Rick Perry determined to make evangelicals as ridiculous and unpopular as he is

Rick Perry determined to make evangelicals as ridiculous and unpopular as he is December 11, 2011

Perry Ad Attacks Gay Rights in Appeal to Iowa’s Evangelicals” says the headline from The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire site.

It’s a reference to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest campaign ad, in which he not only “attacks gay rights,” but also attacks the separation of church and state and the religious freedom of any American who isn’t an evangelical Christian.

Rick Perry's ridiculous ad has, appropriately, drawn a great deal of ridicule.

Here’s a link to the video. And here’s the text of the ad:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

There’s a lot packed into those five sentences. The initial phrase is a slimy insinuation that anyone who disagrees with Rick Perry must be “ashamed” of their faith (the allusion there is to Romans 1:16).

That’s followed by an affirmation of the central contention of the religious right — “there’s something wrong in this country.” For this ad’s target audience, that “something wrong” is that America has backslidden from its sectarian, righteous, Bartonian heritage. That “gays can serve openly in the military” is, for Perry and his target audience, clear evidence of that “something wrong.”

This first sentence ends with two absurdly nonsensical lies: “Our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” Children in public schools can and do openly celebrate Christmas — whether they wish to or not, and they can and do pray in school. Perry’s contention here only makes sense if, for him, celebrating Christmas and praying in school entail a strictly sectarian practice of officially sanctioned and mandatory worship. Perry has since confirmed that this is exactly what he means and exactly what he intends for public schools, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he supports a constitutional amendment to allow local school districts to enforce sectarian prayers.

The ad concludes with two false and malicious slurs and two vapid platitudes that reinforce them.

It’s a nasty piece of work. And it’s explicitly a nasty piece of work that is intended, as The Wall Street Journal says, to “appeal to Iowa’s evangelicals.”

Both the newspaper and the political professionals in the Perry campaign are certain that this is how one goes about appealing to evangelical Christian voters in America — by demonizing gays and denouncing the separation of church and state.

The Family Research Council rushed to confirm that they’re right, praising Perry’s add and saying the candidate “stands to benefit with everyday Americans who are tired of seeing their values in the line of fire under this administration.”

The Family Resarch Council claims to speak on behalf of evangelical Christians, presenting itself as representing their views and interests. This claim is routinely supported by less explicitly political institutions of “mainstream” evangelicalism, such as Christianity Today, in which the FRC and its spokesman, the Liar Tony Perkins, are regularly cited as “evangelical” voices (see, here for example).

Many will rightly object that neither the Family Research Council nor Rick Perry’s ad represents the views of all evangelicals. True enough. But Perry isn’t aiming to appeal to all evangelicals, just to most of them, and neither his professional pollsters nor the veteran political pundits seem to think that he is misreading what it is that most evangelicals want to hear.

Perry’s ad was, apparently, hotly contested amongst his campaign staff. But that dispute wasn’t about whether or not its message would be effective as an appeal to evangelical voters. Everyone agreed that it would be. The worry some had was that it would be too effective at appealing to those voters — that such a full-throated expression of support for evangelicals’ anti-gay sentiment and for their desire for legally enforced sectarian privilege might alienate other Republican voters and conservative-leaning independents.

That worry seems justified in view of the reception that Perry’s ad has received. While it hit the bullseye for religious right groups like Family Research Council, outside of that circle the ad — like the candidate himself — has been denounced as a crude piece of bigoted silliness. Evangelical voters are a big chunk of the base that votes in GOP primaries, but they still make up less than half of that partisan base. So Perry seems to have boosted his standing with 40 percent of one party’s voters while fatally damaging his political prospects with the rest of the world.

Here’s just a sampling of the fierce, and often hilarious, response Perry’s ad has received outside its narrow target audience of evangelicals:

My guess is that this ad will be a millstone around Perry’s neck in the increasingly slim chance that he becomes the Republican nominee. And neither Newt Gingrich nor Mitt Romney would likely want to take on the burden of defending that ad by picking Perry as a running mate.

But I’m no expert at politicking. I suspect the ad will be damaging to Perry’s political future, but you should look elsewhere for evidence or more informed opinion about its likely political effects.

