Here in my home state of South Carolina, a common expression when things look particularly gloomy is, “Thank God for Mississippi.” Even atheists have been known to utter this cliché. But after hearing about the August 6 public prayer event designed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, some of us in South Carolina are now saying, “Thank God for Texas.”
Jim Demint, my South Carolina U.S. Senator and a Tea Party favorite, just published a book that describes why he came close to quitting after one term. However, he and his wife prayed about it, and of course, God wanted him to run again. Demint added, “We had no idea He would answer our prayer in such a clear and wonderful way.”
Interestingly, Demint also reveals in his book that he advised his friend, our South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, to resign in 2009 after Sanford was caught in an adulterous relationship with his “soul mate” in Argentina, which he mistook for the Appalachian Trail. What did our governor do? He prayed, and sought God’s advice. Since Sanford ignored Demint’s request to resign, perhaps God told him to finish his term. Funny how gods always seem to tell politicians what they want to hear.
Back to Gov. Rick Perry’s conservative Christian prayer event. Gov. Perry has invited all U.S. governors, as well as many other national Christian and political leaders, to participate in this day of prayer and fasting. As an atheist, I’m used to being denigrated or dismissed from public discourse by pandering politicians. Perry has ratcheted up his dismissal to all who don’t subscribe to his particular brand of conservative Christianity. I feel oddly included in the much larger group of those excluded. Perry’s Christian prayer ally, Rev. John Hagee, doesn’t much like atheists. But at least he doesn’t refer to us as the “whore of Babylon,” as he does the Catholic Church. I guess this is a step up.
Now that Gov. Perry has national ambitions, he is trying to do with his prayer event for the nation what he tried and failed to do for Texas. He had officially declared three “Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas.” When the drought continued, I didn’t hear his answer to the obvious question, “How’s that working out for you?” Instead, he is now asking the entire country, founded as a secular nation, to come to Jesus.
Here’s my latest “theory.” Governor Rick Perry is a strong advocate for church and state separation.He wants to show the country how counterproductive it can be when a politician tries to divide the nation along religious lines, turns large numbers of people into second-class citizens, and chips away at religious liberty. What a clever approach to teach us all a valuable lesson about the dangers of becoming a theocracy! Nah. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.