Rick Perry’s Christian America

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51 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It’s perfectly cool to have politicians pander to hoi polloi however hoi polloi wishes to be pandered to.

    One might think that hoi polloi would eventually tire of having politicians lie to their faces.

    Unless, of course, Rick Perry is different.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      This got a laugh.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Politico: Perry’s in.

        Rick Perry intends to use a speech in South Carolina on Saturday to make clear that he’s running for president, POLITICO has learned.

        According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.

        It’s uncertain whether Saturday will mark a formal declaration, but Perry’s decision to disclose his intentions the same day as the Ames straw poll — and then hours later make his first trip to New Hampshire — will send shock waves through the race and upend whatever results come out of the straw poll.

        Immediately following his speech in South Carolina, Perry will make his New Hampshire debut at a house party at the Portsmouth-area home of a state representative, Pamela Tucker, the Union Leader reported Monday.Report

  2. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    “For every push, there is a shove: you play Wack-a-Mole on God, he pops up somewhere else.”

    Would it be safe to say, then, that God is a place-holder until something “better” comes along?

    Year 10,000 BC:
    Why do seasons exist? God.
    Why can’t we eat pork? God.
    Why do we die? God.

    Year 0:
    Why do seasons exist? Because the earth is round and it tilts in relation to the sun, which provides it with heat-energy.
    Why can’t we eat pork? God.
    Why do we die? God.

    Year 2011:
    Why do seasons exist? Because the earth is round and it tilts in relation to the sun, which provides it with heat-energy.
    Why can’t we eat pork? Because pigs are dirty and pork has parasites which eat your brain unless properly cooked.
    Why do we die? Because if we didn’t die we wouldn’t exist in the first place.Report

  3. Avatar RTod says:


    1st – Great post. You should do more.

    2nd – I am curious to find out why you think that modern pols do feel “obliged to show [their] cards.” Is it that they see so many flavors of God in the marketplace (for lack of a better word), and want to make sure we know their exact preference? Is it a cynical manipulation – which is to say, a belief that the faithful might not vote for you if you don’t fess up to bona fides? Or is it something else entirely?

    I don’t know what goes through Obama’s head, and if he says he believes these things I will take him at his word. But I confess when I read about his prayer meeting, or Perry’s “playing Pontifex Maximus,” I have my suspicions that they are attempting to trade the currency of professed faith for political power.

    3rd – To what extent do you think 9/11 plays on these kind of public displays and events? When I was growing up the Soviets were the enemy that was clearest in our windshields, and pols went out of their way to declare how they were far less like a Soviet than their opponent. I wonder how much of the vocalizing of Christianity is a similar thing towards the perceived Muslim enemy.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I just to echo RTod in noting that this is an excellent post and you should definitly do more.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Block reference:

      Gallup has been asking people about whether they would vote for atheists for president for quite some time. Here are the numbers who have said “no” over the years:

      February 1999: 48%
      August 1987: 48%
      April 1983: 51%
      July 1978: 53%
      December 1959: 74%
      September 1958: 77%
      August 1958: 75%

      End block quote.

      When half of the country demands you be a theist of some sort in order to get consideration… well, I’ll not be cynical (heh) but if I was working as an adviser to a Presidential candidate I’d recommend that (s)he mention God occasionally. Plus, in BHO’s case, the whole, “No, I’m not a Muslim… not that there’s anything *wrong* with that” thing.

      I also think Obama is an actual believer, as well.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Do you know what kind of effect Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and the other loudmouth, opportunistic atheists have had on those numbers?Report

        • Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

          Judging by the fact that the greatest drop was between ’59 and ’78, when Harris and Hitchens were nobodies and Dawkins was still writing evolutionary biology, I’m guessing not a whole lot.

          But please, don’t let facts get in the way of blaming minorities for their own oppression.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I would think it possible to ask a question without “blaming minorities for their own oppression.” Especially when we don’t really know what Mr. Carr’s religious views are (I would personally be more surprised if he were devout than an atheist.)

