Friday, April 22, 2011

Lip Service

Texas Governor Rick Perry has released an official proclamation requesting that people of faith in Texas pray for rain.

As someone who doesn't get into this sort of thing myself, it seems more like a public relations stunt or a way of maintaining the Governor's Christian bona fides more than anything else, but this is the nature of politics. Given the rather strange relationship that American Christianity has with God, it's hard to guess whether or not the Perry actually thinks that humbly appealing to a higher power would work.

But let's take the idea at face value for a moment, and assume that Governor Perry is being perfectly on the up-and-up with this, and that he's honestly of the opinion that if enough Texans ask, very nicely, that God could be convinced to alter the weather over Texas. The first thing that came to my mind was, "Maybe God's upset with Texas for sending a man who may very well have been innocent to his death, and then burying their heads in the sand to avoid finding out one way or another." Of course it's unlikely that God, in anyone's conception, micromanages the world in such detail. But the situation does illustrate part of the problem with public faith in a nation where it's considered inappropriate to "respect an establishment of religion" in an official capacity. Calling for people to pray, and treating the prayers of all people as equally valid is about the only option available. But it's unlikely that Perry actually believes that "all faiths and traditions" and therefore all prayers, are equally valid.

And so his call comes across as lip service, not to the idea of prayer, but to the idea of religious equality and freedom. Of course, the fact that it seems disingenuous to me doesn't really mean anything, in the greater scheme of things. But it does seem to be central to many aspects of public religiosity. One wonders if no-one expects the Universe to pick up on it. If, of course, you believe it's listening.

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