It is increasingly apparent as the un-official campaigning for the 2012 run at the Presidency ramps-up in the United States that evangelical Protestantism and extreme fiscal conservatism have somehow become entangled. The front-runner in the current round of Republican Party candidates seeking the party's nomination, the Governor of Texas Rick Perry, has been focussing on politics, prayer and redemption from his one pulpit.
Pundits denounce this brand of Christianity as focussed on fear, and in Governor Perry's case an abuse of power. Harsh critics say this most fundamentalist of born-again credo seems so strict that if the alternative to raising taxes involves gutting services such as umemployment benefits in a time of severe joblessness, basic medical care, food stamps or shelter for the homeless - well, so be it!
Perhaps there were elements of truth; certainly an air of surrealism on Monday during the CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Florida when the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked a hypothetical question about whether a man without health insurance should be provided medical care in the event of an accident - "Are you saying that society ahould just let him die?" Blitzer asked. - Before the candidate could reply several shouts of "yeah!" came from the audience.
Reporting on the Tea-Party sponsored Tampa debate, the Canadian Press noted: "It was the second Republican debate in less than a week to feature such a show-stopper from the audience. Last week in California, Rick Perry got the most boisterous cheers of the night when he noted proudly that 234 people had been executed in Texas in the 11 years he's been governor." Tongue set firmly in cheek, a liberal commentor Tweeted: "Given all the applause for death in the last two GOP debates, the Grim Reaper would be a very strong candidate.
The politics of the United States are clearly divided, poisoned and increasingly strident. A discord which doesn't bode well in dealing with the myriad of multiplying issues and problems the country is facing. Mobilizing a nation in prayer, quiet contemplation and reflection to seek the legislative wisdom to make the right choices and decisions is one thing. - Throwing God into the middle of this poisoned debate is a whole other matter which (I am frankly not sure) even He in His infinite wisdom would approve.
Canada isn't immune to the creepism of extreme-right fundamentalism disguised as evangelical fervour. The divisions and debates south of the border in the name of, and which invoke Jesus and a singular interpretation of The Bible, can easily be imported into our own legislative process. For instance the "National House of Prayers" based in Ottawa claims that it has an on-going..."presence of praying people in the halls of our Federal Government." The group formed about 10 years ago now maintains an "Embassy of Prayer" in Ottawa from which it sends (it says) "intercessors" to attend Question Period, sit-in on sesssions of the Senate, position themselves in Committee meetings and make appointments with individual Parliamentarians. It's founder, Rob Parker, claims to have received Divine direction to this mission after crying-out to God that Canada had become a "Godless Nation."
The precept of division of State and the worship and practice of religion is fundamental to the healthy process of democracy. Otherwise the danger is in getting the government you've been praying for.