Gov. Rick Perry and Frank Bruni are co-dependent

Q. Frank Bruni wrote Sunday that when it comes to fixing our country’s problems, “faith and prayer just won’t cut … Continued

Q. Frank Bruni wrote Sunday that when it comes to fixing our country’s problems, “faith and prayer just won’t cut it. In fact, they’ll get in the way.” Is he right?

A. More than 90% of Americans pray. We pray in good times and in bad times. We pray in different ways and places – some of us preferring structured liturgies in overtly religious institutions and others praying spontaneously when and as they are moved to do so. Most Americans actually opt for a hybrid approach, sometimes choosing the former and even more often, the latter. Like it or not, prayer is a real part of our lives and ignoring that fact, or diminishing its significance is certainly foolish and may actually invite disaster.

No, I am not suggesting that if we don’t pray enough or do it properly — the definition of which is something upon which we happily, dare I say blessedly, do NOT agree – we will be punished by an angry God or gods. No, that’s not the disaster to which I refer. The disaster I have in mind is the one which comes by refusing to meet people where they are and take their beliefs seriously, whether we share them or not.

Frank Bruni is not wrong to suggest that prayer alone will not “cut it” when it comes to our current economic woes. In fact, I shudder to think what would happen if that approach guided us. Bruni is very wrong however when he suggests that prayer at this time is foolish or otherwise misguided.

Saddly, in the midst of his piece inviting greater nuance and more inclusive thinking Mr. Bruni rigidly defines prayer and arrogantly excludes its potential value. Ironically, his attitude is not so different from the religiously presumptuous tone of “The Response” this past Saturday.

The only real difference between Frank Bruni and Gov. Rick Perry, on that score at least, is that their absolutism is channeled in opposite directions. Neither however, makes much room for those with whom they disagree. And in their approaches, we see the co-dependency of absolutism which gives rise to real disaster, or the very least the dynamic through which each of them nurtures that to which they most object in the other.

Rick Perry and Frank Bruni need each other. But, do we really need them? Do we really need more voices which polarize our nation and demean those with whom we disagree?

Rick Perry and his allies mobilize not only around faith, but around the felt feeling of millions that their faith is seen as unimportant or even backward. Frank Bruni’s approach to faith and prayer fuels that fire and provides ammunition to precisely those people about whom Bruni claims to be concerned.

If people, including Frank Bruni, are genuinely concerned about over-reliance on prayer and the absence of nuanced thinking about how to approach the big challenges we face as a nation, then they should approach the challenge with nuance. Not even Rick Perry suggested that we could pray our way out of our current woes. He simply tapped into the sense that prayer can and does help – not necessarily by manipulating God, but by allowing people to express their deepest hopes and fears in ways that otherwise they would not.

Ignoring the power of anything to which so many Americans are devoted, including prayer, invites disaster. So too does relying on any one approach to anything, including prayer or faith. The bad news is that neither Gov. Rick Perry nor Frank Bruni seems to really understand that. The good news (no double entendre intended), is that most American do.


Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • usapdx

    The American government would be better off wth elected members of government that would fully live up to their oath of office and leave their religion and sex life totally out of government. If Perry was a member of the Islm faith, what would you say of his paryer meeting? His prayer meeting is just to get the bible thumpers vote. Who is kidding who?

  • farmsnorton

    Anyone is better than Obama, even Mickey Mouse.

Read More Articles

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

The End of Surveillance for New York Muslims — For Now

How American Muslims modeled the right response to systematic injustice.