Of late, left leaning groups have raised concerns about a prayer meeting convened by Texas Governor Rick Perry and hosted by the American Family Association. Called “The Response,” the event bills itself as a religiously motivated solemn assembly. To me, it seems like a political statement. About his work, National Finance Chair for the event and uber-organizer David Lane says, “What I do is spiritual. The by-product is political.”
One of the major problems with the event as raised by critics is the involvement of the American Family Association. Even though I am an evangelical, I agree. In my view, the AFA has earned their designation as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Critics point to outrageous statements from the AFA’s Bryan Fischer regarding gays, Muslims and African-Americans as reason to question why a prominent elected official would partner with the AFA.
While all of the insults and stereotypes identified by critics are serious and disqualifying, I don’t want us to forget Bryan Fischer’s views of Native Americans. Early in 2011, Fischer wrote that “Native Americans morally disqualified themselves from the land,” saying that Native Americans were so savage and immoral that they were displaced for their evil. In other words, they got what was coming to them. Even though that article was removed from the AFA website, the AFA was silent on the issue, allowing Fischer to remove it without an apology saying he removed it because his critics were not “mature enough” for the subject. Then Fischer followed up that article with one that stated Native American assimilation into the new America would have been “seamless and bloodless” if only they had converted to Christianity. One Native American writer called Fischer’s articles “ugly” and said he advocated “thinly veiled race-purity arguments.”
A few evangelicals spoke out. Two Southern Baptist leaders criticized Fischer’s views as being “a barrier” to efforts to bridge gaps between evangelicals and Native communities. Native American Southern Baptist pastor, Emerson Falls, said about Fischer and the AFA, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”
That Rev. Falls would need to repeat the obvious is an indicator of the offense caused by the AFA. Despite calls for a redemptive response, the AFA refused repeated requests for comment on the matter. A couple of AFA staffers said they disagreed with Fischer but even they stressed that they were not speaking for the organization. In short, the AFA has done nothing to distance the group from Fischer’s racial stereotyping.
In my view, the AFA should not be leading a prayer event claiming to call America to their view of righteousness. I am surprised and sad that Governor Perry would partner with them.
I was even more surprised that Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) would agree to take part. Brownback was a prime mover of the Native American Apology Resolution which I called on the AFA in March to endorse. I do agree that at times it can be productive to join together with various groups to accomplish an objective. However, it is beyond me how these two state governors can partner with a organization that regularly slanders and maligns entire groups of people—not individuals mind you, entire groups. In the case of Brownback, he once stood for confession of wrongs in apology to Native Americans, but now he stands with a group that openly rejects the need for that apology.
My response to The Response is no.
Warren Throckmorton is Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at the Center for Vision and Values, which is a part of Grove City College. His academic work has been published by journals of the American Psychological Association, the American Mental Health Counseling Association and the Christian Association for Psychological Studies.