Gov. Rick Perry, hypocrite

August 17, 2011

New presidential-nomination candidate Rick Perry wears his religion on his sleeve, and as a churchgoing Christian, that’s fine with me. But if you’re going to boast of your faith, brace for being seen through that lens. Jesus often denounced “scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites,” a group he called “blind fools.” That is not good news for Perry — who seems a capital-H Hypocrite.

Consider the large prayer rally Perry led this month at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The Texas governor took considerable bashing from the media elite over this event, pundits wringing their hands about separation of church and state. There was no Constitutional problem. The First Amendment bars government from mandating religion, but does not require that government officials shun faith. A recent federal court decision, sanctioning presidential statements that encourage voluntary prayer, makes that clear. As a Christian, I hope the Houston rally brought sinners to grace.

Though fine in Constitutional terms, Perry’s ostentatious public prayer was hypocritical in terms of scripture. Jesus taught, at Matthew 6:5: “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in synagogues and at the street corners, so they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Standing in front of his own image on a gigantic Big Brother video screen in a football stadium, Perry surely was praying for the purpose of being seen by others, a behavior Jesus condemned.  “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them,” Christ also taught. Jesus was disgusted by self-flattering public displays of being holier-than-thou – exactly what Perry, hypocritically, did to help launch his campaign.

To top it off, Perry told the Houston rally, “God is wise enough not to be affiliated with any political party.” Boasting of his obedience to God, Perry said this just before declaring for leadership of a political party.

Perry is further hypocritical by spending taxpayers’ money lavishly on himself, while cutting school budgets, health care appropriations and other spending essential to the average people whom Jesus loved.

For several years, Perry has been traveling around Texas, and sometimes overseas, surrounded by a phalanx of Texas state troopers. The bodyguards are not present for security — a local police officer could handle that role. They’re present to make Perry seem more important, as if a visiting head of state. When Perry attended the Indianapolis 500 in 2010, for example, he brought eight state troopers with him at Texas taxpayer expense — to make him seem important, plus allow him to double-park and cut to the front of lines. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a humble man, had no bodyguards at the Indianapolis 500. Perry, a man who thinks “government waste” is spending on other people, strutted around surrounded by guards.

Texas newspapers have been filing the state’s equivalent of Freedom of Information requests, asking how much Perry spends on self-glorification. Two months ago, Perry snuck through the state legislature a rider that prohibits the Texas Department of Public Safety from revealing how much it spends on bodyguards for Perry and his wife on their personal trips. The prohibition lasts until 2013 — that is, till after the 2012 presidential election — and is transparently intended to prevent voters from knowing how much money Perry is hypocritically spending on himself. Not long after enacting a government-secrecy rule to protect his own appropriations, Perry called for “substantial cuts in government spending.”

More Perry hypocrisy involves him taking pay for no work. He’s gallivanting around the nation campaigning for the Republican nomination. Yet he has not taken an unpaid leave of absence from the governorship. Perry continues to draw his $150,000 taxpayer-funded salary, even as he spends his time outside Texas, promoting himself.

If you told your employer, “I won’t do my job for months as I travel to promote myself, but expect full pay the entire time,” you’d be laughed at. As chief executive of the state, Perry can take advantage of his position by paying himself to be absent. Government employees taking advantage of the taxpayer is exactly the sort of thing Perry fulminates against — unless he’s the one doing it

A public official spending his or her time campaigning for a higher office can’t possibly be giving taxpayers their money’s worth regarding present duties. The Texas public-school and public-university systems both are seriously messed up, for example. Yet Perry is shirking his duty to try to fix them, as he gallivants across the country engaged in personal self-promotion.

Some have advocated “resign-to-run” laws, which would require a public official who declares for a higher office to resign his or her present office. One former supporter of resign-to-run laws is Rick Perry. In 1989, he introduced an amendment to the Texas constitution that would have imposed “automatic resignation” on a Texas governor who declares for any national office.

Now Perry is doing what he said others should not do. The word for this sort of thing begins with the letter H. So far, hypocrisy is the defining element of the Perry campaign.

Photo: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks during “The Response,” an event billed as a call to prayer for the nation in crisis, at Reliant Stadium in Houston August 6, 2011. REUTERS/Richard Carson

13 comments

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Great points you make Gregg.

Someone should also ask of him what the disciples asked of Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay tribute [i.e., 'taxes'] unto Caesar?” How did Jesus respond and [more importantly] what action did he take?

We as professed Christians know the answer to those questions.

We all should know ‘whose inscription’ is on the US dollar (‘Property of the United States Government’ and, the phrase ‘promissory note’ meaning ‘loan’, which is the same thing as a credit card).

I believe that if Jesus were to walk down Wall Street today he’d literally ‘turn the tables’ on them.

Also, consider Jesus telling the parable of Lazarus versus the rich man.

Posted by JesseJames | Report as abusive

Hate to burst your bubble, but God (a/k/a Christ) is also a hypocrite. Wasn’t is He who told us to love our enemies, yet condemned all his own enemies to the eternal torment of Hell? Wasn’t it He who, as you say, condemned the ones who pray ostentatiously, yet ostentatiously led his disciples in prayer, and made an ostentatious entrance into the city? “Look at me! Look at Me! I am the Christ! I am God almighty!”… Give me a break.

Posted by MortimerS | Report as abusive

It is so refreshing to read “faith” expressed as commitment to moral integrity instead of being driven by expedience. The twisting of Christianity by political figures in the US is no less troubling than the twisting of the Koran by Islamic extremists – and no less dangerous to a civil society.
I applaud your courage.

