God Fights Back

Interview with Carol Owen
U.S. Citizen

Carol Owen Q: Why did you decide to go to Washington?

Owen: When I heard about the plan to go to Washington for Jesus, everything in my head just believed that this was right. It was something necessary to do. You have a real sense of helplessness when there are things going on in your country and in your world. You're just a single individual and there's nothing you have any control over -- nothing you can do to change it. When they brought us the idea that we would all go together to Washington to do just exactly what the Word says, it was like someone opened a door. We would get our face before God and repent, and God would answer and heal our land. We had a plan now, something we could do. We knew the answer to this situation and could affect it. I was excited about that. I would do anything to get myself and family there to get that message out.

Q: Had you done anything like that before, making a statement or engaging in a public protest?

Owen: Before Washington for Jesus, I had never participated in any public display of Christian activity or taken a stand on anything to a degree like that. We -- my family and friends and people in our church -- had locally protested some things that were going on that we felt were contrary to family values, like movies at the theater, but that was the extent of any public involvement. I had never before done anything like Washington for Jesus, but I have since then. That was the beginning.

Q: You mentioned the theater. What were you concerned about?

Owen: Well, there have always been movies that I would not have permitted my children to see, or even taken myself to see, but the particular one that comes to mind is a movie that parodied Jesus Christ in a situation of mistaken identity that showed him in situations that were just very demeaning to the Lord and offensive to me. I didn't feel like it had any place in a public display in our community. It was just contrary to our...values here. It was something I felt I had to stand up and say something about. We protested until they removed it from the theaters.

Q: Describe the atmosphere of Washington for Jesus.

Owen: For me, the rally actually began the day before the scheduled event. There was a fairly large assembly of young people in Washington. They were protesting nuclear power, I guess out of fear of what the fall-out might be. One of them came to the door of our trailer; he was in tears and trembling. He said that his eyes were suddenly opened, and he had an awareness that their marching in Washington was not going to change the fact that there was nuclear power, the fact that his life might end abruptly. He was just terrified and didn't know what to do. We brought him into the trailer, sat him down in the back, and showed him the scriptures. The answer to the peace that he was looking for and the security that he needed was in the Lord. It was like a first fruit to me; the presence of God was already on that mall. Even without our presence or activities, God had already begun to take possession of that mall, and he was moving in people's hearts. So that was the beginning of it.

The day of the rally itself was just non-stop activity. We had many responsibilities and probably three to four hundred volunteer teams. Some volunteers never even got down to the mall because they were out on the highways, giving people directions and busing people in from remote parking. So, we didn't get much opportunity to participate in the rally, but a couple things stood out in my mind particularly.

The high point of the day for me was when the speaker on the platform just spoke to the crowd and he said, "Everyone lift your hands toward that building," and he pointed toward the Capitol and it was... it was almost something you could physically feel -- the power in that many people with faith in the Lord raising their hands and sending a message to the Capitol that God was in control and that we wanted to take back the reigns of our government and put them in the hands of Godly people and Godly ways. It was an awesome thing to be a part of. You felt like you were physically in a river of something that was flowing toward that Capitol...

I praise God that he gave us an opportunity to participate in that because it was the highlight of the day. Then, of course, we were back in our trailer and back in the hubbub again. There was a sense of people melding together. The similarities in people's doctrines and in the things they, the similarities in their relationship with the Lord. The similarities between us were so apparent that we couldn't remember which speaker had said what. We had such a sense of family and sameness. That was one of the greatest things we accomplished in the church at large: the sense that our differences are minor compared to our similarities.

Q: What sort of differences were present among the rally participants?

Owen: There were representatives of hundreds of different denominations out on the mall. They came from backgrounds that were Charismatic and Pentecostal and also Evangelical. And, it was an unusual situation that they would all be in one place at the same time. In the morning there was probably a little stiffness and uneasiness, and wondering how this would all flow together. But by mid-afternoon, after they had heard speakers from many, many denominations all praising the same Lord Jesus Christ, speaking out the same words in the same flow, in the same spirit, there was a oneness of the people in the crowd. We came away from there having a real sense of how huge is the Body of Christ.

Q: How did you feel God was receiving you? Did you feel God was smiling down on you?

Owen: Without a doubt! For weeks before the rally we had had rain and rain and nothing but rain. When we were in the planning stages, the officials had asked us for a contingency plan or a rain date for the rally. And we were confused. We said there is no way to turn back these hundreds of thousands of people.... If there's rain on that day and our God wants us to repent in the rain, we will just repent in the rain.

So, on the morning of the rally, it had still been raining all through the night. The ground was wet and people were sitting on coats, blankets, and plastic bags. The whole city was completely overcast, completely soaked. Well, we had our opening prayer and began to sing in praise to the Lord. All of a sudden, it was just like someone stuck a pencil up through the clouds and opened up a way for the sun to come through. The clouds parted and it was sunny and dry for the rest of the day. It was still raining everywhere in and around Washington, so that was just a physical indication to us that the Lord was pleased that we were there and that he was hearing us.

Q: Did you become more politically active as a result of your involvement with the rally?

Owen: I think I was intimidated when it came to involvement in public things and politics. It had a mystique and a language of its own. Though I think I was a responsible Christian who needed to be involved, I felt like a fish out of water in politics. I couldn't speak their language. But after being a part of Washington for Jesus...I was actively involved in one way or another. I have been on my party's city committee. I have been to nominating conventions. I have participated in campaigns for believers who are running for office. And, I never again had that sense of inadequacy or feeling that I couldn't understand or participate in that area. It really changed my attitude about who I was, and I realized that I had a great deal to offer.

Q: How did you feel about the political state of the country at this time in history?

