Okay, I was already cynical. But Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer rally, “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis,” which takes place today in Houston, is making me more cynical. The Dallas Morning News reports,
Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer rally is expected to draw thousands of protesters Saturday, including Muslims, Jews and even some Christians who say the evangelical event is exclusionary and inappropriate and Perry is overstepping the bounds of his office by hosting it.
And, they continue,
Protesters, including a group of 50 local religious leaders who signed a letter expressing concern earlier this week, are calling the meeting exclusionary and disrespectful of the separation of church and state. One of the sponsors, the American Family Association, has been criticized by civil rights groups for promoting anti-homosexual and anti-Islamic positions on the roughly 200 radio stations it operates.
And yet, Perry’s rally, regardless of its size and in spite of the fact that it seems like a clear breach of the separation of church and state for an elected official to use his bully pulpit to promote a particular religion — in spite of this, Perry’s rally will gets tons of attention today, and be on every newscast tonight.
My cynicism about it has to do with Perry’s presidential aspirations, which he wears on his sleeve. From 1,000 miles away, it seems abundantly clear to me that this rally is political, not spiritual. Color me cynical.
But things haven’t gone quite as planned. What was once seen as a dramatic coming-out party for a latter-day Moses, in which Perry would emerge as a bona fide leader of the Christian right against the big-government “Pharaoh” (to use Perry’s Exodus metaphor), is looking more and more like a flop. Just 8,000 tickets have been sold—not enough to fill a high school football stadium in Texas, let alone a 75,000-seat professional one. Of the 49 other governors Perry invited to attend, just one, Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, has said he’ll show up (a few others, like GOPers Paul LePage of Maine and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have issued proclamations). Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka, the dean of Texas political analysts, is calling the event an “utter failure.”