Christian women's rally on National Mall was small, but still had some big news angles

It took 10 months, but the heavily covered Women’s March that happened in January got a response of sorts from devout Christian women. The more recent event was an “Awaken the Dawn” program, followed by a “Rise Up” prayer rally on Oct. 9.

When I wrote up the Women’s March for this blog, I noted the odd mix of women donning hijabs at the Washington DC event with others criticizing the veil as symbolic of patriarchy and oppression.

There was no such disconnect at this Christian women’s event. And this smaller rally did not have wall-to-wall media coverage ranging from Buzzfeed and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to New York magazine and the New York Times, to name a few.

What we got last week was Religion News Service, the Washington Post and CBN. As RNS’s Adelle Banks worded it:

WASHINGTON -- Twenty years ago, men gathered as “Promise Keepers” and filled the National Mall for a prayer rally seeking repentance and spiritual revival.
On Monday (Oct. 9), it was the women’s turn.
A largely female audience of thousands gathered on the lawn in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol for the “Rise Up” prayer rally. Braving wind and rain, these Christian women -- many charismatic or Pentecostal -- declared their unity and sought God’s guidance to lead the nation.
At turns on their knees, huddled in small groups and facing a stage with hands raised, those gathered prayed for reconciliation between men and women, between racial and ethnic groups, and for ending abortion. In marked contrast to the Women’s March right after President Trump’s inauguration, these women had a different agenda.

Banks helpfully put together a graphic design showing dates of religion-centric rallies on the Mall starting the Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in 1963; the Million Man March, the Promise Keepers 1997 rally and even the anti-religious Reason Rally in 2012.

She also mentioned TheCall, a little-known (to secular media) organization that stages many city-wide rallies. In April 2016, I reported on TheCall’s 50,000-person Los Angeles rally, which was ignored by the Los Angeles Times, here

Reporters might want to bone up on Lou Engle, founder of The Call, as well as Cindy Jacobs, the prayer ministry leader who was present at the “Rise Up” rally. Both lead movements in the charismatic-Pentecostal world that most media know little about. 

The Post’s piece on the rally did compare it with the earlier Women’s March. 

One after another, the women who gathered for a prayer rally on the Mall on Monday said that when they decided to travel to Washington for this event, they had in mind another assembly of women in the same place: the Women’s March on the day following the presidential inauguration, which drew massive crowds of protesters in “pussy hats.”
Those women marchers didn’t stand for them, the Christian women said on Monday.
“For years, the feminists lied to us,” Christian author Lisa Bevere shouted from the stage. “They said for us to be powerful as women, we needed to act like men.” The women gathered on the Mall raised their hands in praise.

I’ve covered my share of Mall rallies and they aren’t the easiest. You’re hiking several city blocks in the rain (which was falling during this event) to buttonhole people who’d rather pray than talk to you in the hopes that a few of them will come up with decent quotes.

Plus, there’s a ton of demonstrations on the Mall each year. Al Sharpton led one for religious leaders in August that also got minimal coverage.

Unlike the earlier Women’s March, the Oct. 9 rally steered clear of politics; probably a wise choice, but it made for less exciting reporting. Writing up an event where a lot of the activity (presumably) occurs in the spiritual realm is tough going. Plus, I’m wondering how well-publicized it was. True, I live on the West Coast, but I like to think I keep my ear to the ground on coming events and I heard nothing in advance about this one.

Still, Engle himself said in an earlier video the rally was organized as an answer to the Women’s March, so that's an angle I wish had been emphasized more in these articles. The story was not so much what was said from the stage on the day of the Oct. 9 rally, but what went on beforehand in the minds of the organizers and how they felt they needed to challenge the Women's March with a competing rally. 

RNS mentioned that the Rise Up rally was preceded by three days of prayer in tents set up along the Mall. Being that many evangelical and charismatic Christians revere certain Jewish holidays, I am wondering if the prayer-in-tents was purposely aligned with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which was on the same week and features religious observances in tent-like structures. 

The more you look, the more things you see. It's a shame more reporters didn't show up for the event, if for nothing else to see a Who's Who in American evangelical and Pentecostal movements, many of whom are getting invited to the White House these days. Some day that knowledge might come in handy.

Please respect our Commenting Policy