In the Holy Bible, calls for prayer and fasting are frequent responses to dire situations. Yesterday, Texas Governor Rick Perry emulated those Biblical prophets such as Joel in calling for prayer to help address our national crisis. Perry's call for prayer is being directed to a specific event, "The Response," which is to be held in Houston on August 6th.
The web site for The Response explains why this event is needed:
America is in the midst of a historic crisis. We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. The youth of America are in grave peril economically, socially, and, most of all, morally. There are threats emerging within our nation and beyond our borders beyond our power to solve.
In Joel chapter two, an ancient Hebrew prophet speaks to a nation in crisis and gives her God’s solution: gather together, repent of their sins, and pray to God to intervene on their behalf. In that day the command was for everyone to stop what they were doing and gather for a sacred assembly to turn to God with all their hearts, "with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2:12).
(bold is mine)
The event is being funded by the American Family Association, so it is not a burden on the citizens of the state of Texas. Of course this is causing a snit from the gay advocacy groups, who are not fans of the AFA.
Governor Perry's "Response" to this nation's ills - particularly the moral breakdown that is well underway - is precisely what one would expect of a Christian who sees God as the ultimate authority over our world. The believer seeks God for guidance and goes to him in prayer, not just when he is in need, but at all times. But as the book of Joel illustrates, in especially dire times such as these, special appeals through prayer and fasting are appropriate. Governor Perry is promoting exactly what he should be during times of trouble: a plea to God to save his people and have mercy.
Unsurprisingly, those who do not acknowledge God as authority don't think much of the Governor's strategy. Sean Faircloth, of the "Secular Coalition for America" says
"Calling upon all Americans to embrace Perry's personal belief system is an insult to the millions of upstanding citizens who practice religions other than evangelical Christianity, as well as the millions of secular Americans who contribute to society without pushing their views on others," he said. "Religion should be a private matter, especially for elected officials in a secular government."
Apparently Mr. Faircloth fails to see the irony in his "pushing views" of his organization on Governor Perry.
Entering politics does not obligate the public servant to check his/her beliefs at the door. Calls for prayer and fasting have long been used by leaders, including George Washington, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln.
George Washington, in 1775:
This Congress, therefore, considering the present critical, alarming, and calamitious state of these Colonies, do earnestly recommend that,Thursday, the twentieth day of July next, be observed by the inhabitants of all the English Colonies on this Continent, as a day of publick humiliation, fasting and prayer; that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins, and offer up our joint supplications to the allwise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbly beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments with which we are threatened, and to bless our rightful Sovereign, King George the Third, and iuspire him with wisdom to discern and pursue the true interest of all his subjects, that a speedy end may be put to the civil discord between Great Britain and the American Colonies, without further effusion of blood; and that the British Nation may be influenced to regard the things that belong to her peace, before they are hid from her eyes; that these Colonies may be ever under the care and protection of a kind Providence, and be prospered in all their interests; that the divine blessing may descend and rest upon all our civil rulers, and upon the Representatives of the people in the several Assemblies and Conventions, that they may be directed to wise and effectual measures for preserving the union, and securing the just rights and privileges of the Colonies; that virtue and true religion may revive and flourish throughout our land; and that America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven, for the redress of her many grievances, the restoration of her invaded rights, a reconciliation with the Parent state on terms constitutional and honourable to both; and that her civil and religious privileges may be secured to the latest posterity.
Anil it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for publick worship, and to abstain from servile labour and recreation on said day.
From John Adams, in 1789
I HAVE therefore thought it fit to recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens of these states, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming: That all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before GOD the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him, at the same time, of his infinite Grace, through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his holy spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; That it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication, that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate, and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence, and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished, and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages: That the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts and manufactures be blessed and prospered: That the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens; and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion, may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.
And from Abraham Lincoln, in his proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving:
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people; I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, for such singular deliverances and blessings; they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
The examples of national leaders calling out to God for His intercession are many. Gov. Perry is not the first, nor will he be the last. He is a Christian, and calling for prayer is a natural and expected response to a crisis. The fact that Perry is governor of a state that is home to some who do not believe in God is, frankly, irrelevant. He is not asking the citizens to become Christians, nor is he insisting that they believe as he does. He is promoting an event where Christians (and/or others) might go to seek the grace and mercy of God. If they don't believe, they don't have to attend. This is not a mandatory event.
Might Perry's support of The Response impact him politically? Perhaps, although most of those who are upset by Perry's appeal to prayer are most likely not his staunchest supporters to start with. But if the Governor truly believes in the power of prayer and an obligation to seek God in crisis, he shouldn't be concerned about the ramifications. Rick Perry has the right to practice his religion just as any other citizen of this nation, and that should be his priority.
Faith first, politics later.