Rick Perry’s Jesus politics

By Alan Bean

A couple of years ago, Rick Perry made headlines by hinting that, if the Obama administration didn’t change its low-down ways, Texans might start thinking about secession.  Now the Texas governor is raising eyebrows nationwide by calling America to a day of prayer and fasting he calls “The Response”.

According to the event’s promotional video, a plethora of plagues has driven the nation to its knees: economic collapse, violence, perversion, division, abuse, natural disaster, terrorism, depression, addiction and fear.

As the camera rolls a cadre of multi-ethnic Americans, brows knit in consternation, recite a litany of plaintive questions:

Why is this happening now? . . . Why is this happening to us? . . . To me? . . . To them? . . . To this nation? . . . Who is responsible? . . . What can we do?

Then the multi-ethnic voices get personal.  “I just want my children to be happy . . . my parents to stop fighting . . . to get a job when I graduate . . . to be able to pay my bills . . . my daddy to love me.”

“There’s a crisis in America,” an earnest young man explains.  “It feels like America’s knees are buckling,” another chimes in.  “Maybe that’s the point,” a middle-aged hispanic gentleman says.  “We cannot keep going like this . . . someone has to do something; there has to be a response.”

“I know I have to make a response,” an African-American female affirms.

We must make a response,” a white woman agrees.

“Not so politicians hear us; not so others listen to us . . .”

Then the big message of the piece, delivered by a solemn Latina: “We will pour out our cry to Jesus.”

Are we witnessing a groundswell of simple spiritual longing, or is something more sinister afoot?

The man behind The Response is none other than Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Governors are busy people, far too busy to organize well-orchestrated public events or produce slick promotional videos.  For that purpose, Governor Rick called on the American Family Association, an anti-gay organization the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group.  If you want more information, check out the AFA’s website.  There you will learn that Hitler and his comrades in arms were all homosexuals, that Home Depot has a gay agenda, that liberals are determined to silence conservative voices and (most significantly for our present purpose) that, come the judgment, those who claim Jesus Christ as Savior will be saved while all others will be consigned to the eternal fires of hell.

And this is what concerns people about Rick Perry’s August 6th prayer meeting: non-Christians may attend if they wish, but only Christians are invited.

If you witnessed last month’s royal wedding you know that folks in the UK have little interest in separating church and state.  The United States is both the most religiously observant nation in the western world, and the only nation assiduously dedicated to church-state separation.

Religion has no major role in American political life.  Presidential candidates conclude every speech with an obligatory “thank you, and may God bless America.”  Americans are very interested in the religious beliefs of political candidates and, at the higher echelons of the electoral process, atheists need not apply.

But the details of the American civil religion have always been intentionally fuzzy.  Dwight D. Eisenhower captured the spirit of the thing when he said,  “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

Americans are free to believe whatever they wish, but when they display their religion in the public marketplace, big-tent inclusion is the order of the day.  Thomas Jefferson’s intentionally vague reference to “nature and nature’s God” set the standard for the political class.  John Kennedy’s Catholicism was deemed acceptable when he made it clear that his religious convictions would not influence his political judgment.

All that appears to be changing, at least in the Lone Star State.  Rick Perry is suggesting that America is in the grasp of a spiritual crisis and only Jesus can save us.   Moreover, the promotion video prepared for The Response implies that we are blessed when we see ourselves as a Christian nation and when we lose our religious moorings we are flirting with the apocalypse.

The implied message: non-Christians are the problem.  The governor has nothing against Jews, Muslims, Mormons and Buddhists–but they are all bound for hell unless they get right with Jesus.  Moreover, there is a strong suggestion that Christians who aren’t attracted to this worldview are apostate and will probably end up in eternal perdition with the unbelievers.  If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the AFA website–these are the people producing the show.

Don’t get me wrong, Governor Perry is free to to believe as he wishes, but when exclusivist, turn-or-burn religion gets wrapped up with a national call to prayer we’ve got a problem.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center believes “The governor has invited haters to help him put on a day of prayer which seems ultimately aimed at demonizing gays and lesbians.”  I doubt we will hear much gay-bashing at the August 6 event in Houston, and if we do, presenters will employ coded references to “perversion” and “anti-family influences” rather than overt verbal assaults on gay rights.

