Hundreds of pastors in Iowa anointed U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul with a shower of prayers after they collectively promoted an agenda to abolish the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), get rid of Obamacare, champion religious freedom, defend marriage and fight abortion on Friday.
A CBN report highlighted that the two born-again Christian and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates were blessed by the crowd of spiritual leaders who had gathered for the Pastors and Pews event organized by influential social conservative political activist David Lane.
"Our country's going to hell because pastors won't lead," Lane told the Des Moines Register in an interview. "The goal is to march an army."
Lane, 58, said he is on a mission to get evangelical Christians to vote through his America Renewal Project and argued that not even half of the 65-80 million evangelical Christians in America are registered to vote.
"There's going to be a major push in Iowa to get evangelicals registered and practicing in the civil government arena," said Lane. "You'll elect every senator, every congressman, every state representative, every governor, every mayor, every city council member — you'll own the whole deal if our constituency will engage."
The Pastors and Pews event, according to the Register, was a two-day, all-expenses paid forum that attracted about 800 Iowa evangelicals to downtown Des Moines.
Cruz reportedly addressed the audience at the closed-door meeting for about 30 minutes and took questions at the end of his speech. He highlighted his history of supporting religious freedom cases including the Ten Commandments and the Mojave Cross cases. He called for getting rid of Obamacare and the IRS and received a standing ovation for his position on the IRS. And on marriage, he said: "There's no issue where we need to be more on our knees…we are facing an assault on marriage."
Paul spent the majority of the 20 minutes he spoke explaining how "religious liberty, freedom and virtue go hand in hand," according to CBN. He also argued for withholding aid from countries that hate the United States.
Regarding foreign policy, Paul quoted biblical scripture supporting peace – "Blessed are the peacemakers".
He made clear, however, that "he (Paul) was not against war and if war was necessary, he would make sure America would win it decisively," noted the CBN.
In an analysis of Lane's push to get out the evangelical Christian vote, however, critics in the Register's report said they have seen it all before.
"If I closed my eyes, I'd swear I was back in the 1980s listening to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"We've seen this movie before, and we've heard the predictions for decades. This sounds no different than the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition."