Rick Perry only just announced his presidential run Saturday, but out here in the blue-blue City of Angels I am already detecting severe signs of PDS — Perry Derangement Syndrome.
Usually it goes like this: Okay, the economy is a little better in Texas than it is here (of course that’s the oil companies), but why does he have to be sooooo religious? What’s with all this Christ business all the time?
Most of this comes from liberal christians and jews (lower case deliberate) for whom public displays of faith are considered vulgar, even suspect. An Elmer Gantry lurks around every corner.
For the jews…okay Jews (I made my point)… their age-old knee-jerk response to evangelicals is heavily at play. This attitude is so outdated as to be laughable, but it is so ingrained in their psyches that these Jews have lost the ability to distinguish between friends and enemies. Even a cursory Google search reveals that Rick Perry is one of the greatest supporters of Israel ever to run for high office in this country. Of course, it’s quite possible that many of these Jews don’t care about that. But they should.
Nevertheless, who am I to talk? As the title of this essay indicates, I am an agnostic.
That may be one of the few things I share with the incumbent president since it’s hard to believe that he is even remotely devout. Recent liberal Democrats, Clinton and Obama, have a kind of wink-wink relationship with religion, largely attending church for political purposes. This is particularly true of Obama who, as we all know, rarely attends now, but spent two decades in the fold of the execrable race-hustler Jeremiah Wright, a man who would make Elmer Gantry blush. If his allegiance to the reverend wasn’t for political purposes, what was it? Let’s hope it was anyway. If he looked to Wright for spiritual guidance, Obama is suffering from some kind of delusional psychosis.
So what this agnostic observes is a general atmosphere of religious phoniness — a baseline hypocrisy — on the liberal side and what is often genuine religious faith on the conservative side. (Not all, of course. A number of libertarians are agnostic.).
Frankly, I prefer honesty. So I respect Perry for his faith. And, again as we all know, this country was founded on bedrock principles of religious tolerance, which some modern liberals tend to forget includes people who actually believe in God. Personally, I admire Perry’s belief, even envy it to some extent, because I am reaching the point in life at which I would be delighted if someone could convince me of an afterlife.
Not that I agree with the Texas governor on all issues. I don’t. On the social issues, notably on marriage, I am quite libertarian. Like my friend Ed Morrissey, I would like to see government out of the marriage business entirely. But I don’t expect that to happen soon. It’s for another day.
Which leads me to why this agnostic — and I hope other agnostics of various stripes — could and should support Perry.
We live in a time when the economy trumps all other considerations by a staggering amount. The global financial system is on life support, teetering on the brink of depression, if not already over it. This has placed our country in a weaker state than any time since World War II, endangering world peace and encouraging a wave of despotism unseen since the rise of the Soviet Union and in many ways identical to it, except that it is motivated by jihadism rather than by communism.
Can a single human being solve this? Unlikely. He or she will need a lot of help. But we are in dire need of leadership, not of the policy wonk kind — God knows we’ve had a lot of that — but of the moral and inspirational kind. We need someone to call forth the best in America the way Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s. We need someone unafraid to speak for the democratic values of Western civilization and to fight for them economically and politically as well as militarily, if that is necessary.
The incumbent president has proven to be none of those things. He is at best ambivalent about our values and at worst an enemy of them. Rick Perry is the reverse. I had the pleasure of having dinner with him in Austin well over a year ago and could see it almost immediately. Call him a cowboy, call him a Christer, but this man is a passionate American and a passionate American is exactly what we need right now. And that kind of person, I am sad to admit, is unlikely to come from the ranks of the agnostic and the secular. It will come from the ranks of the religious, those who have faith. That’s just the way it is now.
But I will try to reassure my fellow agnostics with this. We are not nearly as far from religious people as we think. Though we may brood on the timing and veracity of the Big Bang, speculate on Einstein’s unified field theory (if we can understand it), debate St. Anselm in our heads or just throw up our hands and say the whole question is above our job description, when it comes to the way we actually live, our values, most of us do just as our religious brothers and sisters do. Like them we are products of the Judeo-Christian tradition and we live by the Ten Commandments — or try to.
So ease off on the PDS and don’t be scared of Rick Perry. If someone’s wearing their faith on their sleeve, maybe that’s a good thing.