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Tilting at Windmills

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April 23, 2011

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected faith-based move from Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), which is already raising eyebrows.

This week, Perry reached out to the federal government for disaster assistance, despite years of anti-government rhetoric and even talk of secession, as fires do significant damage in many parts of the state. Yesterday, however, the governor aimed higher, and urged Texans to ask God to help put their fires out.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 21st day of April, 2011.

Perry is generally worried about government interfering in the lives of the people, but he doesn't mind using the power of his office to encourage his constituents to pray for rain.

Theologically, this is a bit odd. Indeed, Paul Waldman questioned why "our politicians have to have such an infantile view of the way this just and loving deity's universe is supposed to be ordered."

The theory here seems to be that up until now God has been angry at Texas, or perhaps indifferent to Texas' plight, water-wise. So if enough Texans pray over the next three days, it'll basically be like everyone waving at once, saying, "Hey, God! A little help here!" Whereupon, God will say, "Oh -- Texas! I forgot you guys were there!" And then he'll say, "Well, I had this plan that stretches from here until the end of time, and the drought played a small but significant part in that plan...but heck, since you all prayed so nicely, here's some rain."

Of course, the situation in Texas is obviously dire, and a state-endorsed weekend prayer session might not cut it. Can animal sacrifice on the state capitol steps be far behind?

Also from the God Machine this week:

* The White House goes all out this time of year to honor seasonal religious holidays, including a new tradition of a Passover Seder hosted by President Obama, an official White House Easter egg roll, and a prayer breakfast with Christian leaders from across the country.

* Fox News wants viewers to believe there's a "War on Easter." (Hint: there is no such war.)

* And a leading creationist group has begun arguing that teaching evolutionary biology in public school science classes is connected to "homosexual indoctrination."

Steve Benen 9:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Aw, Perry is just ripping of Alabama's ideas. Few years ago when we were having an extended drought, Bob Riley had the state praying for rain.

Posted by: martin on April 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

"homosexual indoctrination"

Well, Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield will certainly put a stop to that with his newly introduced legislation of "Don't say Gay" in the Tennessee State Senate. Campfield spent two years at Regents College for his BS degree. Isn't Regents the christian college in Vancouver B.C., as opposed to Regents University in Virginia?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 23, 2011 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

martin, didn't Riley try to hire Burt Lancaster to perform that role of inducing rain?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 23, 2011 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

What if the Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas works?

What if it doesn't...

Posted by: Skip on April 23, 2011 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised that Gov. Perry would use a "scientific experiment" to prove the existence of a deity.- As martin mentions, similar exercises have not borne fruit.

Perhaps it is time for Texans to employ the Tried and True method: Virgin+Volcano=Rain.

Posted by: DAY on April 23, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Gov. Goodhair Perry should consult the Native Americans on this?
Their God's have been around Texas a whole lot longer than Jesus & Co.


And if there's a "War on Easter," I look forward to the rebel's counterattack to the drones on FOX.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 23, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

After this bit of empirical evidence, perhaps his whole life Gov. Perry hasn't been able to do the smart thing, because his ego keeps getting in the way!

Posted by: kevo on April 23, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Texas has volcanos?!?
(thought I was gonna go the other way, didn't ya;>)

Posted by: martin on April 23, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I don't suppose that Gov. Perry's initiative will harm his chances of re-election.

Posted by: davidp on April 23, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

@ martin-
12 years old, and VERY ugly. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 23, 2011 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Fox News wants viewers to believe there's a "War on Easter." (Hint: there is no such war.)

What Hannity, O'Reilly, and the rest of Fox News sees are signs that their beloved white, heterosexual, Christian, culture may soon lose it's coveted position as the dominant culture in America. It has absolutely nothing to do with God or religion. It's also their job to fan the flames of the culture wars, as that is the tried and true method for getting poorer voters to vote against their interests..

Posted by: DelCapslock on April 23, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Just read the article about evolutionary gayness. (Last bullet on post.)

Wow! I am so glad ours, for the most part, is a secular society! The fervor among The Creation Studies Institute fellowship is on sweaty-brow setting. From what I can make of it, this institute sees gayness as heinous!

But for the life of me, I can't follow their perspective without traipsing through convoluted thought based not so much on the verifiable, but rather on the emotional rantings of a self-perceived piety jumbled into observations without any measure of merit.

If I am to understand the members of TCSI in the brief reading I made, I'd think they believe not in evolution as it, to their understanding, would have already ended the homo part of us sapiens, and since gay people still exist, evolution is false! Then, at the same time, Darwin's theories, being taught in the public schools, is leading to a pronounced homosexual recruiting problem tantamount to, wait for it:

Fascists, and Nazis, and Commies, OH MY!

