Miss. Christians Rally After FMA Senate Setback
by Allie Martin and Jenni Parker
July 19, 2004
(AgapePress) - More than 6,000 people gathered at the BancorpSouth Center in Tupelo, Mississippi, last Sunday night (July 18) to support the biblical view of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. For that evening the center became a place of worship, as more than 70 area churches joined forces to host the rally for traditional marriage.
Less than a week after the U.S. senate voted to end debate on a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage, Christians are mobilizing and preparing for the next phase in the ongoing fight to keep marriage from being redefined.
This past weekend's Rally for Traditional Marriage was broadcast by American Family Radio to audiences across 35 states. The Northeast Mississippi gathering featured rousing music and speeches from a number of pro-family leaders, including the state's First District representative, Congressman Roger Wicker, and Pastor Bill Owens, president of the Coalition of African American Pastors.
Leaders call on Christians to speak out, pray, and vote
Rally attendees watched a short video presentation of President George W. Bush's address to the recent national meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, during which he pledged to support the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. In his own address, Congressman Wicker emphasized the importance of protecting marriage as a basic step to safeguard the health of the family.
The U.S. representative described "a mom and a dad involved in their family" as the best "program" in combating a number of social problems. He pointed out that re-defining marriage would result in cheapening the institution and lowering heterosexual marriage rates, thereby increasing the number of children living in single-parent homes.
Wicker also urged audience members to "vote prayerfully; vote carefully," since the next U.S. president will likely appoint several new justices to the Supreme Court.
Pastor Bill Owens, an African American community activist who marched for racial justice some 40 years ago, told the rally audience the homosexual activists of today have hijacked the civil rights cause. The minister also had a message for elected officials. "We're going to fight until we win," he said. "We're going to have crusades and rallies like this until we win. We're going to let our political leaders know 'if you don't stand for God, we won't stand for you,'" he says.
The battle for marriage will be long, Owens says, but he insists it is a fight that can be won with God's power.
Another rally speaker, Campaign for Working Families Chairman Gary Bauer, challenged believers in America to live, vote for, and defend Christian values without shame or embarrassment. He said Christians must stand up for traditional marriage, which is God's creation.
"Now, I don't know how to break this to folks on the other side," Bauer quipped, "but marriage wasn't dreamed up by the religious right. Marriage actually predates the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Marriage between a man and a woman was there long before San Francisco existed, and it was there before Ted Kennedy took his seat in the United States Senate."
Like Owens, Bauer decried efforts of homosexual activists to characterize traditional marriage defenders as intolerant bigots. "It is not bigotry to believe marriage is between a man and a woman," he said, and the rally audience responded with a burst of applause.
Protest and prayer
However, not everyone that turned out for the rally was in agreement with its purpose. According to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, a few protestors showed up to demonstrate outside the BancorpSouth Center, holding up signs that bore such messages as "Love makes a marriage, not gender" and "Hate is not a family value."
However, most Rally for Traditional Marriage attendees appeared to support its cause fully. Many declared that they had come to speak up in favor of a Federal Marriage Amendment and for American citizens' right to have the chance vote it up or down.
Nearly all of the main rally speakers cast the effort to defend the biblical view of marriage in terms of a nationwide battle, and Bauer himself said America was fighting "two wars" -- one against terror and another for traditional values. But amid all the martial rhetoric, Pastor Larry Hill of Tupelo's First United Pentecostal Church sounded a note of reconciliation.
Hill closed the rally with a unifying benediction in which he prayed for those who opposed the purpose of the gathering, asking God to "Let them know we love them."