When I turned on Wednesday evening’s Republican debate, while I was somewhat interested in hearing what all of the candidates except Rick Santorum had to say, I mostly tuned in to see Rick Perry perform a miracle. Because based on the Perry mania that’s spreading among evangelicals faster than offering plates at a Benny Hinn conference, that’s what I expected from Rick, something mildly supernatural. I didn’t anticipate him to walk on water, but I did think I’d see some sort of charismatic spectacle, perhaps Rick hopping around on stage with a poisonous snake in one hand or Rick mixing a little spit and dirt and using it to heal Michele Bachmann’s crazy eye, anything to support the hype.
In the end though, I was asking the same question that I’d been asking myself since Governor Perry announced his candidacy for president: What is it about Rick Perry that conservative evangelicals find so appealing? And shouldn’t they feel guilty?
Now before you label me a demon or Arianna Huffington, I’m not totally lost on why many Republican believers are hovering around Perry like buzzards around roadkill. For one thing, Perry is the quintessential GOPster, a non-Mormon from Texas who loves pistols, boasts democracy, promotes big business, and can swallow a corn dog without gagging. Plus, he’s got that wonderful voice with its syrupy drawl. When he speaks, Perry sounds cool, confident and seemingly approachable; he doesn’t talk at his supporters, his voice moseys toward them like John Wayne on his way to a gunfight.
I’m also aware that Perry’s evangelical fan base loves the fact that, in addition to being known as a master job creator, the Texas Governor claims to party with the Creator like it’s his job. Perry’s disciples like a president who name drops Jesus like the two are Facebook friends. Perry’s a master at that, he doesn’t simply impress Bible-believing, born-again American white people by shooting straight; on issues ranging from health care to marriage equality to education, Perry shoots straight and narrow. He mixes his politics with his John Hageeish “biblical” worldview as if the two are one and the same, as if his idea of separating church and state is putting the two in bed together and making them use a condom.
Up until now, I think one could argue that Rick Perry’s greatest strength is his ability to hop on a stage and Rick Perry without feeling guilty. For a month, he’s been Rick Perrying around the country shooting off his evangelitical faithriotic Republistian goo three and four times a day, and sometimes while children are present.
I can’t help but echo what so many other Christians who believe that Jesus loves illegal immigrants are asking: Can you be a Christian and still Rick Perry?
Since so many Christians seem to be forming Rick Perry circles all across America, the obvious answer is yes, Christian can Rick Perry. However, should Christians Rick Perry? Maybe that’s the more poignant question. Furthermore, is there a difference between Rick Perrying at home alone and Rick Perrying out in public where Muslims might hear you?
Some religious leaders suggest that the only way to answer questions like these is to search scripture. Which I did. Not surprising, the Bible never says, “Thou shalt not Rick Perry“! It does say something about never mixing one’s cows with another man’s cows, yet somehow Rick Perrying got a pass.
It could be argued, based simply on how Rick Perrying must make Mexicans feel, that contextually, Rick Perrying goes against basic biblical principles and is thus, sin. But it’s not that easy. Sure, one who opposes public displays of Rick Perry could certainly use Jesus’s words “Love thy neighbor” to support that theory. But at the same time, Rick Perry-ers theoretically could retaliate Jesus’s “love” with the numerous biblical stories about God killed uncircumcised people.
I’ve heard a couple Perry antagonists use the Apostle Paul’s words about how all men–Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised–are equal in the eyes of God to support their whole “Rick Perry is sin” theory. And while his words certainly offer a reasonable response, considering Paul’s words about women being quiet in church, his seeming support of slavery, and his somewhat bipolar perspective on whether straight people should marry, using his words to support any doctrine or policy is a lot like using a Rachel Maddow quote to prove your point on Twitter, it’ll probably come back to bite you in the @ss.
In the end, it becomes a bit cumbersome using the Bible as a weapon for or against political opinion. Far too often, no matter the issue being discussed, debaters can use various verses to refute and support a number of politically-charged topics and end up going round and round without solving anything. Which is why those of us who follow Jesus must look at all the facts and make up our own minds about whether or not we are able to Rick Perry without feeling guilty. And more importantly, spend some time thinking about whether or not we should feel guilty. While I support one’s freedom to Rick Perry all night long and every day, I also know its not for me. In my opinion, the God-political rhetoric that Rick shoots makes too much of a mess. While some people might find his words refreshing, I listen and can’t ignore how often his opinions seem to forget or bash or push away large segments of America’s population and populations in other parts of the world, too.
But please, if you want to Rick Perry till you go blind, that’s your right. So Rick like Rick if you must, but do us a favor: clean up after you’re finished.