The American Family Association (AFA), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, financed a prayer rally held yesterday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The event drew more than 8000 visitors and was televised live to about a thousand churches across the U.S. It was hosted by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who spoke directly to God from the podium, addressing Him as “Father.”
Though the event was named “The Response,” there was no audible response by God to Perry’s prayers. This has led to speculation that God was not in fact present at the rally. Numerous biblical literalists who viewed the broadcast believe God may ignore prayers that are delivered publicly. They cite Matthew 6:5-7, where Jesus tells his disciples,
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Many Christians who insist on a strict and literal reading of scripture claim to have found abundant support for their belief that God does not favor public displays of piety. They believe there may in fact be an inverse correlation between the size of the audience and the responsiveness of the deity. Others hold that God is completely deaf to public prayers and that the pious are simply wasting their breath. There is in fact no evidence that God responds in any way to public prayers, with many Christians speculating that He may in fact react perversely to prayers that are not delivered in the prescribed form. They cite Governor Perry’s call to Texans, last April, to pray for rain for their drought-stricken state. Four months later, the state is still in the grips of the worst drought in its history, and meteorologists do not expect any relief until September at the earliest.
For more about The Response, view Rachel Maddow’s segment on Rick Perry’s prayer partners, and the Texas Observer’s article about Rick Perry’s “Army of God.” Right Wing Watch also has a “Fact Sheet on Governor Rick Perry’s Extremist Allies.”