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Rick Perry, God and Me: When I Got the Call | The Nation

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Subject to Debate

Rick Perry, God and Me: When I Got the Call

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God called me a couple of months ago and told me to run for president. It was late at night, and he had this weird voice. It sounded like he’d been drinking, so I hung up on him.

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Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt is well known for her wit and her keen sense of both the ridiculous and the sublime. Her "Subject to...

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* * *

He called me back a few nights later. He explained that he’d been experimenting with a new voice—instead of deep and gravelly, nudgy and insinuating, like Jon Lovitz. He’d read this worked for picking up women—you acted critical, and that made them want to please you. Jon Lovitz has a lot of girlfriends? I asked, but as would be the case throughout our conversations, God refused to divulge celebrity gossip. He asked if I had given more thought to a presidential run. He promised to give me Karl Rove’s super-private cellphone number and raise lots of campaign cash through the churches. I thought churches aren’t supposed to endorse political candidates, I said. My, you are naïve, he said in his Jon Lovitz voice, but I didn’t fall for it. He was just giving me “the neg” so I would do what he wanted. I told him I was going to sleep and turned off my phone.

* * *

The next time God called, I reminded him that I wasn’t even a Republican. He said that was the whole idea. Even Republicans don’t like Republicans—look how dissatisfied they are with the 127 candidates they already have. I would be a fresh face. He would arrange for me to have a conversion experience, where I would renounce “feminism and all that” and find Jesus. He thought my friends at The Nation would understand. I said I didn’t think so—they’re still mad at Christopher Hitchens for supporting the Iraq War. And anyway, why was it my job to find Jesus? It was really up to him to keep track of Jesus’ whereabouts. I thought I might have gone too far, but God just chuckled and said he liked my emphasis on parental responsibility: I was already beginning to sound like a Republican.

* * *

We talked again a few days later. He was still excited about the conversion idea. Christians love it when a sinner reforms, he told me—the lost sheep, the prodigal son, gays and lesbians marrying each other. I’m Jewish, I reminded him. Even better, he said. I could be a Jewish Christian; it would give me credibility on Israel. I confessed to him that I’d spent a good deal of my life trying not to think about Israel. You won’t have to think about it for very long, he said: as a Jewish Christian my position would be that making things worse in Israel was good because it would bring on Armageddon and the end of the world. I said I thought that was a little extreme: Americans are basically a centrist, common-sense people, or at least that’s what Tom Friedman says. Why can’t my position be that the Jews and the Palestinians should all move to the United States? I asked. Problem solved! God said that was something to think about for later, but as a candidate I couldn’t suggest it because it involved immigration.

* * *

When God called again I didn’t let him get started. I told him flat out, I don’t want to be president. I just like to read books. George W. Bush read lots of books, God informed me; a lot of people don’t know that. God had an answer to everything. I think he spends a lot of time looking at blogs and websites. Like, when I said I would have to get a dog, and I don’t like dogs all that much, he said actually there are more pet cats than dogs and he’d seen a proprietary poll that said the country was ready for a cat person in the White House, as long as it was a Republican. Cats were only a bad image for Democrats, because it made them look weak on defense. Pat Buchanan loves cats, he added; a lot of people don’t know that. Who did that poll? I asked. Cat Fancy magazine? But God just said goodbye—kind of abruptly, I thought, like he had someone on the other line.

* * *

I asked him straight out, the next time, if he was talking to other potential candidates, or if he’d been negging me when he hung up last time. He said it was a little of both: he was still keen on the conversion narrative, but since I was so reluctant he’d had to investigate other possibilities. Look, I said, Why don’t you convert me into something I already want to be? Like a really terrific opera singer. God said we could definitely talk about planning for life after the White House, but there were already some wonderful divas around, for example Deborah Voigt and Anna Netrebko. Opera was in good shape—it was the Republican Party that needed help. That was the thing about God—even when you thought the conversation was about you, it was really all about him. Well, why don’t you get Anna Netrebko to run for president if you think she’s so mahvelous? I said. He got all excited for about five minutes—the Koch brothers are huge opera fans, he informed me, another thing lots of people don’t know. But then he realized she wasn’t a native-born American. Not that it mattered the last time, he said. But before I could get mad he added, Just kidding.

* * *

I’ll never forget the last time he called. He had finally accepted that I wasn’t going to run, and that let him be honest with me. He told me about the other people he’d been calling: Sarah, Michele, Herman, Rick S, Rick P—well, Rick P’s wife actually, but she thought it was for him and just took a message. We talked for hours. God is really kind of vulnerable and needy, and that is maybe the biggest thing a lot of people don’t know. It was all so sad and bittersweet I almost changed my mind, but I knew it would never work out and we’d just end up arguing again. Listen, I said finally. I’ve got to go to sleep, I’m drifting off. What time is it where you are anyway?

But he had already hung up.

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