Inside the Christian Republic of Texas: Impressions from Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally
On the 66th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, a few hours after a downgrade of the US credit rating, a train filled with pastors and protestors went one stop past a station decorated with images of dragon curves and embryogenesis to a prayer rally organized by a governor who appoints creationists to head the State Board of Education. Upon arriving at the monolithic football stadium, the passengers were greeted with a plane towing a banner, paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, asking The Governor to keep church and state separate. As one passenger, a Middle-aged Man from Kingwood who said he occasionally attends the most mega of Mega Churches, left the station and walked toward the stadium he commented that the governor wasn’t there as The Governor but “as a private citizen.” He conveniently ignored how The Governor used “his office’s prestige, letterhead, Web site and other resources to promote” the event. Another passenger, an attractive woman in her late 30s or early 40s wearing a yellow shirt emblazoned with the City’s seal on the front and the word Chaplain on the back, prostelytized about the “Gospel of Grace,” the idea that everyone who believes in Jesus goes to heaven, to those trekking in the triple digit temperatures.
When asked about the Prosperity Gospel, the idea that Jesus wants his followers to be rich, the Chaplain laughed.
“Nowhere in the Bible does it say to take a vow of poverty,” said the Chaplain. She went on to say how she counseled someone who had taken a vow of poverty. “I told him that was stupid. I said ‘Jesus wants us to help people and the poor can’t help anyone and the middle class can’t help a lot of people.”
“Jesus was probably rich. He had all those disciples.”said the Middle-aged Man.
“The one who betrayed him, what was his name?” asked the Chaplain
“Judas,” said the Middle-aged Man.
“Yea, Judas. He was their treasurer,” said the Chaplain. “The vow of poverty isn’t Biblical it’s religious.”
“It was created by the Catholics,” said the Middle-aged Man.
Neither the Chaplain or the Middle-aged Man seemed to be familiar with the Book of Matthew, where Jesus discusses being homeless, describes wealth as “thorns that choke the word of God,” tells a rich young man to sell all of his possessions and follow the Lord, and famously says “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven.” But the Chaplain and the Middle-aged Man weren’t the only ones who seemed not to have read parts of the book.
Across from the stadium a man holding a sign commanding everyone to “Trust Jesus” condemns a man wearing a sandwich board proclaiming Jesus a fictional character to burn in eternal hellfire while inside a man who called a TV show host the anti-christ takes up the gauntlet of Corporate Repentance, one of the four main prayer segments of the rally, and begs God to “judge the economy, judge the marketplace [and] judge the media.” A male TV reporter applies his make-up while hundreds of fasting rally goers queue up in front of the concession stand. The soft-rock praise band comes in creating a spoken word/jazz fusion. Ministers and singers come in and out like rappers dropping guest verses; the audio is modulated and manipulated by the stadium’s cavernous interior. Only bits and pieces can be deciphered. The phrase “if the church has fallen it’s the pulpit’s fault,” bounces off a column. Moments later a young woman prays that Jesus “help us end abortion and create a culture of life in this country.” The band follows her up with a Jacuzzi jazz joint about abortion.
Outside two men patched with Hardcore Bikers for Christ colors stand on the third story ramp smoking cigarettes and smirking at the 45 or 50 protestors. “We’ve got more people taking a break than they do in their entire mission,” says one before flicking his cigarette. His reverie is interrupted by punctuated shouts coming up from the protests. “I’m Joshua and I’m an addict,” says the curly haired guy in his mid 20s with the microphone. He goes on to say”We’re better than the people inside because we let the Christians speak even if they’re wrong.” Joshua then begins an extemporaneous harangue of all those inside the stadium.
As Joshua is in the middle of accusing a 67-year-old grandmother who drove down from Killeen with her 10 and 12-year-old granddaughters of destroying the planet by fracking for natural gas, increasing offshore oil drilling, executing innocent people and supporting hate by stopping the spread of GLBT rights; the Hardcore Bikers for Christ saunter off down the ramp. A boyish looking blonde haired kid prancing around the protest in a Santa costume attracts the attention of a mid-40s buxom blonde woman standing on the ramp. She blows him a kiss, he rubs his nipples. She turns away blushing. Joshua thinks this is the greatest thing ever. “I love you all. Jesus loves you. I love Santa rubbing his nipples,” he says.
Joshua passes off the microphone to a mousy looking woman in her early to mid 20s who describes how her parents, both retired veterans, have to work at Wal-Mart because they lost their pensions. She tries to describe the difficulty she faces trying to get financial aid to go to college, but her story of hardship and the disappearing middle class dream is drowned out by the throaty rumble of a heavily modified Harley Davidson as the Hardocre Bikers for Christ roll up to the intersection. They rev their engines, waiting for the light to change; the protestors stand dumbfounded, those on the ramp snicker, while inside a man who leads a group that thinks gay people “want to recognize pedophiles as the prophets of a new sexual order” says that we must turn everything over to God because “there is no human remedy to the problems we face as a nation.”