I don’t really care if Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s upcoming prayer festival is a big hit or not; hey, whatever gets you through the night, right? But the folks that he’s invited to participate have some interesting interpretations of holy writ, including Oprah being a sign of the Apocalypse, birds dying because of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Statue of Liberty is a pagan idol, and the perennial favorite: Hurricane Katrina was divine retribution for New Orleans being a fun place to visit.
This weekend’s prayer rally is intended to serve as the overture to Mr. Perry’s run for the presidency, which is all well and good because there’s no reason that a person of faith shouldn’t run for office… any more than a person who doesn’t believe in magical sky faeries or Flying Spaghetti Monsters shouldn’t run for office either. After all, the Constitution is clear on the prohibition of a religious test as a qualification for office. And I don’t have a problem with a candidate or an office holder relying on his faith as a part of his daily life in or out of the office.
What I do have a problem with is a governor or a president or a city council member substituting their dogma for reality or proven fact and turning it into law or public policy. You can believe all you want in the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis, but you don’t get to impose that in place of the glaring proof that the universe was not formed 6,000 years ago and that Adam and Eve palled around with triceratops. You do not get to proclaim that being gay — or straight — is a choice because you’re obsessed with other peoples’ sex lives and you can’t get beyond your adolescent fixation with genitalia. You don’t get to assert that some supernatural being has it in for a major American city because too many people are having altogether too good a time at Mardi Gras. You can’t warn the nation about the non-existent threat of the imposition of Sharia law while defending the right to post the Ten Commandments in a court house, and you can’t inform the rest of the world about your stunning lack of irony by condemning Harry Potter for being a harbinger of magic while you’re on your way to Mass to eat a cookie and sip some wine that has been magically transformed into the body and blood of Jesus H. Christ. In short, you can’t project your own psychological shortcomings onto the rest of society and use your religion as the excuse for your behavior.
Certainly a man of faith can run for the presidency and win. We all remember the administrations of Presidents William Jennings Bryan, Pat Robertson, and Mike Huckabee, right? The electorate of America may have its flaws and foibles, but it has so far done well by applying the doctrine of the separation of church and state to candidates as well as the Constitution.