Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris: Is This What a Rising Christian Political Star Looks Like?

Mayor R. Rex Parris, 58, a born-again Baptist who last year declared his city, the city of Lancaster, Ca., a “Christian community,” was profiled a while back in the Los Angeles Times, and I notice that the Times described R. Rex Paris’s car and home in terms that hardly seem “Jesusy”:

He drives an exotic gray Audi sports car that auto industry magazines list between $60,000 and $90,000. Parris said he had to wait about six months for a dealer to get the car from Germany.

On a recent drive home from City Hall, Parris stroked the paneling surrounding the car’s steering wheel.

“It’s made of graphite,” he said, and recalled how a scratch recently set him back $8,000 in repairs.

His home of 16 years in the exclusive Westfield Estates gated community, on Lancaster’s west side, is palatial. The 5,000-square-foot residence, secluded on an acre, resembles a museum, with ornate chandeliers and Italian marble tile floors.

The profile also noted that the Reverend Mayor Parris “helped fund a program to bus homeless people out of town . . .”

Am I missing something here? Is this the lifestyle and behavior of a follower of Jesus?

Below is one of Mayor Parris’s billboards. As well as being mayor of Lancaster, he’s also the head of a prominent northern Los Angeles County law firm. I took the photo through the fence of a business. My back was to Pearblossom Highway, which runs adjacent to the 14 Freeway:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 .

Let’s deconstruct this image a bit. R. Rex Parris is promoting his law firm as a lunging dog on behalf of its clients, and he’s encouraging people in his community to sue their neighbors for wrongs done to them (such as dog bites).

But wait.

Didn’t Jesus specifically say that his followers are to turn the other cheek on those who assault them? Presumably, this would also include turning the other butt cheek to one’s neighbors’ aggressive dogs.

I’m not trying to be flippant. I’m trying to understand. As a member of the doubting community, I’m seeking to fathom the reasoning that underlies the faith community’s admiration for this man. And I just wonder how R. Rex Parris (and I don’t doubt the mayor’s religious sincerity) squares his lavish lifestyle, his aggressive scheme to drive the homeless from the city of Lancaster (literally, in buses), and his advocacy of unforgiving and relentless legal self-defense against one’s neighbors, with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.

In other words, what does it mean to call yourself a follower of Jesus and a Fox News-style conservative politician at the same time?  How does your head not explode from the obvious cognitive dissonance? This isn’t about asking a loaded question of a Christian who reads the gospels literally. This is about asking an unloaded question of a Christian who appears to have never read the gospels at all. Look again at that billboard, this time close-up (see below). Is this really how a 21st century Christian represents himself to the world? Can anyone seriously look at this image and say, “Here is someone who represents the spirit of Christ, the Prince of Peace”?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           .

I guess I don’t really care what Jesus would say about R. Rex Parris. But I do care about the corruption of language, and what it means to consign a word like “Christian” to virtual meaninglessness. What would George Orwell say?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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24 Responses to Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris: Is This What a Rising Christian Political Star Looks Like?

  1. Pingback: Anne Rice Abandons R. Rex Parris-style Christianity « Prometheus Unbound

  2. Colin Hutton says:

    Yet another example of how fundementalist anything hardens the heart and softens the head.

    • santitafarella says:

      Colin:

      I wonder if this, exactly, is fundamentalism. A fundamentalist Christian, presumably, would take the words of Jesus seriously, and try to actually live the Sermon on the Mount. But what R. Rex Parris seems to represent is a very selective fundamentalism—a pick and choose Bible literalism focused on conventional notions of God as a literal big daddy in the sky. And I wonder if Parris rejects evolution as well, and is a young earth creationist. He also seems focused on Old Testament law and order, and perhaps some of the sayings of Paul. Maybe R. Rex Parris is something more akin to what the social psychologist, Bob Altemeyer, calls a “high RWA” (right-wing authoritarian). High RWAs tend to (predictably) be attracted to authoritarian forms of religion, and conventional attitudes. See Wikipedia for details on the RWA profile:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_authoritarianism

      —Santi

  3. Colin Hutton says:

    Santi: Noted, thank you. But I won’t take you up on this one. Mine was a flippant comment from an Australian(at 3.15am on 3 Aug., our time!) which means little exposure to, or understanding of, fundamentalist christianity.

  4. G.I. Zero says:

    Jesus wouldn’t, I presume from what I’ve heard of him, put a high traffic Walmart shopping center in front of a high school full of inexperienced drivers to profit from the injuries that are boubd to happen. Then again Jesus didn’t have his own private jet either.

    Christians can no longer point the finger at Muslims as being violent, the ratio of Muslims murdered by Christians is several times larger than Christians being murdered by Muslims. And that’s counting 9/11 regardless of who is responsible for that.

