The Enemy Within

Rick Perry said a prayer on Sunday.

After you’ve picked yourselves up off the floor and recovered from your collective shock, you can read the full transcript of it here, or if you are so inclined, you can watch the video here. As is perfectly obvious to everyone who has ever met someone who’s attended a Christian church, Perry’s prayer was standard-fare mainstream evangelicalism – and painstakingly non-partisan. Perry went so far as to say:

“His agenda is not a political agenda, his agenda is a salvation agenda. Brother C.L., you and I have had this conversation. He’s a wise, wise God, and he’s wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party, or for that matter, he’s wise enough to not be affiliated with any man-made institutions. He’s calling all Americans, of all walks of life, to seek him, to return to him, to experience his love and his grace and his acceptance, experience a fulfilled life regardless of the circumstances. I want you to join with me as I share his word with you:”

However, Perry had the audacity to suggest – in keeping with the beliefs of virtually every religious person I know (including non-Christians) – that a nation needs the blessings of God in order to survive and thrive:

Lord, you are the source of every good thing, you are our only hope. And we stand before you today in awe of your power, and in gratitude for your blessings, in humility for our sins. Father our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see angers in the halls of government. And as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.

This innocuous statement provoked some truly idiotic and bigoted responses on twitter from some folks who are regularly given column inches on prominent conservative blogs. Jenn Rubin, token “conservative” at the Washington Post, was really upset that the event was supposed to be inclusive, but Perry used the word “Christ.” Or something. Furthermore, Rubin posited that nobody outside of Texas likes Jesus or people who believe in Jesus, and therefore this was going to hurt Perry on the national stage.

At this point, though, it’s pretty clear that David Brooks is a more reliable barometer of conservative thought than Rubin. Perhaps more disturbing is that bloggers who are regularly given platforms at actual conservative sites went much farther (and stupider) than Rubin.

For instance, Jazz Shaw, regularly seen at Hot Air (advocating for conservative solutions like tax hikes!), opened the bidding with this nugget:

When people pointed out that you would pretty much have to be clueless about Christianity and Christians to interpret anything Perry said in that fashion, Shaw decided to illustrate that he was just as capable of misunderstanding plain English as he was mainstream Christian thought:

I challenged Shaw repeatedly to defend this ludicrous statement and even pointed out that Perry said the exact opposite of his tweet – to date Shaw has shown no inclination of walking back his comments at all. There is only one possible explanation for someone breaking out in hives at the mere mention of God like this – especially in light of Shaw’s clear unwillingness to admit that he had slandered Perry: anti-religious bigotry. Shaw doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to come right out and say that he hates Christians; he just contents himself with casually slandering someone on the basis of an ordinary statement of Christian belief.

On that score, I guess the execrable Doug Mataconis (regularly featured at the formerly conservative Outside the Beltway and also occasionally at Hot Air) deserves points for honesty and candor. At least he can admit he just doesn’t like people talking about God:

Look, you don’t have to be either a Christian or a religious person at all to be a conservative or a Republican. But if you hate Christians and religious people so much that you can’t suppress a reflexive sneer whenever someone is seen in public saying a prayer, this might not really be the movement for you.

Let’s put it this way – if Joe Lieberman were on TV saying a prayer at a Yom Kippur service and a conservative tweeted sarcastically, “Nice Yarmulke, Joe” or “why can’t he keep his Judaism to himself” or “The people of Connecticut elected a Senator, not a Rabbi. #justsayin #incaseyouforgot” he or she would rightly be drummed out of the movement as a bigot. A different standard should not apply to anti-Christian bigots but somehow instead the anti-Christian bigots get invited to write guest pieces at the biggest blogs on the right.

For people who insist that the Republican Party’s primary failing is being sufficiently tolerant, whatever that means, it seems clear this tolerance only runs in one direction: away from the public expressions of faith that our greatest leaders, from Washington to Lincoln to Coolidge to Reagan, have never been afraid to give. And if they truly believe honest public expressions of faith are unacceptable — that you give up the right to express your beliefs publicly the instant you run for office — then when are they going to stop kidding themselves about how intolerant they truly are?