On December 6th Rick Perry’s campaign released an ad named “Strong”, in which the Texas governor said the following:
“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. I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.“
Firstly, I must take the time to appreciate the unintended humor of his opening line. I guess in Perry’s mind associating with the beliefs of 75% of Americans is somehow a bold and daring move, but in reality, openly expressing your Christian faith in America as a politician is not something noteworthy, it is simply a transparent attempt to use faith to pander for votes.
For a real act of courage, I would suggest he try coming out as a Muslim or an atheist in the Deep South.
I am sure that to some Christian fundamentalists these words were met with acceptance and appreciation, but to the rest of us with a very human sense of empathy and compassion they caused great offense, as is evidenced by the fact that Perry’s campaign ad is now one of the most disliked videos ever posted on the internet video site, Youtube.
The outright bigotry toward men and women who risk their lives for their country is only part of Perry’s blunderous absurdity. His assertion that children cannot openly celebrate Christmas is not only a gross mischaracterization, but an outright lie.
One needs only walk down any street of any town or city in America to see people, adults and children alike, celebrating Christmas openly with a varying array of decorations, which include Christian nativity scenes. Interestingly enough, there are no authorities knocking on any of these homes demanding that they take down their decorations.
Perhaps Perry, in his ignorance, forgot that not everyone celebrates the holidays in the same way, and as far as government is concerned, Christmas is a non-sectarian holiday part of a season with many different cultural celebrations by Jews, pagans, African Americans, and many others.
To heap more coal on the fires of his own ignorance, Perry goes on to say that our children cannot pray in school. This is a lie that has been spouted by far right Christians for some time now and deserves a rebuttal.
Contrary to the mental image painted by fundamentalists of Nazi like teachers forbidding students the right to pray, no one is going to haul little Johnny off to detention if he bows his head and prays over his lunch in the cafeteria. However, it is inappropriate for teachers or school officials to lead a prayer over lunch. Kids can even form religious clubs and pray together. What is not allowed, is the favored expression of one belief over others in an official capacity.
This leads me to the conclusion that what people like Perry want is not simply the right to free expression, they have that in spades; they want a favored status for their beliefs above those of others.
Being that the movement to allow school sponsored prayer is primarily and overwhelmingly Christian, one could be led to ask what purpose this serves in our school or government functions that demands its necessity.
In Matthew 6 Jesus says, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners [d]so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Adding to the question above, and applying the words of Christ, one might also ask what Christian purpose is to be found in shoving your religious expressions where they arguably don’t belong.
I would encourage those of you out there reading this that happen to agree with Perry’s sentiments to re-read the First Amendment which says that the government shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, which includes such actions as making the book of Leviticus into law and discriminating against homosexual individuals using religious moral arguments.
If you wish to persist in the notion that this is by definition a “Christian Nation” founded upon the Bible, I would suggest that you show me where in your scripture it outlines the Greek and pagan ideas for a Republican model of government. Better yet, you may, perhaps, read the words of our Founders who stated with a great deal of clarity in the Treaty of Tripoli that “the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion… “
If we can, let’s be honest about what Perry and many other members of the Christian right mean when they say “faith”. They mean Christian faith. This would become abundantly clear to anyone that happens to attend a Christian Coalition event and read their materials. They feel it is their right to establish the Christian religion as the dominant faith in America through political action.
It should cause all of us deep concern when the purveyors of a particular religion start speaking in this fashion.
Despite popular misconceptions and modern attempts by Christian Reconstructionists to rewrite history, our original motto was not “In God We Trust”. It was changed in 1956 along with our pledge of allegiance to add references to God as result of the Red Scare. Our original motto was “E pluribus unum” which translates to “Out of many, one”. Our strength, as our Founders saw it, was not in our collective adherence to a religion, but in our ability to put aside our personal beliefs to ensure the freedoms of all people.
This holiday season lets not allow small minded people like Mr. Perry separate us from the very self-evident truths enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, that every one of us is entitled to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, no matter what we believe or who we love.