Two leading voices of the Republican Party's evangelical wing visited Rock Church on Friday for a forum aimed at recapturing some of the movement's political momentum.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee urged Christians to get involved in politics to preserve the presence of religion in American life.
"I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history," Gingrich said. "We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."
They and other speakers warned about the continuing availability of abortion, the spread of gay rights, and attempts to remove religion from American public life and school history books.
Gingrich and Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, argued the rights of Americans stem from God and to ignore that connection is perilous. The two were among several speakers, including former U.S. Senate candidate Oliver North, at the three-hour "Rediscovering God in America" event. The event was closed to reporters but was broadcast live on God.TV, an evangelical Web site.
Huckabee told the audience he was disturbed to hear President Barack Obama say during his speech in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday that one nation shouldn't be exalted over another.
"The notion that we are just one of many among equals is nonsense," Huckabee said. The United States is a "blessed" nation, he said, calling American revolutionaries' defeat of the British empire "a miracle from God's hand."
The same kind of miracle, he said, led California voters to approve Proposition 8, which overturned a state law legalizing same-sex marriages.
Voters "did it because some things are right and some things are wrong and they had to make a stand," said Huckabee, who enjoyed some early grassroots support in Hampton Roads during his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination last year. He may run again in 2012.
Gingrich, now a consultant and author, said the ties to religion in American government date to the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas Jefferson wrote that men are endowed by God with certain inalienable rights.
"I am not a citizen of the world," said Gingrich, who was first elected to the U.S. House from Georgia in 1978 and served as speaker from 1995 to 1999. "I am a citizen of the United States because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator."
Huckabee urged his listeners to get engaged in public life or their views won't matter.
"Politicians aren't interested in pleasing the public," he said. "They're interested in pleasing voters."