Yesterday, Texas governor Rick Perry appeared at a seven-hour prayer and fasting marathon in Houston called “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis.” Although some have characterized a sitting governor’s overt participation in such an event as “unprecedented,” it’s important to understand that the message of the rally, and the extreme mixing of church and state Perry’s participation represented, are absolutely mainstream, noncontroversial ideas in evangelical circles. Reliant Stadium was not filled with a fringe sliver of extremists. It was filled with the same people who fill evangelical churches by the millions across the US.
I used to be one of those people. And in my rural Indiana church, prayers for the nation were always bracketed with the conviction that we were a lost people, living in depravity, losing our way from the God who could guide us. That was 20 years ago. In the 2 ensuing decades, this kind of rhetoric has continued, but is now buttressed by historical revisionists declaring that the US was founded to be a “Christian nation,” a fusing of a political party and a religion that is so complete as to make an openly non-Christian running as a Republican laughable, and a 24-hour “news” channel willing to promote this worldview while willfully excluding any inconvenient facts.
One of the attendees summed up the hopes of evangelical Christians nicely:
“Yeah, I think it would be extremely beneficial to our nation to hear some of our top leaders, especially if he gets elected as president, to take stands like this,” [Jason Cole, who drove a bus from the Church of Glad Tidings in Austin] said, “and preach from the White House, ultimately from the White House.”
“Preach from the White House.” Those words should concern anyone who believes in secular government, because they are part and parcel of the single largest segment of American religious people.