Christian-nation advocate David Lane and dominionist Doug Stringer have organized a series of prayer rallies with Republican governors, starting with the 2011 event in Houston that served as an unofficial launching pad for Rick Perry’s failed 2012 presidential bid. Now they’re planning their next one in Cleveland, Ohio, just before the Republican convention.
On Thursday, Stringer and other organizers held a conference call to discuss plans for the Cleveland rally — like others it is going by the name “The Response” — and to ask pastors to get their congregants to take part. “There is a battle for the soul of a generation,” Stringer said, “the soul of our nation.”
Stringer, a far-right preacher who once linked the September 11 attacks to homosexuality, told pastors that the Response is not about promoting politicians or political agendas, only about lifting up the name of Jesus, repenting as individuals and as a nation, and praying for God’s mercy and blessing on the country. This is the “bait” part of the “bait-and-switch” nature of these Response events, as we have previously described:
The rallies are in effect a series of bait-and-switch events. They are disingenuously promoted as non-political gatherings to create Christian unity by bringing people together across denominational and racial lines to pray for the state and the country. And while that promise of ecumenical prayer and worship is undoubtedly what brought many people to the event in Charlotte, the “non-political” veneer was discarded almost immediately.
Lane and Stringer took the Response to Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2015. At this “nonpolitical” event, Religious Right rock star David Benham talked about gay rights groups who he said were out to “force” their agenda on the country, portraying a “spiritual battle that is now waging before us in this nation, the home of the brave and the land of the free.” Lane opened the “nonpolitical” North Carolina Response rally with a prayer that talked about the lack prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, abortion, and “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.” Another speaker prayed for God to “help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals.”
It’s not surprising that the events take on a political cast given that organizer David Lane is a self-described political operative who is recruiting “an army” of conservative pastors to run for office in an effort to boost engagement and voting by conservative Christians. Lane is putting his faith in Trump, according to TIME Magazine:
“I’m going to choose to believe that Donald Trump can be one of the top 4 presidents in American history,” he recently wrote to his followers. “We intend Evangelical and Pro-Life Catholic Christians to bring biblical-based values to the public square, bucking up a Trump Administration willing to confront totalitarian ‘Political Correctness.’”
Previous Response events have been organized and promoted by extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and religiously divisive groups and leaders. One of the videos promoting the Cleveland Response features E.W. Jackson, a failed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia; Jackson has called the Black Lives Matter movement “demonic,” said promotion of LGBT equality is “spitting in the face of Almighty God,” and accused President Obama of being more interested in “defending Islam” than “defending America.”
Stringer said participants would be supported by more than 2 million prayer intercessors from around the world. Another organizer asked people to consider joining the prayer force that would be engaging in weeks of prayer ending in a fast.
But the Response is going to have some competition. Stringer said on the conference call that God is calling people to be in Cleveland, and that some who had planned to attend the Reset prayer gathering in Washington, D.C., on July 16 will go to Cleveland instead. Reset is being organized by a number of ministries, including Lou Engle’s TheCall, and organizers hope it will “fill the mall” with a million people for “a historic gathering and a time of spiritual healing for our nation.” A similar situation — dueling prayer rallies on the same day — took place in April, when Engle and friends had a day-long rally in Los Angeles while others met at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.