Someone should tell the good Christians over there at TCSI, we don't live in Kansas anymore! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 23, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

My takeaway, kevo, was this:

"Those who hold godless ideologies have long understood that the best way to transform societies and change the way people traditionally think is by indoctrinating children from the earliest stages of education."

-"Indoctrinating children"- so THAT explains Sunday School!

Posted by: DAY on April 23, 2011 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Every time I hear something like Perry's proclamation (which, as martin says, happens more often than you'd think), I'm reminded of the Great Salt Lake, which overflowed its banks a few years ago. The Salt Lake City Council passed a resolution forbidding the lake from rising beyond a certain point, even going so far as to erect a chain link fence where the lake would be breaking the law. There's still video around of the lake sloshing through the fence. Sometimes reality is just plain stiff-necked.

Seriously, as of yesterday Texas had fires in all but two counties. It's awfully dry there, but you have to think unregulated land use might have something to do with it too. But, of course, laws telling people what to do with their land are against God's will.

Posted by: ericfree on April 23, 2011 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

-"Indoctrinating children"- so THAT explains Sunday School!

Clever... but just for the record, Sunday School was created by John Wesley, founder of Methodism, to help teach poor Welsh children how to read and write. They did it on Sunday because that was the only day off for these children, as young as six and seven, who worked long hours six days a week in coal mines.

Organized religion does a lot of stupid, horrible things, but occasionally they get something right, and should be given credit.

I will not vouch for current versions of Sunday School.

Posted by: chi res on April 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Can animal sacrifice on the state capitol steps be far behind?

After Texas' decision to praise Joe McCarthy in their history books, I don't think animals will be sufficient.

But who... who should be chosen to appease God?
Perhaps they can Swiftly come up with a Modest Proposal.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 23, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

One quibble: an Easter egg roll is NOT a religious observance, but a celebration of spring. I have no love for religious tradition, but the egg roll is just for fun.

Re Perry, did anyone else notice that he called for a rain-dance when the official forecast actually calls for rain? Who do you think will "get the credit?"

Besides, everyone knows the only legitimate time to pray for ran is when your pitchers are Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain, and nobody else!

Posted by: Jim H on April 23, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Battle cry for the War on Easter:
Kill the Wabbit!

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 23, 2011 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I still think 'God' is a hoax, and the 'Bible' the work of the Devil (except I don't believe in the Devil either). But you get my point.

Posted by: Goldilocks on April 23, 2011 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Time for congress to draft the "In Case That God Thingy Don't Work For You Here's Some Hard-Earned Workers Cash Which Perry Think Should Have Been Given To The Rich Instead" bill.

Posted by: Chopin on April 23, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

"It is best to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain." -- Mark Twain

Posted by: TomH on April 23, 2011 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Gov. Perry reminds me of the crazy mayor in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "La Candida Erendira" who shoots his rifle at clouds to make rain fall.

How will we ever know whether the resolution worked or not? If it rains six months months from now Perry will probably claim responsibility.

What a jackass.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 23, 2011 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

The creationist/fundamentalist blinkered view of the world doesn't deserve a serious response. Moreover, they are no less interested in indoctrinating children at an early age than any other religion or ideology, and have managed to infect their ignorant, hateful, and absolutist views into every generation since Darwin.

Evolution exists, homosexuals exist. Since homosexuals have existed forever, evolution and homosexuality bear no direct relationship to each other, or so it seems to me.

Posted by: rrk1 on April 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

"It is best to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain." -- Mark Twain

It seems Perry can even do that right. Oklahoma had heavy rain and severe storms last night and this morning but the rain stopped at the Red River.

Here in western Arkansas, we've had over four inches of rain in the past 10 days, not counting what is currently falling. I guess we know who God loves most.

Posted by: arkie on April 23, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

And a leading creationist group has begun arguing that teaching evolutionary biology in public school science classes is connected to "homosexual indoctrination."
-----------------
I presume that they also hold a dim view view of "Animal Husbandry".

Posted by: Mike on April 23, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Governor Perry, I just spoke to God and She said that since you asked the federal government for help before turning to Her, well, you're a faithless infidel and a false believer. She sounded fairly irate. She also said that perhaps you should try talking to a burning bush, that it worked out pretty well for Moses. I think She was joking about that though. It's so hard to tell when a deity is joking...

In other news, there is no war on Easter. There is, however, a war on the Pagan fertility rites of the Spring Equinox. What's the deal with Christians stealing the holidays of other religions and then acting like "their" stolen holidays are under attack from others?

Posted by: josef on April 23, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Tonight on FOX: The war on Whitsunday!

