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A Response to ‘the Response’

What do Texas Governor Rick Perry, Fred Phelps, and the American Family Association have in common?
By Nancy Ford

There’s lots of talk about prayer these days—what it can do, what it should do, and what we need to be praying for.

Regardless of our individual belief systems, we should all be thanking God that the story about presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her not-gay husband’s reparative therapy clinic for homos has come out, so to speak, for proper scrutiny. Now let’s pray that none of the Bachmanns’ more than two dozen foster children are gay.

Locally, we have bigger fish to fry. “The Response”a big, Christian prayerfestis scheduled August 6 at Reliant Stadium. Organizers officially call it “a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America.” Our country is in crisis not only in terms of America’s politics, finances, and morality, the site explains, but also “because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles. According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene.”

God and I have an arrangement. God doesn’t speak for me, and I don’t speak for Her. We do speak to one another, though. Frequently. Granted, I do most of the talking. Over the years, my prayers have ranged from “Oh God, please make Mommy better,” to “Oh God, get me through this traffic,” to the plain, no-frills “Oh God!” usually uttered in consternation after my TV’s remote accidentally lands on Fox News.

Yes, I appreciate acts of faith. Praying is good. But maybe the Almighty would like to hear from us without being asked to fix something. Maybe someday Jesus would like to chat about the weather without being asked to alter it. Maybe just once He’d like to hear: “Dear Jesus—Settle a bet: What does the H stand for?”

That little separation-of-church-and-state constitutional gnat aside, The Response’s chief spokesperson/model is Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has issued his own invitation to the godly gathering: “As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.” After quoting Old Testament scripture, Gov. Perry then caps his invitation with: “There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.”

I know. It’s like he’s begging for a nasty punch line.

Gov. Perry has already directed Texans to pray for rain to alleviate our region’s End Times-level drought. But has he considered that this drought could be punishment from a vengeful God for his refusal to outlaw texting while driving? Or maybe for his mandatory-sonograms-for-women-seeking-abortions thing?

Or maybe God has decided to dry up Texas because our governor, via The Response, has aligned himself with some of the most notorious antigay, anti-American hate groups ever to trod Lone Star soil. Fred Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church clan is coming to The Response, which is itself the brainchild of the American Family Association which has handpicked Perry as its conservative candidate of choice for the 2012 presidential election. AFA, according to Time magazine, has also picked up the $1.6 million tab for Perry’s Prayerapalooza.

You already know about the Phelps family from their ubiquitous Day-Glo “God Hates Fags” signs. But did you know that just this past June, AFA’s Director of Analysis for Government and Policy, Bryan Fischer, shared his beliefs about gay equality?: “Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.”

Granted, like the Nazis, we gays love a parade. But that assessment is a little harsh, even coming from the AFA.

Gov. Perry himself had this to say about homosexuality: “There is still a land of opportunity, friends—it’s called Texas…. Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Well, yes, I would. God willing.

In addition to praying, The Response team encourages participants to fast that day. But despite Texas’s state-champ obesity medals, going without food isn’t that unusual for many Texans. Austin’s Center for Public Policy Priorities ranks Texas as having the seventh-highest rate of hunger in the nation. More than five percent of Texas households don’t have enough food to eat every single day, which also means five percent of Texans aren’t saying grace. Pray for them.

For those whose fast is going too slowly, food vendors will be onsite at The Response. I recommend the “What a Friend We Have in Cheeses” burger. For vegetarians, try the … Oh, wait. Vegetarian Responders are likely few and far between.

The beautiful thing about prayer is that, like parkour, you can do it anywhere. You don’t have to be in a stadium, or even a former stadium, to engage in it. On August 6, while those AFA’ers and Phelpsians are praying for the deliverance of this great nation from its current hell-in-a–handbasket trajectory (read: Obama), I’ll be praying from a private, Cheney-esque undisclosed location:

Merciful God, please open the eyes of voters in our state and beyond as we approach this election season, and deliver our nation from another Texas governor with presidential aspirations. Also Lord, while you’re at it, please deliver Michele Bachmann from her migraine headaches, a dangerous, unnatural condition which, I believe, can indeed be prayed away.

And one more thing: Rachel Maddow might be coming to town to cover The Response. While she’s here, Lord, please deliver her to me. Amen!



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