It's easy to say that Rick Perry is a right-wing religious bigot...and I'm not arguing that position...but it's not that simple, either. Perry's understanding of his putative religion--which is some form of Christianity, he thinks, is...um...shaky. On some of the standards of Christian religious conservatives (gays are evil, abortion is evil, evolution is just an evil theory, this is a Christian nation--with "Christian narrowly defined" [by their definition I'm not], there's nothing in the Constitution about separation of church and state, etc.) he fits right in. But not all the right-wing Christians are Dominionists who want to see Armageddon 'cause they think they'll end up among the righteous and in power.
Take for example his fairly well-known statement about the BP oil spill "From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented." Even for right-wing conservative evangelicals, "acts of God" used to be confined to major natural disasters: hurricanes, tornados, floods, forest fires started by lightning (not people), blizzards, earthquakes. Things humans could not possibly have caused, in other words. God might send a natural disaster as punishment, but anything clearly connected with human activity wasn't an act of God...it was an act of Human, and the humans involved (not being God) could be held responsible. But Perry put the blame (though he didn't call it blame) on God Hisownself for BP's problem. Nobody could have prevented it because God Hisownself wanted that busted fitting and that leak to occur. And it just "occurred." That kind of thinking (if a person makes a mistake it's really God...and of course God can't be blamed for anything) reminds me of a bad doctor we went to one time, who made a serious diagnostic mistake with repercussions for the rest of our lives, and then tried to pass off said results as "God's will." Um...no.
As one of those much-despised (by the religious right) liberal Christians I find this disrespect of Perry's deity rather disturbing. As a little kid I learned that appeals to Deity to cover up my blunders were not OK. "God made me drop the glass that broke" or "God made the ball hit the window" did not fly. Even "Well, God made me this way, so I when I make mistakes, it's really God's fault for making me weak/clumsy/greedy/ less than a genius," where I clearly and carefully traced responsibility back to God, didn't work. Though the terms hadn't been invented yet (I don't think), there was a clear boundary (in modern psych terms) between child-who-broke-the-glass and God-who-made-the-child, and child-who-broke-the-glass was the one responsible for shards of glass and spilled milk on the floor. Here's the cleaning stuff: get busy.
A major part of the ethical training I got was aimed at convincing me that if I messed up, it was actually my fault. My responsibility. And as a parent, I spent many, many hours working with our kid (autistic, so making sure he understood was even more difficult) on the same territory. If you break it--admit it. Then clean up the mess. Don't blame the glass for falling; don't blame another person; don't blame (in the ultimate line of causation) God. You dropped it...admit it, clean it up, and go on from there. There can be disagreements (within a family, within a culture) about what things are mistakes or wrong, but clear thinking leads to connecting the person who actually did X with the responsibility for X.
Perry's religious statements have "evolved" through his contact with religious right funding sources...unless he's been concealing his real beliefs all along which--given his penchant for not exactly telling the truth, but instead the version that will appeal to the people from whom he wants money or votes--is possible. But there's been a pattern of not making that vital connection between who did X and putting the responsibility for it on the right person.
This ties into his refusal to consider the evidence in the matter of the death penalty, for instance. Although he has the authority to issue a stay of execution, he has expressed faith in law enforcement and prosecutors, so that he himself is not really responsible if an innocent man is executed. (Though he will bend considerable effort to prevent the evidence for such mistakes from coming out, as in the Willingham case.) His recent (unfortunately successful) effort to hide the cost of his special protection unit from Texas taxpayers (until after the 2012 election) after some embarrassing revelations about what we Texans paid for (scuba gear for his guards on a trip to Greece???) suggests that he's actually aware when he's doing something wrong, but he wants to evade responsibility for it.
Now many, if not most, right-wing religious folk don't really approve of secrecy to cover up wrongdoing (though, being as human as liberal Christians, they also sin and some of them hide it.) They say that confessions are good for the soul, that people should be "held accountable" and be "convicted of their sin." I know churches in which people are publicly and specifically shamed in the church for something someone thinks they did wrong. I know lots of right-wing religious folk (live among them) who get really angry about political dishonesty, about lack of accountability, wasting taxpayers' money, etc.