            But please, don’t let unknowns get in the way of suppositions regarding the integrity of people that you suppose to be your opponents.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              I’m fascinated by religion in the way Mark is fascinated by politics. To continue what may be a tasteless comparison, I’m generally put off by the above-mentioned super atheists like W.E.B. Du Bois was probably put off by Booker T. Washington (and vice-versa). Or, I’m still a Red Sox fan even though I know Red Sox fans are obnoxious. I’m still an American even if I didn’t support the Vietnam War (or I wouldn’t have if I were alive). I believe in the power of criticism to force introspection and refine behavior, so I prefer to criticize my own team. That being said, I don’t know if I would call myself “Atheist”. I enjoy talking with and find commonality with members of Eastern religions and squishier members of Western religions more than I enjoy listening to Hitchens rail against Mother Theresa between shots. I value the sense of wonder that thinking about religion fosters and that I see in scientists like Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein but don’t really see in scientists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. I prefer to contemplate the unknown more than I like to contemplate the known. I like intuitive people more than I like rule-followers.Report

          • I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the Dawkins / Hitchens question as Mr. Carr did. There has been an apparent decline in “no” votes since the 1950s, etc., but that doesn’t meant that a backlash against ueber atheists might not explain why the no-vote number is still pretty high.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          None. Look at the dates.

          I do think Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al. have produced a cultural backlash, particularly among evangelicals, and that it has had some political and societal implications. If nothing else, it’s made a lot of evangelical authors a lot of money writing books and articles in response to them. I’m not sure whether they could have avoided this by toning down some of their rhetoric. For one, evangelicals have a tendency to feel persecuted as it is (fundamentalists, on the other hand, are going to feel persecuted no matter what), and it’s likely the backlash has less to do with the tone of the New Atheist rhetoric than the fact that, to many conservative Christians, their popularity is seen as yet another sign of encroaching secularism, regardless of how they express themselves. Granted, I don’t think Dawkins did himself any favors with either his tone or his anti-intellectualism, but I doubt most of the people who react to New Atheism have read all that much of him, or of Harris or Hitchens or Dennett. Their very existence as public figures is enough to create a backlash.Report

        • Avatar Patrick says:

          No, I don’t. That’s a legitimate question, since the poll results referenced are stale by over a decade.

          I imagine they have some impact, but not much. I think (those who are inclined to discard someone based on atheism) is a set with few enough characteristics that the actions of atheists probably don’t have much of an overall impact.

          I mean, if you’re willing to vote for an atheist, exposure to Harris or Dawkins is probably *not* going to change your mind the other way. On the other hand, if you’re not willing to vote for an atheist, it’s probably due to cultural factors that aren’t affected much by the existence of the New Atheists.

          But the numbers might not bear that out. Anyone find ’em?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Patrick, following your link I couldn’t find the numbers you posted in the subheading links, but did find the following Pew survey and most recent May 2011, (near the bottom of your link)

        Less Likely to Support:

        Female: 7%
        Black: 3%
        Hispanic: 11%
        Divorced: 11%
        Used Marijuana in the Past: 24%
        Mormon: 25%
        Homosexual: 33%
        Had an Extramarital Affair: 46%
        Not Believe in God: 61%Report

        • Avatar Patrick says:

          Thanks, Ward, dunno what happened with that link. Stupid internet.

          That’s a pretty huge uptick.

          Mebbe I’m totally off-base regarding Dawkins.

          It’s certainly the case that PZ’s whole “crackergate” thing pissed off a ton of Catholics to no end. If they regard him as an exemplar of atheism, that’s a plausible explanation.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Is there anything higher than the 61% Not Believe in God? Like, “Shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” or something? I am sort of surprised by the quarter that would be less likely to support a Mormon. If I had to pick a religious minority I’d imagine to have trouble running for office, that would not be high on my list.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      I think part of it is incentives. As the figures quoted show, there are plenty of people who won’t vote for you if you’re an atheist. But there is virtually nobody who will refuse to vote for any theist (even among nonbelievers). So being expressly religious is pretty much common sense if you’re an aspiring pol.Report

  4. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Great post, and I’m glad to say I actually agree with you one this.

    I’m curious, what do you think had brought upon this especially spirited branding of Christianity as of late. Were politicians pandering to Christians this much 30 years ago? Or is it simply as Jaybird infers, that the pandering has become seemingly less authentic as of late.Report

  5. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    In fact, President Obama did so just this year, asserting the Resurrection as historical fact [!]:

    And to think, I only voted for him because I thought he was a Muslim.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Actually, having read the rest of the post….

