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New GOP campaign tactic: Pray for America

By JOHN WHITESIDES
August 8, 2011

Rick Perry (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Texas Governor Rick Perry, expected to enter the Republican race for the White House within weeks, offered a prayer for America on Saturday at a controversial religious rally that put the spotlight on his Christian faith.

Perry, who has made his religious beliefs a big part of his public image, urged an enthusiastic crowd at the seven-hour gathering to pray for President Barack Obama and other U.S. leaders.

“Father, our heart breaks for America,” said Perry, who hatched the idea for the rally and brushed off heavy criticism for participating.

“We see discord at home, we see fear in the marketplace, we see anger in the halls of government. As a nation, we have forgotten who made us,” Perry said in a prayer offered to a crowd estimated by organizers at more than 30,000 people.

The event was named “The Response” and billed as a day of prayer for a nation in crisis. It also gave Perry a national platform to sharpen his appeal to religious conservatives who play a big role in the Republican nominating race and have been unhappy with the current crop of contenders.

Sponsors of the rally included the American Family Association, whose leaders have condemned gays and Muslims, and the International House of Prayer, founded by an evangelist who warns celebrity Oprah Winfrey is a pastor in a Satan-inspired religion.

It also drew prominent religious conservative leaders such as Focus on the Family head James Dobson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Critics condemned the event for excluding non-Christian faiths and blurring the boundary between church and state, as well as affiliating with controversial fringe religious groups and leaders.

“Governor Perry achieved his goal today — he drove almost every religious right leader and group into his corral,” said Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Perry is poised to enter the 2012 Republican presidential race in the next few weeks. He already has shot into the top tier of contenders in opinion polls.

At the rally in Houston’s cavernous 70,000-seat Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans professional football team, Perry discussed his faith, read scripture and said a prayer.

“We know the greatest darkness comes just before the morning,” he said in a 12-minute appearance, adding God was wise enough to avoid affiliation with any political party.

“His agenda is not a political agenda. His agenda is a salvation agenda,” said Perry, who was criticized for blending politics and religion in launching the prayer rally.

‘A CAMPAIGN PROP’

“This isn’t the first time we have seen Governor Perry use a religious gathering or house of worship as a campaign prop,” said Kathy Miller, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan watchdog on far-right religious groups.

Perry closed the event by saying he hoped it would begin a national renewal and “our willingness to stand in the public square” would inspire others to seek God.

The rally had a mix of Christian rock, testimonials and scripture from pastors and children, as well as numerous calls to end abortion but little other overtly political rhetoric.

Participants said they were praying to heal a troubled nation and politics was not their concern. Many in attendance, who came in church buses from throughout the region, praised Perry for leading the effort.

“He was brave enough to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to pray for the nation.’ He’s the governor but he’s a Christian man,” said Lonnie Lavender, a pastor at the War Cry Prayer Ministry in Venus, Texas.

Eddie Ellis, a delivery service owner in Conroe, Texas, who bused to the event with about 50 parishioners from his church, said Americans needed to “wake up.”

“Perry is a politician but he says we’ve got to pray. He hits the right keys,” Ellis said.

Perry invited all of the nation’s governors but Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas was the only one to attend. Florida Governor Rick Scott, also a Republican, sent a video message.

The event was broadcast on the Internet to more than 1,000 churches around the country, sponsors said. Organizers draped black curtains behind the stage to hide empty seats, although the crowd was larger than predicted earlier in the week.

Perry’s emphasis on his Christian faith could be a drawback in a general election when it could turn off moderates and independents, along with those of non-Christian faiths.

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13 Responses to New GOP campaign tactic: Pray for America

  1. Sandune

    August 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    That is a choice for all voters to simply pray rather than check out the candidates against Constitution. I spent Sunday evening watching 2 hours of a film made staring Stephen Hawking explaining why he wrote his last book on his belief that there is no God. Dr. Hawking was the one who reversed his internet photos of the universe and took it back to what he called The Big Bang” and so it goes. Science is the answer and should be the question.

    His books describe what evolution has produced in our species which is nothing less than a super developed brain. We have the full capacity of making intelligent choices in all aspects of our lives. Can we ever live up to Dr. Hawking’s words?

    Some of us can hide behind an occult theory that God is watching all of us and keeping a chart on our ability to obey him or we can understand Dr. Hawking’s encouraging words to expand even more in the development of our ability to learn.

