On Faith: My Response to ‘The Response’

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 14, 2011 — 15 Comments

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

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 approach to 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 religious company they keep?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

We would be foolish to ignore how a politician’s religious beliefs, and which religious figures they rely on for support, shapes their policy decisions. It is especially dangerous for religious minorities who have been rhetorical and practical targets of politically active conservative Christian leaders to pretend that people like Rick Perry won’t be beholding to them should he run for, and subsequently become, president. Due to the unique “bully pulpit” power possessed by our Commander in Chief even comments made before a politician becomes president can later be interpreted into policy by his administration. There is a strong indication this happened during the presidency of George W. Bush, who famously remarked in 1999 that “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion, and I wish the military would take another look at this and decide against it.” In this case “it” was allowing Pagan soldiers to freely practice their religion at Fort Hood in Texas, but nearly a decade later the Washington Post reported on a case involving grave markers for fallen Pagan soldiers where Barry Lynn of Americans United said that discovery documents showed “references to Bush’s remarks … in memos and e-mails within the VA.” In Lynn’s opinion “the president’s wishes were interpreted at a pretty high level.” In short, rhetoric, especially when you go on to lead the world’s most powerful nation, does matter, as does the rhetoric of those who have played king-maker during the election.

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • B.C.

    Interesting but lets be honest. It is part and parcel for the followers of some religions to ‘preach’. I certainly get fed up with any pagans who preach as it is not a pre-requisite. Spirituality is not a competition. Anyone who thinks they have THE answer is not remotely spiritual in the true sense of the word. We all find our own path to the light. The point is that many people deal in ‘blind faith’ and they are often the loudest as they are doing what they have been ‘told’ rather than ‘experiencing’ and they bleat about it because they want to sound like they know what they are talking about. If you work at stuff, for example, meditation and pathworking, you will experience the God/Goddess form (in whatever manifestation) but lets not think we are the only ones doing this. There are ‘bleaters’ in all faiths. None of us are that special y’know so lets get over it. B.C.

  • Witchnfl

    The US is no longer the most powerful nation in the world. China now has that place.

    • I just returned home from a 12 day trip to China. One of the best things about the trip for me, was the absence of Christian dogma and churches everywhere. I saw one church during my entire stay. Our guides told us Zen Buddhism is the leading religion, followed by Confucianism, with Catholicism starting to make a mark.

      • That reminds me of my experience of going to Japan about 5 years ago. 🙂

      • Norse Alchemist

        Um, You do realize that the lack of Christian presence in China is due largely in part do to the Extreme religious intolerance in China right?

        • Knowing evangelicals that engaged in proletarization in China, there are ways around that and it doesn’t even slow them down.

  • Phil.

    The “christian” rants we hear coming from America are downright scary, the more rabid, the more right wing. These people wouldn’t know the true meaning of spirituality if it came and hit them between the eyes. This sort of thing has always led to the demonisation of people who they think are different from them, “ungodly” or “sinners”, and not far down the road people end up getting lynched or burned by “God’s elect”. Watch out folks.

    • Wounded and dying beasts are by far the most dangerous, too bad it is hard to stay out of reach of their claws!

  • Brandon

    Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synogogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

    • Brandon

      I got cut off…… Here’s the rest of 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. The your Father, who sees what is done in SECRET, will reward you.”

  • Anonymous

    In the full article you mention David Barton’s notion that “paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses”. He may have a point in the narrow, Western European notion of what constitutes religion but it is at odds with the view of earlier Europeans who were initiating contact with unindustrialized groups in the 16th-19th centuries. Reports of explorers, missionaries, anthropologists, etc. almost invariably contained a section describing the religious beliefs of the group. Animism, polytheism, idolatry, etc. were all considered religions. Europeans also describe the beliefs of early Egyptians that their Pharaoh was a god, and have no problem with considering Greek, Roman, and Norse gods a form of religion. So it should be obvious to anyone who approaches the matter rationally that Rastafarianism, shamanistic, and pagan beliefs qualify as religions. Oh, but wait, I said rationally.

  • Otter873

    I have written my state’s governor asking that he not be pressured to attend this gathering…religion should not be involved in politics… it is the people of the United States who will solve it’s problems…not praying to some deity…

  • To paraphrase many Texans who comment on another news aggregation site: we hope Perry runs for President, then he’ll be neither our Governor nor our President.

    – A Texan [who is glad our Governor isn’t given as much power as other Governors]

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “You simply can’t shake all these hands, accept all these endorsements, and then pretend their views don’t matter. That they won’t be granted access and influence down the road.”

    Spot on.

    Later in your On Faith piece you remark that a responsible press has to ask these questions. But our mainstream media seem to get a rash when religion is part of a story, and scratches it only when they can’t avoid it — eg, when a Catholic bishop tries to get excommunicated a Catholic public official who supports abortion rights (so much for Kennedy’s ideal America). The irregulars, including/especially the blogosphere, need to hold journalistic feet to the fire.

  • The…

    “The,” in the contexts of politicized religious speech coming from a politician in a pluralistic democratic republic, doesn’t fall prey to that old internal and external enemy set up, it aggressively ensures it.