Rick Perry, photographed by Greg Skidmore

Last week we joined in on the discussion of the NAR and the DC40 campaign, hence I’m writing this with the assumption that you know what NAR and DC40 mean and why they’re bad news. If you’re not familiar, you might want to look at my first article or check out The Wild Hunt for their excellent coverage.

As I stated last week, most of the time I don’t feel the need to acknowledge nutty goings on around me. But there a comes a point in time where a line gets crossed and I can’t sit around rolling my eyes anymore. For me, Rick Perry’s The Response, the evangelical there’s-only-one-way-of-looking-at-god-a-palooza he held last Saturday in Houston, was a pretty good litmus test to see just how the NAR’s strides into mainstream politics is affecting the nation. Did anyone show up? Was anyone bothered by a potential candidate for the White House using his governorship to promote an Evangelical Christian prayer rally funded by the AFA, a group designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group for the lies they promote about homosexuality? Would said governor decide showing up was not good for his campaign (i.e. more voters would be bothered by it than spurred on to vote for him) and back out?

And what did that litmus test say? How many people showed up? 30,000 – including Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, who prayed at the meeting and publicly thanked the hate group for their hard work. The AFA predicts that with the telecast, over 200,000 people were reached with their message.

30,000 people went to an event co-chaired by Tony Perkins, a man who says gay rights activists are, “intolerant, they’re hateful, they’re vile, they’re spiteful.” To an event whose coordinator Alice Patterson thinks Democrats are “an invisible network of evil” that was literally created by Satan. (But The Response isn’t political, just ask Rick Perry.) To an event whose major sponsor (the AFA) hires folks who’ve said such gems as Bryan Fischer’s, “Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his Stormtroopers, they were his enforcers, they were his thugs,” and is endorsed by folks like David Barton who said, “Take your Sunday school class to vote, and you’ve got to start breaking fingers if they don’t,” as well as Dr. James Swallow, who hosts a camp to convert Native Americans called: “Strategic Warriors At Training (SWAT): A Christian Military Training Camp for the purpose of dealing with the occult and territorial enemy strong holds in America.” And let’s not forget James Dobson, also a co-chair who spoke at the event with his wife, who previously said this regarding the blame for 9/11: “…rather than trying to forge a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the terrorist attacks and America’s abandonment of biblical principles, which I think is wrong, we need to accept the truth that this nation will suffer in many ways for departing from the principles of righteousness.” Hello? Doublethink?

A crowd of 30,000 people is not an anomaly. It’s a movement that’s gaining momentum. At the beginning of the week, people were predicting a crowd of 8,000 and prematurely chortling about how Perry’s prayer rally was going to be a big failure. Then another 22,000 people showed up to hear a message of how Jesus is the only god, we need to quit accepting gay people and Roe vs. Wade, and we need to put the Ten Commandments back in public school classrooms.

I want to be clear that I’m not opposed to prayer meetings – I’m glad people are praying for our country. I’m not opposed to churches renting out stadiums and hosting a revival. Revivals are a colorful part of our nation’s history, and that’s their legal right. I don’t even take issue with government leaders being in attendance – as long as they stay in the audience. I do take issue with a state governor using his fame as a public official to advertise the event and then leading people in prayer to a very specific definition of god. While not directly in opposition to the Bill of Rights (which only states an opposition to making laws regarding religion or interfering with the practice of religion) it is not, in my opinion, in the spirit of America for government leaders to endorse a specific religion. And it’s downright skeevy to watch my governor hug a man who’s a leader in a hate group while thanking him for his good work.

After watching video footage of the event, it struck me that these people – with really crazy views – know how to tone it down for a big audience and appear way more, well, sane, than they really are. From what I heard (and granted, I got the highlights, not the seven-hour full monty), the speeches and prayers presented at The Response were right in line with what you’d expect from a conservative church group – Jesus is the only way, please Heavenly Father end abortion, save traditional families, and put prayer back in schools – but nothing near as extreme as these guys have hauled out with in less politically charged forums. And that makes those of us going, “wait a minute!!!” look radical because we’re reacting to something said in a book or a smaller forum – somewhere without the candidate they have “anointed” for the White House standing right there beside them. People coming home from The Response probably have a great impression of the American Family Association (which recently equated gay sex to the Taliban creating bombs with HIV infected needles [if you read no other link I’ve provided, I rec that WTFery; Colbert could have written it… except Brian Fischer is serious]) and San Antonio minister John Hagee, one of the presenters, (who – not on this stage of course) has said:

“How is it that in World War II we whipped the world in four years and now we’re bogged down in one lingering war after another that does nothing but rape our economy and kill our young men? Why? Maybe the God of Heaven is not with us. He says when you accept another God, I leave. I’m either the only Lord, or you’re on your own. That means stop voting for pagans and putting them in public office.” [in the speech he uses “satanist” and “pagan” interchangeably – basically anyone not Christian, or not Christian enough according to him, is a satanist/pagan].

The Response was simply not a quality environment with good role models for people.

The AFA and their nuttiness is not going away if we continue to ignore them. The NAR is gaining support. Rick Perry just earned a lot of votes. We can’t sit this one out anymore. Did anybody do anything for The Response? Join any of the Facebook campaigns or anything? Did anybody actually go? I’d be curious to hear a report back from an actual attendee.

+ Featured Image: Laying on of Hands by Russell Lee