All posts from “Sarah Palin”

December 9, 2010

Sarah Palin to Visit Haiti with Franklin Graham

As far as I can tell, Sarah Palin doesn't appear with many religious leaders very often. It seems, however, that she has developed a special relationship with the Grahams. She will visit Haiti this weekend with Franklin Graham as part of his Samaritan's Purse outreach, according to the Washington Post.

Gunfire and barricades were reported Thursday in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and the U.S. State Department reissued a travel warning to the country and recommended against nonessential travel.

Graham said he appreciates Palin's willingness to visit Haiti during such troubled times.

"I believe Gov. Palin will be a great encouragement to the people of Haiti and to the organizations, both government and private, working so hard to provide desperately needed relief," he said in a statement.

In early 2009, she also traveled with Franklin Graham to Alaska to distribute food. She also visited Billy Graham, who recently turned 92. Right after the 2008 election, I spoke with Billy Graham's daughter, asking the longtime registered Democrat had any preference for the candidates at the time. Gigi Graham said he was very fond of Palin. "He's a typical man. I don't care if he's 90 years old, he thought that she is so pretty," she said. "He loves a pretty woman."

Earlier this year, Palin defended remarks Franklin Graham made about Islam.

Andy Barr of Politico suggests that the appearance in Haiti with Graham could help her image among evangelicals.

The Haiti trip could serve two distinct political purposes for Palin.

First, it provides an opportunity to expand her image and policy portfolio beyond her limited image as a darling of the tea party movement.

Second, she'll be able to better establish her claim to evangelical voters if she chooses to seek the Republican presidential nomination. Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, one of Palin's potential 2012 rivals, in the early 2008 GOP primaries and caucuses.

Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, is extremely popular among evangelicals. But he has at times found himself in hot water over his comments, especially regarding Islam.

However, Palin has not done the same kind of religious outreach that we saw President Obama do before the 2008 election. As far as I know, she hasn't done any interviews with Christian media about her latest book and seems to prefer Fox News, TLC, Facebook, and Twitter for her outlets.

Former President Bush openly appealed to evangelicals during his 2000 presidential candidate and met with them while in office. Since his new memoir came out, Bush has appeared at Saddleback Church and on Focus on the Family radio, though that may be an attempt to sell books. Evangelicals appeared to be less excited about John McCain, but he met with the Grahams, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, and other leaders.

What do you think? Does she have the same kind of appeal to evangelicals as other potential candidates?

November 19, 2010

Huckabee, Palin Mull White House Run

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee considering running for president again in 2012.

"I'm not ruling it out. And that's not a yes, but it's definitely not a no," Huckabee said.

"The honest answer is: I'm keeping it open as an option; I'm looking at whether or not there's a pathway to victory," he added. "As I've told several people, I'm not jumping into a pool when there's no water in it."

Sunday’s New York Times magazine suggests that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is also considering the 2012 race. Asked whether she’s weighing a run, Palin said, “I am. I’m engaged in the internal deliberations candidly, and having that discussion with my family, because my family is the most important consideration here.”

She also told Barbara Walters that she thinks she could beat President Obama.

January 11, 2010

Sarah Palin to Join Fox News

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will contribute to Fox News, according to Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times.

The network confirmed that Ms. Palin will appear on the network’s programming on a regular basis as part of a multi-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ms. Palin will not have her own regular program, one person familiar with the deal said, though she will host an occasional series that will run on the network from time to time. This person would not elaborate, but the network does have a precedent for such a series. Oliver L. North is the host of an occasionally running documentary series on the military called “War Stories.”

Details could be released this afternoon, Rutenberg writes.

November 20, 2009

Did You Read Sarah Palin's Book?

Have you read Sarah Palin's Going Rogue yet?

Dan Gilgoff offers some excerpts where Palin talks about her faith:

And I do know there is a God. My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over . . . then see what He will do and how He will get you through. Test Him on this. You'll see there's no such thing as coincidence. I'm thankful for His majestic creation called Alaska.

