Gov. Sarah Palin isn’t talking about her faith — or anything else, for that matter, in the last few days — but that hasn’t stopped the media from digging into her religious background, which has been hailed by the religious right as moving social conservatives to support Sen. John McCain. Palin certainly hits all the high notes on issues concerning the religious right. But while that support from the religious right has been huge, Palin has also suffered some criticism from members of the pro-family movement.
The two main churches in Palin’s life are very conservative and have generated a great deal of controversy.
Palin attended the Wasilla Assembly of God for most of her life. The church is Pentecostal and many members are said to “speak in tongues,” a fluent uttering of unintelligible speech as part of religious custom. The practice is based on the experience of Jesus Christ’s apostles who were said on the Pentecost to have spoken in languages unknown to them but recognizable to native speakers. Leaders of the church believe that the end of the world is near and that Alaska will be a refuge for North Americans when, they believe, Jesus will return to Earth.
“I believe that Alaska is one of the ‘refuge states’ — come on, you guys — in the Last Days,” said pastor Ed Kalnin while standing next to Palin at June event. “And hundreds of thousands of people are going to come to this state to seek refuge. And the church has to be ready to minister to them.”
When Palin became active in state politics, her family left their lifelong church to move to the conservative, but not so high profile, Wasilla Bible Church. But even that church has provided some surprises.
Palin sat in church a few weeks ago while a representative of Jews for Jesus preached that terrorist attacks on Israel are God’s judgment against Jews for not being Christians.
“Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television,” said David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus. “It’s very real. When [Brickner’s son] was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment — you can’t miss it.”
Palin’s pastor confirmed that she was in the audience that Sunday.
Alaska taxpayers footed the bill for Palin to return to her church of origin and talk with students who had recently graduated from a religious program there. At Wasilla Assembly of God, Palin gave an impromptu speech about needing prayers from church members in order to do her job as governor. Palin was clear about mixing politics and religion during the speech, which is currently circulating on the Internet.
Where does Palin stand on issues important to the religious right?
Iraq War: Palin believes that God is behind the Iraq war. She told the Wasilla Bible Church graduates that “our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for — that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”
Abortion: Palin told anti-abortion activists in 2007 that she needed their help to “reshape the judiciary” in Alaska to help overturn Roe v. Wade, a move that even some anti-abortion activists found to be too extreme.
She said she would be against abortion even if her own daughter was raped.
Creationism: When running for governor, Palin advocated teaching creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms. “Teach both,” she said. “You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”
She did backtrack, though, later saying, “It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”
Gay rights: Palin supported a constitutional amendment barring marriage for same-sex couples in Alaska and has said she would support a ballot measure overturning a state Supreme Court decision mandating benefits for domestic partners of state employees.
Her current church is promoting a Focus on the Family conference dedicated to the discredited practice of “curing” homosexuality. The church flier reads, “You’ll be encouraged by the power of God’s love and His desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality.”
Palin has even engendered fanatical support. One fan is praying for McCain’s death so Palin can run the country. Here’s his wish list:
1. Vote Constitution Party. (I vote my conscience and cannot support McCain even with Palin.)
2. Pray for Sarah Palin to win. (I am an idealist, but also a realist!)
3. Pray for John McCain’s salvation and speedy death. (Google The Forerunner’s articles on Imprecatory Prayer if you think this is harsh.)
But not every social conservative finds Palin to be palatable. Some think Palin’s priorities are wrong: a woman who with an infant son with special needs should not be running for vice president. Dr. Laura Schlessinger:
I’m stunned — couldn’t the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain? I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?
I am haunted by the family pictures of the Palins during political photo ops, showing the eldest daughter, now pregnant with her own child, cuddling the family’s newborn.