August 30, 2008
Is Palin an evangelical?
John McCain's vice presidential pick Sarah Palin has a Pentecostal background, but reporters seem to be struggling to define her faith.
A profile in the Wall Street Journal says she's Lutheran.
The Washington Post writes, "Her evangelical Christian faith -- she believes in creationism and is adamantly opposed to abortion -- may help [McCain] court skeptical social conservatives."
Hm. I'm not sure those two beliefs necessarily link to an "evangelical Christian faith."
Instead of assigning a label to her faith, Eric Gorski of the Associated Press reports that a business administrator in Pentecostal Assemblies of God told him that her home church is The Church on the Rock, an independent congregation. A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign told Gorski that Palin attends different churches and does not consider herself Pentecostal.
Tennessean religion reporter Bob Smietana writes that Palin grew up among evangelicals, and attended the Wasilla Assembly of God as a teenager and young adult. Smietana writes that while in Juneau, Alaska's capital, she sometimes attends Juneau Christian Center, an Assemblies of God congregation.
Boston College professor Alan Wolfe writes at The New Republic that Palin is an evangelical, shaped by the region in which she lives.
"... she is not a Southern evangelical, and therein lies a tale."
Southern Baptists, he writes, became preoccupied with sin, while those in the west were more libertarian where sins could become forgiven.
He writes, "Sarah Palin named two of her children after witches, once took drugs, and refused to sign a bill forbidding domestic benefits for gay couples. Any one of these--especially the first--would raise suspicion in the eyes of a traditional Southern Baptist."
With Richard Land's high praise, however, I'm not seeing that suspicion quite yet.
"Palin, the gun-toting mom, has a libertarian streak in politics and a libertarian streak in religion," Wolfe writes. " ... [W]hile Palin may be quickly endorsed by men speaking in Southern accents, she is neither a Billy Graham nor a Jimmy Carter. American evangelicalism, like John McCain, has many mansions. Sarah Palin inhabits only one of them."
Fred Barnes wrote last summer in the Weekly Standard how Palin's faith impacts her politics.
"Her Christian faith--Palin grew up attending nondenominational Bible churches--was a minor issue in the race," Barnes wrote. "She told me her faith affects her politics this way: 'I believe everything happens for a purpose. In my own personal life, if I dedicated back to my Creator what I'm trying to create for the good . . . everything will turn out fine.' That same concept applies to her political career, she suggested."
Jay Newton-Small at Time Magazine asked Palin some religion questions two weeks ago.
What's your religion?
No. Bible-believing Christian.
What church do you attend?
A non-denominational Bible church. I was baptized Catholic as a newborn and then my family started going to non-denominational churches throughout our life.
As a side note and not religion related, someone asked me if I feel a kindred spirit with Sarah Palin because our names are so similar. Apparently, her middle name is Louise, so it's Sarah Louise Pulliam vs. Sarah Louise Palin. Just a few typos and I'd be running for VP.
Another update: Mollie over at GetReligion criticizes Wolfe's mention in The New Republic that Palin named two of her children after witches.
Todd Palin told People: "Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for 'strength.'"