  5. concerned christian says:

    Sorry to jump into your group therapy session, but lets inject some objective facts.
    1. Santi hates mayor Parris. Santi is entitles to his own opinion and it’s his Blog after all.
    2. Mayor Parris maybe hypocrite. So what he is not the first or the last one, how about Al Gore on the other side?
    3. All Christians should live a spartan life, no fancy cars or jets or extra money. That’s not fair! if they can make their money honorably all power to them.
    4. “Christians can no longer point the finger at Muslims as being violent” Here we go again before any one raise that issue, they should remember that all terrorist acts committed by Muslims were inspired and justified by the Quran. How many Christians today kill others in the name of Jesus? Be specific and give examples.

  6. Mike says:

    I’ve never heard of Parris, and I can’t tell you what part of the faith community is enamored with him. Jesus would call any self-styled religious person a hypocrite:

    “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”

    People like Parris don’t bother me. They just don’t get it. Televangelists like Joel Osteen bother me. They don’t get it, they are spreading their poor understanding of God while stealing the bread from the mouths of the most vulnerable in the name of Jesus to buy their own mansions, cars, and jets.

    But at the end of the day, all of us are hypocrites to some degree. We all fall short of what we believe and who we want to be. What makes a hypocrite tolerable is when they recognize their inability to do the right thing and are contrite about it.

    To me “rising political star” and “Christian” really don’t go together. If you want to find a good Christian role model, you need to find a good church and meet the people who show up on week nights.

  7. santitafarella says:

    Concerned:

    I don’t hate Parris. I’ve defended him on this blog on occasion, and been fair to him in every post I’ve ever put up about him here.

    But sometimes the truth hurts. And I don’t like his dissing of the nonreligious and non-Christians in the community.

    But I also think that Parris is great on his efforts to bring Chinese eco-business into the Antelope Valley. On balance, I might even vote for him if the alternatives were poor (such as him v. Sherry Marquez). He’s a far more preferable politician than Sherry Marquez. And there’s something to be said, in spite of all his religious nuttiness and conservative aggression, for having a rich mayor. He’s got the money, leisure, and connections to make good things happen for the city. I also think that Parris is public spirited. What he does he does because he thinks he is doing good things for his community.

    The way he behaves, however, shouldn’t be confused with the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount (and, from my vantage, that’s a good thing). My post above is just pointing out the incoherence and abuse of language that Parris’s “Christianity” represents.

    Fortunately, and to Parris’s credit, he has the good sense not to practice the religion of Jesus with any consistency, falling into Jesus’s reductio ad absurdums. And, obviously, the reason that you find so few contemporary Christians who live like Jesus and the disciples is because the path is difficult and impractical to someone who actually values his or her life and self on this earth. Most Christians have simply purchased fire insurance on the “sinner’s prayer” and Sunday plan. They don’t actually follow the Jesus of the gospels or read the Bible much. But because there are so many like them, they can get together and think of themselves as followers of Christ. It’s a joke, but so long as nobody identifies it as such, everyone can play along. There’s strength in numbers. It’s Fox News Christianity with a Fox News American Jesus. That’s the Jesus that R. Rex Parris follows (in my view).

    —Santi

    • concerned christian says:

      I definitely agree with almost everything you said. It’s important to be realistic, while saints and heroes can always inspire us, most of the daily business in this world are handled by practical people who can get the job done. To succeed in politics you need to be pragmatic not ideologue, and usually that means that you need to be centrist. unfortunately the extremist on both the left and right are making the centrist jobs more difficult, so lets see what will come out of the November’s election.
      However, I disagree with you about your last comment. There are actually Christians who read the Bible and try to follow its teachings to the best of their capability. That adds a new dimension to the way we go about our lives, in addition to trying to make a living we try to follow God’s commandments. When we fail, we are the first to admit our failures and do not make excuses for ourselves. We know that some of the most famous so called Christians are phonies, but we appreciate the greatness of people like C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul, and Billy Graham. These and many more are the true role models for the Christian community.

    • Mike says:

      Jesus called following Him “the narrow path.” It isn’t easy. A person aiming to become more and more like Jesus is not a joke, but a realist. It is easy to judge generalizations. Not so easy to walk the talk.

      My pastor once said the Christian life can’t be lived in neutral. You either are moving forward to become more like Jesus, or you are moving backwards.

