Friday, December 9, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry & The Myth of A Christian Nation

Unless you've been fasting from your computer the last couple of days, you've already seen this campaign commercial from Republican Presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. If you have been fasting, here it is (and yes...this is real):

As I write this, this YouTube video has received a whopping 484,000 "dislikes" and has been flagged by many (myself included)as being inappropriate.

There are a few things I'd like to address. First of all, when Perry mentions gays, it's as if he's talking about criminals or terrorists serving openly in the military. He does nothing here to hide his disdain for the LGBT community. Give it up Rick, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is history and thankfully so.

Secondly, Rick gets on the soapbox about kids not being able to openly celebrate Christmas or pray in schools. Similarly, I've read several status updates on my Facebook news feed lambasting the use of the term "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings." I must admit that I'm a "Merry Christmas" kind of guy still, even though I am not a Christian as I was for 20-something years. Do I think that kids should be able to celebrate Christmas in their schools? Absolutely. But there should also be adequate teaching of other religious holidays that correspond with the timing of Christmas; Hannukah, Kwanzaa, the Toronto Maple Leafs being out of the playoff race (though they're challenging tradition this year.) And if Gov. Perry wants to bring back prayer in schools, he better set up special rooms for Muslim students to pray in 5 times a day.

Why, Rick? Because, sorry bro, America is not a Christian country. People may still speak about God in the Pledge of Allegiance, when singing God Bless America, or when they look at their dollar bill (In God We Trust, soon to be changed to In China We Trust), but America is not a Christian country.

What's more, it never was. It seems that people like Governor Perry think that America was founded by Christians with strong Christian principles and that it has been on a downward spiral for many years. The only problem is: The United States was founded mainly by, that's right, non-Christians.

Let's take a minute to read about some of America's founding fathers:

Thomas Paine: "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of...Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."

George Washington, the first president of the United States, never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. Washington Championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. When John Murray (a universalist who denied the existence of hell) was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned Washington for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment. On his deathbed, Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance.

John Adams, the second president of the United States: "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!" It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, was a Unitarian, not a Christian. Thomas Jefferson created his own version of the Bible, removing every supernatural act within it. Were a politician to do this today, there would be marches in Washington.

Finally,James Madison, fourth president and father of the Constitution, was not religious in any conventional sense. "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

So the idea that the United States was a Christian country who has been backsliding from the faith for years and needs to be re-claimed is utterly false. There may have been a time when Christianity was the most popular religion in America, but America is changing, just like my country, Canada is changing. America is a country of many faiths, and there's no going back. And while we're at it, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people are here, have been for a long long time, and the time for equality is now.

What are some other people saying about Rick Perry's ad? We have to start at the top. Jesus himself has released a video:

Amber MacArthur wrote in yesterday's Globe and Mail, that, "The Perry video is an open attack on the gay community. He clearly implies that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the military, just on the heels of President Barack Obama's banning of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” As Obama stated in September, “Patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.”

When Perry declares that “there's something wrong when gays can serve openly in the military” he is, per the YouTube guidelines, demeaning a group of people based on their sexual orientation/gender identity. The Pentagon has declared zero tolerance for such discrimination, so perhaps the Google-owned video service should follow suit.

Aside from Perry's offensive political ad, there is a larger life-and-death issue at hand here. Each year there are reports of teens committing suicide, many of whom were publicly bullied about their sexual orientation. It is disheartening to see a grown man, particularly one who aspires to be President of the United States, contributing to such hatred and to speak out against what is a legal right (for gays to serve in the military).

It only takes YouTube a few hours to pull down a video if it features copyright infringement, so maybe it's time for YouTube to take a stand and defend the rights of the gay community, and pull the plug on this discriminatory Rick Perry rant."

In conclusion, this post is not about me being anti-Christian, though I take issue with much of the fundamentalist, evangelical version. There are many Christians who embrace diversity and working with other religions, AND who embrace the LGBT community.

Thankfully, I doubt that Rick Perry will even get the Republican nomination. That will either go to the past-philanderer Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney. I'm placing my bets on Romney to win over Obama, at which point America will be blessed by President Romney and his first lady.

And second lady.

And third lady.

By: Mark Andrew Alward