Sunday, August 7, 2011

God and Texas Hold'Em

Said the rainmaker to the people, 'Tell me what you are prepared to pay. . . '
Said the rainmaker to the people, '. . .and I'll conjure up a rainy day.'
                                                                           - Harry Nilsson, "The Rainmaker"

I just spent two solid weeks in Kansas, and the bank thermometers were hitting thermal jackpots like a drunk in a casino. It's been a hot summer so far.

(Thought he might need that overcoat.)

The air conditioner in my 16-year old pickup barely makes a dent in the sweltering prairie heat - I don't see there's much to be done except get an air-conditioned motel room and cool down between hurried sorties into the blistering countryside. But I'm only one man, a private citizen at that. I don't have much to say about the weather and so I try not to talk about it (present instance excepted, naturally, and I hope forgiven as well).

No, I'm no Guvuner Rick Perry. Perry is the current guvuner of Texas who on Saturday last, with true Texan brio, overlooked the Constitution's separation clause just long enough to convene some 30,000 fellow evangelicals from around the nation in Houston for a good old "inclusive" state-sponsored prayer rally. "The Response," as he dubbed it, was intended as a sort of rain dance in which participants get to ask God for stuff they need or think other people need (like rain, or that "wisdom" be granted to President Obama, who definitely stands in need of some but couldn't make it to Houston). Houston, for the day, was hallowed ground.

Rick among the New Apostles

It was the ultimate Glenn Beck Moment - in fact, Perry may have out-Glenned the Beck. The Houston Chronicle reported "a day of singing, praying, praising and — for some — fasting." Fasting is, like deer hunting, something evangelicals consider a divinely sanctioned blood sport, though the Chronicle reporter conceded that "Long lines besieged concession stands throughout the day." (Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, you can count on long, well-upholstered lines at the concession stands - the link between hot soup and evangelical fervor is an historic one.)

  "SevenEleven corn dogs - only way we can get 'em in here."

According to one news source, "The event was Perry's idea but was financed by the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based group that opposes abortion and gay rights and believes that the First Amendment freedom of religion applies only to Christians." (Surprising they'd fork over their good money after Perry as much as said that the State of New York is within the law to grant resident gays the right to marry.)

In his harangue, Perry conceded to the Almighty that, "as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that we cry out for your forgiveness." It was so Glenn, a jeremiad against our national waywardness. So Old Testament for all of that . . . I had an image of Peter Lorre in "Casablanca," chased by Nazi goons into Humphrey Bogart's bar, pleading piteously, "Rick, Rick - save me, Rick!"

The Golden Calf (another bad idea)

Oh, well. When you can't figure out what to do about the weather and the drought and the national economy, and you can't plausibly blame the President's political party for all of it, and you don't believe that expertise may be the first step in looking for a solution, then it can appear that the only recourse is either a willful ignorance, prayer, lethal injection or any combination. 

Personally I'm not aware of any transgressions that I need to answer for, but Perry may be a wiser man than I - after all, anyone who thinks that God is the sort of thing to which personal petitions and grocery lists can be addressed probably is also the sort of brash fellow who approaches God like he would approach some poor sod he's caught cheating at Texas hold'em - someone, in other words, who is likely to do whatever he's asked.

"Paint my house."

The Chronicle reporter further remarked that "the seven-hour event resembled nothing more than a boisterous Sunday-morning worship service at evangelical churches across the nation. The prayers were long and heartfelt, the remarks earnest, and the music - gospel and Christian rock - inspired rapturous frenzies of arm-waving, swaying and singing along."

For my part, 30,000 people swaying and arm-waving to Christian rock should be penance enough to satisfy a lust for adulation in even the most monstrous of deities. Taken altogether, the day sounds so . . .  tribal.

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