There has not been any real doubt about this question for months. Consider Perry’s book, cleverly titled Fed Up: Our Fight To Save America from Washington (released November 15, 2010). Ever since Barack Obama wrote The Audacity of Hope (July, 2008) and Dreams from My Father (January, 2007) before the 2008 election, it has become fashionable for presidential candidates to write a book to spell out their vision for America before running for the highest office in America. That’s also why we have Sarah Palin’s books Going Rogue (November, 2009) and America by Heart (November, 2010).
Perry has known for a long time that he planned to run for the presidency. That’s why he moved from Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin — which he and his wife, like George and Laura Bush, had attended since the 1990s — to Lake Hills Church in Austin. The Dallas Morning News ( 8/7/2011, page 2A) describes Lake Hills Church as “an evangelical megachurch.” Any political advisor who knows evangelicals can tell you that you do not reach evangelicals from Tarrytown Methodist Church. You do reach them from Lake Hills Church in affluent west Austin.
After courting pro-life voters, Perry’s next step in religious terms was the prayer rally which involved 30,000 Christians in his plans. He initiated a prayer gathering called “The Response” at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Saturday (8/6/2011). That event was an important step for Perry, who has not formally announced his candidacy, because religious conservatives have a major influence on the Republican primary races in Iowa and South Carolina. Some Christians ate it up and immediately took Perry as their candidate!
It is my assessment that evangelicals are not going to flock to Mitch Romney, a Mormon, when the purported evangelical Rick Perry is running. Michele Bachmann also claims the evangelical mantle, so Perry is trying to gain support at her expense. Of course, spiritual theater is not the only thing evangelical voters think about — consider that my prayer — and a deeper look will have to play out over time. I hope evangelicals see Perry’s maneuvers with a clear vision.
Rick Perry’s performance in Texas will come under careful scrutiny. He is already claiming credit for the relative economic resilience Texas has shown, though his decisions have had little to do with what has happened. For historical reasons, the governorship is not a powerful position in relation to the Texas legislature, but it makes a nice pulpit. (The lieutenant governor actually has more power within the Texas state machinery.)
In my opinion, Perry is not primarily concerned about the cause of Christ; he is mostly concerned about his own prospects. Rick Perry’s election would result in further reaction against Christian faith in America. George W. Bush brought credibility problems — consider the easy access to power by certain Christian leaders in a distinctly Christian White House — and Perry would further harm the way non-Christians look on Christian faith. Non-Christians want a theocratic government about as much as they want rule under Islamic law.
Perry argued passionately that Texas had to cut its spending to avoid the moral taint of putting a debt on our children. He also signed into law cuts of four billion dollars from education funding aimed at preparing those same children for the future. In net terms, Perry took from the children to help the children! That is a mean-spirited and contradictory policy. I see plenty of Tea Party politics in that policy, but no sign of the concern for the poor and the weak that is strongly asserted in the teachings of Christ. Yet these types of decisions are never discussed in relation to the candidate’s asserted Christian faith. It is as if policy decisions are totally isolated from their alleged Christian faith.
Careful readers of this blog already know that I consider the marriage of evangelical faith with the Republican Party to be a grave error by the Christian community. For now, I will cite only two reasons: (1) our primary loyalty must be to Jesus Christ, not to a secular political cause; and (2) the Republican Party cares nothing for major social values expressed clearly by Christ in the New Testament.
Being against abortion and homosexual rights is only half of a loaf. While the Republican Party has a vision for the national debt, it has none for the poor or the elderly. The Bible is clearly immigrant friendly, but the Republican Party wants all undocumented aliens deported as criminals.
To be clear, the Democratic Party is also unworthy of Christian loyalty, but at this writing there is little sign within evangelical circles of that specific misplaced loyalty.
As Christians, we should weigh all issues in making political decisions. To carry out our role as life-managers for Christ, it makes more sense to be political independents than it does to support extremist political parties. They often want to use us to get elected.
It would be far better to spare the cause of Christ in America another detour into vicious, heartless politics.
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.