From my SA:
Anita Perry, wife of Republican presidential hopeful and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has taken a bold leap into the national spotlight in recent weeks, assuming a more prominent role in her husband’s campaign and speaking about her Christian faith in a way that resonates with evangelicals, but surprises old friends.…snip…
Her public statements this month that she pushed her husband into the presidential ring because she felt he was being called by God caught Bill Miller off guard.“I always viewed Anita as someone who took politics with a gigantic grain of salt. She would rather go to a baseball game for her kid than an inaugural,” said Miller, an Austin lobbyist who hired Anita Perry in the 1990s.
Perhaps a spiritual calling trumped any reservations she may have had about the political game.
In recent years, the Perrys started attending an evangelical megachurch in West Austin. In teary-eyed speech made in South Carolina this month, Anita Perry cast the race in biblical terms, using language common to evangelicals, but off-putting to some secular Americans and those of other faiths.
“God was already speaking to me but (Rick) didn’t want to hear it,” she said.
“He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said, ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush but there are people seeing that burning bush for you,’” she said, referencing the biblical story in which God appears to Moses in a burning bush and directs him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
She also pointed to faith as the reason for attacks by Republican challengers.
“We are being brutalized by our opponents in our own party, so much of that is I think they look at him because of his faith,” she said of her husband.
That remark was mocked by comedian Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”
“Yes, no one gets it worse from the base of the Republican Party than evangelical Christians. Or as they are also known, the base of the Republican Party,” Stewart quipped Tuesday.…snip…
Her remarks, some believe, were calculated to win over evangelical Christian voters, but longtime friends say the speech came from the heart.…snip…
Even if it her words were authentic, they certainly didn’t hurt her husband’s credibility with evangelical voters, who wield significant power in the Republican primary, said D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., and an expert on faith and politics.
“No Republican has captured the presidency in modern history without the evangelical vote,” Lindsay said.…snip…
In Austin, [the Perrys] have been members of the Tarrytown United Methodist Church since the 1990s, but friends say Anita never has been one to proselytize.
“She has always been a quiet Christian, never imposing her faith on others,” said Mica Mosbacher, a Houston philanthropist who has helped raise money for Perry’s presidential campaign.
Likewise, her husband hasn’t been seen as an evangelical for most of his governorship, Lindsay said. Rick Perry always has opposed abortion and gay marriage, but religion did not seem to figure prominently in his policy decisions in Texas, he said.
The Perrys were not big contributors to the collection plate. A San Antonio Express-News analysis of the couple’s income tax returns from 2000 to 2009 showed they gave half a percent of their earnings to churches and religious organizations.
But their 2010 tax return shows they gave $10,000 to Lake Hills, more than three times their previous donation.
At some point, however, the Perrys became more vocal about their religious convictions, said Dave Welch, executive director of the U.S. Pastor Council, an organization that seeks to influence the “God-ordained institution of civil government.”
A week before he announced his run for president, Rick Perry called an unprecedented day of prayer and fasting that drew 30,000 worshippers to Reliant Stadium in Houston, an event that Welch helped promote. Called “The Response,” the rally stuck to prayer, but that didn’t convince skeptics it was not politically motivated.
“It turned out to be a springboard,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “It is hard to say with a straight face that there was no connection between the two.”
In 2008, the Perrys began attending Lake Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch led by pastor Mac Richard.
On a recent Sunday, Richard delivered a lively sermon through a headset microphone, reading scripture from an iPad. When God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Richard said, he tested them with hunger and other obstacles. Each time, God came through, parting the Red Sea and raining bread from heaven.
Anita Perry hit that theme in her South Carolina speech, saying that a man approached her husband and told him, “God is testing you because he wants you to know when you are in the White House how you got there.”
God isn’t the only one testing Rick Perry.
After the governor announced his candidacy in August, top evangelical leaders invited him to a private retreat, apparently to vet his personal faith and positions on key moral issues, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Lynn called the primary the most “religion-saturated” in modern history, with three candidates — Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum — declaring that God has called them to run.
In Perry’s case, it was his wife who heard the call first, concluding that her husband was being tapped to save the soul of a country “on the abyss of failure and destruction.”
Lynn finds that rhetoric disturbing.
“The idea that we should be campaigning for public office claiming that God has a special interest is really a dangerous proposition,” he said. “When you make decisions as a political leader, they have to be on the commonly shared values of the Constitution. You cannot govern on the basis of the Bible.”
To evangelicals, however, her words sound right on target.