Our Governor Goodhair held his fundamentalist pep rally in Houston Saturday. Though only 8000 had registered for the event about 30,000 attended as megachurches—like John Hagee’s in San Antonio—bused in the faithful. Except for a few mentions of abortion, the speakers kept it strictly apolitical, scrupulously avoiding the wedge issues that have inflamed the culture wars. Good to know the event had nothing to do with politics. It wasn’t an even with a likely presidential candidate currying favor with fundamentalist voters or anything like that. Good to know.
Perry’s Prayerapalooza, officially known as “The Response,” was billed as “a day of prayer and fasting.” It turns out that my skepticism about that last bit was justified. According to The Houston Chronicle lines at the concession stands were long and the worshipers piously scarfed mass quantities of loaves and fishes—make that peanuts, hot dogs, and nachos. The governor enjoyed a dinner with the event’s organizers that evening.
While it was 100 degrees outside Reliant Stadium, where about 100 protestors braved the steam, attendees of The Response were maintained in crisp, alpine comfort by the stadium’s 12,000 tons of air conditioners. In the shadow of Reliant, however, are neighborhoods where the poor and elderly were sweating it out in the hottest summer in Houston history with no AC because they cannot afford their power bills. This was not supposed to happen. When the electric companies were deregulated a few years back, a $1 charge was attached to everyone’s power bill to provide for a fund directed towards the alleviation of onerous charges that would fall on the poor and elderly. What happened to that money?
Well, it turns out that the Texas State Legislature has let nearly all of that money just sit and accrue interest while paying out only a small portion to help the poor and elderly afford electricity. Why? Because that money sitting there and drawing interest adds to the state’s bottom line so that legislators can appease Grover Norquist types by saying that they have maintained financial solvency without raising taxes on the rich or corporations. Neat trick, huh? And the beauty of it is that all you have to do establish your bona fides as a budget hawk is to boil alive some people who are too powerless to fight back! (If you think my “boil alive” remark is over the top, you try spending a summer in Houston in a cramped house with no AC).
Now if Jesus was anything at all like the portrayal in the Gospels, it seems clear to me that he would much rather that Gov. Perry be out fighting to get relief to the overheated instead of making a very public display of his piety. Further, if the orthodox Christian notion of the afterlife is anywhere close to right, hypocrites who garner political favor while making the helpless suffer are headed for a place even warmer that Houston in August.