By Michael Gordon
mgordon@charlotteobserver.com
Originally published by
The Charlotte Observer: Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2012

In what they call a nonpartisan, nonjudgmental effort to turn their city and country back to God, a group of business and religious leaders has called for a 40-day fast leading up to the Democratic National Convention that will culminate with a prayer meeting the night before the convention begins.

“Charlotte714,” is the brainstorm of brothers David and Jason Benham. It gets its name from Scripture: In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says he will forgive his people’s sins and “heal their land” if they “shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways.”

At a Tuesday press conference at Verizon Amphitheater, where the Sept. 2 prayer and music worship will take place, David Benham said the Democrats, though they support abortion rights and may add a same-sex marriage plank to their convention platform, are not the target.

Rather, he said, the convention offers organizers a national stage for their message: that churches and individual Christians take personal responsibility for the “desperate financial, political and spiritual condition” of the country. Restoring the city’s and the country’s relationship with Jesus Christ, the Benhams say, is the first step toward recovery.

“We as Christians must admit that our nation is hemorrhaging morally and spiritually,” David Benham said. “Although blaming the president and either political party is the popular thing to do, Christians must understand that the blame for the spiritual and moral decay … rests solely on our shoulders.”

About a dozen ministers and other church leaders stood with the Benhams. A press release lists about 20 congregations – including Hickory Grove Baptist, the county’s largest Protestant church – that have agreed to take part.

The fast is to begin July 25. It can take many forms, David Benham said, with participants sacrificing anything from food to, say, texting. The prayer service is open to residents and convention visitors alike.

The Benhams, both former professional baseball players, are the twin sons of Flip Benham, the controversial minister and anti-abortion activist headquartered in Concord.

Benham Companies, which the brothers run, specializes in foreclosure liquidations, real estate and financial consulting. According to its website, the businesses are run from a Christian point of view.

Their foundation, they say, is underwriting Charlotte714. According to the company website, the foundation is designed “to impact local communities and the world for the purposes of Protecting Life, Rescuing the Abused, Feeding the Hungry, and Loving the Afflicted.”

Flip Benham is the national director of “Operation Save America.” Last year, he was convicted of stalking a Charlotte doctor. He reportedly was part of a group that interrupted services at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte when openly gay Bishop Gene Roberts spoke there in February.

An item on the Operation Save America website called for a three-day fast last week “to prepare the way” for the Democratic convention and what is later described as “its culture of death.”

Flip Benham also put this headline on his recent post about Charlotte714. “The DNC’s biggest nightmare – North Carolina is turning to Christ.”

“The DNC felt that it would be shoring up its victory in North Carolina by selecting Charlotte as its convention city. Big mistake! God is shaking North Carolina to its core – turning it right-side-up in Jesus’ magnificent name.”

When asked by email if his father had any role in Charlotte714, Jason Benham replied: “My dad is not involved with this event in any way other than supporting his sons in something God has called us to do.”

Charlotte714 is one of several religious events that will take place while the Democrats are in town.

A national Muslim group plans to hold a public midafternoon prayer in Marshall Park on the Friday before the convention. During the convention’s stay in Charlotte, the Muslims hope to hold a series of activities throughout the city.

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