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Christian Gala one of many on inaugural eve


J. Gerald Harris

Bryant Wright, right, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, and wife Anne converse with Ralph Reed, consultant and senior advisor to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Reed is also former executive director of the Christian Coalition.

The Nation's Capitol was blanketed with snow on the eve of the second inauguration of George Walker Bush. However, snow was not the only thing blanketing Washington before and after the inauguration. The city was also covered with a variety of balls, parties, receptions, galas and social events.

There was a "Black Tie and Boots Ball," a victory celebration for Bush's fellow Texans. Another event, "Saluting Those Who Serve," was held to honor the men and women of the U.S. military.

There was also a youth concert designed to emphasize the importance of volunteerism and encouraging young people to participate in service.

All in all, the president and Mrs. Bush gamely made their way through 10 inaugural balls, where 50,000 celebrants waited hours to see them for just a few minutes at each stop.

One event, largely unheralded, was "The Christian Inaugural Eve Gala." The Traditional Values Coalition, the largest non-denominational, grassroots lobbying force in America, hosted the "Gala." The host committee included Richard Land and the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The Traditional Values Coalition believes America's strength is in her churches. Pastors and their churches are not barred by law from being involved in the making of public policy. TVC is a resource for Christians and pastors, providing education on the representative process and up-to-the-minute public policy information.

J. C. Watts, former congressman from Oklahoma and now chairman of GOPAC, a training organization for Republican candidates for elected office, presided over the Christian Inaugural Eve Gala.

Former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft was one of the featured speakers for the TVC event. Ashcroft said, "We are here in Washington this week to celebrate our faith, our freedom, our Constitution and George W. Bush as our president."

J. Gerald Harris

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft addresses 800 people in attendance at the Christian Inaugural Eve Gala in Washington sponsored by the Traditional Values Coalition.

Ashcroft continued, "The Bible says, 'For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?' Our president doesn't waver. Our trumpet does not give an uncertain sound. It has been my honor to witness the president's moral courage.

"There have been many times when I have marveled at the president's ability to make tough decisions," Ashcroft recalled. "But he has told me, 'John, I can do that because I know what I believe and I know in whom I have believed.'"


Georgia representation

Ashcroft acknowledged that a rather large contingent of the 800 attendees at the gala were from Georgia and said, "I believe 80% of you are from Atlanta or are lying about it. Of course, they have that saying in Georgia, 'If you can't run with the big dogs, get back up on the porch.'"

Among the Georgia Baptists at the Christian Inaugural Eve Gala were Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta and his wife, Anne, and Robert Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board and his wife, Cheryl.

Lou Sheldon, chairman and founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, reminded those in attendance of the words of Alex de Tocqueville, a French juror, who wrote two thick volumes on his visit to America in 1831. The Frenchman wrote: "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.

"Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

D. James Kennedy, pastor of Fort Lauderdale's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, spoke on God's providential hand upon America; and Tom Goeglein, special assistant to the president and deputy director of public liaison, spoke on the faith of the president.

Goeglein said that George W. Bush speaks of a God who lives and moves in his own life and added, "The president is a man who has been redeemed, a Christian with a spine of steel. In fact, we have a president whose yea is yea and nay is nay."

The special assistant to the president reminisced, " I would challenge you to remember the debate in Iowa in 2000. Tom Brokaw, the television news anchorman who moderated the debate, questioned the presidential candidates, asking them to name the philosopher who most impacted their lives and why. One named John Locke. Another one mentioned Thomas Jefferson. But George Bush said, 'Jesus Christ, because He changed my life.'"

Goeglein said Brokaw looked stunned at the answer given by Mr. Bush, because he still had 85 seconds to elaborate on his answer. So Brokaw asked, "Would you like to explain further?"

Goeglein reminded those gathered, "George W. said, 'If you don't understand, there is no way I can explain it to you.'"

Christian songs sung by Al Denson and Nicole C. Mullen and prayers for the president, the military and the nation highlighted the program of the evening.

The "Gala" ended with those in attendance even more surely convinced that our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people.

J. Gerald Harris

George W. Bush's stated belief about the need for the U.S. President to depend upon the power of Christ caused an uproar among some media.