On the night before the Democratic convention in Charlotte, at the tip of America's bible belt, more than 40 evangelical, Baptist and other Christian churches will host a massive church service in the 20,000 seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
"Charlotte714," as the Sept. 2 event is being called, was inspired by bible verse 2 Chronicles 7:14, which instructs that if people "turn from their wicked ways," God will forgive their sins. The group's website says that with the country's focus on Charlotte that week, in a "morally degenerating culture," it is an opportunity to organize a service that will help "[God's] church return to Him."
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The organizer of the event, David Benham, comes from a family deeply involved in the evangelical church. His father, Flip Benham, leads the Dallas-based fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America, which fiercely opposes abortion and homosexuality.
Last year, Flip was found guilty of stalking a doctor in Charlotte after taking pictures of the doctor's home and clinic and distributing fliers that called the doctor a murderer. He was sentenced to 18 months probation.
David Benham is a real estate entrepreneur, not a preacher, but he occasionally finds time to deliver fiery sermons similar to his father's.
At a luncheon to kick off the pre-convention service, the younger Benham told a group of assembled pastors: "God is stirring on this nation, and he is raising a mighty army onto himself. We are coming out of the church onto the frontlines of this battle." The pastors nodded as he spoke.
In the 40 days leading up to the convention, Charlotte714 is calling for all participants to fast, which Benham says can consist of consuming only water, or of fasting from sweets and soda as well as television, texting and emailing after 5 p.m.
And when the convention begins, Charlotte714 hopes to give each convention delegate a "small gift," initially intended to be North Carolina pralines. After the convention nixed the plan as a security risk, Benham says every delegate will instead get a welcome letter in their hotel room offering prayer or aid.
"I believe our nation is in a moral and spiritual crisis," says Benham. "And the convention offers an incredible platform for the church to ask God to forgive us of our sins... and humble itself and pray."