Pietas; Note the cross used to denote 'Piety'Texas governor Rick Perry would like to succeed his predecessor, George W. Bush, as the country’s next evangelical-in-chief. He’s a bit more of a Christofascist than Bush was (but not by much), having done things such as to order all of the people of his state — religious or not — to pray for rain. He’s also done some other extreme, but not quite so religious, things as to threaten the secession of Texas if his personally-desired policies were not enacted in Washington (WebCite cached article).

The hyperreligious Perry has decided to give his own “Response” to the country’s ongoing recession and the breakdown of national politics. The Washington Post reports this day-long religious revival is every bit as grandiose and sanctimonious as one expects from a guy like him (cached):

The GOP 2012 presidential nomination contest so far has centered almost exclusively on economic issues: the major candidates blasting President Obama for increasing the federal budget deficit and criticizing one another’s records on health care and job creation.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy in the next few weeks, will start to change that on Saturday, by hosting a day of prayer and fasting in Houston dubbed “The Response.”

Attendees from Texas and across the country will gather at a pro football stadium to ask for “God’s forgiveness, his wisdom and his provision for our state and nation,” according to Perry’s video invitation. …

Perry says the day is inspired by the words of the Old Testament book of Joel, in which the prophet calls on the Hebrew people to pray, fast and ask for God’s forgiveness. The Texas governor argues that America similarly needs to ask for God’s help today because it is a “nation in crisis.”

“We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters,” Perry writes on the event’s Web site. “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 can’t help but do this, you see, because in his eyes, America isn’t godly enough. About the only thing he hasn’t done is to declare explicitly that the recession and political breakdown is a punishment imposed on the country by a God who’s enraged that the people aren’t praying hard enough and aren’t sufficiently evangelical Protestant for his taste. But not to worry … by the end of this hours-long event, Perry may well have veered close to saying something like that.

I note that this huge event is precisely the sort of “public piety” that — as I’ve blogged previously — the founder of Perry’s own religion, Jesus Christ himself, explicitly and clearly ordered his followers never, ever to engage in. In case Gov. Perry or any other militant Christians out there aren’t clear on this, I will repeat here Jesus’ own words as reported in the gospel according to Matthew (emphasis mine):

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 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 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. (Matthew 6:1-6)

So you see, by establishing this event and acting as its emcee, the righteous Perry is actually disobeying the bedrock principles of his own claimed religion! I must congratulate the Governor for providing this sterling example of the intellectual, moral and spiritual bankruptcy of his own religion as it’s widely practiced in the US. Great job, sir. Just wonderful. I can’t possibly have asked for better!

The separation of church and state issues implied by Perry’s “Response” haven’t gone unnoticed, and have been widely mentioned, for example in this CNN Political Ticker article that suggests the poor response to the “Response” may be explained by SOCAS considerations (cached). Another facet of Ricky-boy’s “Response” which hasn’t gone unreported is that its sponsor is the American Family Association, about whose absurd and extreme pronouncements I’ve blogged a number of times, and who’ve been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. My bet is that the Rickster doesn’t really care what sorts of hatemongers and freakish lunatics he’s hanging around with … as long as they help him get people before his pulpit and are willing to beat the drum of his kind of Christofascism, they’re probably just fine by him.

Not that he or anyone else cares, but my own Agnostic response to Perry’s “Response” is: If you, Gov. Perry, or your Jesus, or anyone else for that matter, demands that I — as an American — must pray with you, then you’re just going to have to make me do so. If it’s as imperative a thing as you claim it is, Governor, then you have absolutely no reason not to do your utmost to wring compliance out of me (even if I’m not a resident of Texas, because as you’ve designed it, this is a national event).

Go ahead, Governor. I dare you; you have no reason — based on your own beliefs — not to. Come on, make me pray with you.

Photo credit: scazon.

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