using religion for political gain: a response to rick perry

There are few things that piss me off more than those who use religion for political gain. I especially despise those who use faith in one interpretation of a religious belief as a wedge to marginalize a believer of a different interpretation. And, I particularly hate (yes, a strong word, but i HATES it) those who use religion to discriminate against others who do not share their particular religious belief, and to suppress their civil rights.

This is why everything that Rick Perry is bugs me. And now, his most recent political ad is nothing other than a political wedge ad simultaneously targeting Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith (about which he is usually (and rightly) silent, as it should not be a political issue in a secular nation where matters of church and state are to be separate) and Newt Gingrich (whose Baptist turned Catholic faith also receives little discussion from Gingrich). So, Rick Perry is out to capture the Evangelical Christian vote, and in doing so has produced one of the most ridiculous ads in history:

Now, in response to this ad, I must choose one of two routes: I can rail against folks who simply make stuff up. For instance, can kids really not pray in school, or can they not do so in an organized, school-sponsored fashion, as if they were in a private Christian school? And, are students really not allowed to celebrate Christmas, or are they taught to acknowledge that maybe not all kids in a public school profess the same Christian faith their parents have taught them to profess so proudly in class? (UPDATE: For rules about praying in public schools, read Dr. Paul Flesher’s article on the Religion Today blog entitled, “It’s OK to pray in Your School.” – see comments)

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

The other route of criticism would chastise Rick Perry for being upset that gays are not openly discriminated against in the military. Apparently, the ever-faithful Rick Perry believes that some Americans, who happen to believe differently than Rick Perry, should be disqualified from offering their lives in service to this nation precisely because they differ in religious belief from Rick Perry. (UPDATE: And is it coincidence that the jacket worn by Perry subconsciously matches the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain? HT: Al Schlaf – see comments)

I shake my head.

However, methinks I shall ultimately choose to fault Rick Perry for making things up, like falsely claiming that a president who doesn’t pander to the Evangelical right is somehow engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ Because that is precisely how you use religion as a weapon in a political campaign: you claim that anyone who does not believe precisely the same interpretation of Christianity as you do is engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ In doing so, Mr. Perry makes himself the Christian equivalent of the leader of an Islamic state, who believes the laws of their religion’s holy book should be the law of the land. Rick Perry is a sharia Christian (if such thing can be said to exist).

So, Dear Mr. Perry, this is why your numbers are tanking, and this is why people think you’re not qualified to be President (or speak the English language for that matter). You will never be President because you use your faith as a political wedge against your opponents, as a tool to discriminate against others, and as a weapon against those who don’t agree with you.

So, with a tip of my hat to Emory University Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, Dr. Jacob Wright, for pointing me to this video, I offer you the perfect response to Rick Perry’s most recent exploitation of religion. This video by Rabbi Jason Miller makes the point, makes you think, and makes you laugh. Enjoy!

19 Responses

  1. You hate people who use religion for political gain, eh? You must really hate the Papacy, most biblical maximalist archæologists, biblical minimalist biblical scholars (last I heard, most have never put trowel to dirt), the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, many khasidic dynasties, megachurches… You get the point.

    My comment on Perry is that he doesnt appear to be an intelligent person. That is me being brutally honest, and even though Israeli security is a top priority for me, I can’t see this guy defending so much as a hot dog stand. One Texan governor as President is enough.

  2. Rabbi Miller makes an excellent argument for disbanding the public school system altogether, and allowing everyone to home-school. That would get rid of the whole “my religion is being discriminated against” argument — on all sides.

    Obama does not have a war against “religion”; only a war against Christianity.

    But, I do agree that Rick Perry would not be a good choice for president. He’s way too liberal for me.

  3. a) no. if we disbanded public schools, then all would be private (mostly religious) schools and home schools. no standards, and whatever a religion teaches, that is not only law, but scientific fact. god help us all if we turn into a nation of private and home schools. we’d be the christian equivalent of taliban afghanistan…
    b) no. he will not kiss the ring of right wing evangelical leaders (or apparently israel for that matter) and is suffering politically for it. but he will, watch. there’s an election to be won…
    c) it’s not an issue of conservative/liberal. it’s an issue of intelligent/factually challenged. and he is disqualified on these terms.

  4. agreed. not a fan of religious authorities dictating to rational individuals rooting claims in ‘liberal’ practices like reason and logic and science and social justice and equality.
    agreed (mostly). for me, i don’t want another president who can’t speak in complete sentences.

  5. You have noticed, I hope, that the jacket Perry is wearing in that ad is almost the exact same one Keith Ledger wore in “Brokeback Mountain,” right?

  6. dah dah dah daaaaaaaah daaaaaaaah da-da-duh-daaaaaah…

    he doesn’t know why he likes the jacket, he just does.

    Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

  7. Good post.

    I was sure to like it anyways, for two reasons.

    1. Pointing out how silly politicians are. Not all, of course, but this presidential race has had more than its share of good moments. And by good moments, I mean your jaw drops, you look to whoever’s sitting near you to ask “did he really just say that…?”, and then for the next twenty-four hours you wait for Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert to bring comic relief to the scary possibility of that person’s presidential nomination.