But Potok’s concern is legitimate.  The only people who will respond enthusiastically to The Response are conservative evangelical Christians who believe the world is 6,000 years old, oppose civil rights for gay men and lesbians and believe that Jesus and unfettered capitalism are fully compatible.

These positions, though popular in Texas and the South generally, inspire little enthusiasm among the young.  American young people are nominally religious, but push them very hard you will discover that most of them know very little about Christianity (or any other religion) and believe that all religions are equally valid.  Folks who share Rick Perry’s religious worldview know the world isn’t beating a path to their door; that’s why they’re marketing their stuff so aggressively.

Prominent black and Latino conservatives will likely be well represented on stage, but the audience for The Response will likely be as white as any other Texas Republican gathering.  Perry isn’t trying to bring the nation together; he’s pimping the culture war for political gain.

The folks promoting The Response are right about America’s manifold troubles.  The nation is deeply in debt, job prospects for recent graduates are bleak, terrorism is an ever-present danger, and the nuclear family ain’t what it was in the 1950s.  They are also right to suggest that our predicament is related to Jesus in some way.  Jesus taught non-violent peacemaking; but we squander our national substance fighting obscenely expensive wars that increase the threat of terrorism.  Jesus came preaching good news to the poor; but we give the wealthy massive tax cuts that further exacerbate the debt crisis.  Jesus proclaimed “release to the captives”; but we lock up 2.3 million American citizens–six times the incarceration of any other western democracy.

“Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say?” Jesus asked.  We will hear a lot of “Lord, Lord” in Houston; but, as always, the heart of Jesus’ message will be studiously ignored.



8 thoughts on “Rick Perry’s Jesus politics

  1. We all do need to pray, though; for the guidance and strength to start the work to change the structures that keep people powerless because of economic, racial, and other systemic inequities; and just to keep going through the difficulties these times present to us and our neighbours–one of the best ways to con the oppressed is to tell them all of their problems are their own fault. We all have choices to make, but Jesus offers us a chance at a new life any time we accept it, no strings attatched (no check box to accept license agreement either)

  2. This is the strangest way of looking at a call to prayer considering you are a preacher, Alan. No one is being forced to participate. No one is being denigrated for not participating. And by the way, Jesus also preached that He was THE way, not one of many ways.

  3. A word from the U.K. – Even though we have no constitution to separate church and state we are actually less religious than the U.S. and religion also plays a very minor role in our our politics and our elections (still too much for my liking but that’s beside the point). If politicians here tried to wear their faith so blatantly as a political tool they would get laughed out of town – when we talk about tax, or jobs, or crime, religion rarely comes in to the discussion. Okay, religion is sometimes part of our discussion re. primary and secondary education (5-16) but, hey, nobody’s perfect.

  4. Yes, so did Hitler. What’s your point? At least we can prove Hitler actually existed.

  5. Jesus came to set the captives free ,free from the bondage of sin. The only way to understand that is if you have the Holy Spirit to reveal that to you. I pray for this nation and for all people to come to the knowledge of truth. You can know truth if you ask Jesus to show you. He is the way, the truth and the life. Yes you aren’t going to heaven uless you are covered in the blood of Jesus. SO if you are a lesbian or a gay person you can turn away from thoses sins and be forgiven. Same for a murderer, a liar, a cheat, theif and so on… The only way to be covered is to confess your sins and call upon the name of Jesus.

  6. Gov. Perry has invited a curious bunch of “preachers” to participate in this: Rev. Hagee, one guy who claims Japan’s economic problems started when the emperor had sex with the incarnated sun goddess; another who claims that freedom of religion applies only to Christians–and the beat goes on!

  7. Govinor Perry’s heart is in tha rite place, but I’m puttin’ ma faith – both politicul & religious in Congrisswoomins Michele Bachminns.

    I’ve had a soft spot for her ever since she showed-up all them dumb atheist climate-change scientists (I call ’em over-edicatid a**holes!) with this mighty fine speech to Congress I watched her make a short while back, an’ if you ain’t convinced yet, just wait ’til you hear what she has to say (rite at the start of the speech nearly) about how necessiry CO2 is to the fowls of the air… like turkeys I s’pose… when they’ze migratin’. And ask yourself this… where would we be on the 4th of July here in the US, if thems big, fat, juicy turkeys couldn’t get to us from Africa or sumplace for lack of essential CO2 tuh be breathin’, huh?


