Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a potential presidential candidate, is going to pray and fast for America on August 6. He's not kidding around, either. He has booked a football stadium in Houston for the event.
Perry invited the nation's governors to join him at what's being called "the Response." But to date, only one has accepted the offer: Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Perry invoked the Old Testament when he made his appeal to his fellow governors. "Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel," he said at the time.
It's not a surprise that Brownback, a Roman Catholic with strong ties to evangelicals, would accept such an invitation. When he sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, he spoke often about wanting to "renew the culture." It was his way of dog-whistling to social conservatives.
Still, Brownback's choice to attend the Response is notable for no other reason than he's the only out-of-state governor to commit. Even conservative Republicans are citing the handy excuse of scheduling conflicts.
What's keeping Perry's fellow leaders away? Well, it could be that some of them don't want to be seen praying with lunatics.
Mike Bickle, the director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, also has endorsed the Response. IHOP's eccentric, youth-oriented ministry was recently featured in The New York Times. The story noted that former students at the church's Bible college "said they had been expelled for questioning the fascination with mystical healings, prophesies, angels and demons."
IHOP staff members are part of the Response's leadership team. The church's presence at Perry's pray-a-thon draws a connection back to Brownback, who has appeared at rallies held by the Call, an IHOP side group. The Call is led by Lou Engle, a preacher known for his raspy-voiced opposition to abortion and homosexuality. Last year, Engle traveled to Uganda in an apparent show of support for the harsher penalties against homosexuality that lawmakers there were considering.
Cornered by a constituent during the 2010 governor's race, Brownback expressed unease with Engle's priorities. But he has not formally distanced himself from Engle or the Call. Brownback seems to be operating on the idea that if he's going to be the Republican nominee for president someday, he's going to need the support of every religious conservative he can find. His acceptance of Perry's invitation is an indication of the extremes to which he'll take the search.