What concerns me here is not the impact of the ad on Rick Perry’s reputation, but the disastrous effect such ads have when evangelicals allow them to go unchallenged. By not quickly and unambiguously denouncing such crude attempts to win our support, we reinforce the ugly, negative — and largely deserved — reputation now burdening American evangelicalism.

Ads like this one, and our failure to reject them, further cement the impression that evangelicals are incapable of loving our neighbors — incapable of living as neighbors with anyone who doesn’t share our particular sectarian faith and sectarian political ideology.

It says that we want gays hidden in the closet. It says that our message to GLBT men and women in uniform is never “Thank you for your service,” but rather “Go away.” It says that we are intent on destroying public education, but that in the interim — as a half-measure toward our goal of tax-funded education for our kids but not for yours — we want to force your children to pray the way ours do. It says that we cannot live alongside others who don’t believe exactly as we do, but must instead live above them — elevated, privileged and honored as their superiors due to our adherence to the one, true faith.

It says, in short, that we are awful, awful people.

If we do not wish to be perceived as awful people — and if we do not wish to be awful people — then we must make it clear that “appeals” to us like this one are an insult and an affront, that they will earn our contempt rather than our support.

 

 

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  • Tonio

    The compromise wasn’t reasonable because for the most part, it wasn’t with military leaders worried about morale, but with politicians who wanted to pander to anti-gay hatred or who feared backlash from groups like Focus on the Family. Similarly, recent polls show that a majority of rank-and-file Republicans disagree with the party’s members in Congress about raising taxes on the 1 percent.

  • Danny

    Well, although I would agree with the very real need for a society such as the US having a fearless diversity, I’m not sure I could agree that the Mayflower Christian refugees have had little impact upon the history of the colonies. With respect, that is a little short sighted… You or I may not applaud the particular emphases that some of their ideological descendants hold, but just as Calvin’s Geneva was hugely influential perhaps even _because_ of the monolithic authority it held, so the US has been vastly shaped by these guys.

  • Danny

    There is a real sense in which certain elements of US society build their cohesion as much on fear as they do upon ideological unity and confessional agreement. The opposition to a fully integrated military doubtless springs partly from that, partly from ignorance, and partly from a strong religiously-driven bias. There will always be those who will trangress sexually by unwanted advances, inappropriate behaviour, troublesome promiscuity or in extreme cases, rape. For the fearful, that is enough reason to resist equal service – even though heterosexual sexual crime or relationship problems are far more prevalent and disruptive.

  • Tonio

    the US has been vastly shaped by these guys.

    If you’re talking about how they were heroized in the 19th and 20th centuries, I would agree. In their own day, they had some small significance in that they showed that colonization of New England could be successful. But the state we know today is descended from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which absorbed the Pilgrim settlement. They and their ideas were almost forgotten by the time of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution, with the exception of the Mayflower Compact idea of self-government, and that document was created only at the insistence of the non-Pilgrim colonists.

    The claim that the Pilgrims were seeking religious freedom is largely fiction – they already had that when they fled from England to Holland, but they left that country because they feared assimilation. Their idea of religious freedom didn’t even apply to the individual, but only to the group.

  • Danny

    Simply that there are many who rightly or wrongly identify them as the progenitors of colonial America and its culture, and look to them as their ideological examples. Whether they are correct, is somewhat irrelevant to them, as their believe themselves to be the rightful heirs to the land. I doubt any convincing will uproot those convictions.

  • Tonio

    That glosses over the whole significance of the ideology behind heroizing the Pilgrims. Some of that is simply a desire for a founding myth, sure. But much of it comes from the hateful ideology that the US is a Christian nation in law and fact. You’re probably right that most people who adhere to that ideology won’t be swayed by the actual historical facts, which do indeed show that the Pilgrims weren’t the progenitors of colonial America. But it’s still important to keep the record correct for its own sake, and to prevent people who don’t share that ideology from being misled.

  • Lurker

    Coming from Finland, I’d like to note what a teacher-lead public prayer is, at the mildest. The schools have a “morning-opener”, a short speech by a teacher, usually on the PA system. This speech may or may not relate to religion, at the choice of the teacher in question. In addition, local religious communities, especially the Luthera (state church) parish, holds a morning prayer about once a month. The members of other communities do not attend those events but remain in class, waiting for the others.

