Some 10,000 people from the Carolinas and beyond gathered at the South Carolina State House for what amounted to a political and religious revival Saturday.
Christian pastors and politicians split time at the podium at the We Stand With God, Pro-Family Rally.
Republican White House hopefuls Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz along with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina highlighted a schedule of speakers who preached messages denouncing abortion and gay marriage and calling for a spiritual awakening in Washington, D.C., and across the country.
“I feel like it’s Sunday morning, and we have a call to worship on the (State House) steps,” Cruz said. “Our nation is in crisis right now. But I want to tell you there is a spirit of revival that is sweeping South Carolina, that is sweeping the country. Americans are waking up.”
Cruz appeared to have the largest group of supporters openly touting any one candidate at the rally. Both he and Perry, though, have been rated low in state and national polls in the midst of a crowded GOP candidate field.
Cruz’s message is one William Temple, who came dressed in Colonial garb, has traveled across the United States to hear and promote as a supporter of the presidential candidate and of the anti-establishment Tea Party. A pastor in Brunswick, Ga., Temple was among the leaders of a massive Tea Party march on D.C. in 2009, he said.
Saturday’s event at the State House, Temple said, was “just a sample of what’s going on all over the country.”
“Christians are up. They’re fired up,” Temple said. “They’re upset about the Supreme Court and its rulings there. As a matter of fact, they’re basically in rebellion. They’re saying, ‘We’re not going to obey. We’re going to take back our country.’”
Many in attendance, who included travelers from at least as far as North Carolina and Georgia, said they came to take stands for what they believe is right based on the teachings of the Bible.
Stephan McQuage, of Charlotte, said Christians’ rights are “slowly but surely” being stripped away.
“Everything in our nation is just continuing to get more and more further away from the Lord,” McQuage said. “If we Christians just sit back, then ... if we allow it, we’re encouraging it. So we’ve got to take a stance.”
McQuage wasn’t drawn to the event by the political speakers, he said, but “I want to get somebody in office who stands up for what we believe in.”
Cruz and Perry both made strong pitches to the Christian crowd, invoking stories of Christian history in America and biblical passages. They lauded platforms against abortion and gay marriage, vowing to fight the U.S. Supreme Court and Planned Parenthood, in the news recently because of controversial videos involving the handling of fetal tissue.
“We see religious liberty being put in jeopardy today,” Perry said. “We see fear in our churches and in our religious schools because we have a government that is out of control.”
Capping off the nearly three-hour program that included Southern gospel hymns and prayers, Ron Baity, a Baptist pastor from Winston-Salem, N.C., called the church the solution for a nation that has “stooped so low that it is necessary for us to jump up to touch bottom.”
“We’re losing our nation, and the ones who have the answer are the ones standing the pulpits,” Baity said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.