Considering Rick Perry’s New Political Ad

Politics and religion are two things I did not want to directly discuss or debate on this blog. I am an Agnostic/Absurdist, married to a Christian. My son leans more towards my word view while my daughter towards my wives. I have  friends ranging from Left leaning Atheist to Right leaning evangelical. I donate my money and time to Christian causes and even volunteer at our church (CrossRoad) in areas that will not compromise my beliefs nor require the church to compromise its “body”.

I give this biographical information to frame my comments within a life which is not isolated to ideas consistent with mine. My respect for those with faith is well-known by my friends. When one sincerely believes in a system that makes an appeal to a greater power and can ascribe to its dogma, it is a comfort and can inspire them to greater things. However, efforts like those of Perry I find extremely counterproductive to not only our society but humanity in general.

If you have not seen the political ad, this is what he says.

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.

What he says about prayer does not bother me. I am not offended by someone telling me “Merry Christmas” anymore than I am offended by someone praying in school. I understand why some are concerned regarding State supported religion but it is a big stretch to say something is supported simply because it is allowed. The problem arises when other faith prayers are denied in favor of others. There is a hypersensitivity by some when anything “Christian” is practiced.

The problem is Perry wants us to believe that, because he is a Christian, that he has a value system which will make him a better leader. Our recent history, at the very least, shows us that being a Christian does not afford one any better ability to be President or even to serve in Congress. He compounds this by stating “faith made America strong”, however his implied meaning is that “Christian” faith made America strong. This is problematic in that we must ask ourselves what type of Christian? A Thomas Jefferson Christian? It was Jefferson, greatly admired across the political spectrum, who took a razor to the Bible and created his own version in which he removed that which was not rational. While Jefferson was a man of faith he also believed strongly in religious freedom.

There are also the comments towards a “war on religion” and “gays”. The Wall Street Journal wrote an evaluation piece in which it addresses misleading elements.

Perry’s suggestion that Obama has led the way in banning prayer in public school is factually wrong.

The Supreme Court prohibited school prayer in two landmark decisions in 1962 and 1963, calling it an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. The court has repeatedly reaffirmed restrictions on religious expression in public schools, including a decision banning the posting of the Ten Commandments in school and another prohibiting students from using a school loudspeaker to offer a prayer before football games.

Obama signed legislation earlier this year repealing the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited gays from serving openly in the military. The legislation was passed by both the House and Senate with the support of several Republicans, and had the backing of several high-ranking military officials including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While many religious conservatives may not support gay rights, it’s a stretch to characterize the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as an Obama “war on religion.”

I do appreciate the reasons why there is a difference in opinion regarding homosexuality but that does not warrant a need to govern the country based on an argument grounded in a religious text. It is this level of separation that Jefferson spoke to. This country is not a Theocracy and I expect those of any faith to respect that: be it Christian,Muslim, Jew, etc. Furthermore, it is very disingenuous to frame the limited information and experience of our founding fathers at the time of our countries creation with society today. The majority of those coming to this new land were Christian by default and therefore governing documents necessarily were inspired by that faith. However, to claim Christianity has a monopoly on values is inherently flawed and belittles those who believe differently in spite of their inherent goodness.

To Perry’s comment regarding gays, R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of the gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans had this to say.

Our nation was built upon individual liberty and individual responsibility, and open service by gay and lesbian service members is directly in line with the vision of our Founding Fathers. It is wrong for Governor Perry to assume being a person of faith does not afford one to support equality.

One item that should not be left out of the conversation is that tax dollars do go to causes that those of faith might find offensive and that they do not want to support. Unfortunately that is a condition of being in a society. I am by no means saying someone who objects to specific government funding should not protest and work to put people in power who represent them. As Perry notes, “Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.” The problem is that when you frame it within a religious context, and drape it with terms like “values”, the foundation becomes your religion and not your country. It also fails to recognize that your disdain for the lifestyle is defended by the religious text and not evidence showing it is inherently detrimental to society.

Whether you agree or disagree with my assertions, I would like to think at the very least we could discuss our differences in a civil fashion and do so not simply to convince the other person they need to change their mind. It speaks to our ability to find that core value that we share, one which serves to make the world better.

If you are wondering how I vote, I do what my father considers “wasting” my vote by voting person/platform and not party.

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