Recently, an estimated 30,000 people turned out in Texas for a Houston prayer meeting billed as “The Response” to the “moral decline” of this country by its main promoter, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Of course, Perry was really more concerned about boosting his chances of winning the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election rather than anyone’s moral status.
Not that he doesn’t spout a lot of rhetoric about moral depravity and the decline in America. It’s a nice topic and sure to generate some support. After all, who is in favor of being morally depraved?
On the other hand, Perry might consider some historical perspective before stepping off the deep end on this issue. Just for starters, Americans increasingly are moving away from religion – specifically Christianity. A study of people who call themselves Born Again found steep declines in church attendance and Bible reading since 1991. The Barna Research Group’s 2011 report noted that “In the past decade, even the proportion of born-again adults who say their faith is vitally important to them has dipped substantially.”
In those less religiously committed, the decline is more obvious. “The American church is in crisis,” reported author David Olson, who studied attendance at more than 200,000 American churches for his recent book.
Then, too, Perry has aligned himself with the American Family Association, which was founded back in the 1970s to promote self-identified family values. Radio host Bryan Fischer is the organization’s chief spokesman, and he’s on record for such comments as “Hitler himself was an active homosexual” and hired gays because “homosexual soldiers basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after.”
That’s not true. Germany had already outlawed homosexuality prior to Hitler becoming chancellor in 1933. The Fuehrer then ratcheted up the opposition. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 homosexuals went to concentration camps to be castrated, experimented on and, usually, brutally murdered. Another 50,000 men were arrested under the anti-gay law. Ernst Röhm, the gay leader of Hitler’s first group of thugs, was murdered.
Hitler’s sex life has been studied; at best, he was not interested. His first love committed suicide. He married his long-time girlfriend on the day he shot himself.
More importantly, Americans have become increasingly tolerant of gays. A May 2011 study, for example, found that 53 percent of Americans now favor gay marriages.
Any ant-gay approach is simply going to alienate the majority of voters.
Then, too, Fischer has attacked Muslims. “The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security. Devout Muslims, who accept the teachings of the Prophet as divinely inspired, believe it is their duty to kill infidels,” he wrote.
Wrong again. In fact, the Koran specifically identifies Christians and Jews as “people of the book” who should not be harmed. For centuries, representatives of all three religions lived and worked peacefully in Islamic countries. That was not true in the Christian West, where Jews and Muslims were persecuted. When tired of that, Catholics and Protestants turned on each other.
Sadly, such efforts by Perry, Fischer and other Republican candidates to pander to the far right have occurred in past and will again in the future. They speak for a small, but vocally group convinced that their religion needs to be defended by demonizing those who disagree.
It’s a time-honored tradition. The Roman Catholic Church successfully practiced that approach for centuries, calling opponents heretics and inviting true believers to kill them. The Church even invented the concept of heresies. Romans and Greeks recognized the existence of other religions, but not the Church.
If there’s an irony to this, it lies with Christian teachings. An all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God certainly can’t need to have his henchmen on Earth kill those who disagree. As the great sage Gamaliel in the New Testament noted when halting attacks on early Christians: “For if … this work be of men, it will come to nothing: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 38-39)
That is equally a valid comment today, regarding people’s acceptance of non-conservative philosophies. Let God handle it. When people do, they invariably violate Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and civil rights, creating their own moral cesspool and activating a different kind of response.
Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.