Perry’s Religious War

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 8 2011 @ 1:58pm

The ad is contemptible in many ways, and particularly dismaying when Perry's staff include people like Liz Mair and Tony Fabrizio, who have long-standing outreach to the gay community. It's the kind of ad that lingers with you and creates short shudders of response for a day after you are exposed to it. Let's unpack it a little:

"I'm not ashamed to call myself a Christian …"

Can someone tell me, outside a few hostile enclaves on the intolerant left, where in America people feel pressured not to call themselves Christians? What you have here is classic – and imagined – victimology. This is a particularly Christianist, rather than Christian, position. Historically, Christians have embraced marginalization, even persecution, as a sign of their unworldly priorities. The martyrs were celebrated because they were targets of the state. Ditto the Puritans who took their isolation in English society as a sign of their godliness. If hostility to Christians is expressed, Jesus had an obvious recommendation: embrace the hostility, love your enemies, be utterly unconcerned with worldly power, because the most important things are beyond that. Contrast that with Christianism's neurotic desperation to be vindicated and affirmed in the public square, for fear that without such public support, faith could wither. The truth is: this kind of tribal victimology is really a leftist import that is profoundly alien both to conservatism properly understood and to the message of the Gospels.

Then we get a classic non-sequitur: the notion that allowing openly gay servicemembers to serve without fear of prosecution is somehow connected to the constitutional prohibition of prayer in schools. There is zero connection between the two issues – except both are objected to by Christianist fundamentalists. And in the interview above, we get the simply insane notion that president Obama, a serious and thoughtful Christian, has a war against religion as a whole (does that include Islam, I wonder?). Blitzer rightly points out the nuttiness of this assertion. What's nuttier is that Perry equates religious freedom with government subsidies! Yes, we have a right-wing Republican arguing that not funding religious groups with tax payers' money is somehow a war on religion. That is, in fact, the inverse of the First Amendment.

TNC focuses on the resentment underneath:

Look — There are the Muslims in Congress. And there are the Latinos in the Unions. And there are gays shooting guns in Iraq. And there are women dying in Iraq. And there are black ladies marrying white men. And there are black men marrying white ladies. And their children are Muslims. And their children are in the White House. And for the first time in American history, it appears that you will have to fight to not end up on the bottom. Damn. Things just ain't the same for gangsters.