In front of hundreds of people in uptown Charlotte and thousands across the country, Christian leaders called on believers Sunday night to “pray, prepare and participate” in November’s presidential election.
“iPledge Sunday: A Call to Faith, Family and Freedom” asked voters to take a political stand and elect into office those who believe in the same Christian values.
“We live in such a day where the call for Christian citizens has never been needed more,” said Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, where the 7 p.m. event was held.
Organizers said the event, which included song, prayer and speeches in front of a floor-to-ceiling American flag, was nonpartisan, though former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was one of the night’s main speakers. Also on the program was a Democratic councilmember from New York City.
Sunday’s gathering came on the heels of the Democratic National Convention, which wrapped up Thursday night. Some iPledge organizers made their way to Charlotte on Friday and said their inbound flights were delayed while waiting from President Barack Obama and Air Force One to depart the area.
The 90-minute simulcast conference, co-hosted by the Family Research Council and American Family Association, two Christian-based nonprofits, was broadcast to some 2,500 churches and groups.
A goal was to have 1 million people pledge to participate in the upcoming election, organizers said. Santorum called it the most important election of his lifetime and said America is fractured because the country has gotten away from the teachings of God and the founding fathers. When it comes to the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, he said, “true happiness comes from doing what God has called you to do.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the event a Sunday service, and not a TV show or political rally. He did acknowledge that the group chose North Carolina in part because it’s a swing state in the presidential race.
“Charlotte is a city obviously that has become very important in the political war in our country,” Perkins said. North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. President Obama won the state in 2008 by 0.4 percent.
The 2008 election marked the first time a Democrat won North Carolina since the 1976 presidential election. Some pollsters have North Carolina leaning toward Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while others consider it a toss-up.
Sunday night’s speakers, which included actor, producer and self-proclaimed “recovering atheist” Kirk Cameron, addressed some politically and spiritually hot issues, including abortion and gay marriage. Other topics were the national debt and the economy.
At times, partisan feelings emerged.
“One of the political parties is wondering if the name God should be in the platform,” said Cameron, referring to the Democrats’ not mentioning God and not saying that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel in their party’s platform. Democrats later amended the platform.
But it was those political ties that kept some away Sunday.
Dennis Foust, senior minister at St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte, did not participate in the simulcast.
“Some people are capable of making the church’s overall mission seem as if it is about a single issue,” Foust said.
“In the life of St. John’s, we have always championed separation of church and state. We do not believe you can achieve unity by pursing uniformity.”
Others said they were dismayed by both parties. Alan Hoyle, 52, of Lincolnton, said the United States needs godly leaders who aren’t afraid to confront sin. Democrats, he said, are “heading toward evil as hard as they can go.”
He added: “The Republicans are talking good stuff, but they’re not walking it.”