UPDATE: TX Methodist Gov. Rick Perry still refuses to understand Matthew 6:1-6. Continuing on target to make Christianity a cynical wedge issue, his sponsor/partner, the AFA is unapologetic in its rejection of other faiths. As mentioned below, their disdain for all things LGBT related is not a secret either. Even Sponge Bob Square Pants is evidently not square enough for them (you know, for a cartoon sponge).
As for holding his massive prayer rally at Reliant Stadium, it can’t be said loudly enough what a culturally diverse city Houston is: home to 88 consulates, one of the largest international ports in the world, a melting pot of culture and faith. Recently, the Houston Clergy Council issued a statement about the “Response” event, expressing
“concern that the day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium is not an inclusive event. As clergy leaders in the nation’s fourth largest city, we take pride in Houston’s vibrant and diverse religious landscape. Our religious communities include Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, and many other faith traditions. Our city is also home to committed agnostics and atheists, with whom we share common cause as fellow Houstonians. Houston has long been known as a “live and let live” city, where all are respected and welcomed. It troubles us that the governor’s prayer event is not open to everyone. In the publicized materials, the governor has made it clear that only Christians of a particular kind are welcome to pray in a certain way. We feel that such an exclusive event does not reflect the rich tapestry of our city.”
Good Methodist Perry has graciously extended an invitation to the prayerfest to all 49 other governors. As of this writing, only Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas has given a thumbs up. It won’t be Kansas anymore at this rally, Gov. Brownback, but it’s sure getting close.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has announced a National Day of Prayer and fasting as a “Response” to our national predicament of “economic collapse, injustice, violence, perversion, division, abuse, natural disaster, terrorism, depression, addiction, fear….” Perry claims that “There is hope. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.” Invitations have been sent to the other 49 governors.
The backlash was as swift as it was predictable. The American Family Association is hosting the event; the AFA is known for its staunch opposition to gay rights. Only recently they presented petition with around a half million signatures to Home Depot, threatening to boycott their stores for their support of diversity and gay rights. (To their great credit, Home Depot told the AFA to get lost.) Immediately, the Southern Poverty Law Center reminded us that they have labeled the AFA a “hate group”, just like the KKK. The Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic-Relations denounced the event. As if to underscore the magnitude of their intolerance, “in an interview with The Texas Tribune on Tuesday, AFA president Tim Wildmon said Jews, Muslims, atheists or any other non-Christian would “go to hell” unless they accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” Good Methodist Governor Perry can’t wait to welcome them to Texas.
Perry is looking for national political office; the GOP in TX has used the Jesus Factor to bolster its standing among social conservatives. George W. Bush helped his father turn to evangelicals for support, and then used that base in his state and national campaigns. Social, cultural wedge issues have become the norm. Now it seems, the tail wags the dog. Politicians can’t seem to hammer wedges hard enough. Unorthodoxy is not tolerated- inside the party, or within fundamentalist evangelical groups.
In a stunningly calculated move, Gov. Perry has booked Reliant Stadium, the home field for Houston based Texans NFL franchise for his Response. Houston is a racially, culturally diverse international city. There is not a faith tradition that is not somehow represented. Houston is also led, coincidentally, by an openly gay mayor. Drive the wedge.
Mayor Annise Parker and her domestic partner of over 20 years have a foster son and two adopted daughters. She worked in the oil and gas business, served on city council and as the city controller. But according to Perry’s partner group, the AFA, (and the current Methodist Discipline), Mayor Parker is unfit to lead a Church.
Recently, at the Breaking the Silence meeting at the Texas Annual Conference, Mayor Park spoke about finding common ground. Working together. Tolerance. Acceptance. She talked about what it’s like to hear the discussions of bigots. Her themes sounded familiar to anyone who has struggled for marginalized people anywhere. Or for folks that might have read the Gospel.
But Perry wants to host a hate-group sponsored prayer festival with the same type of folks whom would judge Mayor Parker. Our fine Methodist Governor will use prayer itself as a divisive issue, in a cynical, political manner. Look for protests, tears, divisive language, and intolerance of the “other”. Drive that wedge.