Glenn Beck Restore Honor rally not political, says 9.12 Project Colorado chair Lu Busse

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For Busse, traveling to the Nation's Capital for the Beck bash, held on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, was tough from the standpoint of expenses and time, what with the fast-approaching November election already cutting into her family obligations. But she decided to make the sacrifice anyhow in part because "this was not supposed to be a political rally. It was going to be more spiritually based."

Many progressives may doubt that, but Busse, who hung out with another trio from Colorado, feels the event was about faith, not electioneering. Near the top of the program, "they had a long prayer, and we closed in prayer -- and throughout the rally, we heard ministers speak," she points out. "There were 12,000 clergy spread out among the crowd."

These spiritual leaders made their presence felt long before the program got underway.

"We got there about 5:30 in the morning, and as the sun came up, it was kind of quiet," she recalls. "Some people had been there all night and were kind of groggy. But one of the clergy got up and said, 'Since this is all about restoring honor, let's have a prayer' -- and it was amazing. This huge throng of people I was among just hushed and listened to this long prayer -- and he was really good at it. He had a loud, booming voice."

About fifteen minutes after the crowd responded to the prayer's conclusion with a resounding "Amen," group participation continued with a spontaneous version of "God Bless America." As Busse notes, "we started off, and more people joined in, and I don't know how far it rolled across the crowd, but it was pretty loud. We got through it twice."

Although Busse saw a few signs held by the scattering of protesters in the vicinity, she observed no placard-shaking among attendees. Instead, they waved flags and wore T-shirts with slogans like "One Nation Under God" and the one Busse donned: "I Am America."

For her, "it was my way of saying I'm part of America. We were there to unite around our American principles and values -- and most of us there do believe in God, and believe God has a place in our lives. We're not going to shove it down people's throats, but we feel like we ought to be able to share it with each other. Just because we're Christians doesn't mean we can't talk about these kinds of things. There's a place in the public square to at least discuss and state what your beliefs are, and that opens a dialogue. Like, 'Do you believe in men or do you believe in God?' Because there's a difference, obviously."

Predictably, crowd-size estimates have varied widely, with CBS estimating around 87,000 people and Representative Michele Bachmann guessing that the throng had reached a million. Busse thinks the true number is somewhere in the middle, but easily north of 500,000 -- and she questions why mainstream media organizations didn't simply acknowledge it.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts