Today is “The Response” – a fundamentalist Christian gathering in Houston that has called for a day of prayer and fasting in response to what they see is a great moral crisis in the United States. It has attracted extra attention because Texas governor and likely US presidential candidate Rick Perry is the headliner.
Given the publicity Perry has generated for this event, I assume you’re already familiar with the problems of The Response. I want to talk about my impressions and my own response.
First, I agree with the organizers of The Response that the United States is in crisis. But the problems of our country aren’t due to people not following the “right” religion – they’re caused by a lack of compassion, a lack of rational analysis and thought, too much money in the political process, and a political leadership more interested in winning elections than in governing.
Everyone has the right to express their opinions, even those whose opinions we find hateful. But they shouldn’t be surprised or offended when hate speech is labeled as such.
As a universalist, I respect those who act in the manner their religion prescribes. I even respect those who proselytize, so long as they do it politely. I don’t respect those who would deny those same rights to others.
Citizens who serve in government do not give up their First Amendment rights. Citizen Perry is free to attend all the exclusivist rallies he likes. But Governor Perry is wrong to use the power of his office to promote one religion over another. If he thinks the country needs a day of prayer, he should call for everyone to pray, not just those who pray like he does. And Presidential Candidate Perry should know that while endorsing this event may bring in millions of dollars from his far-right base, that base isn’t as big in the rest of the country as it is in Texas. It may play well in South Carolina, but he can write off New Hampshire and maybe Iowa too.
I find the “Day of Debauchery and Gluttony” amusing. Ask the ancient Celts – there is great power in satire. But that’s not really what I feel called to do.
Today, I’m going to work on my sermon for August 21 at Denton UU. It’s titled “The Sacred Earth” and it’s inspired by Bron Taylor’s book Dark Green Religion. The religion our society needs in the 21st century isn’t fundamentalist Christianity, it’s a religion that honors the Earth as sacred, either theistically or non-theistically.
I’m going to meditate and pray, as I do almost every day. As I do, I’ll include special prayers for our country and our state – especially prayers for rain.
Tomorrow I’m going to services at Denton UU, where I’ll meet with a bunch of friends, listen to Amy Martin talk about what Pagans have in common with the spiritual-but-not-religious, and recommit myself to the values of justice, compassion, and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
And Monday I’ll go back to work and continue doing what I’m called to do while I do what I have to do.
“Spiritual warfare” calls for a variety of responses. The best response to The Response is to live our religion openly and honestly, with integrity and generosity.