But...they voted for Perry. Who is as secretive and sneaky about how tax money gets into his hands and the hands of his major contributors as any of the supposedly unrighteous. That fundamental ethical base--that what you do, the choices you make, are your responsibility--and you can't evade that responsibility by pointing at someone else or God Hisownself--seems not to exist in Perry. (And doesn't really exist where theology isn't pretty darn stringent on the topic. Evasion of blame is a human characteristic that only hard work--by parents and then by individuals--grinds down. Groups that blame women for men's sexual behavior, for instance...that make women responsible for men's behavior, and give men power over women because of that initial false reasoning...wrong from the root.)
Sneaking back over to Christian Scripture: Jesus commanded a lot of things Perry doesn't do (such as "not making a show of your religion", feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, providing drink to the thirsty, visitng the sick and prisoners.) Jesus championed the poor, the sad, the sick, and the powerless against the rich, the comfortable and smug. Perry...has diverted money from social services to his supporters' businesses, used tax money (paid mostly by the poor and shrinking middle class since he's opposed to taxing the rich) to pay for things (like his protection team's recreational equipment) that he should have paid for privately. has demanded more protection than any previous Texas governor, has been, in short, an enemy of the poor, sick, homeless, hungry, disabled and anyone who isn't one of his group, and a suck-up to the rich. Someone who will say whatever he thinks will get him a big contribution or a cluster of votes.
So though on the surface he's a typical right-wing religious bigot...it's more complicated than that. Only God knows what Perry really believes, beyond "I'm right and whatever I do is OK if I can find someone else to shed the responsibility onto." Anyone can claim to be in any religion or any branch of any religion...so though it's tempting to say Perry doesn't qualify as a Christian, under the simplest of filters, there are whole churches calling themselves Christian who ignore what seem to others of us the obvious rules....and they would say we aren't Christians because we don't agree with them. And who gets to make the final ruling? (No, not the Pope. I'm not Catholic and I don't think any Pope has been infallible.) Well, um, God Hisownself or God Herownself (just to start the split widening.) Nobody else in the Christian belief system has the chops. We lesser beings can say "Perry isn't acting the way Jesus said to act" but we can't say (though boy is it tempting!!) that he's not a Christian at all.
But...what do you think God thinks (if you can conceive of God even momentarily) of someone who passes off his and his friends' mistakes on this third party--this very powerful, very knowledgeable third party? Perry claims to believe in God. Claims to pray to God. Would you really, honestly, ask favors of someone you'd wrongly blamed for something you'd done? Is that adult reasoning? Is that sane? ("Yes, yes, it's true I told everybody it was you who set off that cherry bomb in the school toilet and you got in trouble, and yes, I'm the one who did it....but I really, really want to come to your party at the country club with all the in-crowd, pleeeeeze?") Does Perry think so little of God that he thinks God can be fooled like that? There are teenagers who would see through that. Nine year olds who would see through that. Does Perry believe God is stupid?
So my take on Perry and religion is that he's a very confused individual who has eased his confusion by taking the easy way out: whatever anyone with enough money tells him, is truth. And God is on his side. Meanwhile, Texas has been in the middle of the huge brown blot of exceptional drought, and Perry's hot air floating prayers to God hasn't acomplished a single drop.
Note: I'm disabling comments on this for now, because I'll be offline for several days and then very busy at DragonCon with no time to keep an eye on the discussion. Anything with religion and politics can blow up huge and nasty in a hurry and that's not going to happen here. I'll do a post-DragonCon post when I'm ready for comments on this post.
Edit Note: In the first edit round (fixing typos) the paragraph breaks disappeared. I hope I've put them back this time. Checking it out--now if I go into "Edit" mode, all the paragraph breaks but one (why that one?) disappear and have to be re-entered.