    However, when I was a kid, there was also organised teacher-lead prayer prior to the school lunch, commonly said by all students: “Dear Jesus, bless our food and always stay with us”, except that the two Jehova’s Witnesses in our class did not need to say it, only stand up like everyone else. However, not all teachers did that, as it was up to them. Since 1998, such organised school prayer has been illegal, but the religious communities may still hold short events for their members during the school day.

  • Most of the ones I heard were straight solders fearing that gays would ogle them in the group showers.

    My response to them is usually “You are brave enough to face incoming bullets, but are scared of gay soldiers?  Glad they are on our side then.”  

  • Tonio

    I was thinking that same thing, and I’m glad that you stated it explicitly.

    Here’s a similar oddity: A hedge fund billionaire agrees with Obama that the rich need to be taxed more, but still thinks that the President is treating people like him as bad. Odd that someone worth $1.8B would care what other people think.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/its-not-easy-being-a-hedge-fund-billionaire-these-days/2011/12/06/gIQAWakqZO_blog.html

  • The compromise wasn’t reasonable because for the most part, it wasn’t with military leaders worried about morale, but with politicians who wanted to pander to anti-gay hatred or who feared backlash from groups like Focus on the Family. Similarly, recent polls show that a majority of rank-and-file Republicans disagree with the party’s members in Congress about raising taxes on the 1 percent.

    Another big issue is that the military is seen as a battleground in the cultural war.  A military should be an apolitical organization, but to a cultural hegemon anything which does not affirm their dominance is seen as a loss.  Hence, when they think that gay people should be ostracized, any national institution that would be fully accepting of them is considered a blow to their cause.  That is why they would try to fight for it.  

    You might also say that the Christian Dominionist might have something to do with it, considering their influence in the larger conservative Christian community.  They know that Christian dominion will never happen without the support of the military, and they have been working for decades to try and ensure many officers are spiritually aligned with them.  Allowing a community that they have rejected to be present undermines that influence.  

  • ako

    And, of course, there was a lot of feigned concern about how men in the US military would suddenly have to fear sexual assault.  (As it turns out, male-male sexual assault was happening before DADT was repealed, reported assaults go back for decades, and much like most male-male sexual assault, it was mostly perpetrated by straight men.  DADT made it more difficult for male survivors to report sexual assault, as assailants could target gay men or men who were perceived to be gay and threaten to ‘out’ them if they said anything. 

    Female soldiers have also been assaulted and coerced into silence with the threat of being ‘outed’ as lesbians.  So ending DADT should result in a modest but definite reduction in military sexual assault.)

  • Anonymous

    (With
    apologies to any non-idiot Southerners posting here, but your
    politicians, preachers and school boards make the rest of you look
    REALLY bad.)

    Oh gee thanks, I’m glad we have smart people like you around to tell us things we wouldn’t have figured out on our lonesome.

  • Anonymous

    (With
    apologies to any non-idiot Southerners posting here, but your
    politicians, preachers and school boards make the rest of you look
    REALLY bad.)

    Oh gee thanks, I’m glad we have smart people like you around to tell us things we wouldn’t have figured out on our lonesome.

  • Lori

     Surely the concept of civil rights applies to all Americans equally?  

    This was posted today on the website of the Ruth Institute, which is affiliated with NOM (the National Organization for Marriage):

    The heading was “You Whiny Sniveling Little Atheists Are Pathetic” and the text read: 

     
    Yes, you are outsiders. Go start your own damn country. This one was started by Christians, you puerile dimwits. It is Christians who established and largely Christians who fought and died to maintain the freedoms you enjoy. And Christians are still the majority. Apparently your vaulted belief system doesn’t equip you to handle being in the minority. That’s interesting, isn’t it? After all, this was and is a societal situation valiantly handled by millions and
    millions of Christians who suffered — and currently suffer — real oppression, violence, torture, economic deprivation, and cruel deaths. But you have to go through turning off the TV once in a while and so your precious puny feelings are hurt. How delicate and frail your mental architecture is! You are a pitiful joke.   

