By Susan Brooks Thislethwaite, Jul 13, 2011 10:34 AM
Texas Governor, and possible GOP presidential candidate, Rick Perry has endorsed ‘The Response’ a prayer event scheduled for August 6 in Texas. “As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy,” Perry wrote on the event’s official Web site. Perry’s critics are concerned about his distinctly Christian approachto public prayer as well as his association, through ‘The Response,’ with several problematic pastors, among them John Hagee, controversial for his comments on Israel, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam, and C. Peter Wagner, who has suggested that the Catholic veneration of saints is an evil practice. Should politicians be judged by the religious company they keep?
Governor Rick Perry is calling on Jesus to help fix Texas (and the nation) and supporting “The Response,” a “Christian prayer summit,” scheduled for August 6 in Houston. The reason Governor Perry is apparently pushing prayer and fasting as a solution for what’s wrong with Texas because he hasn’t been able to fix Texas the ordinary way, through governing effectively. His state is falling apart. When you abandon actual governing, you’d better hope Jesus is coming soon to solve your problems. Otherwise, voters will start to figure it out.
Governor Perry doesn’t have a pastor problem in my view, he’s got a governing problem that he’s trying to disguise through calls for prayer and the over-the-top rhetoric of some extremist megachurch pastors.
This is the politics of distraction played out as religious revivalism. Thus, I tend to agree with Wayne Slater of the Dallas News that Governor Perry won’t be repudiating the extremist megapastors who are supporting this Houston prayer rally like John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas or Colorado Springs evangelist Peter Wagner. Governor Perry needs these religious extremists and their Muslim-bashing, Christian supremicist rhetoric to divert voters away from the fact that Texas is in a fiscal crisis.
In 2010, word began to trickle out that Texas was in a bigger financial crisis than California. So why then did California’s financial predicament get the majority of the media attention, then? Talking Points Memo says that’s because Texas “doesn’t fit the script.” Texas is a “pro-business, lean-spending, no-union state” so apparently it doesn’t have the kind of bloated budget, teacher-bashing, union-busting narrative that Governor Walker has been using to gut the salaries and benefits of employees of Wisconsin. And yet, according to Talking Points Memo, in Texas there’s “a $25 billion deficit on a two-year budget of around $95 billion.”
Help them, Lord.
So here we are in 2011. Did the governor fix that budget problem? Not really. Instead, the budget that Governor Rick Perry signed this year “was balanced only through accounting maneuvers, rewriting school funding laws, ignoring a growing population and delaying payments on bills coming due in 2013.” Oops.
Perhaps that’s why in “The Response” promo there are calls on Jesus to fix everything from “economic collapse, perversion, abuse,” and “terrorism” to “parents stop fighting, pay my bills, get a job” and “Daddy to love me.” In Texas there is still high unemployment, and cuts to budget support for social services to combat abuse and child neglect as well as other services are described as “grim.” No wonder with all these cuts there is still no money to pay family bills, and thus a great deal of family and social stress leading to violence.
Not only is the “Christian prayer summit” the politics of distraction, however, it’s also a Christianity of distraction, drawing our attention away from what the Bible actually says. In the video trailer of “The Response” there are calls not only for prayer, but also for fasting. Are fasting and prayer alone going to fix Texas in the absence of good governance? Let’s check out what the Bible has to say about that kind of one-sided “Response.”
First, it would be a good idea if those organizing “The Response” read Isaiah 58. It’s not the first time public displays of righteousness, fasting, prayer and loud calls on God have been made a substitute for doing what’s right in God’s eyes (i.e. good governance policies). That’s what Isaiah condemns in no uncertain terms.
God declares: “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.” (Isaiah 58: 3b-10)
Take care of the poor of your state, Governor Perry, and Jesus will show up. In fact, Jesus is already there. Check out Matthew 25: Whatever you do to the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the naked…indeed, the poor, you’re doing it to Jesus.
You know, now that I reflect on these scriptures, maybe Perry does have a “pastor problem.” His “pastor problem” could be that these pastors apparently aren’t preaching from either the Hebrew prophets or from Jesus in the Gospels.
That’s a big problem.
Photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP, newly sworn-in President George Bush compares boots with fellow Texans Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Phil Gramm during the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball, January 2001. http://redbrownandblue.com/index.php/texas-gop-fight-presents-big-opportunity-for-liberals or http://bit.ly/p6X6on or http://tinyurl.com/62fy5cw