A wingnut and a prayer
With each passing day, Rick Perry's Christian prayer-and-repentance rally, The Response, seems like more of a mistake, a classic act of hubris by a politician still learning his way around the national stage. First, the backlash has been fierce, not just from the "usual suspects" like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but also a wide swath of American faith leaders as well as gay rights activists. Just yesterday the Houston Chronicle reported that: On Tuesday, more than 50 Houston-area religious and community leaders disseminated a signed statement drafted by the Anti-Defamation League expressing "deep concern" about a prayer rally "not open to all faiths," while the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and related organizations announced a Friday rally at Tranquility Park to protest the event. The groups that represent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals accused the American Family Association and other sponsors of the prayer event of hatred toward the GLBT community.With competing events planned for Saturday, The Response is likely to be remembered as much for its sweaty supplicants as those calling Perry out for intolerance and religious bigotry.The Response has proved so toxic that only one other governor may attend the rally, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and he's a 'maybe'. None of the right-wing governors elected in November -- not Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio nor Paul LePage of Maine -- is attending, though the unpopular health-care-executive-turned-governor Rick Scott of Florida will apparently appear by video.Then there's the potential problem of low turnout. The Chronicle reported today that only "several thousand people" have registered for The Response. Reliant Stadium can accommodate over 70,000. That's a lot of empty space for the news cameras to soak up, though I'm sure the planners will do their best to stage-manage.The intensity of the objections to The Response combined with a projected lackluster turnout means Perry has a choice: either back away from his own event or take the risk of standing hand-in-hand with radicals from the periphery of American Christianity.Perry has been playing coy about his role on Saturday. "I'm going to be there; I may be ushering, for all I know," Perry said last week. Perry probably made a mistake enlisting the help of prayer warriors and self-described prophets and apostles who not only have 'out there' beliefs but are unaccustomed to the national media spotlight. Some of the leaders are interpreting the media coverage, including my article on the involvement of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, as a satanic attack.On July 17, Apostle Tom Schlueter, the leader of the Texas Apostolic Prayer Network, told his Arlington congregation that: "He's [Satan is] going to go after us who are the army okay? Matter of fact that was interesting because the article that was written, it said Gov. Perry and his army of God and I thought, 'That's interesting, they got that right."Today, Texas Monthly's Paul Burka argued that The Response "looks like an utter failure." Perry, Burka writes, made a stupid political miscalculation:This is what happens when you think the rest of the country has the same civic and religious values as Texas.This could have had a much different ending. Perry could have made the event nondenominational. He could have invited people and clergy of all faiths. But he elected to make it exclusionary -- and not just exclusionary, but reflective of preachers who have expressed some of the most extreme religious views in Christiandom.Of course this could prove to be a valuable learning experience for Perry. If it does prove to be an "utter failure," he may learn, before it's too late, to coddle his far-right allies in private rather than in the national spotlight.