As Sarah Posner notes, last night’s opening session of the Freedom Federation’s “The Awakening” Conference was pretty much a bust:
The Freedom Federation Summit taking place April 15-16 at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia was billed as the next Great Awakening, the inaugural gathering of “a new movement [that] is forming in America comprised of people of all races, ethnicities and generations.” With the mobilizing power of dozens of religious right organizations behind it, why was the first night attended by only a few hundred people?
I’m not sure what the organizers were thinking, but kicking off this thing on tax day, knowing that tea parties were mobilizing around the country, was obvious poor planning. Last night’s activities took place inside Thomas Road Baptist Church, which seats several thousand, but only drew a few hundred spectators, and when I first arrived there were only a few dozen. This could not have made many of the first night’s top speakers — including the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — very happy. Some of today’s activities are slated to take place in the University’s basketball arena, which seats 10,000, and it would be remarkable if Liberty and/or Thomas Road aren’t able to send out an ABP to get some more warm bodies in the place.
In fact, the only interesting speaker was Cindy Jacobs, who was part of a panel on “Politics and People of Faith” with Richard Land, Samuel Rodriguez, and Arnold Culbreath during which she declared that “the Bible is the government of the people, by the people, for the people” and got so excited about the coming national awakening that all Culbreath could say when she finished was “wow”:
When we talk about God, politics, and people of faith, you have to say that politics is not neutral. Many times we think that it is a neutral thing, but it is not ideologically neutral ever. And if the people of faith don’t engage, then someone will engage.
But the point is, we have to say this: does the Creator have a right to say how nations are governed? Of course he does. I think it’s John Wycliffe, I know it is, in 1382 that said “the Bible is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.” And many of us don’t even understand that in the United States today our roots, everything we are, is based upon the Manufacturer’s handbook. That we took our law from English common law and that what we have and who we are works because the Creator put it into a constitution and then put it into a people that would cause righteousness and justice to come to the land.
And so I believe this is why we are here. We’re here for a great awakening to understand that politics are simply the ideological vessel that God has allowed to be in society today that will determine what happens in the soul of the nation. So we cannot be idle and we cannot be silent.
I was thinking where would we be today without a [William] Wilberforce that had said people of faith have to do something when they see something is unjust. There would be slavery still today, or these things.
I want to tell you, and I believe, that we are on a verge of the greatest awakening, not only what we would say just in the church, but we are on the verge of the greatest awakening that we have ever seen in our history as a nation … I want to say something radical: it’s not the faith of our founders that is going to heal this nation; it is a people who will rise up and understand that the Bible is the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And I believe there is an awakening that is not going to begin, but has already begun that will do just that.
Jacobs’ panel was then immediately followed by a speech from Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Attorney General.