Little of the overt spirituality that crept into Baptist Sunday-school teacher Jimmy Carter’s campaign found its way into Kemper Arena at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City. Ody Fish, convention manager and Republican National Committee vice-chairman, even sought to control invocations and benedictions by requiring advance texts of the prayers. To keep spontaneous sermons from cropping up, Fish ordered that “all invocations and benedictions will be limited to two minutes with a three-minute absolute maximum.”

To keep any apparent irreverence from television viewers, the rule-makers also decreed that the convention’s delegates bow their heads during all prayers. After the first day, however, a few non-Christian delegates declined to make such a gesture, citing privately the explicit invocation of the name of Jesus Christ or the Trinity in several of the prayers. Among the nine persons who offered opening and closing prayers were Episcopal bishop Arthur A. Vogel of Missouri, Catholic auxiliary bishop George K. Fitzsimmons of Missouri, Pastor Ted Nissen of Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, and John Erickson of the Kansas City-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Several other program participants referred to their personal faith in Christ.

The face of Christianity, however, was consistently visible on the streets. Christians from Kansas City and elsewhere preached, sang, and passed out tracts to the delegates, reporters, protesters, and convention guests who clogged the streets of downtown Kansas City and the stockyards, where Kemper Arena is located.

The most prominent group of young Christians, with several hundred in its ranks, called itself “Christians Care for America.” ...

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