Houston Pastors Draw a Line in the Stand
The Alamo may be the site of Texans’ most famous stand -- but it wasn’t the site of their last. Almost two hundred years later, the proud state is fighting another invasion -- this time, of religious intolerance. Last night, with thousands of people packing the pews of Grace Community Church -- and tens of thousands more at nearly 800 churches from all 50 states -- Houston sent a message to the nation: “Don’t mess with the pulpits of America.”
For the city, the I Stand Sunday simulcast capped off a four-week roller coaster set in motion by open lesbian and Mayor Annise Parker. It started in May when her office inexplicably trashed more than 30,000 citizen petitions, which would have put her special rights ordinance where it belongs: on the ballot. “For 10 years, I was Governor of Arkansas,” Mike Huckabee told the crowd last night, “and it never occurred to me I could cancel an election because I thought maybe the results wouldn’t be in my favor.” When her actions triggered a lawsuit, the Mayor dug in deeper -- subpoenaing 17 forms of communication from area pastors as a tool of intimidation, despite the fact that these five pastors were never part of the lawsuit!
If the Mayor thought pulling the subpoenas would take some of the heat off, she quickly discovered that it only exposed the real controversy -- which was invalidating the referendum to begin with. In the fierce back and forth over the measure, Parker said the bill was “personal.” What she didn’t realize was how personally Houston would take it. And Sunday night, in a crowd that crossed every possible gender, racial, and ethnic line, they showed it. From across Texas and around the nation, people showed how hungry they are for a cultural and spiritual revival in America. Pastors traveled from around the nation to show their support for the “Houston 5” whose rights were trampled under the foot of the government charged with protecting them.
With more than 7,000 looking on within the sanctuary, there was no mistaking the energy and enthusiasm in the auditorium, as people stood and cheered for nine minutes as dozens and dozens of the area’s pastors marched into the sanctuary for the I Stand Sunday kick off. From the pastors processional to the closing song, a spirit of quiet determination emerged that we hope will resonate in pews across America. As Dr. Ronnie Floyd, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, told listeners, it is time to wake up from our slumber!” While Mayor Parker may have overstepped her bounds, that was only possible because the church had fallen asleep at the gate.
“Our greatest problem,” Dr. Floyd said, “is not in the White House, but God’s house!” If you’re wondering why things like this are happening in cities like Houston, Fayetteville, and San Antonio, look in the mirror. The blame for this doesn’t rest with Annise Parker or the city -- but every Christian, who has quietly stepped into the shadows on tough truths. “It’s because a lot of people in our churches have said, ‘I just don’t want to get involved,’” Governor Huckabee explained. “My dear friends, when the government comes to your pastor and says, ‘Cough up all of the sermons, sermon notes and correspondence that the pastor has had with his own parishioners,’ you are already involved.” It’s time, Dr. Floyd and others pointed out, “to get right with God.”
Several did, kneeling at the steps of the stage with America’s influencers to pray for repentance -- and for the nation. It was a powerful picture, as literally thousands of people came together to seek God’s face for the nation. As far as I’m concerned, I Stand Sunday was a high-water mark for FRC, an unprecedented moment as Christians came together to stand for religious freedom in America. I pray that God will take what was done last night and use it to ignite the hearts of His people to transform the nation.
“America,” Phil Robertson said, “it cannot be said too strongly or too often that this great nation was not founded by religionists but by Christians,” Robertson continued. “Not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that our nation, which this event proved is ripe for spiritual awakening, will use I Stand Sunday as a launching off point for greater cultural engagement. Our deepest thanks go out to Pastors Steve Riggle and Garrett Booth and everyone else at Grace Church for having hosted this incredible event. We’re also grateful for all of you, who are helping us turn I Stand Sunday into We Stand Everyday.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.