We're sure that you've been shocked (shocked!) to hear that many of the leaders and endorsers of Rick Perry's upcoming prayer-palooza, The Response, are people from organizations who really disapprove of both The Gays and The Abortion. Most of the protest against The Response so far has come from human rights groups unhappy that the American Family Association is such a big part of it, what with AFA founder Bryan Fischer's novel argument that homosexuals caused the Holocaust. Now public attention is starting to shift to the other group that's heavily involved in The Response: the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
The New York Times profiled the group over the weekend, focusing on founder Mike Bickle, who believes (and teaches) that the Second Coming (and its attendant bloodbath) is imminent, and can be hastened by prayer from his followers. (Bickle also believes Oprah Winfrey is "a forerunner of the Antichrist," which is just mean. If he'd said Rachel Ray, I'd be right behind him, but Oprah? Now you're just being weird, Pastor Mike.)
IHOP describes itself as an "evangelical missions organization." It's a nondenominational charismatic church with more than 1,000 staff members, who call themselves "missionaries." Among other things, although they're not terribly explicit about it on their website, they're part of a growing wave of charismatic churches who believe in "Seven Mountains Dominionism," also referred to as "Reclaiming The Seven Mountains."
IHOP describes this philosophy as a desire to "impact the seven spheres of society -- family, education, government, economy, arts, media, and religion." Right Wing Watch describes it in a less-neutral way, as the belief that "fundamentalist Christians should have control over all aspects of society."
Evangelical author and speaker Os Hillman, one of the most ardent proponents of 7 Mountains Doctrine, describes it as "a strategy for impacting culture through the love and servant-hood of Jesus Christ." His website says that R7M is "not an initiative to establish dominion over all the earth or in governments." However, their first stated ministry goal is to "break down the wall of secular versus sacred," and they don't believe that church/state separation should mean "remov[ing] God from the public square."
IHOP will actually have a larger presence at The Response than the AFA. (In case you're wondering, yes, the International House of Pancakes did sue IHOP-KC for trademark dilution and infringement last September. The case was settled out of court in December. Correction: The trademark infringement lawsuit filed in California has been dropped; a new suit against International House of Prayer was filed in the U.S. District Court in Western Missouri and is ongoing.) Five of the 14 leaders of The Response are affiliated with IHOP, either as staffers, board members or missionaries.
Three of those five are also affiliated with TheCall, a group led by Pastor Lou Engle. Homosexuality is kind of Engle's core issue: He helped organize a huge rally in support of California's Proposition 8, which affirmed that marriage was between one man and one woman. He called gay marriage "a sexual insanity" that would "release a spirit" in California "more demonic than Islam." He was also criticized for travelling to Uganda and praising the government's anti-homosexuality efforts there, leading many people to infer that he supported the proposed government bill which called for the death penalty for gays and lesbians. He later said he doesn't support killing gay people, which is a really unfortunate clarification to have to make.
Most recently, Engle has been in the hot seat again for saying that the Joplin, Missouri tornado was the beginning of "God's redemptive judgment" against abortion.
The format of The Response owes a lot to both IHOP and TheCall, which both specialize in big, stylishly marketed stadium events with strong youth outreach components. Two senior pastors associated with IHOP, Engle and Mike Bickle, held a youth rally in 2009 called onething to address what they called "the crisis in our nation" (language that's echoed in the official descriptions of The Response).
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"The serpentine stranglehold of abortion continues to squeeze the life out of over 4,000 wombs daily," they wrote on IHOP's website. "Sexual immorality, both heterosexual and homosexual, are reaching epic heights of perversity."
(This rally, by the way, took place about a month after IHOP cancelled their regular classes because the church campus was taken over wholesale by the Holy Spirit, according to Bickle and Engle: "On Wednesday, November 11, the Spirit fell on a class for more than 15 hours," they wrote. "The word spread quickly and over 2,000 people spontaneously gathered in the auditorium from all over Kansas City, as deliverance and physical healings continued to increase. We canceled our classes for the next week so that each one of our 1,000 students and interns could receive from the Spirit in an extended way.")
TheCall holds similar stadium events as well, 12-hour-long "revivals" conducted in major American cities every summer where they call on attendees to pray, fast for 40 days, and leave pledging to live abstinent lives, reject pornography, and fight abortion. The Southern Poverty Law Center criticized Engle for "venturing into bloodlust" at one such event in Kansas City this summer, sponsored by IHOP, where he told the crowd, "There's an Elijah generation that's going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion." Engle added, "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire."
So, The Response: a totally friendly, non-denominational group of folks, just gathering together to pray in a harmless and general way for the well-being of the country, right? Right.