Groovehouse Governor Rick Perry leads Reliant Stadium in prayer on Saturday morning.
It just so happens that the 30,000 Christians and spirit-minded have a mainline to God and following the lead of Governor Rick Perry, took to Reliant on Saturday to raise their hands to the sky, which was obscured by a closed roof.
Following the instructions I had seen on the Response Web site and its literature, I started fasting on Friday evening after polishing off a man-sized meal from Popeye's. Maybe I would gather some sort of insight from not taking in food for 24 hours, and touch a glimpse of clarity.
Once I got into the stadium Saturday morning, I realized that most of the concession stands were open, and what was a fast for some was just a loose rule for most. People eating stale nachos covered in canned cheese while intermittently praying. I can get behind that.
Here's my feed from the day's events.
-- I walked on the Reliant grounds around 10 a.m. A group of protesters are set up on Kirby, a few feet away from the media entrance and the Houston Texans weight room. Dr. James Dobson is at the podium talking, but you can barely understand him for the Spanish interpreter speaking behind him. It's like a weird, bizarro echo. People hear the word "prayer" or "America" and cheer.
-- Now it's Bible study time, and out come the worn Bibles in the crowd. Rick Perry is here in an hour, according to the program the media was given upon entry. It's like waiting for the headliner at a rock show.
-- At least twenty thousand here now, according to officials from The Response team. Praise and worship going down now. It's a very multiracial crowd. Black, white, Hispanic. This seems to not be the "white" event it was supposed to be. This is religious and spiritual.
-- There are reporters here from all over the world. I have seen people from The Guardian shooting video with teams from other far-flung places milling around the media room. A freelancer from the Boston Globe and the Atlantic is here, too; he parked next to us in the parking lot. There is a VIP section to the side of the stage, for donors and important worshippers, I assume.
-- The speaker just tried to say traffic was backed up to "the airport." Really? Which airport? Hobby? Bush? Ellington? Is Houston evacuating and we don't know it?
-- Lots of teens look like they were dragged here. Playing on their phones. They look up every now and then to smile or nod. Still, a lot of them are fervently worshipping, with hands held high and eyes sealed shut. One kid is in the corner by the media aisles, singing along to a song about abortion, making hip-hop stances like he's at a Linkin Park show.
-- People praying in the concession lines waiting to get hot dogs and nachos. What was that fasting business about then? It's the worst line I have ever seen at any stadium in town.
-- Members of the Texans are working out in their weight room, which you look into as you walk in the bowels of Reliant. They don't care what's going on. Eric Winston is doing lunges with small cars.
-- I make it back up to one of the outside concourses, which people are smoking on or just watching the protesters out on Kirby. Smoking at "church," huh? Now I wish I would have brought a flask. One good turn...
-- "They got a right to protest. I gotta right to protest them. `Bout time someone stood up for the cross," says a smoking biker, wearing a "Bikers For Jesus" jean vest. All that really means is that he will go back inside to the a/c once he finishes his cigarette.
-- I talk to some brace-faced teens, maybe no older than driving age, who were talking about the protesters they would "hit" first, judging by the blasphemy of their signs. "Doesn't God not promote violence?" I ask.
"No, those people don't believe in God, so it doesn't matter," one kid says, wearing stellar Oakley shades. He's probably trying to impress his buddies.
-- A speaker is talking about how God needs to be in the corporate sector. God has no corporate presence, they say.
-- The rock star, the Bruce Springsteen of the day, is here. Governor Rick Perry makes his way to the podium.
"God is wise enough to not be affiliated with any party," says Perry, to applause and a standing ovation. He starts reading scriptures that are pertinent to the day's event, and the better of our country. His scripture tone is the same as his political tone, even when he leads the stadium in prayer. Warmly robotic. He's not translated into Spanish, by the way. All we hear are the smooth, measured tones of the supreme leader of Texas.
"Our heart breaks for America. As a nation we have forgotten who made us. We cry out for forgiveness," says Perry. I have heard the term "repent" a lot and I have been here an hour or so. America has a lot to be sorry for. Jersey Shore, too. Perry shuffles off.
-- Dr. Tony Evans is from Dallas, and he's using great football, highway analogies. There goes a Wizard of Oz reference. He's wearing a lot of gold for a pastor, too.
-- Back outside, a LGBT group is starting with the "Hey Hey Ho Ho" chants. The protesters outside scream more than the Christian protesters do. Each side is trying to drown out the other, because you know, that always works. A few of them are shouting obscenities at people looking at the sign in displeasure, but overall they are a righteous and humorous group. GLBT activists, atheists and various heathens make merry with one another. Cars honk, some people shake their fists out of their car windows. Most honks seem supportive, though, if that makes sense.
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SHOW ME HOW
"Jesus loves y'all even if you wrong," an older, bearded man yells. A younger member of the protesters fires back, "But we aren't wrong, you are all wrong." I don't see a good side or a bad side today. They all seem nuts. Just a bowl of nuts.
-- Back inside with Jesus Christ's chosen and his blessed a/c. Thank God. It felt like a gallon of water was thrown down the back of my shirt, or I was baptized. Let's go with baptized today. Yeah.
-- Governor Rick Scott of Florida is on screen in a taped message, praising Perry for this event. Now Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas is on the stage in the flesh, leading prayer and saying a few words. So this is not just Texas being crazy ol' Texas after all. This is the whole country, which makes me somehow feel better.
-- This is a very bilingual crowd, the Spanish interpreter aside. Everything is translated, with even a sign language team at the side of the stage. These are rich and poor people, and not just a Tea Party afterbirth. This is "scary" to some, because this can't be pinned on a race or one specific creed, like Islam, which becomes a catch-all for "bad" so often. To these people, this is the beginning of a spiritual battle for the country and maybe even the world. They don't argue. They vote.