Texas Governor Rick Perry is among those who “want the presence, power, and person of Christ to fill our nation.”
That’s the message of The Response, the prayer rally that drew 30,000 people to a Texas stadium on Sunday, and that should worry all of us, regardless of whether we are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals.
Perry issued the call for the rally, which was financed and organized by advocates of making America a Christian nation.
Any rally organized by a sitting governor deserves close scrutiny, but Perry is not just the head of a state. He wants to be the head of state of the United States, and he has a good chance of winning the Republican nomination. Intrade, the online prediction marketplace, puts him slightly behind front-runner Mitt Romney.
“There is hope for America,” said Perry at the rally. “It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”
To be sure, America faces many problems. And we would never dissuade anyone from praying. We object, however, to an elected governor and potential president calling on Jesus to save us while simultaneously excluding other faiths from participating with their own prayers.
Many, perhaps most, Christians object to Perry’s exclusivist brand of Christianity.
A list of 50 clergymen from Texas signed a letter criticizing Perry for calling for “a full day of exclusionary prayerâ€¦. This religious event is not open to all faiths, and its statement of beliefs does not represent religious diversity.”
The letter was organized by the Anti-Defamation League’s Coalition of Mutual Respect, a group of U.S. interfaith leaders who promote education and respect among religions and ethnicities.
“By his actions,” the letter says, “Governor Perry is expressing an official message of endorsement of one faith over all others,” the letter said. It added that “our religious freedom is threatened when a government official promotes religion, especially one religion over all others.”
Make no mistake. Perry’s allies in the rally believe America should be a Christian country. And so should Israel.
“Today, Israel is not only back in the land but they are coming to their own Messiah,” Pastor Don Finto told the rally, referring to Israelis who have converted to Christianity. He added, “And so, Lord, we pray for the revival around the world and for Israel to come to their own Messiah.”
Bryan Fisher, of the American Family Association, which financed the rally, doesn’t believe the First Amendment applies to Jews or other non-Christians.
“The first amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity,” he wrote in a blog post. He has also urged that immigrants to America be required to “convert to Christianity.”
Perry’s rally is a major step backward from a pluralistic America in which all religions have a place, and from a pluralistic Christianity that accepts Judaism.
We prefer to see the glass as half full, and note that the stadium at which the rally was held was half empty. The American public tends to show its better nature by resisting the calls of stridently intolerant voices. For the sake of the precious religious diversity that made America great, we pray that America continues to do so.