     

    These are exactly the kind of people Perry was talking to in his ad. They believe the US belongs to Christians by right and they are not only willing, but happy, to be vicious in enforcing their ownership.

  • ako

    You know, if someone said “Apparently your vaunted* belief system doesn’t equip you to handle living in a world where people openly disagree with you.  You have go through hearing the words ‘Happy Holidays!’ once in a while and so your feelings are hurt.  How delicate and frail your mental architecture is!”, I’d be anything the Ruth institute would be right out front decrying those words as an example of anti-Christian oppression. 

    *I’m assuming that’s what they meant by “vaulted belief system”.

  • Lori

    I don’t know, I was sort of enjoying the picture pf my belief system as an arched overhead covering.

  • Lori

    I don’t know, I was sort of enjoying the picture pf my belief system as an arched overhead covering.

  • Rikalous

    No, I think they meant vaulted. They do go on to talk about “mental architecture,” after all.

  • Rikalous

    No, I think they meant vaulted. They do go on to talk about “mental architecture,” after all.

  • ako

    Now I’m picturing a fundamentalist knockoff of Inception. 

  • ako

    Now I’m picturing a fundamentalist knockoff of Inception. 

  • Lori

    That would be both excruciating and hilarious.

  • “Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

    “What the hell kind of school am I sending you to? Get me the number of the board of education!”

    — ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Deleted Scenes

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The heading was “You Whiny Sniveling Little Atheists Are Pathetic” and the text read: 
     

    Yes, you are outsiders. Go start your own damn country. This one was started by Christians, you puerile dimwits. It is Christians who established and largely Christians who fought and died to maintain the freedoms you enjoy. And Christians are still the majority. Apparently your vaulted belief system doesn’t equip you to handle being in the minority. That’s interesting, isn’t it? After all, this was and is a societal situation valiantly handled by millions and millions of Christians who suffered — and currently suffer — real oppression, violence, torture, economic deprivation, and cruel deaths. But you have to go through turning off the TV once in a while and so your precious puny feelings are hurt. How delicate and frail your mental architecture is! You are a pitiful joke.

    My favourite thing about Christians is the love.

  • The way that the author clearly considers ‘outsider’ to be the worst possible thing you can call a person is just adorable. 

  • Rikalous

    Now I’m picturing a fundamentalist knockoff of Inception.

    “Of course I’ve heard of inception. It’s not possible. Anybody who isn’t converted after reading a Chick Tract is defiantly reprobate and can’t be saved.”

  • You know you’re a Texan when a forty-five minute drive to get from one
    town to another is “short.”  (I guess it would also apply to anyone from
    the rural midwest.)

    The distance to number of towns thing is odd though. In terms of actual travel time, it’s somewhat irrelevant. Because it doesn’t seem to matter how many towns you go through, most people have a set distance that they are not willing to go further than to get to work.  It’s about an hour, which was true even when people walked.

    If you want a sense of where Stephen King “came from” both
    geographically and culturally you should drive the backwoods of Maine.

    I volunteered for a month in rural Maine and it was lovely.  However, it also allowed for a lot of hidden rural poverty, which is very different from urban poverty.  There were a surprising number of semi-homeless people and drug addicts the group we volunteered with served.

    “I could die out here and no one would ever know” is a
    little disconcerting  whether you’re surrounded
    by forest or mountains or prairie or desert.

    I felt like that driving through the Irish boglands, especially when I came very close to running out of gas. It was even more disconcerting because if I started walking and sunk into the bog, no one would find my body until hundreds of years later, if ever.

    It’s telling that they’ve elevated the “Pilgrims” to a founding myth,,
    ignoring the traditions of religious freedom in that began in colonies
    like Virginia and Maryland and Connecticut.

    However, I did enjoy Jon Stewart pointing out that using the Pilgrims as a reason to celebrate Christmas is completely ridiculous as they also outlawed saying “Merry Christmas.”  They really enjoyed outlawing things.

  • Also, anyone saying that calling themselves the Ruth Institute is seriously insulting one of my favorite books of the Bible.  It’s especially roll-your-eyes because Ruth goes with her mother-in-law to a place where her people are outsiders because she loves her mother-in-law just that much!  You’d think they’d have read the book – it’s not very long.

