This time I’m not talking about church and state issues so much as the state of politics in relation to religion as a solution to those kinds of problems. Rick Perry, governor of Texas, is organizing a prayer meeting August 6th to call on God to unify people on economic issues, among other problems they think are rampant in America (Help, the gay minorities are oppressing us!). They seem to even be taking the George W. Bush route and trying to pray away natural disasters, as if God still won’t let the hurricanes and tornados blow through the world like they’ve done since the beginning of time. This is not a problem in that this will be paid for with public money or anything like that. Instead, this is just a group of governors across the country being rallied together under this ridiculous notion that prayer is the first response and should be used for a day; as if it will do anything more than twiddling your thumbs.
A few governors are ambivalent about whether they’ll go, but thankfully reason and pragmatism are not completely overshadowed by a desire to appear religious to your respective state. Chris Christie from New Jersey is not going, since he has probably reasoned that focusing on the real issues is a better solution than wasting a day appearing pious in public. Michigan governor Rick Snyder is also not attending, since his schedule is also filled with doing important stuff like helping education reform or any other issue that’s miles above this little event. Some are undecided, and more outspoken Christian Republicans like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sam Brownback from Kansas have already signed up as guests.
There are a few concerns from political commentators on this, especially as to whether taxpayer money will be used to transport the governors to Texas at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. If so, it would imply endorsement, not to mention it’d be a giant waste of money in the long run. Others have called Perry on not quite violating the establishment or endorsement clauses in the first amendment, but nonetheless trying to blur the boundary between church and state. When you try to use prayer as a method to rally people instead of just calling on their duty to the electorate that trusts in them as human beings, it shows how much contempt you have for the people who voted you in. If anything, Perry seems to be trying to temporarily remove himself of the position of governor in this event, praying as an American citizen. In that instance, he wouldn’t be a representative of the state, since he’d be participating as a citizen in a privately funded event. The problem is that he’s calling other governors to participate, suggesting some sort of countrywide collaboration. A lot of this would depend on how the governors will represent themselves at the event. If they are merely there as believers and/or citizens, one cannot strictly touch them. But the moment they start representing their state in any sense at this strictly Christian event is when there start to be problems of religious endorsement.
No one’s saying you can’t pray privately and in fact many governors may very well just be doing that in lieu of wasting even private money on this farce of religious devotion. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said that governors would be not only more likely to pray alone before they begin their work, but would be all the more sincere in doing so, since it wouldn’t reflect anything of a public relations campaign to get in good for the next election. That’s actually pertinent to the scheduling of Perry’s event, one week before Iowa’s straw poll, which is a simulation of a vote from what I understand. But Perry’s advisors insist he had already thought of this in December, so it’s purely coincidental (or not?).
I would hope these men that have at least a Masters’, if not a Doctorate level, education in politics and/or economics would see that this is an unnecessary distraction from them actually doing their job, getting things done on the state or local level, and solving problems overall. Some other governors are apparently not travelling, but nonetheless taking Perry’s idea and issuing declarations on August 6th to the public, three by the last count, from Florida, South Carolina and Washington. So by that admission, already over 10% of the governors are going along with this idiocy. Again, I’m not mocking them for being religious, but for thinking this is any kind of solution to the problems. A day wasted in prayer could be used directing state funds to help the victims of Joplin, still no doubt recovering from the tornado, or working on further education reform of one sort or another. To even consider that God cares about any country’s petty concerns is to create a proverbial idol of a God in supposed contrast to the impassable and immutable God who favors no country, but only those faithful to it as individuals in their private spiritual life and in the community of believers called the Church. The God they believe in is apparently willing to help them with every little problem the U.S. is having instead of letting us solve our own problems with community efforts and sacrifices of things we want over things we need.
A lot of this could be due to Christian fears that Muslims are trying to take over, but I can’t speak in full confidence about this. There is the accusation that this is in fact violating the first amendment in that the governor is endorsing this, but that’s a bit of a fine line to draw, as mentioned before. At the very least, I hope future developments will be more reasonable and practical on this addition to what is already the first waste of legislation for the National Day of Prayer every May, which must’ve passed by this year rather uneventfully. So until next time, Namaste and aloha.