She also talks about putting your life in God's hands in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Sarah Palin: "My very last paragraph there sums it up and invites people, encourages people to do what I did and that's put their life in God's hands, our Creator who knows probably better than we know what the perfect path is for a person so God being so extremely important my faith is to my life I wasn't going to be hesitant at all to let people know what I believe."

Sarah Palin: "How in the World would I sum up my life except to say God at the end of the day I have really nothing but my faith, my reliance on you lord and I wanted to articulate that."

She talks about her faith in God here, but there's little mention of Jesus. If you've read Palin's book, what did you think?

July 6, 2009

Palin Resigns. What's Next?

If you haven't heard yet, Sarah Palin resigned. Some people were on vacation and enjoying fireworks when that went down.

Politico's Jonathan Martin examines why Palin could have made the move.

The performance, by these lights, adds credence to the claims of some associates that Palin - burned by the intense scrutiny on her and the crossfire that swirls around her - is so fed up that she's ready to get out of elective politics. Even if it's only the small stage of Alaska politics she hopes to escape, skeptics say Friday's events also diminished and perhaps even demolished what was left of her viability as a 2012 presidential candidate.

But her defenders believed an unorthodox move, even if risky, has a clear logic and may only further increase her standing with conservatives who don't care what establishment figures in or out of the GOP think. Leaving the governor's office at the end of this month leaves her free to travel the country, command large speaking fees, and begin the process of rallying her devotees without pesky home-state opponents criticizing every move.

As pundits weigh Palin's chances of running for President in 2012, a recent poll suggested that evangelicals have been some of her strongest fans. But as Steve Waldman wonders, what happens if Palin faces Mike Huckabee?

May 13, 2009

Would You Buy a Book by Sarah Palin?

Sarah Palin will become an author in 2010, the year she's up for re-election. The book will be co-released by HarperCollins' Harper and Zondervan for the Christian audience.

Palin has agreed to talk about the Katie Couric interviews, Bristol's pregnancy, family, religion and politics.

"There's been so much written about and spoken about in the mainstream media and in the anonymous blogosphere world, that this will be a wonderful, refreshing chance for me to get to tell my story, that a lot of people have asked about, unfiltered," Palin told the Associated Press. "Being a voracious reader, I read a lot today and have read a lot growing up. And having that journalism degree, all of that, will be a great assistance for me in writing this book, talking about the challenges and the joys, balancing the work and parenting, and, in my case, work means running the state."

Politico's Mike Allen writes that the Zondervan edition could be a little bit different.

The book might have a slight addition on faith for the Zondervan edition. The Bible publisher is part of the same company, and its sales reps have close relationships at Christian bookstores that can get better display for political titles. Barnett has made similar deals for other authors whose faith is an important part of their story, including Dan Quayle, Oliver North and Bill Bennett.

Two years ago, Palin told PBS' Charlie Rose one of her favorite writers is C.S. Lewis ("very, very deep"). It'll be interesting to see how much Palin addresses her faith and whether Christian audiences will buy it just because of the author or because of the content.

Would you buy a book by Sarah Palin? Why or why not?

April 9, 2009

Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston Battle Publicly

Levi Johnston and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin have been publicly fighting over who's lying and who's not.

Levi Johnston told CBS that he moved into Palin's house a few weeks before her daughter gave birth to their child.

"We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration and even distortion of their relationship," Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton prior to his appearance Monday on the "Tyra Banks Show." "It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well-being of the child."

Asked if Palin was lying about him, Johnston said: "Yes."

What do you think? Does it matter?

March 26, 2009

Sarah Palin: Couldn't Find McCain Staffers to Pray With

Sarah Palin told a group of Alaska Republicans last week about preparing to go on stage for the vice presidential debate. "So I'm looking around for somebody to pray with, I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra," she said. "And the McCain campaign, love 'em, you know, they're a lot of people around me, but nobody I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray."

McCain staffers have taken umbrage at the suggestion that they're not the praying types.

The rest of the anecdote (starting at the 4 minute mark) is actually quite charming. She asks her daughter Piper to pray that God gives her strength and "speaks through me." Little Piper responds, "That would be cheating!"

