Some call him "Pastor Sam."
He occasionally evokes a preacher's tone while citing lengthy Bible passages to a crowd of worshipers.
And he openly embraces the Lord in the Capitol, praying with lawmakers, priests and ordinary Kansans.
Gov. Sam Brownback's bold promotion of Christianity and faith-based programs has brought religion into the public sphere more than any governor in generations.
It has heartened many of the state's proud Christians, while drawing criticism as a threat to the separation of church and state.
"I think that Gov. Brownback represents the family values of a large percentage of Kansans," said Donna Lippold of Wichita, state prayer leader for the Kansas Governors' Prayer Team. "I'm a Christian. He's a Christian. We have like values so it's a pleasure to see someone stand up for Christian values, principles and basically values in the governor's house."
Lippold said she believes Brownback is carrying out a key role as an advocate for Christians in politics.
"If having a Christian in politics is rare, it's because some believe Christians should stay out of politics," she said. "That's something I totally disagree with, because I believe that's exactly where we should be."
"He was elected to serve as governor of our state, not our state pastor-in-chief," said Vickie Sandell Stangl, president of the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United. "These folks want government leaders to adopt their religious vision and impose it on us all. That's fundamentally wrong."
Her statement came after Brownback issued an official proclamation in early December for the "Day of Restoration," urging people to "collectively repent of distancing ourselves from God."
It created an official day that fit with Brownback's promotion of the ReignDown USA event held under a big white tent in a public park about 200 yards from the front door of Cedar Crest, the official governor's mansion.
Standing alone backstage behind the big screens under the tent, Brownback clutched a black binder containing his weathered Bible, held together by peeling book tape after years of political travels.
He took the stage to powerful applause.
Wearing a leather jacket over a purple sweater and a pair of tan corduroys, Brownback recalled one of Billy Graham's daughters being asked after Sept. 11, 2001, where was God?
"And she said, 'Well, you know, we ask him to get out of our schools, we ask him to get out of our public squares, we ask him out of all these things and you want me to ask where was God on 9/11?' "
Brownback said we're asking God to be with us "and in the model of our land."
Separation of church and state advocates say it's the type of thing that can disenfranchise Kansans who are atheist or practice religions that don't have the outspoken backing of the governor.
Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Brownback's unabashed promotion of Christianity can make people of other faiths or no faith feel like second-class citizens.
"It's certainly wildly inappropriate for a state official to suggest or encourage specific religious activity and use the governor's office to promote that," he said.
Brownback's staff says he has hosted Jewish events at the Cedar Crest mansion, attended a Hindu event in Kansas City and accepted an invitation from a caller on a radio show to meet with atheists.
But his embrace of Christianity overshadows.
The governor says he is simply following in the steps of other leaders who embrace faith and understand that America is a "nation under God." Kansas abolitionists were "beautiful people of faith," after all, and he said he's following in the tradition of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who were "deeply engaged in faith."
"It's a pretty good crowd," he said.
Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow, whose book "Red State Religion" traces Kansas' history of religion and politics, said many of the state's governors have mixed religion and politics.
Kansas' fourth governor, Nehemiah Green, was a Methodist clergyman who pushed for laws against bigamy and adultery.
Gov. Edward Hoch, an active Methodist layman, spoke to local and national church groups about the merits of prohibition in 1908.
Brownback, a devout Catholic who attends Mass several times a week, has pushed hard to restrict abortions. He's gone as far to promise to sign any bill limiting abortion.
"The administrations of George Docking, Robert Docking, John Carlin, Mike Hayden, Bill Graves, and Kathleen Sebelius included few overt efforts to promote religion from the governor's office," Wuthnow said. "Governor Brownback's mingling of religion and politics is more reminiscent of the state's earlier leaders than of his immediate predecessors."
During his ReignDown speech, Brownback told the crowd his religion was reshaped in 1995 when he was diagnosed with cancer and was searching for something real he could hold on to.
He said he visited his family's farm, but began to realize that even his family isn't necessarily going to be there forever.
"I finally reached up and said 'God this life is yours,' " Brownback said shortly before leaving the stage.
The band kicked in, Brownback stepped outside, stood for a few hugs and photos with families and to talk briefly with reporters.
Then he excused himself and walked back into the tent.