Adding Insult to Injury

(Ethan Gates)– I seem to be on a spiritual bent recently; I promise I’ll be back to griping about movies soon.

I’m sure by now you all have seen Rick Perry’s repulsive “Strong” campaign ad, featuring the Republican candidate’s “faith”-based plea to Iowan voters to elect him in the upcoming caucus. I can’t bring myself to spread that video any further by embedding it here, but I’m sure you can find it easily enough on your own if you have somehow managed to avoid the countless parodies, reactions and commentaries making their way around Facebook.

I was going to use this post to counter every single thing that Perry says in that 30-second video, word by word, but then decided that arguing with such an obtuse viewpoint wasn’t worth the time it would take, especially given how stretched for time I am here at the end of the semester.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a guest post written for the Washington Post by the Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson. Bishop Robinson was the first openly gay priest to be elected bishop in the Episcopalian church, and in general is one of the coolest, most rational, and (hopefully) influential religious leaders in North America. I wish I could dedicate a whole post to him, as he absolutely WOULD be worth the time, but for now I’d suggest at least checking out his Wikipedia page to get a sense of the stir Robinson has caused and the crap that he has had to endure. That Robinson continues not only to stand his ground, but actively spearhead the fight against prejudice, speaks to his dedication. So I’ll just leave you with his words regarding Gov. Perry – I know that I couldn’t possibly say it any better:

Rick Perry would be pathetic, if he weren’t so infuriating. In an effort to revive a sinking political campaign, Gov. Perry has reached a new low in promoting himself in a recent commercial.

The governor begins this 30 second spot with “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian.” He goes on to say things that Christians should be ashamed of him for:

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.”

It is breathtaking (and not in a good way) when someone who aspires to be the Commander in Chief denigrates the soldiers he means to command. Just like all the other soldiers in our military, our gay and lesbian soldiers are dodging bullets and IED’s to preserve our rights as Americans. The right of all Americans to represent their country in our military is now the law of the land, a law that Gov. Perry apparently disagrees with and presumably would work to change if elected president.

The blood of gay and lesbian soldiers flows as readily and as redly as that of other young Americans fighting in Afghanistan, yet Gov. Perry feels free to use them as political cannon fodder for his campaign. In an attempt to garner conservative Christian votes, he would stigmatize these brave young men and women who are, as we speak, risking their lives on our behalf. If this is patriotism, count me out!

Gov. Perry also apparently disagrees with the separation of church and state, a constitutional separation which not only creates freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. He’s also got his facts wrong. No child is precluded from praying in school. Any American, young or old, can pray anywhere he or she wants to. What numerous rulings by the Supreme Court prohibit, based on the Constitution, is the establishment of religion. No teacher can pray to a Christian God and force their students to participate in or listen to such a prayer, as if the Christian understanding of God is the good and only “right” way to think of God.

Christians – or at least many of us – value the separation of church and state and see no harm in drawing these careful lines of separation for the good of a diverse nation. We don’t need the enforcement of the state in making our case for a loving God. We offer numerous and ample opportunities for public prayer in our churches and religious gatherings. We don’t need them or want them in school. Besides, we learned long ago that allegiance to God can’t be a forced march.

Christians everywhere should be alarmed that a candidate for our nation’s highest office would play fast and loose with both the Constitution and our men and women in uniform. It would be simply pathetic that Gov. Perry would do so in an effort to entice conservative voters, if it weren’t such an abuse of religion and a violation of the Constitution.

Gov. Perry is right about one thing. There is something wrong in America. But surely it begins with disloyalty to our brave troops in the field and violation of the hard-won separation between church and state which protects all Americans.”