      (1). I myself have found that the name of God is on the lips of every drunk.

      You need to drink at our house sometime.

      (2). Back when God was considered a reality, the details were largely left open.

      Leaving the details open was important, when differing on those details could and did bring violence. The Founders needed empty talk about religion because pushing evangelical Christianity (or whatever) would be too divisive.

      It may still be. But I can’t say I was too worked up about the prayer rally. Whatever. Oh, and seriously, I didn’t vote for Obama.Report

  6. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    I also think the presence of state established churches had some effect in channelling the intensity of religious expressions. At the very least, religious speech threatened tax payor support and the implicit enjoyment of being a part of the state’s cultural establishment.Report

  7. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Thx for the props & replies, gents. Originally, I was just going to whack Perry upside the head for departing from the presidential custom of non-sectarian God-talk. But in my view, the custom was really broken in the 2008 election, at Rev. Rick Warren’s


    BHO and John McCain were each quizzed on their religious beliefs, something for which George Washington and ironically even Ronald Reagan might have told him to jump in the lake, as none of his business. [Reagan’s mentions of Jesus Christ were precious few; his grave marker contains a uniquely non-Calvinist sentiment, yet evangelicals certainly thought of him as one of their own.]

    Management has given a go-ahead for a sub-blog, so I thought I’d open the Athens & Jerusalem closet to see what tumbles out: If it’s wrong for Perry to call God Jesus, shall we expect Rep. Keith Ellison not to refer to “Allah?”

    And the larger question is beyond elections and specific candidates– whether we shall expect those who believe God is a reality to act and speak as though He isn’t.

    I think we’re in a watershed era—abetted by 20th and 21st century jurisprudence—as volatile as the Founding or when a thoroughly Protestant America had to accommodate the sentiments of millions of Catholic immigrants. And although the question of sectarianism has rightly expanded beyond our historical intramural Christian scuffles to Islam [or Wicca!] per the goose and gander, the overarching issue is Whither God?

    Or Wither God. Yes, Mr. Kuznicki, I had you in mind with “the lips of every drunk” bit. But even drunk atheists talk about God, or the absence of same. But as I admitted, I haven’t met them all yet.


    To Messrs. Gach and RTod, we could certainly ascribe cynical motives to Gov. Perry laying claim to the evangelical vote with this. But I’d also note that by standing with the more controversial figures like Hagee, he’s assuring them he won’t throw them under the bus like John McCain did. There is substance there beyond mere pander.

    And at this point, we have Mitt Romney and Mormonism on the horizon. If you’re up on your South Park [and I’m sure you are], the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints has some, er, interesting truth claims and customs. We’ve had a couple thousand years to get used to the idea of Christ-in-a-cracker, but that’s nothing next to Planet Kolob or a president’s Holy Underwear.

    Lots of stuff yet in the political theology closet even as we try to nail it shut.

    [Thx again & cheers to all.]Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Management has given a go-ahead for a sub-blog…”

      Just so you know, I have rather high expectations of what you will name the sub-blog.

      More seriously, this is a very good follow-up. I wish you’d worked it into the post itself.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Welcome aboard! It will be good to have you here!Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      BHO and John McCain were each quizzed on their religious beliefs, something for which George Washington and ironically even Ronald Reagan might have told him to jump in the lake, as none of his business. [Reagan’s mentions of Jesus Christ were precious few; his grave marker contains a uniquely non-Calvinist sentiment, yet evangelicals certainly thought of him as one of their own.]

      I would tend to doubt that George Washington or even Ronald Reagan would be so confused as to regard a very public affiliation as ‘none of your business’. Mr. Reagan, unlike Richard Nixon, was not peculiarly reticent about matters religious. A question about eschatology came up in one of the Presidential debates in 1984 which he answered.

      The term ‘evangelical’ is a part of the official nomenclature only of Lutheran congregations. Lutheran congregations are not Calvinist. ‘Evangelical’ also describes protestants who manifest a certain sensibility and mode of expression, along with certain spare affimations (e.g. ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’). They are commonly Baptist or Methodist. Baptist congregations are non-creedal. They may draw on Calvinist theology, but they are not committed to it. Methodists bodies are generally Arminian. Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed are formally Calvinist, but people in these bodies are seldom evangelical (or notably Calvinist either at this date).