    2. A post about discrimination without discriminating. I’m Christian, if that matters to you, but yes. I have a hard time hearing campaign ads like Perry’s for all the reasons that you listed. Besides that, I think he does Christianity a great injustice, and maybe that misrepresentation is what irks me the most. But I like your post because you point out those flaws without discriminating against the group being presented as discriminators. I saw an atheist spoof on Perry’s campaign ad that was well-done and I’m sure hilarious, but I just couldn’t smile. Because it took something that I love and live for to attack itself, essentially.

    So anyways, thanks for your post. There was a lot of head-nodding and vigorous eyebrow-furrowing throughout. Agreed with what you wrote and enjoyed the shade of humor you tacked it on.

  8. Dr Bob: Great post, wisht I’d thought to send you the vid of perry’s ad. I’ve disliked perry ever since I moved to Texas and began reading up on local politics and history. One of my gripes is he’s nominated three ( 3!) young earth creationists to chair the State Board of Education ( one wag renamed it the “State Board of Embarrassment”).

    That said, there is some good news, it’s within living memory it would have unthinkable that a Mormon, black, and woman would be running for nomination.

    The flip side is in this case, most of the candidates are trying to ‘out christian’ or ‘out conservative’ each other to get the nomination.

    For a bit more local news, the Texas Division of Motor Vehicles has voted to offer a religious license plate, the “Calvary Hill” plate. Proceeds go to a Christian youth outreach group. My question is even leaving aside the question of other religions, doesn’t this discriminate against other churches who may have equally deserving programs? Or is the state now in the position of having to wholesale issue religious plates to satisfy all sects?

    I’ll close with this quote, “I’m disappointed to see the state endorse a particular faith, even if it’s mine, and to see Christians trivialize our faith into slogans and symbols on the back of a bumper.” ( Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin )


  9. Bob,
    Great post.

    The scary fact is that Perry is reflecting where the Christian-Republican base is (further to the right than 4 years ago) and what they believe (feed Biblically illiterate “pastors” and pundits) and are upset about (Obama).

  10. Charli – if it’s any consolation, I’m often embarrassed by other atheists, other texans, and other texas atheists.

    So there, how’d I do on the humble meter ?


  11. Jeff–

    well you’re on it, at least.

    And I do appreciate the consolation. It’s good when the people representing our values make us cringe; I’m glad I’m not alone in this.

  12. Also– you don’t have your own blog? I’m so sad!

  13. I agree 100% with the separation of church and state, it is what out founders intended and what has served us best through our history. I try to personally never discuss my particular views in any forum outside the most trusted friends and family, but I tend to despise extremists on either end of the spectrum. I believe you have your rights to worship or not as you please, just do not proselytize to me.

    I am not against a prayer, being in the military I have been to more than my fair share of memorial services over the last decade. Having gone out on my share of combat operations I am not against a pre-mission group prayer, you got my back and I have yours, that means I respect your beliefs and so on.

    When someone like RIck Perry or Michelle Bachman places their views in the forefront and that represents the platform they want to bring to the highest leadership position in the land, I hope with blind faith the American people can see the right thing to do is not allow them to make it that far, and as a consequence of their ignorance being broadcast on the public stage, they do not succeed in the further re-election bids for the jobs they currently hold.

    I intend to check out your blog regularly. I am not sure if I will agree blindly with all your opinion, but my initial exposure has been pretty positive.

  14. Dear Bob,
    A good rant.

    I publish a blog piece every August about the rules for praying in school. Here’s a link.

  15. […] using religion for political gain: a response to rick perry « XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Rober… Cargill. […]

  16. Paul, this is great. I’ve elevated it as an update in the original text. -bc

  17. Thank you for this site. Paraphrased–Jesus told a follower that surely the pharasees will have a lower place in Hell than the murderers and thieves. The Rick Perry’s are the modern pharacees (not spelled right, I know). What epitomizes the Bible is Love your fellow human beings as yourself. What kind of an arse has got a problem with that? It’s time we real Christians stand up and fight the Perry’s of the world–They are an embarassment and a shame to us. Early Christian churches would have kicked him out of the fold. Most Christians are truly chalk-full of good works, but a high percentage of them (for instance) really believe all muslims are evil–even among educated Christians. That’s really scary! HOW CAN YOU BE A CHRISTIAN AND BE MURDEROUS MINDED LIKE THAT?

  18. […] Rick Perry’s “Strong” ad. The one by Jesus himself is probably the best so far: See too Bob Cargill’s post, which not only shares a parody by a Rabbi, but also observes that …Also on target is this depiction of Voldemort as Rick Perry: […]

  19. We are beginning to look at Marriage Equality in the State of Washington. Tonight we had our Democratic, pro-choice state senator tell us that she was not in favor of the Governor’s proposal to give all of us Marriage Equality. I took exception to this and wrote this e-mail to her…

    If you happen to be in Washington state and want to e-mail her, her e-mail is

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