(Courtesy of USA Today)
DETROIT — Speaking to thousands inside Ford Field, the controversial leader of a 24-hour prayer rally in Detroit called for Jesus to rule over Detroit, Dearborn and America. Otherwise, he warned, the U.S. will fall into ruin.
“We need Jesus’ face to appear all across America,” Lou Engle thundered to a cheering crowd Friday night at TheCall, a movement that has drawn criticism.
Before the rally began, about 150 people protested against Engle, who is with a movement called the New Apostolic Reformation. Its leaders often rail against Muslims, gays, abortion, Catholics, African Americans and politicians who support abortion rights.
They say Dearborn is under demonic control because of its Muslim population. And they say they believe African Americans have been cursed by Satan in recent decades because they vote Democratic.
Organizers for Engle’s prayer event were expecting 50,000 to 70,000 people to show up, but the crowd size was markedly smaller than that, with much of the stadium unfilled. They also were heavily targeting African Americans in Detroit, but most of the crowd was white.
“Their message is not one of inclusion; it’s of hate,” said Jennifer Teed of Detroit, who opposed Engle’s prayer event. “I don’t see how that’s religious.”
She held up a sign that read, “All are people” and “Standing on the Side of Love.”
The protest against Engle featured Catholic, Baptist and Methodist pastors from Detroit, as well as gay rights and women’s activists. Chanting “Stop the hate” and “Spread the love,” the protesters said the prayer rally inside the stadium promotes division and intolerance.
“God did not call us to hate,” said the Rev. Charles Williams of Historic Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit.
In the past year, Engle and his supporters have said their message is the key to reviving the world. Engle says black gospel music can defeat pop culture and then lead a generation to convert Muslims.
But several Detroit clergymen said they were being patronizing and racist toward minorities. Some Muslims were concerned about their mosques because Engle and others made references to targeting local Islamic centers.
During his talks Friday night, Engle often referred to Dearborn, calling for Jesus to appear “all over Dearborn, all over Michigan.”