  2. Carl Nemo **==

    August 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    So crimpols along with their patrons in the MIC, banking and industry destroy this nation as a function of their terminal greed and lust for power; then in the seeming bitter end for the Republic, Rick Perry et al. cut from the same hypocritical religious cloth suggest ‘praying’. Ouch…!

    No doubt this appeals to weak minds that need a ‘sky-daddy’ to hopefully bail them out of their national plight, taking little responsiblity for the bad choices they’ve made for leaders and their addiction as a society for the easy money policies of the past 15 years or so.

    If Perry has hopes of being elected he best stow his prayer b.s. and focus on the issues. His prayer and dance show might fly in the bible belt; I.E., ‘fundie territory’ , but not with the greater body of Americans who’ve had a bellyful of he and his slick-talking …”chicken in every pot a Ford in every garage”… demagogue types.

    It’s just what we need…LBJ (Nam) H.W. Bush (Gulf War I ) G.W. Bush (Gulf War II) and now Rick Perry (WWIII?) two native Texans and two ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ faux Texans the Bush’s. Seemingly Texans or Tex wannabes, the Bush’s, like to both pray and shoot…no? / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Rick

    August 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    There is a lot more of them than us so a savvy pol will go where the votes are.

    The believers and non believers have one thing in common and that is both positions are based on personal faith.

  4. freecitizen

    August 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    “We know the greatest darkness comes just before the morning,” he said in a 12-minute appearance, adding God was wise enough to avoid affiliation with any political party.

    If, this being the case, why then does Perry, a self-professed follower of God as a christian, run towards and defends his affiliation with a said political party(republican party)? And a govenor to boot?

  5. griff

    August 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Jesus H Christ! ‘Nuf said.

  6. woody188

    August 8, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    You can pray but don’t expect change from prayer. Only blood, sweat and tears work in this existence. Pray for the strength to make the changes occur.

    Beware the politicians that use religion as a tool for their political campaigns. More often than not, their motives are not pure and they see God only as a means to their own wealth and power.

    Mark 10:25
    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. ~Jesus

    • griff

      August 9, 2011 at 6:58 am

      I’ve heard that God helps those that help themselves. Must not apply here.

  7. Pondering It All

    August 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Perry prays at his big show on Saturday, and the very next day God answers his prayers by taking Charles Wyly, one of Perry’s mega-donors.

    They say God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is “No”.

  8. Jon

    August 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    God is not the answer. God is the question. The answer is “No”.

    J.

  9. Sandune

    August 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I think I am beginning to understand why prayers to God are so necessary these days. When one faces a tragedy like the death of a loved one, all that is required is to pray for the soul of the departed.

    I can’t do that as in my world there is no God and no one to take any action at all. I carry the full brunt of these disasters and I grieve for everyone who is killed or destroyed unfairly in our elections.

    When Elizabeth Taylor died, I read the post of a very ugly nasty and mean Christian ask God to forgive Elizabeth’s sins. How dare this ignorant bitch step in between the soul of Elizabeth and God. Elizabeth Taylor’s endowments for millions of Americans in need of help were never mentioned to the press but anyone who knew her knew they were there. This Evangelical crap is killing everything it touches.

    If it actually wins the white house for anyone in the Tea Party, then I will know that America is doomed from the inside. My fear is that they will walk into the white house after destroying President Obama.

  10. Danny Adams

    August 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    A man’s house was surrounded by a flood, so he climbed to the roof and prayed for God to save him.

    When rescuers in a johnboat paddled by and offered to take him, the man said, “No thank you, God will save me.”

    As the flood rose and rescuers in a motorboat came by and offered to take him, the man said, “No thank you, God will save me.”

    As the flood rose still higher and the Coast Guard offered to rescue him, the man said, “No thank you, god will save me.”

    Then the flood overwhelmed the house and the man drowned.

    When the man was brought before God he said, “God, I prayed to you for You to save me from the flood! Why didn’t you answer?”

    And God answered the man, “But my son, I sent you three boats”.

    Here’s hoping we haven’t ignored our three boats yet.

  11. Sandune

    August 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Danny, we should be building boats instead of praying for them.

  12. b mcclellan

    August 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    God made but one promise, and it goes like this,

    I Am.

    The shortest passage in the Bible,

    Jesus wept.

    Wonders I, if he were God, why did he cry ?