Religious Right activists are planning a big “America for Jesus” rally in Philadelphia this fall. The AFJ website said the Sept. 28-29 “solemn assembly” is intended “to summon together the whole body of Christ to pray for the church and our nation.”
But is this event really about prayer?
The sponsors are certainly a deeply partisan and radical lot. They range from prominent Religious Right leaders like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and High Impact Leadership’s Harry Jackson to the farthest fringes of theocratic Pentecostalism like Lou Engle and Cindy Jacobs (demon-exorcising evangelists who consider themselves modern-day prophets and apostles).
Organizers seem intent on inflaming religious zeal and then directing that fervor into the November elections. The AFJ website features a grim video with ominous music that says America is sunk in “moral depravity” and facing a “spiritual emergency.”
In the July issue of Charisma, the leading Pentecostal magazine, publisher Steven Strang declares America in a “state of emergency” and says it’s time to “return to our Christian roots and foundations of freedom.” He complains specifically about President Barack Obama’s support for marriage equality, the threat of radical Islam and the alleged erosion of religious liberty and urges people to support the AFJ rally.
Strang then segues into politics.
Says Strang, “John Stemberger, leader of the Florida Family Policy Council, says that every four years we hear that this is the most important election of our lifetime – only this year it’s true!
“I agree with him,” Strang continued. “Let’s believe that God will raise up godly leaders at this critical time. And as we stand in faith, let’s each be praying that God will use us as agents of change.”
All of this suggests that the Philadelphia rally is yet one more effort to politicize religion and tear down the wall of separation between church and state.
What’s a good response to this kind of endeavor?
As it happens, Sept. 28-30 is also the date of “Voices United for Separation of Church and State,” a special Americans United project devoted to celebrating individual freedom of conscience. Musicians and other entertainers are performing at concerts and shows in every state around the country to raise the visibility of the First Amendment and AU’s work.
We’re going to stand up for all Americans’ right to follow the faith of our free choice or to follow no spiritual path at all. We’ll demand that politicians serve the public interest, not a private religious agenda. We’ll insist that our laws be based on fairness and equality, not dogma. We’ll stand up for reproductive freedom, marriage equality and public policies based on social justice, not the doctrinal mandates of aggressive religious lobbies.
You can support “Voices United” by hosting a house concert, attending one, publicizing the project or donating.
The folks who want to merge their religion with our government are on the march. Those of us who favor freedom need to be active too.
PS: Tomorrow is Independence Day, and the Wall blog will be on holiday. Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate the birth of our nation and then get ready to defend the values it’s built on.