      Ronald Reagan was all his life a member of the Disciples of Christ, a non-creedal body. No particular reason to expect Calvinist sentiments on his tombstone.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Mr. Deco, for the Protestantism scorecard, we are in your debt.

        As for Reagan, there is precious little on his theology, and the first sentence on his tomb is quite Pelagian. 😉

        And yes, “evangelical” is a descriptive, not a definitive term. Even some papists self-appellate as such. The assertion was that many of them saw Reagan as one of their own, although there is no hard evidence that he was.

        You’re quite right that the Stone-Campbell Movement’s Disciples of Christ is non-creedal, in fact they’re so non-creedal that you needn’t even accept the Trinity. [The Campbells were Trinitarian; Stone rejected it explicitly.] However, spurred by your spur, I ran across this


        where in private correspondence, Reagan seems to embrace CS Lewis’ argument for Jesus-as-God. This I did not know. Thank you for the reply. I live for the comments sections.

        Lewis, Mere Christianity: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”Report

        • Avatar KenB says:

          I’ve seen this Lewis quote before, but I don’t agree with it — it’s easy enough to imagine a historical Jesus whose actual statements stopped short of claiming special divinity, leaving that assertion to be made by his hagiographers. Or alternately, a Jesus who said many wise things but who got carried away by his own popularity and confidence. Lewis’ statement holds up only if one demands that Jesus actually said what he is said to have said and that the claim of divinity is more important than anything else he said.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            KenB, I somewhat agree with you on the biblicism of CS Lewis’ claim about Jesus’ divinity. Back in the Founding era, the unitarians, more properly “Unitarian Christians,” used the Bible itself to deny Jesus-Is-God.

            100 Scriptural Arguments For the Unitarian faith, Samuel Barrett, 1825, but familiar arguments since 1700 or so. Pretty persuasive stuff.

            Still, Jesus, even according to Unitarian Christians and the Stone-Campbell Movement, saw Jesus as the Christ, a unique cosmological role as Messiah or Savior, not just a Moses or Great Moral Teacher. This is my sociological razor for discussing “Christianity.”

            My own interest is in political theology and theological history, not Christian theology itself. There are, afterall, some 35,000 sects of Christianity, and I imagine a new one probably just winked into existence as we type back and forth.

            I don’t do theological truth claims in public fora one way or the other, as it’s above our pay grade.


            • Avatar Art Deco says:

              There are, afterall, some 35,000 sects of Christianity

              No. There are thousands of protestant sects. About two-thirds of all Christians continue to adhere to the Church founded by Christ. Many if not most of the remainder belong to a half-dozen communions with valid holy orders.Report

      • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

        “I would tend to doubt that George Washington or even Ronald Reagan would be so confused as to regard a very public affiliation as ‘none of your business’.”

        I’m not sure what the applicability to today might be; but back then public Church “affiliation” most certainly did NOT equate with belief in or adherence towards official church doctrines. A great deal of those notable, especially Virginia, Founding Fathers (Washington, Jefferson, Madison and many others) were Anglicans. And Anglicanism, as a matter of official “doctrine” demanded Tory-ism or loyalty towards the crown.

        Being a “Whig” and an “Anglican” automatically put one in a position where one was a member of a religious body while in some way dissenting from what that religious body posited in its official doctrines. For Anglican Whigs it was a matter of just how many of my church’s doctrines do I really reject. None of them was an atheist. They all, even Jefferson (a vestryman in the Anglican Church!), considered themselves “Christians.” But not all of them went so far as Jefferson did rejecting “The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c.”Report

        • Avatar Terry says:

          I distinctly remember a great deal of reticence to self identify as Christian among many of the Founding Fathers. Some of them had some pretty tough things to say about Christianity – and not just Jefferson.Report

          • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

            I think they understood themselves “Christians” in a cultural, ethno-identificatory sense. Some, like Jefferson, Franklin, J. Adams had problems with certain orthodox doctrines in “Christianity.” Others seemed not to think much about those doctrines (Washington, Madison).Report

  8. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    Ha. Glad to see they published this here.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Although I myself have found that the name of God is on the lips of every drunk.

    And many adult film actresses.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    Congrats Tom; Sullivan linked you. You’re in the big leagues now.Report