A Desperate Man?
Rick Perry, Christian warrior: Attacks gays in the military in attempt toinflame the culture wars for Iowa
Pity poor Rick Perry. He was supposed to be the candidate to unite the disparate Republican wings — Tea Partiers, fiscal conservatives and religious voters, all behind one shepherd with phenomenal hair.
Somewhere along the way in his presidential campaign — sometime between telling anti-immigrant conservatives that they don't have a heart and forgetting about the Department of Energy, I think — Perry stopped being the darling of the religious right. Or any of the right, for that matter.
In Iowa, a state where evangelicals make up 60 percent of Republican primary voters, Perry is only polling as the top pick of 10 percent of likely caucus-goers. He's polling behind a man on his third wife, a staunch Libertarian and a flip-flopping Mormon.
Perry's solution? Dropping the C-word — as in Christian. Perry's campaign released a 30-second ad on Wednesday that's jaw-dropping in its completely un-ironic appropriation of the culture wars:
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."
I realize trying to refute Perry with logic is like bringing a knife to a swordfish fight, but let's just correct the record: Kids can both openly celebrate Christmas and pray in school.
This is quite the Hail Mary. Or whatever the Baptist version of a Hail Mary is. Forget the general election, Perry is just trying to stay alive through South Carolina's primary.
He isn't talking about gay marriage (a hot-button issue in Iowa right now, with conservatives attempting to pass a repeal of the institution). He's going on record that it's wrong that gay people (I'm sorry "gays") can serve openly in the military, a policy that 68 percent of Americans ( and nearly half of Republicans) support.
He's also doubling down on the Republican trope, popularized by Fox News, that Christians and Christmas are under attack. I realize trying to refute Perry with logic is like bringing a knife to a swordfish fight, but let's just correct the record: Kids can both openly celebrate Christmas and pray in school.
First of all, let's not pretend Christmas is banned in schools until someone stops designing the academic calendar around it, OK? When I picture someone who can't "openly celebrate" their religion, I think of Jews hiding lit menorahs and whispering Hebrew prayers, lest they be discovered and tortured during the Spanish Inquisition. Not children who are subjected to holiday parties rather than Christmas parties in their classrooms.
Since Perry is so smitten with our forefathers, perhaps he'd prefer to celebrate Christmas the way the Puritans did, by ignoring it and banning it altogether.
And while teacher-led or state-sponsored prayer has been ruled unconstitutional in schools since the 1960s (which I believe was before Obama took office), it's still perfectly acceptable for kids to pray. And attend Fellowship of Christian Athlete meetings. And wear clothing with bible verses on it. We can debate where exactly to draw the lines between state-sponsored and student-led religious expression, but the idea that schools have been de-Christianized is ridiculous.
Want to know what a war on religion looks like? It looks like the violence in Egypt that left 26 Coptic Christians dead and 300 injured in October. It looks like the widespread arrests and detentions of Christians in China. It looks like the 54 churches bombed in Iraq since 2003.
Of course, I'm not the demographic Perry is trying to court in Iowa. Can Perry make the culture wars cool again in Iowa? I guess we'll see.