Together 2022 organizer talks evangelical Christianity ahead of Cotton Bowl event
Thousands of people are expected to attend a religious revival at the Cotton Bowl this weekend that aims to replicate Dallas’ famous 1972 “Christian Woodstock” led by evangelist Billy Graham.
The event, Together 2022, takes place at the Cotton Bowl this Friday and Saturday, 50 years after Graham’s Explo ’72 revival. The Dallas Morning News spoke with event organizer Nick Hall, the founder of Pulse, an evangelical Christian group that organizes religious meetings and gatherings around the world. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the free event in Dallas.
Hall spoke of his formative experiences with religion and how mainstream American Christianity today bears no resemblance to the lessons embraced by Jesus Christ.
The following interview has been edited for space and clarity.
The Last Big Pulse Event held was in Washington, D.C. What is the idea behind this year’s gathering, and why was Dallas chosen?
We therefore regularly organize events all over the world. Our first Together gathering was in 2016, and the purpose of this gathering was really to see unity. We see so much division, and we truly believe that Jesus is the only one who welcomes everyone. He is the only one to call rich and poor, citizens and immigrants, people from all walks of life. Literally the only one who welcomes us all, sinners and saints alike.
In the midst of leadership that is often not trusted or questioned, with angry people on all sides, we just think he offers an example of life, leadership and friendship . And we just want to see a generation follow it.
From 2016 until now, hundreds of rallies have taken place around the world, but all of these roads have led to this one at the Cotton Bowl, because so much of our history is truly inspired by what happened there. down in 1972. In 1972 there was a rally led by Billy Graham and Bill Bright, and Johnny Cash showed up with some of the biggest names in Christian music at the time – just a bunch of men and incredible women of God and young people from all 50 states.
It was a time of trouble. It was a time of division. It was a time of war and riots, and children were leaving churches. It was just a crazy time, and yet out of that moment came the Jesus People’s Movement. They just said, “We want to follow Jesus.” We want to follow his example. And these children changed the landscape of the nation.
Moments of historic change are marked by historic gatherings. I think we need to remember our past and we need to honor what came before while moving forward for a new future. We really see that young people today are hurting, and people are hurting for many reasons – whether it’s racism, division, or arguments at home about politics or social issues. We just think it’s time for a new generation to rise up and turn to Jesus.
The 2016 event took place just months before the presidential election, but it appears that you and Pulse made a very deliberate effort to avoid politics or support a candidate. Is it still possible to separate religion and politics?
One of the things we are really fighting against is a Christianity that allows people to speak loudly about many things and be silent about the good news of Jesus. There is a religion that started in our country that is nothing like the Christianity of the Bible. Our desire is to show Jesus and bring people to Jesus, knowing that people on both sides of the political spectrum and from different walks of life all need Jesus.
We just don’t think there is a political party that has the Christian faith. We’ve had many politicians – even presidents – wanting to be on our stage, wanting to talk to our bands. And we really believe that this message must be pure. Because we are not trying to build a wall beyond encouraging people to turn to Jesus, to turn away from all sin and struggle in their lives, and to realize that in his death and resurrection , there is hope no matter who you are, no matter where you come from. Jesus welcomes you.
Polls show that in America each generation is less religious than the last. What is the cause and what should religious institutions change to attract young believers?
I think there’s a generation that wants something real, and I think they want something that’s worthy of their passion, that’s worthy of their dreams. People tell me all the time that children are leaving the church, and I will tell them that I think they are leaving an institution that has lost its power, but they are not leaving Jesus.
I find young men and women willing to be more radical. They want to give more money than their parents and grandparents and they want to go around the world, in difficult places. I think Country Club Christianity is dead. I don’t think young men and women want anything to do with a Christianity that claims to follow Jesus when everything in your life feels like you’re living for yourself.
What is Country Club Christianity?
I mean a club of insiders and strangers. I mean a club that has great things for its members, while everyone outside watches in disgust or jealousy. Christianity was supposed to be a life-saving station. Jesus modeled that – he helped the orphan, the widow, the harlot. Yes, he spoke to religious leaders and political leaders, but he welcomed everyone.
You know, today Christianity has become known as an electoral bloc. And I guess I would just ask, how did we get here?
Do you have an answer?
I think we’ve drifted away from our first love. I think we have a Christianity today that often looks nothing like Jesus. We have built a system where it is possible to be seen as a good Christian, never to share your faith and never to establish relationships with those who are suffering. We have built a Christianity that looks nothing like our leader.
Let’s talk about the role of Christian nationalism in America today. Studies have linked the belief that America is inherently a Christian nation to anti-immigrant attitudes. Christian symbols figured prominently in the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6. Does this concern you, and what is the responsibility of religious institutions to denounce extremist ideas?
I think the way you can tell a fake is to look at the real thing. And I think it’s really easy to see a counterfeit if you look at Jesus and what he did. And there are many people who want to hijack this message for their own purposes and for their own ends, and it has become popular to do so.
It’s much easier to get people to come together and get something than to get people to love those who are hurting. It is much easier to get people to fear the enemy than to get people to welcome the enemy to eat at their table.
It’s not a Christian problem, it’s a human condition problem. We judge and label all people who are not like us, and somehow it makes us feel better if we can see people as less than us. But again, I just think Jesus is the example.
I think there’s a lot wrong with the things you mentioned. I think our founding fathers, a lot of them came here and really had a heart for religious purity and a lot of great things happened there. But there are also many parts of our history that are broken. People who make mistakes make mistakes because we are not God.