Rick Perry Is Making Me Cynical

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.

UPDATE: Brilliant analysis of Perry’s rally in Mother Jones:

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.”

  • Randy Bronson

    If Perry were an athlete or actor there would be no outcry at this use of his “bully pulpit.” I’m not sure why accepting a government paycheck deprives him of the same rights as Tim Tebow. You seem to disapprove of Perry’s political motivations and yet commend Mother Jones’s political analysis. Can’t 8,000 people pray effectively?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      If Stephen Baldwin were organizing the rally, I’d find it amusing. If Stephen Baldwin were organizing the rally and toying with a presidential run, I’d be similarly cynical.

  • Heidi Campbell

    The event is being webcast live at: http://theresponseusa.com/ if you want to see what is happening.

  • http://vanguardchurch.blogspot.com/ Bob Robinson

    This rally should raise all sorts of questions for Christians. 1. Is America a “Christian Nation” equivalent to the theocratic nation of ancient Israel? 2. If the Old Testament prophets are cited as legitimate proclamation of how we are to act as the United States, then should we not be consistent? Why not cite Amos’ decrees against the nation’s oppression of the poor? 3. Is this rally a good thing or a bad thing for our Christian witness?

    I go into these in greater detail over at VanguardChurch.

  • http://taddelay.com/ Tad DeLay

    I saw that MotherJones article yesterday. Rightwingwatch has been lighting Perry up for weeks, which has been interesting for me because it’s required me to learn a lot about IHOP (which is a fairly big thing here at Fuller) and the New Apostolic Reformation. When Perry repeatedly says says things like “With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God’s help,” and criticizes the evil government that has created this, that is clearly a marriage of tea party language with older religious right language. I think we are kidding ourselves if we think this rally has anything close to spirituality in its motivations. He wants to be in a position to unseat Bachmann as the Evangelical candidate.

  • Kimberly Glenn

    Do we all need to pray that our nation makes it through this economic mess? Absolutely! Do we need Rick Perry to lead us in doing it? NO. I can’t help but think that he means is, “Pray that I get enough contributions to run for and become the next president.” Judging by the number of tickets sold, I suspect more people than myself feel this way.

    I guess that makes me a cynic too.

  • Melody

    To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker: “I love my state, but I fear my government.” It’s hard enough being the black sheep of an ultra-conservative family and living in Dallas, the Bible Belt Buckle of Texas, but to know that people like me are being ostracized even more through this event is just frightening. And the fact that he invited groups like AFA and IHOP says A LOT about his character, if you ask me.

  • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

    But NO prayer from any leader on the Left is ever purely political, is it?

    • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy Sherwin

      What a deliberately myopic stance.

  • Shawn M

    Tony, have you read the headlines following Perry’s event (See: NBC News)? I’m not a big GOP guy but I think maybe it’s time for you to check other news sources besides ultra left ones.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Yes, Shawn, I’ve read other sources. Not unlike Glen Beck’s rally last year, it seems that Perry worked to make the event as apolitical as possible, once people started asking questions, especially when it comes to the financial sponsors of the event.

  • Dave

    From the numbers I heard it was attended by 30k and not 8k. I tuned into the webcast for a couple hours yesterday and from what I saw it was a prayer meeting with a lot of worship of Jesus through song. I was watching closer to the end and didn’t see any politicians on stage. A Joel 2:12 response to God is appropriate and from what I saw this was potentially happening.

    • BLutexan

      Rick Perry and Sam Brownback are politicians and they both took the stage. And nearly every “religious leader” on the stage has meddled in politics at one point or another. I saw tweet yesterday with pic of Tony Perkins and Tom Delay hob-knobing backstage. To suggest this event did not have political undertones is simply wrong.

      Funny that not long ago conservative evangelicals believed it was sinful to get in politics. I wish they would return to that way of thinking and stop trying to make this country into their own personal church.

      • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

        “Funny that not long ago conservative evangelicals believed it was sinful to get in politics. ”

        You’re joking, right? The entire premise of the Left-wing religious in this country is that “evangelicals have been in bed with the Republican Party” for years.

        Oh, and Tony…can you tell me where this “separation of church and state” exists as law?

        • BLutexan

          Ever hear of Roger Williams? Prominent Baptist leader who was staunch “wall of separation” proponent. For years and years, conservative evangelicals, especially Baptist were highly opposed to religious meddling in politics (they learned the hard way by being persecuted in England and the early American colonies).

          Throughout the 1900s this limited political involvement slowly loosened (see Temperance Movement). The floodgates blew open in the 1960s beginning with JFK’s Presidential campaign (a Catholic, gasp!) and the civil rights movement (seems a lot of Baptist struggled with the idea).

          Now the evangelical descendants of Roger Williams have completely shed any inkling of a division between their religious lives and their political lives. Now they are on a no hold barred mission to force the personal religious views on their opponents via politics. The dysfunction of government has steadily reason with involvement of the religious right and will only be stemmed when moderate and liberal Christians begin to stand up and push back.

          • BLutexan

            “steadily reason” s/b “steadily risen”

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