Is Sarah Palin a conservative evangelical Christian? Or is she something quite a bit more exotic than that? It’s an important question, because she herself has suggested she holds some peculiar beliefs that could affect the way she executes her duties as a public official.
First, the NPR story. Hagerty, who’s been described as a conservative Christian herself (though I can’t find a relevant link), does Palin the favor of taking her faith seriously, describing Palin’s beliefs as those of a Pentacostal. Here’s an excerpt for you to chew over:
“Pray our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country — that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God,” Palin said. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.”
Poloma [Margaret Poloma, a scholar of Pentacostalism who is a Pentacostal herself] says some people might hear that and say Palin believes this is a holy war, or that Pentecostals think this is a holy war.
“I would think it’s fair to say. Yes,” Poloma says.
One reason, Poloma says, is that most Pentecostals believe Islam is a false religion.
Let’s turn next to the Anchorage Daily News story, which describes her visit to her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, last June. That’s the appearance at which she made the comments about God’s will and the war, as well as her suggestion that Alaskans should pray for a natural-gas pipeline. Now consider this:
Later, senior pastor Ed Kalnins — with Palin standing at his side — spoke about tapping into Alaska’s natural resource wealth in order to fulfill the state’s destiny of serving as a shelter for Christians at the end of the world.
“I believe that Alaska is one of the ‘refuge states’ — come on you guys — in the Last Days,” Kalnins said, raising his arm to underscore his point. “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.”
So what are Palin’s own beliefs? It’s hard to say, given that neither she nor the McCain campaign is talking about her religion. (And try to remember the last time a Republican candidate at the national level didn’t go on about his religious beliefs at great length.)
The Daily News story does hint that perhaps she’s not as out-there as some of her activities make it sound — noting, for example, that she advocates but has not pushed for teaching creationism in schools and banning state benefits for same-sex couples. But I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel better if someone prays for a gas pipeline but doesn’t actually mean it.
And what about her apparent acquiescence when Pastor Kalnins went off about Alaska’s role in a post-Apocalypse world? Does she think he was on to something, or was she just being polite? I would argue that Americans have a right to know if the woman who may be our next vice president uses the Book of Revelations as a guide to forming public policy.
Purely by coincidence, I wrote about the Constitution’s lack of a religious test a week before Palin was named. As I argued then, the government may not disqualify a candidate for religious reasons, but we the people are free to judge a candidate on any criteria we like, including religion. We all have our religious test.
Quite frankly, anyone who prays for a gas pipeline violates my religious test. (I’ll give her a pass on the war, since her remarks could be construed as merely praying for the safety of the troops.)
How long does the McCain campaign plan on keeping Sarah Palin under wraps? When is she going to answer legitimate questions about her career, her qualifications and her beliefs?