  • Lori

    My favourite thing about Christians is the love. 

    One of my favorite things about Joe Jervis from Joe.My.God is that when he reports on these sorts of hateful screeds he always refers to them as God’s Gentle People.

  • P J Evans

    Where my parents lived in west Texas, it was a quarter mile one way to the nearest neighbor, and at least that much in the other direction to the next neighbor – and they were in a different phone exchange, so they were also a toll call.

  • P J Evans

    However, I did enjoy Jon Stewart pointing out that using the Pilgrims as
    a reason to celebrate Christmas is completely ridiculous as they also
    outlawed saying “Merry Christmas.”  They really enjoyed outlawing
    things.

    They were against enjoying things, I think. (They outlawed May Day celebrations, too.) Their marathon Sunday church services would probably annoy modern conservatives, too. (I understand they did break for lunch.)

  • Lori

    I think the singing part of their services would seriously freak out mega-church types too. It was pretty much the opposite of the Power Point praise chorus with everyone waving their hands in the air and swaying back and forth together. A Pilgrim sang his/her own song and apparently sang it loud. Note singing? What is this unscriptural tyranny you call “note singing”?

  • It’s telling that they’ve elevated the “Pilgrims” to a founding myth,, 
    ignoring the traditions of religious freedom in that began in colonies 
    like Virginia and Maryland and Connecticut. 

    In Maryland, you were free to be any religion you wanted, song as it wasn’t Jewish. Or Muslim. Or Hindu. Or unitarian come to think of it. Pagans were Right Out. 

    The Maryland Toleration Act promised religious freedom only for trinitarian christians, and sentenced anyone who denied the divinity to Jesus to death. (As I recall, dimly, from a paper I wrote back in middle school, it wasn’t so much a matter of Calvert particularly wanting to exclude non-christians, but rather he had the legal authority to command tolerance among christian sects, but didn’t have the legal authority to override some or other superior law banning universal tolerance. All the same, the act was used to prosecute at least one jewish man, though he was apparently acquitted and granted citizenship anyway.)

    So, basically, exactly what conservative christians mean when *they* talk about freedom of religion: freedom to be any kind of christian you like. So long as it’s one of the kinds they approve of. Others may be permitted to stay, but only on sufferance.

    The act was, however, possibly the first law to ban hate speech on religious grounds.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Gays and lesbians have been able to serve openly in Australia’s military since 1992 as well (and have had equal access to partner benefits since 2009)*. Studies have since found improved working relationships and no effect on recruitment or retention.

    *Why so long in between, I hear you ask. Something to do with the conservative government we were plagued with between 1996 and 2007, methinks.

  • Tonio

    While you’re right about the consequences of the Maryland act for non-Christians, it was still a step forward from what came before in England, when even worshiping Jesus the “wrong” way was treasonous.

  • Anonymous

    And heaven forbid you should omit or alter the “under God” part!

  • Worth noting that the Family Research Council is listed as a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Same status as the KKK.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Worth noting that the Family Research Council is listed as a Hate Group
    by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Same status as the KKK.

    Fred has continually pointed out that the Family Research Council is actually anti-family. Box Turtle Bulletin always prints the organization’s name as Family “Research” Council, because they don’t seem to actually do any research (unless you count “making shit up” as “research”). Have often wondered if there is actually a council involved, just top keep things consistent. (I think FRC is really more than one person, unlike some other “group” – not remembering which one, maybe NARTH? – that is one guy with a PO box.)

  • P J Evans

     They don’t seem to have liked their neighbors to the north, either. (Society of Friends, AKA Quakers, mostly in Pennsylvania and Delaware.)

  • FangsFirst

    Wait so now I just can’t post in THIS THREAD?

  • They don’t seem to have liked their neighbors to the north, either.
    (Society of Friends, AKA Quakers, mostly in Pennsylvania and Delaware.)

    Two words: Mary Dyer.

  • P J Evans

    Massachusetts Bay. Or maybe Plymouth. They didn’t like Baptists, either. (My New England ancestors were in Rhode Island.)