Christian conservatives who blame “moral depravity” for everything from the recession to terrorism are converging on Philadelphia for a rally they hope will spark a religious revival as Election Day nears.
Called America for Jesus 2012, the prayer assembly on Independence Mall is attracting support across a spectrum of Protestant clergy and activists. Among the scheduled speakers are religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, along with preachers such as Cindy Jacobs of Generals International ministry who say they’re prophets with a direct line to God. Many backers had also endorsed The Response, the prayer rally hosted last year by Texas Gov. Rick Perry just before he entered the GOP presidential primary.
John Blanchard, national coordinator for America for Jesus 2012, said the two-day event starting tonight is nonpartisan. It’s modeled after the 1980 Washington for Jesus rally, considered a pivotal show of organizational strength by the then-fledgling Christian right. Bishop Anne Gimenez, whose late husband John helped lead the 1980 assembly, is a lead organizer of the Philadelphia gathering.
“We are praying that God would touch America,” said Blanchard, executive pastor of Rock Church International in Virginia, which the Gimenez family founded. “We’re not Democrats and Republicans. We’re Christians.”
Still, many of those offering prayers at the event have been outspoken critics of President Barack Obama. Steve Strang, the influential Pentecostal publisher of Charisma magazine, wrote in a blog post inviting readers to join him in Philadelphia that America is under threat from a “radical homosexual agenda” and Obama “seems to be moving toward some form of European socialism.”
Jacobs blamed a mysterious Arkansas bird-kill last year on Obama’s repeal of the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” enabling gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
David Barton, a self-taught historian who emphasizes Christian roots of the United States, is another rally supporter. Barton wrote in a Feb. 29 article that Obama has shown “hostility toward Biblical people of faith” while giving “preferential treatment” to Muslims. (Obama has said he was raised in a nonreligious home and later became Christian.)
The publisher Thomas Nelson last month withdrew Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies, citing historical errors.
The book challenged the belief that Jefferson was largely secular and promoted the separation of church and state.
Anne Gimenez said in a phone interview that although the event is Christian, the assembly will not advocate that the U.S. government be limited to Christians.