An Open Letter of Pastoral Admonition to Governor Rick Perry
Dear Governor Perry,
I am concerned that you are encouraging a climate of fear, and, perhaps inadvertently, participating in a culture of death.
I am a Texan (born in Graham), a Methodist, and an evangelical. I am also, by conscience, a pro-life Christian. I care deeply about Christian ethics, and I pray daily for the state of our country. I am writing to you with these matters in common, hoping that my appeal to you will find a hearing.
You can take the girl out of Texas, and give her a fancy Yale education, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. I think that I understand the sense of pride you have for our home state. I am also very proud to be from Texas, but there is a way that this pride may encourage some people in the United States to seek more swagger than truth. You sound at times as if you want people to be proud to the point of bullying, to be prideful to the point of cruelty.
Put simply, many people feel economically vulnerable right now. One temptation all created, fallen people (that is, all of us) have is to deal with our insecurities and fears by finding someone beneath us over which to stand. When we feel small, we have a tendency, at our worst, to seek someone that we can be bigger than. I feel threatened and fearful about my future, so I look around for someone else whose situation is worse. This is not humanity at our best.
In some of your comments in particular about the death penalty (e.g. the “I’ve never struggled with that at all” exchange at the September 7 debate in Simi Valley, CA), you seem more proud of your record than grimly resolved, willing to encourage the cheers of a crowd in support of another’s death rather than to question them. Wherever we stand on this very difficult issue, it seems the right tone is grim resolution, not confidence. I understand that you need to sleep the sleep of the righteous, in order the next morning to wake up and make good decisions. But those of us called by God to determine the life and death of others perhaps are best called to live in a state of wariness. Our hands are, at the very least, bloody, and to be proud of the work of the hangman seems simply to be unfitting for a Christian man.
I would also appeal to you to be concerned for those people in our country who have been the very hardest hit by our economic downturn. The man waiting on death row is someone over whom frightened people can feel superior, and so is the man waiting in the unemployment line. One week after the Simi Valley debate, at the Tea Party debate in Tampa, when Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul “if society should just let [an uninsured person] die,” some spectators again cheered. Neither you nor any other candidate offered a word of correction to the audience. This sense of glee over someone else’s pain seems quite to be the mood among some in our country right now, and I appeal to your Texas hospitality to counter that sense at every turn. Christians are called to believe charitably about those who are suffering – to have mercy toward those who are waiting just outside the gates of the rich man. Please, for the sake of our native land, counter the tone that suggests we are all in a zero-sum game for limited resources. There can be enough to go around, and that word may be the most needed right now.
I will try one final word regarding our common, evangelical, pro-life commitment. In order for a woman to decide to bring an unexpected, unplanned fetus to term, she must believe that there is enough love in this world for her and her baby. She must look at all the economic and political indicators and believe, in spite of the fear and danger of our menacing situation, that there is safety. She must, in sum, believe that God will provide. I appeal to you to sound that tone, to carry that banner, in this political day. Assure people who are afraid that we will be able to care for one another, that we will be together in this shared future, that we will not let someone die due to lack of coverage or a miscarriage of justice.
Amy Laura Hall