What's politically interesting is that Palin could easily have told the Piper anecdote without dissing the McCainiacs. You can see why religious conservatives love her: unabashed about her faith and her contempt for McCain staffers.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

February 27, 2009

A Dynamic Duo

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham recently teamed up to deliver food to a small struggling Alaskan community.

The Yukon River community, made up of 330 people, has been struggling financially because of soaring gas prices and scarce food supplies. Graham's Samaritan's Purse organization has stepped in with the goal of eventually delivering 40,000 pounds of donations to Alaska communities affected by hard times.

Churches, nonprofits, bloggers and donors have also partnered in the relief effort in gathering food and supplies.

Palin hopes the relief effort will raise awareness about available job opportunities for young people even if "it requires in some cases leaving the village for a short time."

A letter out of the lower Yukon River village of Emmonak first brought attention to the matter.

Interviews with Palin and Graham on the relief trail can be found here.

(Originally published at Religion News Service's blog.)

February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin: Abstinence 'not realistic'

Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said in a recent interview it's "not realistic" to expect abstinence outside of marriage but says teenagers should wait longer to have children.

"Everyone should be abstinent . . . but it's not realistic at all," the 18-year-old told Fox's Greta Van Susteren after Van Susteren asked her whether she had a philosophical or religious objection to contraception.

Palin also said that having sex as a teenager had become "more and more accepted now" among people her age."I think everyone should just wait 10 years," she said. Being a teenage mother "is not glamorous at all . . . your whole priorities change after having a baby."

On a non-Palin note but abstinence note, Christianity Today has offered two recent articles on abstinence.

January 27, 2009

Sarah Palin PAC is Formed

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has started a new political action commitee called SarahPAC to raise funds.

A spokeswoman for the PAC said that it was launched about five hours ago to help the former vice presidential candidate maintain connections across the country. She said it was too early to tell whether Palin will run in 2012.

The website says that the PAC is "dedicated to building America's future, supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation."

Sen. John McCain was recently asked whether he regretted picking Palin as his running mate, and he said, "I think the world of Sarah Palin."

January 2, 2009

Bristol Palin Discourages Teenage Pregnancy

Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol Palin, discouraged teenage pregnancy in a statement posted on the Alaska governor's website today.

Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston on December 27. Her mother initially declined to comment, but the women issued the following statement.

Bristol Palin said she "obviously discourages" teen pregnancy and knows that plans she previously made for herself will now forever be changed. "Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with ? this isn't ideal. But I'm fortunate to have a supportive family which is dealing with this together. Tripp is so perfectly precious; we love him with all our hearts. I can't imagine life without him now."

Sarah Palin explained her reaction when she first heard the news about the pregnancy.

"When Bristol and Levi first told us the shocking news that she was pregnant, to be honest, we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair. Isn't it just like God to turn those circumstances into such an amazing, joyful blessing when you ask Him to help you through?"

Palin lauded her daughter and the baby's father, Levi Johnston, saying they will continue high school courses.

"We are over the moon with the arrival of this healthy, beautiful baby," Palin said. "The road ahead for this young couple will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Bristol and Levi are committed to accomplish what millions of other young parents have accomplished, to provide a loving and secure environment for their child. They are both hard workers, they're very strong, and have faith they've made the right decision in setting aside their own interests to make this child their highest priority."

December 29, 2008

It's a Boy!

Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, gave birth to a boy on Saturday, People magazine reports.

Bristol, 18, gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston who weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, the magazine reports.

Baby Tripp takes his surname from his dad, Levi Johnston, an apprentice electrician and former Wasilla High School hockey player who has been dating Bristol for three years.

Bristol Palin is currently residing in Wasilla and completing her high-school diploma through correspondence courses.

Johnston is studying to become an electrician. He told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol plan to wed in 2009 and raise the child together.

Bristol's pregnancy became national news after liberal bloggers floated rumors that Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy. Several conservatives quickly came to Palin's defense for encouraging her daughter to carry the baby to term.

