The matter of religious hypocrisy in American politics predates our union by a few good decades. Benjamin Franklin put the issue into Silence Dogood's inkpot, and the concern was old even then. Something about the openness of America raises the hackles of the closeminded. Those who are first to raise the alarm against any restriction of what they consider their spiritual purview are also the ones who leap to perpetrate such upon others who subscribe to even the slightest variation of dogma or doctrine. Of these characters Christianity owns more than its share, and it was to America that they congregated. Indeed, it can be said that the very nature of the New World attracted the fringiest of the faithful, and to their descendants fell the task of shutting the door behind them.
"Corruption of the best is the worst of all," goes the proverb. Debasing the spiritual with the material, seeking worldly wealth by selling heavenly hopes, this is an American tradition older than Ben Franklin, older than Jonathan Edwards, nearly old as William Bradford himself. In that sense, Governor Rick Perry's apparent acceptance of his divine mandate to run for president has a great deal of precedent. Conversely, his claims of owning the legacy of the founding fathers evaporates as a consequence.
Old timey huckster and new agey Apostle of Christ, C. Peter Wagner, has said that the foundation of the New Apostolic Reformation, a collection of self-anointed saints not particularly differentiated from the usual suspects, was founded in the year of our Lord, 2001. The significance of the year and the symmetry of such a founding, grounded both in the despair emanating from a great wounding in New York City and the optimism of a nation bonded in common purpose, would inevitably draw one's intuition to 9/11 and all the freight it could bear. However, another event more relevant to Texas fundies than the comeuppance rendered to a few thousand liberal elitists all the way across the country might better explain the need for a new crop of Apostles to confront the evils of a world inexplicably unimpressed by podunk pastors like Wagner.
President George W. Bush came galloping right out of obscurity to take the 2000 Republican Primaries by locking up the evangelical vote and courting unsavory characters such as John Hagee, . Bush dominated the primary season and was considered the presumptive nominee prior to the Iowa caucuses as a result of a disciplined campaign strategy and a spectacular lineup of almost every endorsement of consequence in rightwing politics. The parade of Republican politicians lined up to vouch for the Bush campaign was matched on the spiritual side by a motley crew of hardcore fundies who wielded the undeniable clout of the Christian Right with the unfettered freedom characteristic only of children and charlatans.
Having assured their faithful that a vote for Bush was a vote for "God's candidate for America," it must have stung a little bit when Dr. Bunsen Honeydew body double and opposite-day "Genius," Karl "Turdblossom" Rove, let it all slip just shortly after inauguration that the whole devoted-follower-of-Christ schtick Bush put on to rake in the shephards and their sheeple was just more publick hypocrisy. When asked how an unstaffed Office of Faith Based Initiatives could possibly roll out their agenda in the week's time ordered by the White House, Rove reportedly said, "I don't know, just get me a fucking faith based thing. Got it?" You know that got around right quick, and Bush's entire two terms as president proved that his attentions aligned perfectly with his political czar's blunt orders. Corruptio optimi pessima.
This brings us full circle, religious hypocrisy in public figures and the great deal of harm they can wreak upon a nation of believers. Nobody who lived through George W. Bush's era can deny the uncanny silence he enjoyed from the Evangelical community as he cut taxes for the wealthy while simultaneously raiding programs meant to aid the poor. I think it's axiomatic that one can't hold the Bible in one hand and Atlas Shrugged in the other without raising the eyebrows of reasonably conscious people everywhere, and yet President Bush managed just that. While it's unlikely any person capable of sensing irony would ever describe John Hagee and his merry band of plunderers as good, decent people, such a thing can probably be said of their followers. Whatever else can be said of such people who would follow men like Hagee and Wagner, they do subscribe, at least nominally, to the teachings of the son of man. "They [took] him for a Saint, and pass[ed] him for one, without considering that they [were] (as it were) the Instruments of publick Mischief out of Conscince, and ruin[ed] their Country for God's sake."
Enter Rick Perry and his unambiguous intent to replay George W. Bush's run for the Republican nomination, point for point. Perry is the politician Turdblossom would have been, had he the charisma and even a vaguely non-Muppetish appearance to present to the world. As Perry rolls over the rest of the Republican field by announcing on the same day as the Ames Straw Poll, the unpacking of his campaign will likely follow in a similar arc to George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, as he locks up the Christian Right that's beyond Mitt Romney, unimpressed with Tim Pawlenty, wary of Michelle Bachmann, and only too familiar with Newt Gingrich. If the rumors of his intentions are accurate, Perry will be the Republican nominee, and he'll win that dubious distinction by following in the footsteps of the last "publick Hypocrite" to sit in the Oval Office, by locking up the twin endorsements of establishment Republicans and the fringiest of the faithful. It seems the shephards and their sheeple learned nothing from the last fucking faith based thing they supported, and so we're set to repeat 2000 all over again.
Corruption of the best is the worst of all.