The governor of Texas spoke for 13 minutes at a “prayer rally” in a half-empty Texas football stadium, and the New York Times is troubled. Deeply troubled.
In many ways, the rally was unprecedented, even in Texas, where faith and politics have long intersected without much controversy — 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.
Shocking. And in Texas. What next? High school football players praying before a big game? Coaches praying with them, even though their salaries are paid by taxpayers? Clearly, we are just one short step from witch burnings and a worse-than-Iranian theocracy.As Governor Perry moves closer to making a presidential run, he has chosen to stress the importance of his Christian faith to his worldview. That’s all very well; many voters look to religion as they seek to evaluate the fitness of competing candidates for public office. Some will look at Perry’s public embrace of evangelical Christianity and be put off; Perry obviously hopes that more will be attracted than repulsed.Via Meadia has two words of caution for the governor: first, the more loudly a national political leader professes a religion, the more strictly the press and the nation will test his present and past conduct by the standards that religion lays out. The hostility of some reporters (and their editors) to evangelical religion combined with political animus mean that significant financial and intellectual resources will now go to combing through the details of your present and past life. The rise of internet journalism means that rumors will have more currency than ever before. Since Christians profess a moral standard that only one human being has ever met, they will find some discrepancies. You had best think hard about this; presumably you already have.Second, keep in mind Mead’s First Law on religion and American politics. Most Americans are, all things being equal, glad to hear that their President is talking to God. They get edgy, however, if they think God is talking to the President.