Saturday, July 7, 2007

Not Answering “The Call”

I’m more than a little disturbed at our local broadcast snooze media’s benign coverage of “The Call,” a gathering of 100,000 charismatic Christians at Nashville’s LP Field. As just one example, WSMV anchor Demetria Kalodimos said the group’s goal is “improving society.” Well, yeah, if your idea of “improving society” is persecuting gays and lesbians, outlawing abortion, and making sure socially conservative Republicans of the Sam Brownback variety are elected in 2008.

(Lest you think this is a uniquely Nashville event, The Call is going on tour, hitting several cities over this summer before ending at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.)

Being interested in these sorts of things I visited ”The Call” website and was more than a little alarmed at what I found. Here they state that they are responding to the 2006 midterm elections, which “showed us that there is no clear moral foundation upon which the nation votes.” Well, not their moral foundation which seems to be exclusively anti-gay and anti-choice. They’ve completely ignored the broader issue of the 2006 election, the war in Iraq. Peace used to be a Christian value, but I guess not to these Christians.

Here is the purpose of The Call, from their online vision statement:
God has a word to say to the Republican Party: "Line up with moral issues--Marriage Amendment and Abortion--and show compassion to the poor and the oppressed--show Justice--or I will remove your lamp stand". He is sifting the Republican Party for its refusal to stand for moral principle and for playing political games with its constituents, who in 2004, voted on moral issues.

This is not your average Billy Graham crusade. This is not, as WKRN reported, just a day of “prayer and music.” They are not trying to “improve society,” not in any way I can see.

The Nashville Scene did an excellent story on “The Call,” noting that this is the group who was active in the Terri Schiavo gatherings in Florida, and are seen at abortion protests with their mouths taped over with the word “Life.”

According to the Scene's interview with founder Lou Engel, this weekend's focus is "radical purity." As an aside, I worked in Christian music for many years before quitting in disgust. “Radical” is a word they like a lot since it conjures up images of a counterculture movement, which they identify with as they see themselves as social outsiders. Lots of things are “radical” in the evangelical Christian subculture. Personally, I don’t think it really means anything other than as a marketing buzzword. It’s code for “we’re cool.”

Anyway, this is more of the anti-sex talk we’re accustomed to hearing from many politically active Christian groups. For example, today’s Call participants are being urged to fast. (And I’m sure our local merchants are just thrilled at the idea of an event bringing 100,000 visitors downtown who refuse to buy anything. But I digress.) Few media outlets have mentioned the fasting angle; no one has mentioned that The Call’s website tells participants to fast for 21 days from all media. All married participants are also instructed to abstain from sex this weekend. Unmarried participants, of course, are already abstaining, in the interest of “radical purity.”

My big complaint about The Call is not that they hold these beliefs or that they are trying to get converts, or even that the Tennessee General Assembly honored Engle and The Call with a resolution saying they embody “the spirit and commitment that are characteristic of a true Tennessean.” OK, that last part bothers me a bit.

Mostly I don’t understand why our local media refused to even look at The Call’s website and read up on this group before deciding they were here to “improve society,” not further an extremist political agenda.

Apparently the word got out anyway. According to a roundup at Music City Bloggers, folks from the local gay bookstore OutLoud handed out bottles of water to “Call”ers participating in a “repentence walk” from Centennial Park to LP Field.

Good for them. If I’d known they were doing that, I’d have joined them.