Of Politicians and Prayer, or How Rick Perry Showed Me What’s Wrong with American Christianity

As you may have heard, a few weeks ago Rick Perry held a prayer rally shortly before announcing his candidacy for the presidential race. In the weeks leading up to the rally there was quite an uproar, though since the rally things have seemingly quieted down. That being said, Perry did point out something wrong with Christianity in America, though the point he made is quite unintentional on his part.

Perry pointed out the problem of Christianity – particularly traditional, conservative Christians – missing the entire point of the Gospel. He didn’t do this by preaching on us missing the point, nor did he imply it in anything he said. Rather, he, along with those who supported the rally, demonstrated what is wrong with American Christianity.

There’s this idea that the problem with the moral fabric of America begins in the political realm and thus American Christians must take the political sphere back. Some, such as myself, would argue that Christians have never held an exclusive grip on the American political process, but certain historical revisionists would counter that claim. Either way, the claim is that in order to save America now, we must take back Congress, the Courts, and the White House.

Yet, if we contrast such ideals to the original Church or to Christ, we’re hard-pressed to see such theocratic ambitions in our ancestors. In fact, we see Christians almost avoid politics all together until Constantine.[1] Christ was very adamant not to pursue political endeavors and His followers tended to follow suit.

What the early church focused on was helping the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast of society. They made personal appeals to governors to cease persecution, reached out to the rich, and helped those stuck in the slums. There were no political movements that sought to overturn the Roman government and make it a “Christian Empire.” Instead, Christians appealed to people, not institutions. They sought to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors, or to leave their hometowns and make neighbors elsewhere, brining the love of Christ with them.

How far we have come in 2,000 years. Do we need a prayer rally to help deliver the American government into the hands of Christians? Or would it be better if individual Christians fell upon their knees in prayer and delivered themselves to Christ? Is it we who have it right and are fighting against the world? Or is it that only Christ has it right and we need to seek Him out?

America, even the world, doesn’t need another rally, another prayer card, another program, or another crusade in order to save it. It needs individuals who are willing to live the love of Christ. It needs Christians who love Christ more than their political ambitions. Dare I say, it needs Christians who love Christ more than they love their country, so that paradoxically by loving Christ more than their country, they may love their country all the more.

[1] Some kings, such as in Armenia, did adopt Christianity before Constantine, likewise, even within Rome, Constantine’s conversion hardly brought about uniformity within the Roman Empire’s religious pursuits. We can see St. Augustine writing to pagans within Rome even in the 5th century.