Rick Perry's Posse: Loosely Tethered to Reality

I can give you a pretty good sense of just how totally disconnected from reality Texas Gov. Rick Perry and some of his supporters are in less than two minutes. This is important. Because, while many normal people may think Perry is of little or no consequence because he has no chance of becoming president, sadly you are wrong, and his ability to think and reason may actually matter. Recent polls show that Perry is the clear leader among Republican presidential contenders. He is crushing Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. He is the dominant darling of the Tea Party. And he is viewed as just shy of a Second Coming by far-right evangelicals.

Now, for that two-minute demonstration of Perry’s thinking. First, watch this clip on YouTube in which Perry tells a religious broadcaster that he thinks we are going through these difficult economic times for a purpose. Perry believes that the divine purpose of the Great Recession is to bring us back to “biblical” economic principles.

Perry cites the biblical admonition to “work the land hard” for six years and then: “put up that seventh year in the warehouse to take you through the hard times. And not spending all of our money — not asking for [the] Pharaoh to give everything to everybody.”

In keeping with his Tea Party orthodoxy, Perry seems to be coming down hard here for smaller, less intrusive Pharaohs. But most biblical scholars will tell you, that “asking the Pharaoh for everything for everybody” was never a policy idea that the Jews of old — or other any time — considered much of an option.

Perry’s “work hard for six years” apparently refers to the Jewish tradition of Shmita, based on a number of Old Testament passages including Exodus 23:10-11:

“And six years thou shalt sow thy land … but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat.”

What the Bible lays out here is basically a soil conservation program as well as a bit of social policy that helps to feed the poor (sort of an early precursor to food stamps). It is clearly not a condemnation of social safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare or Unemployment Insurance as Perry seems to imagine.

The Biblical principle of Schmita also draws on Deuteronomy 15:1-3, which lays out this rule about lending practices:

“At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release.”

This is clearly the kind of loan modification program that has been sorely missing from our current economic recovery: total forgiveness for all existing debts every seven years. Personally, I can hardly wait till the Bank of America and Goldmann Sachs get a load of Perry’s biblical principles.

Perry’s neatest trick is that he seems to sincerely believe whatever he just invents by way of facts, history or biblical principles and he has chosen to surround himself with other people who are likewise happily divorced from reality. Such as the members of the New Apostolic Reformation movement who helped to organize Perry’s recent prayer breakfast.

The self-anointed Apostles and Prophets of the NAR believe that the Earth is controlled by a hierarchy of demons under the authority of Satan. So their way to solve our economic problems would have nothing to do with creating jobs or addressing income inequality, it would be all about casting out demons. And those demons are apparently are everywhere.

Alice Patterson, who helped to organize Perry’s prayer event, has written that the Democratic Party is controlled by “an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure” unleashed by the biblical figure Jezebel.

Mike Bickle, who led part of Perry’s event, has claimed that Oprah Winfrey is a precursor of the Antichrist. Another leader has claimed that gay people are controlled by “demonic spirits. Some consider Freemasonry to be a “demonic stronghold.

Many of Perry’s ardent supporters believe in oracular divinations such as: “The earthquake in Washington is a warning from God.” These folks are one step removed from those ancient Etruscans who examined the entrails, read the bones and interpreted the auguries of the birds. Take a look at this Rachel Maddow clip to bear witness to their modern day version — speaking in their own tongues.

This may strike many as not being worth serious attention. But the broad support for someone as crack-brained as Perry strongly suggests that our nation has some serious issues to deal with besides the economy. These people who are so loosely tethered to reality are trying hard to become the rulers of the U.S., and none of this bodes well for our country.