2013-06-06 / Faith
Rand Paul decries country’s ‘moral depravity’
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told congregants of Newbury Park’s Godspeak Calvary Chapel last week that America needs a spiritual revival, led not by politicians but by community-level religious groups and leaders.
Sporting a red tie and a microphone headset during a series of Sunday morning church services, the Republican senator from Kentucky peppered his talks with jokes, mixing in discussions of religious liberty and Middle Eastern politics.
“Pastor Rob (McCoy) said I could stand up here for 13 hours,” Paul said at the 8 a.m. service, referencing his recent filibuster on Capitol Hill against drone strikes on American soil.
“There is a moral depravity that’s spread throughout our country, but the answer is not necessarily in your political leaders,” Paul said at a later service. “The answer is in your church and your spiritual leaders and, frankly, in the whole country erupting into a revival. We need some kind of spiritual cleansing.”
McCoy, senior pastor at the Newbury Park church, got to know the senator and his family during a trip to Israel in January.
McCoy served as the teaching pastor on the 10-day tour that was organized by Godspeak congregant David Lane.
The Lavery Court chapel has hosted other high-profile Republican speakers in the past, including Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee.
On Sunday, Paul compared his journey in Israel to church camp, singing songs and hymns on the bus and dealing with extreme weather.
As the ministry’s tour bus made its way from the Israeli desert to the lush green mountains that tower around the Sea of Galilee, Paul said, he wanted to listen to Guns N’ Roses’ “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
The site stirred biblical emotions among the ministry about the same time a New Testamentsize storm stirred on the lake.
The group boarded a rickety boat to cross the sea as hail and sleet poured down. After they made it across, Paul could still see the storm stretching across the middle of lake.
A double rainbow looked back.
“I think it really was a symbol of renewal and discovery,” Paul said. The lessons he learned in Israel were more personal than political, he added.
“I went to Israel thinking maybe I’ll find the answer to Middle Eastern peace,” he said at the last service of the morning. “I see things in politics as a physician. I want to see a problem, figure out a cure. . . . It’s not always so easy in politics.”
The senator’s visit came at a turbulent time for Godspeak.
Last week a federal judge dismissed its lawsuit against two former teachers at the churchowned Little Oaks School. Mary Ellen Guevara and Lynda Serrano were let go from their teaching positions after they refused to sign a statement of faith and submit a pastoral reference to renew their contracts.
When the teachers threatened to file a wrongful termination lawsuit in state court, the church sued in federal court.
“Let me just stop for a minute at the ridiculousness of this,” McCoy said in his sermon last Sunday. “If I bought a cooking school . . . and I wanted to teach French cuisine, do you think I’m allowed to hire and discriminate and have French cooks? Why is it because it’s religious, I don’t have that right anymore?
“This is a religious liberty and we’re going to fight it.”
During the sermons, Paul sat in the front row and listened. In his own talks, he commended the church.
“This is a fight about religious freedom and rights,” he said. “It should be fought until we go all the way to the top.”
Paul and McCoy said they hadn’t planned their talks to overlap regarding Little Oaks.
“The issue of this church and the school segues with the national debate we’re having over Obamacare,” Paul said between services. “It fits nicely together.”
Church organizers expected larger-than-usual crowds on Sunday, and the two later services were filled to near-capacity to hear the senator speak.
After the second service, some congregants followed Paul and McCoy as they made their way outside.
“Blessings to you!” Jane Martin called to him.
“I respect and admire him because I really do feel like he fights for the rights of the people,” the Thousand Oaks resident said.
Jeffrey Stephens of Newbury Park heard Paul speak in the final service and said he appreciated the senator’s remark about effecting small-scale change.
“We have to be an active part of our community,” he said. “That’s what’s going to change the world. That really spoke to my heart, especially coming from a senator.”