  8. Teresa says:

    I have had an issue with Mr.R.Parris due to what I believe is downright criminal. My son’s father was killed in an accident on hwy138. He ran into a parked diesel on the side of the highway who didn’t have proper flares out and was parked in a dangerous area. Anyway the passenger also died. Her family sued my father-in-laws insurance co. And wanted to sue the trucking companys insurance for wrongful death, I recieved a phone call from his office asking me to start a law suit for our 7 yr old boy, but they couldnt represent me because they were representing the other party, but gave me a number to an attorney they recommended because he had worked for them for about 15 years but has his own practice now. I hired him to represent my son and after a couple of months he said he couldn’t afford to go any further the insurance co. denied the suit. In the end they has scammed me. The other party with R.rex Parris settled and My son recieved nothing. How is that Christian like? He runs people out of Lancaster who are on section 8 by passing a law that homeowners get fined a 1000 dollars the fifth time an officer go to that residents house. A neibor found out she was section 8 and called the sheriffs complaining about noise in the day time but every time the sheriff went to the residents he found nor heard any noise music or anything. My boyfriend who owns houses has been fined twice now and on top of that he loses good renters because of the harassment from these nieghbors. They used me to start a law suit so that they could jump on the ban wagon get rid of me and collect what was rightfully my son’s money. The least amount of insurance for a big rig, is 1,000,000 I don’t like or try to judge people but R Rex Parris is out of control. A Born Again Christian???? He is a greedy ruthless liar who is a power hungry thief. He is a professional liar who rips off trusting people and people who don’t have the money to go up against him. He himself is a criminal of the worst kind.

  9. jo says:

    Rex is a man who has made a fortune on the backs of broken people. Rex gives lip service to Christian’s but hasn’t spoken to Jesus since he was a child. He has bought many votes with the tax dollars he’s funneled to local churches. We are talking millions.

    He tolerates Sherry Marquez because she works for a voting block, Lancaster Baptist church, (1.2 million in free infrastructure, and free land) because he can’t get elected without them.

    He’s doing nothing but working through the inadequacy he feels since his father left him and his family as a child, in poverty, filling the empty places with power, property and prestige. And he will continue to destroy others to get what will NEVER fix him.

    And yet the sheep line up behind him, believing it will never happen to them. As it most certainly will, the day they tell him no, or refuse him something he wants. Psychopath comes to mind.

  10. jo says:

    Got to agree with you on this. I imagine your speaking of the Ceder Center?

    It comes down to people’s (American’s) short term memory and racial prejudices. Which rex manipulates for his personal gain. Teresa is also spot on. We have a war on the poor going on in Lancaster, and thanks to the local rag, you would never realize that anyone but black criminals use section 8. He is playing to racial fear, and if he gets his way, we’ll soon have ethnic cleansing.

    What’s even sadder, is he now trying to sell the idea that poor people, of all colors, don’t want their children educated. No stats to back it up. No proof of any kind. Yet everyday, the press prints letters from those who’ve bought into his BS, screaming about kids not going to school.

    Lancaster, where the dumb go to get dumber.

  11. If this MORON tried to enforce his little theocratic, first amendment violating little fantasy, he would find himself on the wrong end of most civil rights laws and several HUD regulations. I did not spend my entire adult life defending the Constitution so assclowns like this can use it as toilet paper. If he actually knew the collection of fables known as the bible, he’d know that most of what our Constitution represents is expressly forbidden by the same misogenic snuff book. If he wants a theocracy, he should not look for one in the US.

  12. Mike says:

    I have literally been inside the political circles of those that call themselves Christians in Lancaster. I know these men and woman personally. I was told what how to fill out questioniers that would be read by Christians. When I didn’t the information that the public saw was changed but not by me. In other words I was being groomed at that time to appear politically corrrect as a Christian. What concerns me about the citizens of the City of Lancaster is they truly are like Sheep. In my experience and conversations with many publicly in all walks of life, with the exception of a few, they believe in appearances…what they are fed by those they think in power actually practice their Christian walk. Few take the time to actually do any research or look into who is running their community. When I talked with many Christians on how they would vote I was told to look at the listings of Christian Candidates…not to look at the Christian canidates and do research. In other words, if anyone claims to be a Christian that is the only credential many Christians seem to believe is adeuate. Now Hitler always said, “The bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it”. Many have seen over the years the bad press about real-estate in the area, voter fraud, redevelopment being misused…yet…they claim those individuals to be disgruntled. If you learn from history…since Kennedy’s day…and are paying attention, character assasinations are a safe way not to make a mortyr. Think people, use your eyes, use your experience, use your common sense and look into matters. The same issues don’t come up over and over again because they are invalide. Only the face representing those issues change. But you will find with a little research those faces are connected over time their in History from those individuals youth.

  13. alexa says:

    Please, please do your homework!! Don’t vote for R. Rex Parris.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Rx is a God!!

  15. Robert Collier says:

    One day, and I believe sooner than later, we will all have to answer for our actions. We now have to decide on our eternity. With God, or without God? What will you decide? Rex will answer for Rex. You will answer for you. Will God tell you, well done my good and faithful servent. God loves all and died for all. Look for God! Find more answers at lancasterbaptist.org

  16. Angela Monique Sylvester says:

    What a totally biased story. I don’t even care for the man but, Good Lord! Talk about throwing stones! Whether you approve of the law profession or not, you’ve got to recognized that in order to pass the bar you have to put in your dues. Why sit back and judge someone for the profession they chose and decide that they shouldn’t live a lifestyle that may be more lavish than others? I could care less about what kind of material things others possess. If he worked for it then he deserves it. If someone is Christian they’re supposed to be poor? Such judgement and ignorance!

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