Posted by: mike on April 23, 2011 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

teaching evolution = homosexual indoctrination

However, biologists haven't really worked out why homosexuality exists and what benefit it could have from an evolutionary standpoint.

It's almost as if homosexuality were evidence against evolution.

You'd think right wing preachers would fling themselves on every gay man they could find and recruit him for the rapture!

Posted by: cld on April 23, 2011 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think right wing preachers would fling themselves on every gay man they could find

You might be surprised at the number who already are.

Posted by: chi res on April 23, 2011 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

War on Easter? Well, I wage war on Peeps, those fluffy little bastards, w/my trusty microwave.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on April 23, 2011 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Don't laugh too much at Perry; sometimes divine intervention DOES work.

Case in point: During the Dustbowl days of the Great Depression, some Republican preacher in Oklahoma or Texas started getting attention by declaring the the vast regional drought was God's punishment for having elected Franklin D. Roosevelt president.

Then FDR came through the state to do some barnstorming on behalf of the New Deal. And lo and behold, the rains followed him everywhere he went.

The Dems, with Roosevelt at the head, carried Oklahoma and Texas by landslide proportions in the 1936 election.

So you see...

Posted by: James Miller on April 23, 2011 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

It was Pat Robertson who warned us the God might strike with natural disasters at those cities and states which he didn’t much like. Right now it seems like he is pissed at the red Midwest and Southeast; at the blue states not so much. I think the reason why is pretty obvious.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on April 23, 2011 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

The snarky comments from the left regarding Perry's declaration asking people to pray for rain comes off more as disrespectful to people of faith than anything else.

If the fire was approaching YOUR house, you'd likely be praying for rain too...

Posted by: JEA on April 23, 2011 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

If the fire was approaching YOUR house, you'd likely be praying for rain too...

If the fire was approaching MY house, I'd be praying that the idiot teabaggers didn't cut funding for the frickin' fire department.

Posted by: chi res on April 23, 2011 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'd pray the county isn't dumb enough to have a 'volunteer' fire department.

Posted by: cld on April 23, 2011 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Nice little dodge Perry has built into his proclamation. If it rains, then Praise Jeebus, it worked! And if not, well, it's obviously the fault of the atheists, agnostics and the folks who don't pray the "right" way -- ie aren't members of evangelical, christian-taliban congregations.

Posted by: Realist on April 23, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Rick Perry 100% on this. I sure hope Texas gets all the rain it needs in the next few days.

And if it does rain, or even if it doesn't (prayer being a mysterious business), I hope someone will declare some Days of Prayer for Job Growth and Deficit Reduction. With people like Perry in power, divine intervention is our only real chance.

Posted by: tamiasmin on April 23, 2011 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

You know, "God, I hope we get some rain soon!" is a prayer, no matter who says it or how it is said. Gov. Perry probably didn't need to ask the good people of Texas to pray about the wildfires.

If nothing else, he is asking all Texans to be mindful of the fire situation and those involved. He called on Texans of all faiths and traditions to pray and the days of prayer include Muslim, Jewish, and Christian sabbaths. Did any of you notice that inclusiveness?

I read this blog every day and, if memory serves me, this is the only mention of the wildfires in Texas (if I missed something, I apologize.) Sounds to me like Gov. Perry has done more than anyone here has. And I'm pretty sure this resolution is not the only thing he's done.

Now I must ask: What benefit to the common good is there to ridiculing people for being religious? Do you do it just so you can feel smug and superior to the firefighter who prays before he begins his day, and finds strength in it? Do you do it just so you can feel smug and superior to the family who, having lost there home in a fire, prays for strength to recover?

I enjoy this website. I enjoy Steve's commentary. I enjoy the comments. But I get tired of the disrespect and ridicule shown to people who practice a religion. It suggests you are ignorant about religion and the role of faith in people's lives.

"Can animal sacrifices on the state capital steps be far behind" is an insult to all people of all faiths, certainly an insult to Christians, for whom animal sacrifices have never been part of our religious practices.

For the record, I am a liberal Protestant Christian pastor, who supports the Democratic party with my votes and my contributions, and takes no crap from anyone regarding my theology, my faith, or my politics. No one who knows me would suspect me of being a fundamentalist or a conservative, either theologically or poltically.

If the "tolerant liberals" drive people like me out of the debate, only the religious fundamentalists with their authoritarian theology will remain in the public square.

Posted by: revchicoucc on April 23, 2011 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps prayer to (and from) "on high" is enough to bring rain. But, when it's something as important as democracy, a prayer by itself isn't enough. Apparently, in that case, prayer needs to be bolstered by a token of good faith, aka sacrifice. See how it's done elsewhere:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/world/asia/22briefs-ART-Kyrgyzstan.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=world%20briefing&st=cse

Posted by: exlibra on April 23, 2011 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

""* And a leading creationist group has begun arguing that teaching evolutionary biology in public school science classes is connected to "homosexual indoctrination.""

