Commentary: Perry's prayer meeting is about votes, not praise

Bob Ray Sanders is a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Bob Ray Sanders is a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MCT

Many Christians amaze me with their arrogance, bigotry and audacity to confine God in their own tightly wrapped little box.

As a Christian myself, I am offended by those who, in the name of Jesus, go out of their way not only to denounce other religions, but to condemn people of other faiths to hell.

It is even more sickening to see politicians, adorned in the cloak of self-righteousness, join forces with some of these people in a not-so-veiled political demonstration aimed a furthering their careers rather than serving their country.

America will always have people who practice the politics of division. If only they would leave God out of it.

That goes for Gov. Rick Perry, who is planning a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our "troubled nation."

By partnering with the American Family Association to sponsor the Aug. 6 event, the governor has hitched his holy chariot to a religious group known for publicly denouncing Muslims, Jews, blacks, gays and those who support a woman's right to choose among others.

Perry, who may be considering a run for the presidency, invited U.S. governors to attend the event at Houston's Reliant Stadium. It's anybody's guess how many will join him and various conservative religious leaders for the daylong "prayer service."

Although it's labeled an "apolitical Christian prayer meeting," chief spokesman Eric Bearse told The Texas Tribune that people of all faiths are invited.

The Tribune reported that the event is being highly criticized by groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Of course, sponsors of the prayer meeting are not likely to care about the opinions of such organizations.

Event organizers have defined their mission and thus are proceeding with plans to bring Perry together with religious conservatives who would make up a large part of his voter base should he decide to seek the Republican nomination for president.

Maybe we ought to start praying right now.

Perry enumerates a list of reasons for which the country needs prayer, including wars, threats of terrorism, the bad economy, natural disasters "and the decline of our culture in the context of the demise of families."

I certainly don't dismiss the power of prayer, especially in light of the many hardships and tragedies that so many people worldwide have endured because of natural as well as man-made disasters. But I heartily reject the notion, as some Christians believe, that floods or hurricanes or acts of war are God's way of dishing out punishment because some individual or group in the affected place has sinned.

It is also my belief that things we should be doing for ourselves and others don't belong on a prayer list.

I find it ironic that the politicians whose actions helped make our nation "troubled" are praying to God to fix it.

By the way, God didn't declare war on Iraq.

It's mystifying that the governor who is preparing to go to God in prayer supports state legislation that severely cuts funding for public and higher education, drastically decreases aid to the poor (including the elderly in nursing homes) and creates legislative and congressional districts that deliberately dilute minority voting strength.

The people need prayer, alright, but it should be for protection from many of the politicians and those who claim to speak to and for God while doing ungodly things to their fellow human beings.

Folks have the right to believe whatever they want. They also have the right to articulate those beliefs even when doing so reveals insensitivity and intolerance for others.

My prayer is a simple one that I've been reciting for a long time: Dear God, please help Christians to become more Christ-like.

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