The Rise of Lou Engel

Sarah Posner has a good piece up at Religion Dispatches on Lou Engle, founder of The Call, and his recent branching out from this militant anti-abortion proselytizing and into the marriage debate and the upcoming election. 

Engle, as Posner explains, is best known for his efforts to turns hordes of young men and women into warriors for Christ and “raise up of an army of spiritual warriors for revival” and is becoming something of a regular figure in the political Religious Right movement, appearing with notable figures such as Tony Perkins and Mike Huckabee before and during his recent “The Call” rally in Washington, DC:

The Call’s advisory board is stacked with prominent Pentecostal and charismatic preachers, leading figures in the controversial apostolic movement, which is elevating a new generation of self-appointed prophets and apostles, African-American and Latino religious leaders, charismatic publishing giant Stephen Strang, and religious right leaders like Perkins, Harry Jackson, and Gary Bauer.

The religious right political leadership’s keen interest in Engle was evident at The Call held on the National Mall in August. The day before the event, the public relations firm Shirley Bannister introduced Engle, flanked by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, at a press conference just a few blocks from the White House. Perkins, one of the most visible political leaders on the religious right, noted Engle’s influence on young evangelicals, who he claimed were even more conservative on abortion than their parents, though he cited no surveys or polls to support the claim.

Engle, per his custom, likened his crusade against abortion to Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. He rocked back and forth, as though davening, preached against Roe v. Wade, and shouted, as the crowd prayed and spoke in tongues, “this is a Passover Day for America. Today, we plead the blood of Jesus on the doorpost!” Purity covenants, requiring abstention from even thinking about sex outside of marriage, were distributed. Participants were urged to consecrate themselves, to be ready for the moment when Jesus “is going to rule over Washington, DC and the world.”

“Repentance and revival cannot start in the building behind me,” said Huckabee, his back to the Capitol, “until it starts in the temple inside me.”

But when he’s not leading day-long rallies such as this or the anti-gay marriage one scheduled at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium this weekend, Engle and his army can be found at International House of Prayer he co-founded in Kansas City where they direct their prayers toward things like remaking the US Supreme Court … and rather successfully at that, according to Engle: 

Engle unabashedly credits prayer for George W. Bush’s presidency and his subsequent appointment of Supreme Court Justices who upheld the ban on so-called “partial birth abortion.” “The praying church deals with the demonic realm, so that God raises up one and brings down the other,” Engle said in a recent video on The Call’s web site, explaining how prayer proved victorious over satanic forces in the spiritual warfare of an election, adding, “I directly attribute [Bush’s election] to the prayers of the saints.”

Young people at his House of Prayer, said Engle, had been praying about judges for three years when Sandra Day O’Connor retired and William Rehnquist died. As if to prove to his acolytes that their prayer and fasting is not in vain, Engle maintains that their prayers and prophecies shaped the Supreme Court. “One of the young ladies had a dream,” Engle asserted, “that a man named John Roberts would be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.” He beams with pride. “Don’t you think those kids were baptized with confidence? Their prayers, I believe, were literally moving a king to appoint a justice who has now led a court that has banned partial birth abortion. Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t shape a nation.”