7/14/11

Perry, meet Paul (and, you know, Jesus)

My governor makes me angry. In theory, I do not begrudge public figures the right to publicly have religious convictions. This does not mean I think it's okay for them to legislate morality for others based on those religious convictions, but if a politician wants to pray about his political decisions and tell us about it, that's fine with me. "Don't ask, don't tell" is a bad policy for anything, including religion, and we shouldn't pretend that a person's religion is some discrete component of their identity they can turn off at will. What is not okay with me is if a politician wants to pray instead of making political decisions, and encourage others to do the same, as if it were one of his official acts as governor. Enter Rick Perry.

This article reports on a speech Perry made a few months ago promoting The Response, a prayer rally he is sponsoring as the governor of Texas. If it were an ecumenical affair, I might be a little more sanguine about it (though I'd still find it just about as ridiculous as that time Perry ordered Texans to pray for rain), but when you bring the American Family Association into it, I start running the other direction. Also, there's this:

I tell people, that "personal property" and the ownership of that personal property is crucial to our way of life.

Our founding fathers understood that it was a very important part of the pursuit of happiness. Being able to own things that are your own is one of the things that makes America unique. But I happen to think that it's in jeopardy.

It's in jeopardy because of taxes; it's in jeopardy because of regulation; it's in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it's time for us to just hand it over to God and say, "God, You’re going to have to fix this." ...

I think it's time for us to use our wisdom and our influence and really put it in God's hands. That's what I'm going to do, and I hope you'll join me.

To which I say:
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. -- Acts 4:32-35
and
6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. -- Romans 13:6-7
and
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -- Matthew 6:19-21

and
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’" -- Matthew 25:34-36

In sum, if you are going to publicly make a BFD of your religion, you might want to first check up on what it actually says about things like taxes and personal property. Because I'm pretty sure that neither Jesus nor Paul said anything about personal property being crucial to their way of life, or the way of life of their followers.

It's really sad what the "Christian right" has done to the public perception of Christianity. If Christian politicians would do a little more walking of the walk and a little less talking of the talk, that would be a good response -- not some giant, inappropriate prayer rally. Also, they might find that, if they decided to actually care for the poor and needy, the distinction between Republican and Democrat would get a lot fuzzier. Just sayin'.