    Of course, the little gal is perfictly correct about CO2 causin’ no problems whatsoever. It’s perfictly naturil and full of wholesome goodniss – trees breathe it for Chrissakes, an’ what’s more naturil than that? All you’ve gotta do is ask my other buddy Lzrntaggg Flrmzt.03 (I call him Billy for short).

    He’s from the planit Venus, and I got friendly with him a few years back when he visited the planit Earth in his spaceship, to mutilate cattle over in Tulsa where my poppa used to have a small farm.

    Now on Venus where Billy comes from, millions & millions of years ago, they used to have an atmosphere just like that on Earth today, but they got their act together on the CO2 front too, and now they’ze got an atmosphere that’s chock-full of CO2 naturil goodness – plenny more than here on Earth – and it don’t cause Billy no problems, jus’ like Mrs Bachminns izz sayin.

    Oh sure, there’s a bit of that so-called “greenhouse” effect, with all that CO2 trappin’ so much of the sun’s heat inside the Venus atmosphere, so that down on the surface of the planit, a lump of Lead will boil away right out there on Billy’s front porch, coz it’s over 450 digreez centigrade – but he likes it that way!… He’s adaptid!

    An’ I’ll tell you sumthin’ else… Billy runs not one… not two… but seven 14.8 liter V28 cylinder pick-up trucks, and a f**kin’ huge noocooler power’d flyin saucer!… coz gas with added plutonium (Super Premium Grade) costs just around (in Venus money) $2 bucks per 5 trillion gallons – an it’s un-leaded too! (coz all the lead’s boiled away already, an’ is up in the Venus atmosphere where it belongs!).

    How about that!

    An’ I’ll tell you somethin’ else too again, that maybe you don’t know about? Billy even worships Jesus!

    Yes siree Bob,,, that’s the exact same Baby Jesus – The Son of God – that you, I, an’ Michele Bachminns worships!… coz 2.5 billion years ago, Jesus was born in a manger in a stable right there on Venus too (this was before things got too hot, or it would have fried-up all the essential little Venus donkeys), and the Venus Baby Jesus went on to be crucified and killed on a four-spar wooden cross by Venus Romans (cos he had 6 arms and 3 legs, just like Billy) when he grow’d up into a bearded Venus man, and got all raised-up from the dead to live agen, just like what he did in ancient Bible-land right here on Earth!

    An’ he saved all the Venus peeple’s eternil souls jus’ like he’s doin’ right here on Earth right now, but over there on Venus first, so all the Venus peeple’s souls alreddy bin saved!

    Ain’t that jus’ incredible huh?

    In fact, it seems like (according to Billy) that the Baby Jesus has been playing the exact same gig on planits all over the Universe – that’s the Universe what he hisself made – for the last 13.7 billon years!

    How about that!

    Ain’t that sumthin!

    So that jus’ goes to show that good ol’ Michele Bachminns is smack-on rite about just almost everythin’ – from the badness of that phoney “Globil Warmin” BS, to illegil Meskins and other nere-do-wells rippin off US taxpayers, to the Baby Jesus an’ his Almighty powahs.

    She might be a bit mistaken about the whole universe bein’ only 6000 years old (I found that out from Billy from Venus, after I caught him in the act of mutilatin’ one of my poppa’s cows), but she’s darn’d right about everythin’ else!

    There wuz evin a chile I know’d, named Lorenzo, who was sorely afflicted by the Gay sickness, but was miraculously cured by Michele Bachminns’s husband Dr Marcus Bachminn’s holy gay cure, up at his fine & righteous clinic (You can pay his curin’ fees using Medicare & Medicaid if you want) up there in Minnesota. So why hate gays when you kin cure ’em… Tha’s awl I’m sayin

    I’ll be votin’ for Michele Bachminns for Presedint of The USA come November 2012, and I hope all other decent, right-thinking Anericans will feel the same way.

    God Bless America!


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