Sometimes the illogic of conservative creationists goes beyond ludicrous, especially when they try to link homosexuality to the teaching of Darwinian evolution, and vice versa.

Duuuh, homosexuality has been part of the human experience ever since the beginning, long before Darwin and the teaching of evolution, just as homosexuality will exist as part of the human experience until the end, and no matter how upset and judgmental religious (or non-religious) heterosexuals get, no matter how hard they strive to eradicate homosexuality, this will always be the case.

Posted by: The Oracle on April 23, 2011 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

As a matter of curiosity, do the Constitution and statutes of the State of Texas explicitly authorize the governor to call for a day of prayer, or is it that derived from a more general authorization to deal with emergencies?

Posted by: tamiasmin on April 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing works like prayer.

Identically.

Posted by: Steve on April 23, 2011 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

But I get tired of the disrespect and ridicule shown to people who practice a religion. - revchicoucc @ 18:21

Thank you for joining in. Somewhere a long time ago I read an article about Bush the lesser. It was where a light bulb went off in his head (smirk) about if the religious vote could be captured, a run for the presidency would be assured. If these good folks could be enlightened on how they have been rolled, the republican party would vanish like an "*" overnight.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on April 23, 2011 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm a Texan and I'm praying for a new governor.

Posted by: Greenfairy on April 23, 2011 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

@Kevin: Yes. It is equally disrespectful and ridiculing of people who practice a religion to court their votes by appealing to their religious sensibilities and commitments, then ignore their concerns. That is what Bush / Rove Republicans did to evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.

Having read the full text of the resolution, I see nothing in it that is sectarian or favoring one religion over any other. Prayer is a spiritual practice found in many religions. I see nothing in it suggesting the state will compell people to pray or punish them if they don't. I believe it is as broad and inclusive a resolution as an elected official could issue.

It is proper to ask if this proclamation should have come from the Governor. An alternative would have been to ask key religious leaders to issue a joint call to prayer. However, the question of propriety can be asked without ridiculing and insulting people who pray.

Posted by: revchicoucc on April 24, 2011 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Hey,revchicoucc, you don't automaticaly deserve respect just because you beleive in whatever.
You have the RIGHT to believe whatever you like, but you don't have the right to not hear people who disagree with you lampoon your beliefs, no matter how deeply held.
Respecting your right to your beliefs is one thing. Respecting those beliefs themselves is quite another. I respect your right to believe in whatever you want, but I don't respect the belief itself. Because it's unfounded, without evidence and far too often predatory. This is how society should be supposed to work. We respect differences and we don't do deference.

Posted by: HMDK on April 24, 2011 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Hey rev, I'm wondering how you talk about atheists in your sermons. Do you believe in hell? If so, do you believe atheists will end up there? If you don't believe in hell, how do you decide what to take and what to leave when it comes to your personal theology?

Try not to be too thin-skinned about people deriding religion. Atheists have been disrespected, vilified, and derided for centuries, and it hasn't stopped yet. Bush the first didn't even thing they should have the rights of citizenship. Bear in mind that those who don't believe in God, or in a christian god, get bombarded with Christianity every day as if it constitutes the very fabric of reality. You have no idea how silly—and frequently obnoxious—this seems to those who believe in only one less god than you.

I'm a pretty compassionate person myself, but when I hear christians whining about being persecuted or disrespected in this country my sympathy meter pegs to the left.

Posted by: President Lindsay on April 24, 2011 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

No need for excessive sarcasm, other persons religious beliefs always seem weird and illogical to those who don't share them. Pat Robinson seems to believe earthquakes in Haiti are related to homosexual behavior perhaps he holds a similar view of droughts in Texas.

Posted by: rfb99 on April 24, 2011 at 5:46 AM | PERMALINK

There was not a bit of sarcasm there. As for religious beliefs seeming illogical, it's because virtually every religion has scads of beliefs that are entirely illogical. I trust I needn't burden you with examples of christian (any sect) beliefs that fill the bill (especially today).

Posted by: President Lindsay on April 24, 2011 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Prayers didn't bring us another governor either!

Posted by: texnative on April 24, 2011 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

OOOOOO! War on Easter!!!

Posted by: Bill O'Reilly on April 24, 2011 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

My primary point is that Gov. Perry's proclamation could be critiqued without ridiculing people who pray. I apologize for not making myself clear.

Posted by: revchicoucc on April 25, 2011 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK
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