Monday, July 11, 2011

Texas Hates (Heathen) America And (Deceived) Oprah: Rick Perry's Prayer Fest And What It Means To The Rest of The Country

Everyone's talking about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prayer rally, The Response. Is it a Texas state-sponsored revival meeting? Spiritual warfare? A gay-bashing contest?

Perhaps it's just what it seems at the outset: a Holy-Roller-Only event intent on telling people that Texas is a Christian state intent on purging itself of "evil" (i.e. everyone else).

Of course, the rally is open to people of all faiths, but....
...[Don] Wildmon, AFA's* president, stressed the Christian nature of the event and said people of other religions were "free to have their own events." He insisted his group did not hate anyone, but he said that people who do not embrace Christianity were headed for eternal damnation.
"It's not just Jews or Muslims," Wildmon said. "It's anybody that rejects the free gift of salvation through Christ. The Bible teaches there's heaven and hell. Those who believe go to heaven. Those who don't go to hell."

It would seem at first that a call to prayer by the governor of a state would not draw very many religious for an obvious slap-in-the-face to the 1st Amendment, but the Christian Right is still a desperate lot, no matter how many politicians it owns: the likes of Lou Engle, Cindy Jacobs, Bryan Fischer and David Barton are planning to attend with all the fanfare they can muster. And at the outset, every comedian can envision what the prayer fest would look like: more a convention of wingnuts than a prayer rally. OK, let's try a hand at it:
  • Cindy Jacobs might give a lecture on "The Shapes of Different States - Which Ones Are Demonic and Which Are Angelic."**
  • David Barton could conduct a seminar discussing "Sam Houston As A Founding Father"
  • Bryan Fischer would talk about "How To Build a Wall To Keep Out Gay Immigrant Stormtroopers."
  • Lou Engle might  speak on the subject: "From Gulliver To Gullible: Invading Small Third World Countries With THE WORD While Keeping Them Out Of The Twenty-First Century."***
Sadly, this rally is very serious in its intent to promote Seven Mountains Dominionism to the point of making it a (unofficial) religious tenet for the State of Texas.

Just look at some of the other sponsors/people in attendance:
  • "Apostle" Doug Stringer , The Response's "ministry and Mobilization Coordinator who has flatly stated, like the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that 9/11 was caused by the acceptance of homosexuality in this country.
  • Former Senator Sam Brownback, now governor of Kansas, whose close connections with former C Street roommate, Lou Engle and staunch opposition to any gay rights has garnered a profile that one could consider far right.
  • Televangelist James Robison, the man from whom Mike Huckabee took his ques before he was Governor and who recently spearheaded a meeting to strategize how to prevent Obama from being re-elected.
  • Native American "apostle" James "Jay" Swallow, founder of the Two Rivers Native American Training Center - basically a Christian Military Training Camp - and has conducted seminars such as "Demonic Spirits" and "Spiritual Warfare." The particular irony of his attendance cannot be overlooked: the AFA's Bryan Fischer has said that Native Americans had long ago "disqualified themselves from the land." 
  • International House Of Prayer (IHOP), a Pentecostal organization with strong ties to Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee and Lou Engle. It has been instrumental in structuring The Response much like Engle's rallies for The Call.
  • Pastor Jim Garlow, the chief architect of California's Proposition 8
  • Pastor John  Hagee,  the man who came to prominence during McCain's 2008 campaign by calling Rome the "Whore of Babylon". Hagee's bizarre anti-semitic views (he is a founder of CUFI - Citizens United For Israel) lead one to doubt that any Jewish people will be in attendance.  
  • Che Ahn, pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Paszdena, CA. At one time a supporter of the controversial group People Of Destiny International, Ahn is also a stalwart of Lou Engle.
  • Pastor Stephen Broden, an advocate of the overthrow of the government by violent means, if necessary.
  • Peter Wagner - leader of Seven Mountains Dominionism  and chief "Apostle" (International Council of Apostles) Wagner and his associates are extremely anti-Roman Catholic and anti-Mormon. He, like Cindy Jacobs, advocates the burning of statues of saints, Buddhas, and any other non-Protestant Christian relics or figures. (reminds one of destruction of the Buddhas of the Bamiyan by the Taliban)
  • Mike Bickle, who preaches that Oprah is the precursor to the anti-Christ (see clip below) and that the "Harlot Babylon" movement will involve acts of compassion and kindness.
The main source of concern about The Response is that it is sponsored by the American Family Association (see footnote) and its chief talking head, Bryan Fischer. Mr. Fischer has become so virulent in his tirades about gays, Native Americans, Muslims and African Americans, that appearing on his daily radio show has become a litmus test for extreme Right politicians.

The Sum Of Exclusions

Considering what The Response will pray for and who will be praying, is it reasonable to suppose that Perry's revival will turn off almost as many people as it will turn on? Looking at the Texas demographics in wikipedia, seems to indicate that Perry is willfully alienating half of his state: Catholics comprise 28%, Jews comprise 2%, Mormon 2%, Islam 1%  No Religion 11% Jehovah's Witnesses 1%. Throw in the hefty gay populations of Dallas, Austin and Houston, along with churches and denominations that welcome LGBT Christians you have a figure hovering at the 49% mark. 

Unfortunately for Perry, the list of people scolding him for sponsoring the event is pouring in as fast as the Right Wing notables themselves: Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, LGBT groups are coming out loud and strong against the governor.

Critics also accused Perry of using a religious event to boost a possible presidential bid.

"I want to be clear that my criticism of the governor doesn't stem from my lack of appreciation for religion, rather it comes from my deep respect for religion and from not wanting religion to be prostituted for political purposes," said C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Alliance. "I think the people of Texas elected him to be the governor of the state, not the pastor of the state."

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (a lesbian) takes a more reasonable and practical bent:
I'm glad to have anybody's dollars coming to the city of Houston. They can come back on a monthly basis if they'd like as long as they spend money.
Now there's an elected official who looks out after her own. ALL of her own.

Pray For Our Beloved Country

When intolerance and bigotry brazenly get together in order to show who they are targeting in the "Name of God", the rest of the country should know the whys and wherefores of such an event as The Response: like any other disease, it can spread. Rick Perry's marriage of church and state may seem foolhardy for Perry, but it is an emboldened move by Dominionists who need a stronghold like Texas from which to strike at local and state governments. 

Extremists such as Cindy Jacobs and Peter Wagner could be discounted if it were not for the fact that they are joined by so many other extremists willing to make America a "Christian Only" country on the road to theocracy. And The Response needs to be scrutinized closely not only for the people in attendance, but for the people excluded from attendance. 

So while Rick Perry and his gang of Dominionists pray for America, maybe the rest of America should be doing the same. 

* American Family Association has shown the country why it has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in keeping on Bryan Fischer who excoriates gays, African-Americans, Native Americans, Muslims, illegal immigrants, non-Christian immigrants and all other non-Christians in general.
**  And why Florida "spiritually stimulates" her
*** ... and in the fourteenth where they belong