Governor Rick Perry and the evangelical voters

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Saddleback Church is an evangelical Christian megachurch located in Lake Forest, California, situated in southern Orange County. It is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The church was founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren. Weekly church attendance averages nearly 20,000.

You may remember the Saddleback Church as the site of the 2008 debate between Senator John McCain and Obama. When Pastor Warren asked a question about when life begins in a human being, McCain answered promptly, "At the point of conception."

Obama proved again that he is educated beyond his intelligence, answering "That question is above my pay grade."

Introduction by G. Edwin Lint

You already know all about Rick Perry.

Perhaps you are less well acquainted with the term "evangelical".

Before you read this report of the Texas gathering of evangelicals attended by the Perry family, learn a little about the background and worship of evangelicals.

Evangelicals are a branch of Protestants who believe that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to get to Heaven.

The term "evangelical" means those who tell the good news about Jesus Christ. Therefore, evangelicals often make a point of sharing their faith in Christ. In his book Evangelism Explosion, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, wrote a book that is described as follows:

Does the thought of "doing" evangelism make you uneasy? Is outreach primarily the responsibility of paid staff at your church? Let this Bible-based method of friendship evangelism and discipleship equip and encourage your entire church to accept Christ's Great Commission! Participants will learn how to naturally share the gospel and disciple new believers. 228 pages, softcover from Tyndale.

Evangelical worship is often associated with lively and spirited congregational singing, and oral exclamations of praise and worship, such as: Praise the Lord! Amen! Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord!

Hands are often raised during worship, signifying three things:

I salute you Jesus as my Lamb of God and my coming King.

I surrender my life to you, Lord.

I affirmatively accept the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Making lists is always dangerous but this introduction to evangelicals would not be complete without giving some examples of major denomination within the group:

    • Assemblies of God
    • Christian Missionary Alliance
    • Church of God
    • Church of the Nazarene
    • Foursquare Gospel Church
    • Southern Baptist Church
    • Wesleyan Church

Sometimes evangelical churches may be relatively small. However, most of the "mega churches" are evangelical, such as the Saddleback Church pictured above.

A major fact that contributes to the rapid growth of a mega church is the Biblical practice of tithing 10% of personal income to the church.

Many evangelical churches have outreach programs that include foreign and home missions, food banks, soup kitchens, and clothing donations.

Not only are conservative evangelicals generous within their own enclave, they tend to be far more generous than liberals when it comes to giving to outside groups such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

All evangelicals are conservative in theology and many are conservative in politics, also. This fact makes them of interest to politicians when the politicians are, themselves, evangelical in nature.

A classic example is Gov. Rick Perry and evangelicals in general.

Here is the full text of this story.

And here are some "quick reference" facts to give the gist of the story:

  • Rick Perry's presidential campaign moves forward with enormous energy in making contact with evangelical Christians.

  • A classic example is last weekend's two-day retreat with evangelical leaders on a remote Texas ranch.

  • The 200 or so in attendance included key evangelicals such as Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, California pastor Jim Garlow, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Washington-area Bishop Harry Jackson, who presides over one of the largest African American churches on the East Coast

  • "It was an extraordinary gathering," said one participant, who declined to be named in order to confirm details of the off-the-record session.

  • "Virtually anyone who is a significant player in the social conservative movement either was there or had a representative there. And this was in the middle of nowhere."

  • The event was held on a ranch west of Austin owned by San Antonio entrepreneur James Leininger, a backer of conservative causes and one of Perry's longtime political benefactors.

  • Perry spent a significant amount of time with the group. The Texas governor and his wife mingled with the Christian leaders both Friday evening and again for several hours Saturday, answering often-personal questions about his faith, his family and his record.

  • "He spoke openly about his faith and unabashedly so," said another leader who was present. "I think he resonated because he was very honest and very real. People could ask any questions and he never dodged one."

  • Perry's participation in the event, dubbed "A Call to Action," comes just weeks after he hosted a massive prayer rally in Houston called "The Response," underscoring his aggressive efforts to win over religious conservatives in his bid to capture the GOP presidential nomination.

  • By all accounts, the Texas governor is making inroads with leaders of this key political constituency, which could prove especially valuable as he seeks support in Iowa and South Carolina, pivotal nominating states with large numbers of evangelical voters.

  • "I don't see how it could have gone any better for Gov. Perry -- he had all the right answers," said one attendee. "People came wanting to be impressed and wanting to have a candidate to coalesce around. And as one leader said, 'This guy sounds and looks like a combination of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.'"

  • Participants were asked not to disclose details or take photographs or audio recordings of the proceedings, which took place in an air-conditioned tent amid temperatures that exceeded 105 degrees. In addition to national leaders, the audience included dozens of young people from around the country, including many African Americans and Latinos.

  • Several described it as an extraordinarily frank session in which the governor answered a wide range of questions about his personal faith, including specifically about when he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. Perry responded that he was raised with Christ, though he admitted he left the path at some point during his military service. God then got his attention again, Perry said, and he recommitted himself to Christ. He assured those in attendance that he had lived a moral life and said he had a group of people who held him "accountable" for following a Christian path, including someone who prayed with him during his recent back surgery.

  • As questions about his record ricocheted around the large tent, veteran televangelist James Robison rose to defend Perry as a strong Christian, said that he had made mistakes, as all men do. He called for the audience to be wary of media scrutiny of the governor, saying Perry's record was excellent and that he had acknowledged any errors. His remarks were greeted by sustained applause.

  • The event was opened by Leininger, a major Perry donor who made his fortune in hospital beds and other medical equipment and has since started dozens of companies, some of which received state economic development funds under Perry's administration.

  • Leininger is a major advocate for school vouchers and tort reform.

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