December 13, 2008

Sarah Palin's Church Damaged by Arson Fire

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's church was badly damaged in an arson fire last night, the Associated Press reports.

Damages to the Wasilla Bible Church were estimated at $1 million, authorities said today. No one was injured in the fire, which was intentionally set while people, including two children, were inside.

"This fire is definitely suspicious," said Central Mat-Su Fire Chief James Steele.

Pastor Larry Kroon declined to say if the Friday night blaze was politically based or directed at Palin, the failed Republican vice presidential candidate. He also declined to say whether the church has received any recent threats.

Rachel D'Oro writes that Palin stopped by the church this morning. Her spokesman, Bill McAllister, said in a statement that Palin told an assistant pastor she apologizes if the fire was connected to the "undeserved negative attention" the church has received with her previous vice presidential candidacy.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life compiled a report on how the media handled Palin's faith, and several stories focused on her church.

November 11, 2008

Plow, Baby, Plow!

"I can't predict what's going to happen a day from now, much less four years from now. You know, I have -- faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator's hands -- this is what I always do. I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it's cracked up a little bit, maybe I'll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don't let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in '12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door." (Sarah Palin to Greta)

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

October 29, 2008

Effigies of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama Found

Another effigy of Barack Obama was found this morning at the University of Kentucky, just a few weeks after one was found at George Fox University.

Earlier this week, an effigy of Sarah Palin with a noose around its neck that was hung at a home in West Hollywood, California as part of a Halloween display.

Update: Another effigy of Obama was reported in Southern Indiana Wednesday night.

October 29, 2008

What Sarah Palin Does for Comments

Christianity Today's editorial on evangelicalism that uses Sarah Palin as a hook generated quite a reaction on the main site.

Anything on Sarah Palin seems to guarantee strong reactions. See The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson post on comments.

"In my own brief blogging career, Sarah Palin has been the gift that keeps on giving -- she has generated an astonishing number of comments, from both ends of the political, and theological, spectrum, many of them saturated with incredible hostility directed by the non-religious at the religious and vice versa."

By the way, you can listen to the editorial, previous editorials, and news and books commentaries on Christianity Today's new podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed, iTunes feed, or searching for "Christianity Today" on the iTunes store.

October 23, 2008

Palin to speak on special education

Sarah Palin will give her first major policy speech tomorrow, calling for full funding of special education.

She spoke to the Chicago Tribune about families that have children with special needs, including her sister.

Jill Zuckman writes that the The McCain campaign plans to add an extra $3 billion a year over five years to special education. She writes:

Palin's eyes well up as she talks about her sister's son, Karcher, who has autism.

"My sister and I have talked a lot about this. It makes me cry thinking about it," Palin said. "She asked with tears in her eyes, she says, 'What happens when Kurt and I, though, are elderly, then what happens to Karcher?' "

October 23, 2008

The $150,000 elephant in the campaign

Who knew that the reported $150,000 purchase of clothing for Sarah Palin would become such a big deal?

"She needed clothes at the time," John McCain said today. "It works that the clothes will be donated to charity. Nothing surprises me." He also said that he pays for all of his own clothing.

Palin told the Chicago Tribune that the clothes are not worth $150,000 and were bought for the Republican National Convention.

"That whole thing is just, bad!" she said. "Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are. It's kind of painful to be criticized for something when all the facts are not out there and are not reported." Palin said the clothes will be given back, auctioned off or sent to charity.

October 22, 2008

James Dobson interviews Sarah Palin

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson interviewed Sarah Palin on his radio show earlier this week, and the clip was posted this morning.

Mark Barna at the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote Monday that although Dobson didn't attend a rally, he spoke with her on the phone for 18 minutes.

Update: The interview is about 20 minutes long and starts at about 2:52 minutes into the show.

