Texas Governor, and possible GOP presidential candidate, Rick Perry has endorsed ‘The Response’ a prayer event scheduled for August 6 in Texas. “As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy,” Perry wrote on the event’s official Web site. Perry’s critics are concerned about his distinctly Christian approachto public prayer as well as his association, through ‘The Response,’ with several problematic pastors, among them John Hagee, controversial for his comments on Israel, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam, and C. Peter Wagner, who has suggested that the Catholic veneration of saints is an evil practice. Should politicians be judged by the relig ious company they keep?
Recently I spoke with a woman in Ramallah, inside the Israeli-occupied West Bank, who is helping draft a constituion for a future Palestinian state. A Christian and graduate of the Quaker schools in Ramallah, she hopes for a secular constitution that does not favor one religion over another, but she described the difficulties of balancing the different claims to truth among the members of the drafting committee. Indeed, some wanted the basis to be Islamic Sharia law. From the same Arabic word for “street,” Sharia law is seen by some as the one true path. As the committee has wrestled with the various opinions, they have come up with a tentative compromise of using Sharia as one source of law - among others, including international law, basic human rights, the Bible, and the wishes of civil society.
Shortly after our meeting, there was a demonstration in the streets of Ramallah by an extremist party that wanted to see an Islamic state emerge out of talks of Palestinian independence. It was squelched by the massed presence of Palestinian police and security forces - the overwhelming number of whom were Muslims themselves.
And what does this have to do with Governor Rick Perry’s presidential aspirations, the August 6 “The Response” prayer event, fringe preachers like John Hagee, and the American Family Association? I would hope a lot! We are in a cultural and religious tussle in America now over “the path” our country should take. Extreme elements (and many of those associated with Rick Perry are, indeed, extreme) are calling for a U.S. equivalent of Sharia law - and I don’t mean Muslims! Some on the outer limits call for the Bible to replace the Constitution; many others would simply settle for an acculturated but evangelical Christian interpretation of the Bible as the basis for civil law. While some silly state legislators are considering laws banning the real Sharia law, a Christian pseudo-Sharia is sneaking up on us.
Can we actually learn from the “Arab street” of this year that it really does make a difference what company we keep? Can our leaders make as wise a compromise as those drafting a Palestinian constitution? I don’t mind if some of Rick Perry’s companions along the way are unsavory, so long as there are others along side him who can help him hew a middle course. John Hagee’s political views are so far afield that they are rejected by even a majority of Israelis - and have done serious damage to the Christian community in Israel and Palestine. The American Family Association has so narrowly defined family as to threaten a “nuclear option” for those loving, stable families that fall outside their parameters of what passes for the “nuclear” family. Are there others walking along side Perry and other similar politicians who can be the Micaiah ben Imlahs of today (cf. I Kings 22!) - prophets who are not “yes men or women” but who can point to those universal truths that bind all humankind, truths not unlike those spoken by the prophet Micah long ago: justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8).
I will, indeed, be watching the type of folks with whom our political candidates go out for a stroll. I hope the company will be as diverse as that portrayed in the iconic photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr’s civil rights marches - different races, different religions, different politics, but all seeking the common good. Or that of the current “Arab street.” That’s a religious law I can live with.
Max Carter | Jul 13, 2011 1:44 PM