Rick Perry, Go into your closet and pray, please.
Rick Perry is the new Michele Bachmann, I guess. He’s getting all the news, while Bachmann is relegated to the cover of Newsweek. The big Perry News this week is on the Prayer Rally he held in Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. Here’s how the Times described the event:
“The governor, as both a private citizen and an elected leader, delivering a message to the Lord at a Christian prayer rally he created, while using his office’s prestige, letterhead, Web site and other resources to promote it. Mr. Perry said he wanted people of all faiths to attend, but Christianity dominated the service and the religious affiliations of the crowd. The prayers were given in Jesus Christ’s name, and the many musical performers sang of Christian themes of repentance and salvation.”*
It is easy to be appalled by this. That is, if you are like me, and think (based on the History, and Facts, et al) that we have a nation that is built very clearly on the separation of Church and State. Thus seeing Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas and potentially the next big Republican Presidential Candidate, bring together a giant pray-for-the-US political event before announcing whether or not to run for President (either is a highly political choice) is difficult to stomach. Especially since Jesus had pretty clear instructions on how to pray: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Seems difficult to get: ‘Rent a Football stadium for a political-prayer rally’ from such a direct statement. (Bible argument! Score!)
Readers of this blog know that TRC worries about the separation of Church and State, the mingling of religion and politics, and religion and science, and politics and science and religion, as well as the willingness of some on the Conservative side to simply ignore that the former-Englishmen who established this country were quite aware of what a Christian Nation looked like, and took great pains to avoid creating that kind of nation in the United States. In fact, pretty much right at the beginning of the Bill of Rights, this was made pretty clear.
But somehow, we are often told that the Founding Fathers were Christians, probably evangelical protestant fundamentalists at that, who wanted a Christian Nation and the separation of Church and State is nothing more than Liberal fanciness. In fact, you may remember, this all started because T. Jefferson was misquoted.
Anyway. Roger Ebert is a thoughtful writer and blogged on the Perry event.
A prayer “rally?” I can think of words like gathering and meeting that might more perfectly evoke the spirit. Prayer rallies make me think of pep rallies. Their purpose is to jack up the spirits of the home team and alarm the other side.
Of course the other side has its own pep rallies, presumably leaving it to God to choose sides. That is why team prayers before a game strike me as somewhere between silly and sacrilegious. No infinite being can possibly care if Illinois beats Michigan. …
There are not two sides to the separation of Church and State. There is only this: They must be separated for the health of our democracy. Americans are of many faiths and none. Our laws must apply equally to all. If your God doesn’t agree, does that mean He accepts instructions from you? Are you content with such a God?
*This reminds of a great Bo Burnham stand-up bit, where just before starting a prayer, he invites all religions to join in because it is a prayer designed to bring all faiths together, and begins “Dear Jesus of Nazareth…”