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As Texas Governor Rick Perry Holds Prayer Rally for 30,000 People, Does Christianity Still Count in US Politics?

Posted on the 08 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
As Texas governor Rick Perry holds prayer rally for 30,000 people, does Christianity still count in US politics?

Governor Rick Perry. Photo credit: Ed Schipul,

Thirty thousand people joined Texas governor Rick Perry’s prayer rally in Houston this weekend. Although “The Response” was billed as apolitical, Perry is widely tipped to run for the US presidency in 2012, and there has been considerable speculation that the event was part of his bid for the Republican nomination. The day of prayer and fasting, apparently organised to halt America’s moral and economic decline, was partly funded by the American Family Association (AFA), which has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre for its attitude towards the gay community. Will Perry’s religious emphasis, however controversial, prove a vote-winner?

Potential Republican presidential candidates in order of popularity: Mitt Romney (21.6 percent), Michele Bachmann (13.2 percent) and Rick Perry (12.6 percent), according to The Telegraph.

  • Perry for President? According to The Washington Post’s Fix blog, Perry is poised to announce his candidature, and has already been raising campaign funds. The Fix quoted an email from Perry supporter Gene Powell: “We expect that announcement in a week to ten days.” However, David Carney, adviser to the Texas governor, played down the significance of the email, insisting no “final decision” had been made. The Telegraph reported that Perry currently lags behind Republican nomination hopefuls Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, with Romney enjoying  21.6 percent support. However, Ewan MacAskill wrote in The Guardian that once Perry announces his candidature, “he will likely become the frontrunner for the nomination to take on Barack Obama next year”.
  • Eat, Pray, Hate? MacAskill also reported that the AFA had contributed $1 million to Perry’s prayer and fasting rally. Over at The Huffington Post, James Moore condemned the organisation’s intolerance, pointing to AFA leaders’ derogatory comments about Judaism and homosexuality, and detected a sinister overtone to proceedings at the rally. “Anyone looking at the crowd in the stadium, though, might have recognized the borderline mass hysteria as something they had seen on The History Channel’s black and white films of the rising Reich, arms raised, chanting, stomping feet, tears,” he wrote. Moore also suggested that Perry’s policies were “destroying” Texas. Attendees at the rally included the Cornerstone Church, whose leader once declared that Hurricane Katrina was caused by the “level of sin” in New Orleans, although he later backed down.

“Sociologists have long noticed that Americans registered much higher levels of religiosity than most industrialized nations,” wrote Robert P. Jones on the Figuring Faith blog.

  • Christianity in America. Writing in The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Harriet Baber argued that Christianity in the US is “collapsing”. Baber suggested that this is in part because evangelical Christianity, which is closely linked to “sexual taboos and a conservative political agenda”, has become “the public face of the religion”. However, Kate Shellnutt in The Houston Chronicle argued that religion still plays a key role in US politics. Shelnutt pointed to a survey carried out by the Public Religion Research Institute in July: “A majority of adults say it’s important for a candidate to have strong religious beliefs.” At the same time, Shellnutt wrote that evangelical Christians make up a significant block of voters in the Republican primaries, and that candidates’ religious beliefs are more important to Republicans than to Democrats. Over at The Washington Post’s Figuring Faith blog, Robert P. Jones agreed that the link between politics and religion remains strong, arguing that “Americans are generally highly religious”, and that a candidate’s religious background would influence voters in the 2012 presidential elections.
  • “Jesus love nukes.” But there is one American institution where Christianity will be taking a back seat in future: the air force. According to Nick Allen in The Telegraph, for the past twenty years a California air force base has been teaching recruits a “Christian Just War Theory”. Lessons included St Augustine’s teachings on war and Bible stories such as Abraham raising an army. Following complaints, the course has now been terminated.

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