By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS – The message was clear Friday morning at a meeting that saw more than 70 Christian church leaders from across the county join to discuss holding a rally next week: We want to do this, but we want to do this right.
“This is not about defending a symbol of our faith, this is about defending our faith,” said pastor Nathan Lorick of FBC Malakoff.
“The reason is to unite believers for a spiritual awakening and rally,” he added.
Lorick is one of four pastors to initiate the rally movement.
The rally is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, on the west side of the courthouse.
The rally is being planned in response to demands from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) that the county remove a nativity scene displayed as part of the courthouse Christmas decorations.
Public response to the demand and the accompanying media coverage have been massive by any standard. In the 48 hours after posting the initial story, The Malakoff News received around 700 comments on its Facebook Page and website. Lorick and Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders were guests on the Fox & Friends program on the national Fox News Channel, and Lorick appeared on the national syndicated Glenn Beck radio program.
Lorick and the other pastors who came up with the rally plan – Robert Welch of Rock Hill Baptist in Brownsboro, Eric Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens and Derek Rogers, a county resident who pastors a church in Corsicana – are hoping to use the event to give that outcry expression and direction.
Lorick said the reason for the rally is “to proclaim the word of God in a way that’s not seen in our nation. For some reason, that’s no longer OK.”
The pastors also want their fellow Christians to realize that there is a lot of pain in the county – poverty, drug abuse, domestic abuse – and that it cannot be ignored.
“We must back our faith up with action and service,” Lorick said.
Be clear, the pastors believe the nativity should stay. But as pastor Kyle Henderson of FBC Athens said, it should stay because that is the law, not because Christians are in the majority. He said he has twice lived in places in the United States where Christians were in the minority, “and the Constitution protected me as a Christian.”
Officials from Henderson County said they believe the county is in compliance with federal law with the nativity scene.
“We are thankful that we have elected officials that will take a stand, even if it will cost us,” said Lorick.
But always, the pastors came back to taking a stand correctly.
“There is a whole lot of rhetoric out there,” said Lorick. “The point is getting across, but maybe not getting across with the light of Christ. We want to be loving and merciful, but bold in our faith.”
Welch added, “Though we are passionate, we are people of love and peace.”
In the end, the pastors are hoping this is the start of something bigger than a set of nativity figurines.
“We are always talking about revival,” said Lorick. “Why not here and why not now?”
Find the rally Facebook event page here.