I recently became aware of a major gathering that is taking place this Saturday in Houston, Texas. It is called The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis. My initial thought was quite simple: “What could possibly be wrong with anything that calls the nation to prayer?” My second thought led me to visit the site online and ask some questions. My third thought came when I was invited to join a group of national leaders who listened to Gov. Rick Perry on a phone call set up to inform us about the event. But before I get to this conference call I must tell you that I personally called some trusted friends in Texas, friends who are not political partisans. These are wise Christian leaders with insights into the ways in which conservative political leaders have consistently linked partisan politics and candidates with calls for national prayer and renewal. The way this generally works is through large-scaled grass roots movements that get Christian leaders excited about our national crisis and then appeal to people to pray and vote.
On the website of The Response the following description is given about this one-day event:
On August 6, the nation will come together at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas for a solemn gathering of prayer and fasting for our country.
We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.
According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene. The Response will be a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America.
When the day came last week for the conference call with Gov. Perry I was busy cleaning up a mess from storms that hit Carol Stream the evening before. As a result I did not get to hear about this event firsthand. Our town had been declared a disaster area in order to bring in outside help to clean up. Streets were closed, power out, etc. I suffered some broken branches and other damage, the worst being a deck table that was shattered, leaving glass everywhere. My gazebo, the lovely place where I retreat to pray, read and write had minor damage. I spent my morning cutting tree limbs and picking up glass shards from the crevices in my deck. I also pitched in to help a few neighbors as well. It was some day, reminding me that a huge tornado leaves damage that cannot be cleaned up in one or two days. All this to say that I missed the conference call. But I did get a report from a trusted and wise friend that I had asked for insight about this Saturday’s meeting. His response told me what I feared would be the case and thus made plain what I would had already felt would be the case if I had been able to join the phone call.
Today I heard the name of Jesus mentioned just once, somewhere toward the end of the reports. Not once by the Governor. In fact, Perry was far less "focused" and "biblically clear" than on the previous call. "Generic God" prevailed in his language; as did "prayer as rescue.”
My sense personally is that, once again, we are witnessing in the outworking of THE RESPONSE USA the oft-repeated ascendancy of "culture Christianity" -- or, maybe even more accurately, "civil religion" with a biblical veneer.
I don't mean to be harsh, but I assure you that what I reported to you a couple weeks ago following my two lengthy conversations with a leader of this effort suggested an event that would be utterly dominated with Jesus Christ and New Testament paradigms. Neither were in evidence [on the call] this morning.
Anyway, I apologize to friends I invited to call in if you felt your time was not well invested.
My own heart is heavy. The potential originally was great (in terms of "sparking" new steps toward a "Christ Awakening movement"), but I fear it has, once again, passed us by. However, I will continue to pray that somehow the tide yet will turn.
My friend added this fantastic PS to his email:
The best thing I've ever read to help me understand what American culture Christianity looks like and the impact it has had on the spiritual thinking of our nation as a whole is Mark Noll's America’s God (Mark is professor of church history at Notre Dame, formerly at Wheaton College). As Mark makes clear, what has evolved into America's God is NOT the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This just about sums up everything I feared upon visiting this website and reading about The Response. Once again a great gathering will pray and sing and call for revival. As much as I believe in real revival I honestly wonder if we can get this right when politics, and elected political leadership, are merged with spiritual concern that is plainly rooted in Jesus Christ as Lord.