In early August, in a fine example of the separation of church and state in the United States, Rick Perry (R), Governor of Texas and GOP Presidential hopeful, held a day of fasting and prayer at Reliant Stadium in Houston that he called The Response. Among 13 minutes of requests for blessings and guidance, he included asking Jesus to look over “those who cannot see the light in the midst of all the darkness.”
“Lord, you are the source of every good thing.... You are our only hope, and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.” He also threw in a prayer for Obama.
Yup. Thousands attended the rally -- about 30,000 -- all promoted by Perry's office, web site, letterhead. Though the rally itself was funded by the American Family Association, an anti-gay hate group based in Minneapolis.
Clearly, Perry is wanting to gather the kind of support his Texas predecessor did from the Christian Right in propelling him into the White House. But it's not a new thing for him to lead these kinds of rallies. He's been doing them -- and speaking in churches -- since he was Texas's agricultural commissioner in the early 1990s.
Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist non-profit group out of Madison, tried to stop the rally on the grounds that Governor Perry's involvement violated the constitutional protection of the separation of church and state. It was not successful on the constitutional grounds of religious freedom.
The self-proclaimed prophet of God, Cindy Jacobs, claims that the lands of America are cursed with violence because they were previously inhabited by Native peoples who “did blood sacrifice” and “were cannibals and they ate people.” Luckily for all of us, Perry's The Response prayer rally broke the curse and “the land is starting to rejoice, you see, because of that prayer.”
Meanwhile, the New Apostolic Reformation -- including Chuck Pierce, John Benefiel, Tom Schlueter, Jay Swallow -- have held rallies throughout Texas that have involved smashing Native cultural objects in order to “divorce and tear down the principalities of Baal, Asherah and Leviathan.”
There are clearly a gallon of constitutional issues drowning these "prayer" events as purely religious ones. I have been thinking more specifically about how these issues are disguised and distorted by the misrepresentation of Native history and culture. Disguises and distortions that are easy to dismiss as the ridiculous but not so easy to live with in their legal and political implications. At least not for Native people.
To begin with, no one is saying that Native peoples -- in Texas or throughout the southwest and greater basin region -- did not have any violence within their societies or relations with one another -- see Ned Blackhawk's fabulous analysis of this history in Violence Over the Land (2008).
But the pretense of Perry et al. is that Native violence was so violent that it overshadows all subsequent imperial and colonial violence -- enacted by Spain, Mexico, the United States, and Texas. Overshadows it so much that it is Native violence that remains "in the land." And the evidence of this is that Native people ate their dead.
Setting aside for a quick moment whether or not cannibalism actually occurred among Native groups in Texas before it was Texas (and Perry et al. run fairly fast and loose through most of U.S. history so why would they get Native histories right?), Perry et al. need a history and culture of Native violence that overrides U.S imperial-colonial histories of violence for many, many reasons.
But they need it most immediately to deny the legal and economic benefits and privileges that they enjoy and exclude from others not-them (nonwhites) as a result of the imperialism and colonialism that defines Texas. They need Native violence but as well "illegal" immigrant crime and Black degeneracy to pretend that their economic benefits and privileges are not legally protected on the basis of their classification as whites.
And if they are not white, as many GOPers and Christians are in Texas, then they need Native violence to distinguish themselves and uphold the promise of the American dream -- that if they just work hard enough, are good enough, they will rise above their histories and become rich like them.
The history of land fraud and violence against Native peoples in Texas -- a history very much a part of the Spanish and Mexican colonization of the region but powerfully sustained since Texas became Texas and Texas was annexed to the United States -- directly produced the legal and economic situation creating Native poverty and white wealth in Texas. Perry and his colleagues benefit from this history.
It is the history but also the legal and economic present that they rewrite when they claim that everything bad now is the sole result of Native cannibalism and blood sacrifice in the past.
And how godly they are that they are the ones who understand the history and are going to restore the land to its wholeness.