Posted by StephanGregor | Report as abusive

Amen.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

In the synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke — Jesus is a modest, humble man who tells his disciples not to use the word Messiah. In the fourth Gospel, John, Jesus is high and mighty, plus described as pre-existently divine. which version is correct? beats me. Obviously, I like the synoptic Gospels.

Posted by Gregg Easterbrook | Report as abusive

“The twisting of Christianity by political figures in the US is no less troubling than the twisting of the Koran by Islamic extremists – and no less dangerous to a civil society.”

C’mon, StephanGregor, your flawed analogy evokes yet another capital-H word – Hyperbole.

Gov. Rick Perry and other opportunistic politicians may indeed twist Christianity; but, unlike Islamic extremists, they are not hell-bent on bombing, maiming, and killing the “civil society” of Israel and its allies including the U.S.

American political history suggests nothing new or dangerous about the antics of Rick Perry.

Posted by jca | Report as abusive

@mortimerS – I think the Gospel writers meant that Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem on the back of an ass has the opposite meaning of a General riding in triumph to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

To the ancient world it could have meant the equivalent of riding in on a bicycle wearing a clown suit and honking a horn, but not quite so Peter Sellers.

He and his followers were staging an anti-triumph and the writers were trying to record anti-hypocrisy. But you have a point about publicity making for strange staging.

If you read the Gospels carefully – he doesn’t usually say he is anything but “one with the Father”. What the statement means is always a wide open question. He was the constant object of other people’s projections. All the political characters at that time claimed divine genealogies.

But unlike politicians – he wasn’t out for improved employment prospects, the perks of position, a secret service attachment for himself and his family, and a nice retirement package. That was left to the followers who just couldn’t leave Caesar out of the picture especially in a world that expected a state sponsored religion and the funding that went with it.

Perry comes from a state where the board that overseas capital punishment appeals is so smug and certain of themselves that they seldom even meet as a body in the same room but phone in (maybe it’s twitter now?) their decisions. Texas has the most active death rows in the country.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

“Enter politician’s name here”, Hypocrite.

Posted by nadie | Report as abusive

“More Perry hypocrisy involves him taking pay for no work. He’s gallivanting around the nation campaigning for the Republican nomination. Yet he has not taken an unpaid leave of absence from the governorship. Perry continues to draw his $150,000 taxpayer-funded salary, even as he spends his time outside Texas, promoting himself.”

Ummm… Obama has been doing this for his whole term, and he’s the President.

Posted by Inertia | Report as abusive

Most modern politicians seem to have to have sex appeal, have to dress to impress and have perfect hair and teeth and they have to have perfect families. And every word out of their mouths has to be approved by someone that passes it all before some hypothetical public (or they used to until Sarah Palin. But she still passes the pretty test. The first ladies all have to have large staffs and wear more cloths than a 19th century heiress in Newport. Eleanor Roosevelt was a homely old girl and knew it. She had horrible teeth and no chin to speak of.

They have the image more or less down cold but the substance is having a hard time keeping up with it.

What happened to baggy, frumpy, disheveled, vulgar, out of sorts, too overweight, too old, but maybe with a genuine sense of humor that they actually write themselves? It looks like all presidents and most of congress before Kennedy would have failed to pass muster today. Lincoln would not have been able to stand the bright lighting and would have scared small children. Grover Cleveland married a woman who could have been his “ward”: fulsome Francis Folsom.

Hillary, Barney Franck, Angela Merkel still look human at least. But only Barney Frank seems to speak off the cuff. Don’t the Republicans have a brilliant troll somewhere who isn’t drunk on national aggrandizement and
closet racism or the new old time religion?

Obama’s got a mole on his nose – but I wont believe it’s the real thing until it’s got hairs growing out of it.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

This sort of politician will always be there for 1/3 of the nation. Another 10% will be attracted toward them but some residual element of reason will stay their hand in the voting booth. They’ll deserve him as their leader but shall be spared. That’s entertainment. Amen.

Posted by Mrmyster | Report as abusive

Re hypocrites: There’s room for one more! (Billy Graham) Our moral decline is behind our finacial and social problems! Secularization of church and state and the macro evolution faith movement are ruining America in a hurry! Church and family are the foudations of society, when you mess with them it all comes crashing down! When one invites hell into your house/state/country, don’t be suprised when all hell breaks loose! Rick’s not perfect by any stretch, but I respect and will vote for Christians most of the time-it’s cheaper and we have a deep moral crisis ONLY GOD can solve!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive

DrJJJJ – I think you stated the most common falsify throughout history.

The biggest problem with your RX for social ills is that not even the people who claim they believe in God can ever seem to agree on what God is or wants. They also don’t quite agree on what a family is either.

Church people can be a very disagreeable bunch and you just can’t be a “hypocrite” without them. Families can be just as disagreeable. And they seem to like it best when they can damn someone else’s God and family. Lebensraum is always a core concern for “families”.

Billy Graham died a few years ago didn’t he? I always thought he was the type who would never have opted for the ass but wanted and got the chariot. And I don’t mean the one that “swings low” but one that has leather bucket seats and AC.

I like a ‘savior” who would ride an ass. He isn’t as grasping as the Perry type.

BTW – I’m on the hunt for Obama’s mole. I never noticed it until minutes before I wrote the last sentence and now that I’m looking for the hairs, it appears or vanishes depending on the photos.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive