came out to the seven-hour prayer marathon (fasting was supposed to be part of the event as well, but according to reporters, the lines for food stands were long) said that they would support Perry as a presidential candidate.  Analysts are pointing to Perry as a potential Republican front-runner, should he choose to throw his hat in the ring.

The event’s relative success signals just how powerful the evangelical religious right has become.  As Sarah Posner observes at Religion Dispatches,

“That a sitting governor would laugh off charges that his ‘instigation’ of an exclusively Christian—and, more specifically, a certain kind of Christian—event is proof of the success of the cultural and spiritual warriors, who believe they are commanded to ‘take dominion’ over government and other spheres of influence.”

Protesters lined the sidewalks outside the event.  Some belonged to the atheist organization which tried unsuccessfully to block Perry’s attendance at the event; others criticized Perry’s choice to closely affiliate himself with the American Family Association, which has been dubbed a “hate group” because of its anti-gay stances.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Paul Horwitz, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, cautioned against rejecting the presence of religion in the public sphere entirely.  Other leaders like Abraham Lincoln, he pointed out, used prayer during times of deep national discord.  The difference, Horwitz explains, is Perry’s divisive rhetoric.

“With characteristic humility,” Horwitz wrote, “Lincoln called for repentance, not sectarian struggle. He saw human inequality and cruelty as the real sin against God. By emphasizing creeds, not deeds, Mr. Perry encourages the very divisions that Lincoln believed lay at the root of America’s ills.”

Certainly, the difference between the protesters on the sidewalk and the devoutly praying “Response” attendees is striking.  Sectarian divisions in America seem to be stretched to a breaking point.  And despite Perry’s claims that God does not affiliate with political parties, this decidedly exclusive event may have done much for Perry’s presidential prospects.  The question is whether Perry sees a place in America for those who choose not to pray to his God for the nation’s salvation.

Related Stories:

Thousands Gather for Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally

Atheist Group Sues Rick Perry for Participating in Prayer Rally

Extremist Pastor Joins Rick Perry Prayer Event

Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.


Sandy K.
lexa King6 years ago

Let him remember that charity, and prayer, begins at home. He should pray for his own sorry a--. Pro-life indeed. When his state holds the record for putting the most prisoners to death. I guess it only matters when it involves controlling a female carrying a uterus. Where are all of these "pro-lifers" when it comes to sending our young people off to war? They can't wait to put a gun in their hands & tell them "Go kill for Christ". Disgusting. And people buy this hypocrisy?

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Prayers? Preyers? ?????

Rob K.
Rob Keenan6 years ago

I agree,Robert S.,that there's nothing wrong with prayer by those who believe in it,since it's one of the Constitutional freedoms I served more than 40 years ago in the military. But as someone whose non religious-part of that same right I served- I'm concerned about the leaders of this New Apostolic Reformation Perry prayed with.Essentially the NAR ,especially the American Family Association,believes that this 1st Amendment right to religious freedom applies only to Christians.I don't doubt one bit that the NAR would use a sympathetic President to use U.S law,via a sort of Christian version of Sharia Law,to force that belief on all of us,including Christians who believe very differently for them.I've seen video of these various NAR leaders praying,and take my word ,it's not anything good for this nation or it's current freedoms for ALL it's citizens,regardless of belief or non belief.

Robert S.
Robert S6 years ago

Nothing wrong with prayer... GOD Bless Rick Perry!!!

christopher murray

Now that he seeks the oval office, Perry cares about America. Let us not forget that just two years ago, he wanted to succeed from the union, and have Texas be its own country. Funny to see him "pray" for a country he once wanted to leave. Prey is the most apt term.

Ronald B.
Ronald B.6 years ago

Rick Perry's views on religion remind me of the problems raised for the Arab world in the 11th century by the move to revealed truth rather than observation. The following comes from a letter to the London Times:

"There is no doubt about the lack of progress, and the intellectual and economic backwardness of the Arab world. Arab intellectuals and sociologists are constantly lamenting these facts. Also, there is no doubt that from the ninth to the 12th centuries Arabs were at the forefront in astronomy and mathematics, and in science. in general. Arab books were regularly translated and eagerly read by European intellectuals. Many of the major works of classical antiquity found their way into Europe via Arab translations.
Many scholars attribute the decline of Arab science to the life and work of al-Ghazali (1058-1111). His epoch-making book The Incoherence of the Philosophers had a profound effect on the Arab world. It was a plea for the importance of revelation, and a rejection of the classical Greek tradition with its emphasis on reason. Arab admiration and use of the books of Plato and Aristotle were severely criticised. Al·Ghazali's arguments·prevailed. He argued that truth and the way to a successful civilisation had been revealed in the Koran. From the 13th century until now, virtually no serious works on science or philosophy have issued from the Arab world. "

How near to the views of Al-Ghazali, but replacing the Koran by the Bible, are those of

Tom Edgar
Tom Edgar6 years ago

Texas.... A great State to be from....Far from.

Oh just keep on praying for America and anything else. Hasn't worked so far. But I guess in the next thousand years it will have some coincidental activities.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams6 years ago

This guy is just another Republican who is a wacko.

Rob K.
Rob Keenan6 years ago

Tom Y.,as an atheist I,-if I lived in Texas wouldn't have taken part in trying to block Perry. I don't assume that these especially horrid preachers are a reflection on the many fine Christians I know,so please don't assume the atheists you refered to are a relfection of all of us.

Tom Y.
Tom Y6 years ago

So an atheist organization "tried unsuccessfully to block Perry’s attendance at the event"? How many degrees of separation is this from the vandalism rocking Britain? It's governed only by the conduct of the atheists.

It used to be they'd stand by a position statement and not attempt an actual obstruction. Now they've attempted to bend Gov. Perry to their will with an attempt at force. What's next -- spitting on his vehicle? Throwing rocks? Emulating Jared Loughner?

There are barricades of self-restraint atheists, no less than other people, conduct themselves within. One barricade has now fallen. How resistant are the rest?