“The Response” in Houston: My (belated) Response

I return to blogdom after several weeks of packing, cleaning, travelling, cleaning, unpacking, some cleaning, construction, followed by some cleaning, and then the first of many PhD seminars at Fuller… and there was this little prayer meeting of about 30,000 plus back home in Houston last weekend called The Response

A few people near and far asked about my thoughts on this one, and I’ll fulfill a promise now to share those reflections and to keep it brief… (famous last words)…especially since about an hour ago, Rick Perry announced that he would run for the Presidency of the USA…

Any kind of summons to seek the Lord Jesus Christ deserves consideration. I mean it. I am no longer shocked that North American churches don’t host prayer meetings, either during the week or on Sundays. That IHOP can be perceived as exceptional or unusual simply doesn’t correspond to any reading of the NT, even at a superficial level. So, the call to “respond” to the Lord impresses me as one that deserves an openness to rearrange one’s schedule and commitments.

There was some genuine concern that the event would be overrun with political partisanship, and one colleague of mine came out and said so: with the announcement that he would not attend The Response. His voice in Houston is not one to be ignored. But, a few weeks later, he received some reassurance from one of the leaders of The Response that his concerns were shared by many, and that there were plans ready in case anyone attempted to make their personal politics public while at the microphone. Having received such assurances, he announced that he would go. He hasn’t given any feedback yet on his blog, but I look forward to his appraisal of the event.

IHOP got a lot of explicit participation in this event, and that’s a good thing, as hosting large prayer meetings is the pond they swim in all the time. Without rendering any judgment or criticism of IHOP, my only wish is that more of the ethnic diversity that IHOP has going on already would have found itself manifested at The Response among the plenary speakers.

So, what about the esteemed Governor of Texas? Well, he is cited as the “Initiator.” Humanly speaking that may be true. Such a label both attributes his identity as an individual and one who presumably listens to the Lord and subsequently “got the ball rolling.” OK.

From even a casual reading of the Bible, this kind of label is dangerous… theologically, such a self-appointed label could be placed in parallel to Moses, or Elijah, or Josiah. Or, it could be a displacement of vox Dei, under the guise of labeling the USA as a nation in crisis.

I prefer to always think of the Lord as the “Initiator,” and the use of that label by Rick Perry is simply another way of adding to his credentials among those who are becoming the next evangelical candidate running for public office.

And, here is where we all wish Perry were a little more circumspect. He has over the last several months moved from a lack of interest in being the President to now explicitly running for the office. I now find his early pronouncements somewhat typical fare from any politician: not wanting to appear over-eager, not wanting to get too much attention too early (he just won reelection in November 2010), and in general, made many statements simply indicating a total lack of interest in the Presidency. This is not circumspection by any stretch of the imagination.

You’ll forgive me for a lack of citing my fact-finding here, and I’m sure the quotes can be found out in the news media, but Perry has said to the effect over the last few months: I did not want to run. But, my wife finally told me that I should run. And more recently, God has told me I should run.

Now if that is too much condensation or over-simplification of Perry, LMK, and I’ll correct myself, OK?

Of course, Perry still remained tight-lipped about his decision to run, even after receiving a word from God. Then, the whole event announcement and planning of The Response followed…

While speaking at The Response, Perry announced to the crowd that God wasn’t interested in a political life, but a salvation life. Really? I find that kind of bifurcation indicative of a lazy reading of Scripture, and a blatant contradiction of reality:

Would you have considered attending The Response if Rick Perry of Paint Creek, Texas began a website and invited you? If God is only interested in our salvation, then why do we need to gather for prayer and fasting for our nation?

No, let’s be honest: God is interested in the totality of our lives, and everything about The Response argues in favor of that, and ironically, overrides the naïveté of the Governor’s declarations. And, No, I wouldn’t have considered attending The Response if a Texan from a four-corners community wasn’t the Governor.

It’s easy to become jaded- and remain so- over the statements of intent by politicians. We’re about 15 months out from the next Presidential election; about this time every 4 years, I wonder if anyone will risk being different- give some indication that they simply have a political vision that is just for our citizens, collaborative throughout the world, and resist attributing covenant identity to our political identity that is reserved for those who have placed their trust in the Lord.

I am wondering again…last word on The Response…

It’s too early to know what kind of impact the event will have on those who participated. I mention this without any interest in how those attending will vote, although the media asked and reported those answers from those at Reliant Stadium. But, I do want to point your attention to a different event, although this one is similar without certain public personalities organizing it: the Toronto Airport Vineyard in the early 90’s.

About 15 years ago, TAV received a visit from the Holy Spirit that lasted for more than 3 years; by some accounts, it may still be going on! But, when it got going, people were fainting, barking like dogs and making other guttural noises, and having other manifestations. It was pretty spectacular! As you might expect, lots of church leadership near and far panned the whole thing, and dismissed it outright as from the Devil. I listened to many people from California who flew out to TAV- convenient that the church was adjacent to the airport!- and they received similar experiences from the Lord. To a person, they knew they were loved deeply by the Lord Jesus.

And, I was asked by them: what do you think of TAV? My answer to that question is the same to The Response: Two parts. One, It’s too early to tell- you might have to wait 3 to 5 years before you will know if it’s of the Lord. Two, I would want to look at how such people who attended TAV/The Response care for the poor or get involved in righting injustice because of their participation in the TAV/The Response. Quick, immediate responses are plausibly fleeting…

So, I ran across a Christianity Today (or Charisma?) journalistic piece not long ago that followed up TAV attendees. Guess what? Many are directly involved with feeding the hungry or caring for the homeless. They attribute it to participating in the TAV in the early 90’s when the Holy Spirit showed up…

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