Owen: I think at that time I just felt that our country had fallen a long way from its origins, values, and Biblical underpinnings. I guess my approach to what was going on in the country would have to be a personal one. We're a very close-knit family and I was raising three teenagers. My children were all in public school and we were facing a constant battle of countermanding things that they were being taught in schools that were contrary to our family values. Our children were being laughed at because they believed in creation as it's taught in the Bible.

In my daughter's junior high social studies classes, they were teaching them about divorce and how to get your life together after a divorce. She was 13. She hadn't even started to date, and they were already preparing her for a failed marriage. My younger son was very in tune with spiritual things and he had a tough time in junior high school. He was harassed by classmates because he believed in God. So all of these things had a direct affect on our family.

On a larger scale, I was concerned about the fact that our country was condoning the murder of babies for the convenience of people who were not even in life-threatening situations. All of this was so contrary to the Word of God. With the condition of our laws, you had to have a real sense that God could not continue to leave America un-judged. The fact that on the world scene, there was such a lack of respect for America that a nation in the Middle East would dare to take American hostages and shake their fists at this country was just an indication of how far we had fallen....

Q: In your mind, was there a particular idea or belief that caused the country's problems?

Owen: The idea that man has no responsibility to a greater power, to a God, is in my mind the root of all the problems we have in society.... The Bible tells us that man can set his heart to determine that there is no God; therefore, he has no responsibility to him and is free to do whatever he wants. The basics of this are taught on a daily basis in our high schools and in our elementary schools. Creation is just a story. It's just a myth. It's like Mickey Mouse. It's like cartoons. You can do what you want with your life and to other people without regard for a higher power. That kind of teaching totally undermines taking responsibility for yourself and for your actions. I hated the fact that my children were being taught this in school.

Q: When you think of this country and what the founding fathers had in mind for our government and for people's relationship to God, what do you think?

Owen: When we first came to Virginia from Hawaii, we took our three children to Washington, D.C. because we had never been there and wanted our children to know the heritage of the country that they were growing up in. It thrilled me to see written in granite and stone and ivory and marble, the word of God right out of the Bible and the statements of faith by the people who founded this country. I was so glad it wasn't painted on something that could be covered over with graffiti or replaced with something more modern or politically correct. The founders were so open about the fact that no man could govern this great country without seeking God's wisdom. It was all over everything that they said.

Q: In light of what you've just said, what do make of where we've come?

Owen: In my opinion the founding fathers built the government of this country so that it would preserve forever and for all time man's right to worship God, with all his heart, and in the way that he believes God wants him to. That's why this country was founded, and it's written into our laws from the very beginning. Somehow, though, possibly because of the Christian's neglect and the aggressiveness of people who wanted to determine that there was no God, they have used the laws to change the original intent. This separation of church and state that we run into, the way that the law was written, it says that there shall be no law written that will prohibit the free exercise of religion. And yet they use freedom, separation of church and state, to remove any acknowledgment of religion whatsoever from community life. That's the exact opposite of the original intent. The intention of the law was to protect that right, not that the law would be used as a weapon to deny that right.

Q: Shortly after Washington for Jesus, Ronald Reagan was elected president. Was this a significant event for you?

Owen: After the rally we had a real feeling that God had heard our prayer, and we began to see all kinds of things occurring that were verification and evidence of the fact he was beginning to heal our land. The release of the hostages, the elections that brought in President Reagan -- many of us saw that as a part of God's answer. I don't know President Reagan personally and don't have any way of knowing what his personal, spiritual life is, but his family values and the values that he portrayed in the Presidency are so much closer to those of Christians.

The fact that it was not "in" to be Christian, the fact that prayer was laughable and not acceptable -- all of these attitudes began to change when the man in the White House acknowledged prayer and family values. He used his authority to bring those kinds of values back into the public eye. In that sense, I think that he really did turn the nation in its attitude about Christian beliefs.

Q: Did you also get a sense that you were part of something large, that Christians were not a minority in the country?

Owen: I think for a long time Christians have had a sense that they were a small minority and that there was this huge community out there contrary to us. But as we began to work on Washington for Jesus, getting the word out to believers all over the country, we saw an immense response. People responded from every state in this country to say they would be bringing delegations of people -- and truckloads of people -- to Washington for Jesus. We began to have a sense that we weren't the few and the feeble, that there were many, many of us. It was like the scripture says, that believers and God's people are meant to be the ones that are in control and the ones that are moving forward and carrying the ball when it comes to their nation's politics. That feeling has never left me. It's been a part of all my activities since then.

In participating in elections, it had been frustrating going to the ballot box and having to choose between one or two or three people who all had values different from mine. It's like which of these is the lesser of the three evils? But I realized that in order to have choices at the polls, we needed to get involved in the process much, much earlier. We had to put our money where our mouths were. We had to provide support to Believers when they were running for office. We needed to be there for them, do mailings for them, and knock on doors for them. If we did that then we would have real choices when it came time to cast our ballot.

Q: How did this realization impact your life?

Owen: We've participated in numerous elections since then. We've been on the volunteer staff of Believers who were running for local city council positions, state positions, and national offices. We are diligent not only to cast our vote on election day but to participate in campaigns in any way we can. So we've been much, much more involved, and we are teaching our children to be involved in the political process as well.

Q: What do you think the effect has been? What do you see happening in the country now?

Owen: The fact that the whole complexion of the Congress has changed in this last election seems to be real public evidence of the fact that there is a huge majority of people who want Christian values, family values put back into our laws.




About the Series | Episodes | Timeline | Your Stories | Thematic Overview | Teacher's Guide

People's Century | WGBH | PBS Online | Search PBS | Feedback | Shop | ©


Jimmy Swaggart photograph © Steve Early - Waco Tribune/Corbis Sygma