Rick Perry and the Wingnuts for Jesus
Rick Perry came to Liberty University (also known as Christian Wingnut Central) in Virginia just this past week and, despite the fears of the Washington Post and others of the mainstream media resentfully tagging along, the republic still stands. Perry talked God to 10,000 weirdly normal university students -- no sex, drugs, or spittle in evidence -- and the only sign of apocalypse came from the press covering the event, their heads revolving Linda Blair-like as they listened to Perry and Liberty speakers serially thanking and praising God.
God, can you believe it? And Rick Perry! And praise for Israel! The trifecta of New York Times nightmares -- can it get any worse for journalists? But it did. The leading Republican candidate for president appeared at the center of an arena jammed with well-behaved, cheering college students and staff, all of whom dared to openly be...Christian! This stands in marked contrast to, say, a parallel University of Wisconsin-Madison event where "scores" of that state's best and brightest "mobbed" a speaker while "shouting insults" and "knocking" staff "to the ground. Police had to be summoned." Or a Columbia University event where Ivy Leaguers "heckled" and "jeered" a "wounded Iraq war vet." Progressivism in action, doing what college students should be doing in Mainstream Mediaworld: beating down the enablers of a corrupt American society.
But there was none of that here before what Paul Thornton of the L.A. Times called an "uber-right-wing Christian" college audience, painting the crowd for his readers in brushstrokes designed to summon images of Nazi Germany. The L.A. Times writer looked at the packed arena, the excited students, the smiles and the giggles and the gospel musicians, and knew -- just knew, mind you -- that hate and racism were at the bottom of it. The Liberty chancellor, University of Virginia law graduate Jerry Falwell, Jr., approvingly referenced the National Rifle Association in his introduction of Perry -- and scorn rose like steam from the bobbing heads of elite journalism's best. Just what I always thought, the pride of Los Angeles mainstream political reporting declared indignantly to his readers: "guns" and killing people "beat out" Jesus for Rick Perry and the Christian nutjobs who like him.
"God bless you," Perry told the crowd at the world's largest evangelical university and the eighth-largest institution of all higher learning in the United States. "And through you may God continue to bless this great country." The students applauded, and a wave of disdain swept through the network and newspaper journalists in front. "What's with" these "Republican audiences?" Thornton asked rhetorically -- while Rick Perry and 10,000 students sang "I know you, I love you" -- that they would "feed extremism and polarization for political gain"?
The wisdom and discernment honed at UC Berkeley and six years on the opinion staff of the newspaper-of-record for the California ruling class spotted the "bizarre blood-lust" underlying the gathering. Rick Perry had joined in the singing and, while the soft gospel of "Jesus, our Savior, a shelter in the midst of the storm" floated to the rafters, Thornton shivered for his readers, summoning visions of jackboots and the Reichstag burning. I'll tell you what's with "these Republican audiences," he answered: their Jesus, their candidates, their lack of appreciation of the real Jesus and the real America, Obama's and our America.
This is the United States and Rick Perry through the eyes of mainstream media. What would Jesus do? Well, endorse Obamacare, for starters, and then consign Liberty students to the outer reaches of hell -- or Democrat-led Detroit, whichever is worse. "God uses broken people to reach a broken world," Perry quietly intoned, and the looks on the faces of the national press corps were comical as they realized what he was saying. He's advocating Christian values...and does not even have the grace to be embarrassed!
"This nation has to be governed by someone's values, so let's have Christian values guide" us, Perry said quietly. This was Rick Perry standing tall and proud -- proud to be an American, proud to be a Christian, proud to stand for "a life of consequence" and "faith." And when he advised the students that each, individually, was "a spiritual being meant to live in relationship with God and one another," Philip Rucker of the Washington Post rolled his eyes so hard that he spent the rest of the convocation looking like a character out of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, famous for their "vacant circles for eyes."
Then Rucker hit his speed-dial and used Democrat-style framing to give the readers of that fading icon of mainstream journalism the same-old same-old: the obligatory academic, an expert on all things religious, who would "question the compassion" of Perry, his governorship, and conservative Christians. The Washington Post's expert on heartland religious conservatives -- a Harvard Ph.D. and PBS consultant who has also written extensively for the anti-Perry, liberal Texas Monthly magazine -- reassured Post readers that the words of Perry and Liberty speakers and, indeed, conservative Christians in general "do not flow from a heart of Christian love."
It was apparent to Rucker, at the center of the bowl, listening as Liberty law Dean Mathew Staver praised Perry and Israel, that love was not on the table here at Jesus Central in Lynchburg. Israel? They praise Israel and call themselves Christian?! Rucker went directly from Yale University to the Washington Post, two institutions united in scorn for Israel, the former a leader in the movement to "Palestinize" American higher education and the latter what American Thinker calls "a classic textbook example" of biased news coverage of the Jews (formula: Palestinians good, Jews bad). The Washington Post reporter splashed his incredulity across the pages of the Post: Rick Perry really believes this stuff! He really respects these people, Israel and these Jesus wingnuts!
Ah, ha! Perry has exposed himself, Rucker wrote. All this talk of God and faith and Spirit -- and Israel. He loves God, he loves Jews -- time to raise the alarm, to wake the Washington-New York power corridor. If elected, the Texas governor would come to Washington not "as a job creator," but "more as an evangelist." You could see the contempt and fear in the faces of the mainstream media as words of love and faith and God washed over them.
And then it hit them: what would Jesus do, the real Jesus, the Beltway Jesus? Of course: stomp these Christian suckers. And in broadcast and print and online...they did.
Stuart Schwartz, a frequent AT contributor, is on the faculty of Liberty University.