Most of the interview is chit chat, with very little discussion of what policies McCain-Palin would implement, except Palin says that she and McCain support the planks in the Republican Party's platform. However, the platform does say it supports stem cell research without the "unethical destruction of embryonic human life." McCain has said he would support embryonic stem-cell research. The platform also supports a constitutional amendment as between a man and a woman, something McCain does not support on a national level. Finally, the platform supports a constitutional amendment banning all abortion, which McCain has said should be decided on the state level.

After the jump, here's an interview play-by-play, in case you don't have time to listen.

Continue reading James Dobson interviews Sarah Palin...

October 21, 2008

Was Sarah Palin's SNL appearance funny?

Sarah Palin appeared on Saturday Night Live, and there was, yet again, a slight religion reference.

After actor Alec Baldwin pretends to mistake Palin for actress Tina Fey, he says, "I see. Forgive me. I feel I must say this: You are way hotter in person."

Palin replied, "Thank you, and I must say, your brother Stephen is my favorite Baldwin brother." Stephen Baldwin starred in the Usual Suspects and is an outspoken born-again Christian.

Time magazine included a response from Alec Baldwin about his brother's conversion.

How do you feel about your brother Stephen's conversion to Evangelical Christianity?

"If it wasn't political, I probably wouldn't have anything to say. But the Evangelicals who say AIDS is payback for homosexuals - you don't see liberals saying Hurricane Ike is payback for the Bush family living in Texas. I think that my brother really is very devout and very dedicated, and none of that bothers me until it becomes political."


The family I watched it with was not very impressed with her short performance. She was a good sport to bob her head through the rap routine, but she had so few lines to make watching the whole SNL skit worth it.

October 20, 2008

Palin supports federal marriage amendment, says her faith has been mocked

Sarah Palin expressed support for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, the opposite of the stance her running mate takes.

Palin told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that she would like an amendment similar to one she voted for in Alaska. "I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage," she said. Back in 2004, John McCain called the amendment unnecessary and un-Republican.

Brody posted a series of interviews with Palin, and gay marriage is the main policy stance she discusses. The most interesting answers are about her faith, but she doesn't go very specifically into how it affects her policies.

Brody asks Palin about the shots taken at her because of her faith and she responded by saying:

Yeah, and I think the saddest part of that is that faith, not just my faith, faith and God in general has been mocked through this campaign, and that breaks my heart, and that is unfair for others who share a faith in God and choose to worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit, and my faith has always been pretty personal.

She continues about how her how her faith is very personal.

I haven't really worn it on my sleeve. I haven't been out there preaching it. I've always been of the mind that you can walk the walk. You just don't have to be talking the talk about your beliefs, so just wanting maybe my life to be able to reflect my faith. So it's always been pretty personal, and that was kind of a surprise in the last couple of months that people would misconstrue and spin anything that has to do with my faith or anybody else's and turn it into something to be mocked.

Dan Gilgoff at Beliefnet points out that 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said the line about wearing faith on his sleeve during his '04 convention speech. Hillary Clinton also used a similar line at the 2007 Sojourner's Forum: "And, you know, I take my faith very seriously and very personally. And I come from a tradition that is perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faith on their sleeves."

Back to Palin, here's more on her faith and how she relies on God for strength.

I'm going to keep plugging away at this and I'm going to keep seeking God's guidance and His wisdom and His favor and His grace, for me, for my family, for this campaign, for our nation. Again, no matter what anybody else says about it, it's between me and God, and I am so thankful that that he has strengthened me with this understanding and this belief that I can count on Him. I can reach out to Him asking for that strength, asking for the blessings that He so freely gives and I don't know how anybody would want to do this if they didn't have real strong faith in God that He's got it all under control.

Brody also asks Palin about her baptism. "Well, it was a neat thing to be able to do," she says. Her description is fairly generic, with no mention of Jesus. She focuses on her role in bettering the world.

And I knew that I wouldn't be able to handle all that was laid out in front of me in life if I did not have strong faith in my Creator, a mission towards trying to fulfill my own destiny and trying to make the world a bit better for others, so that the manifestation of that belief that I had, I was very aware of what I could do about it at the time, and at the time it was to take that that public step to be baptized and the principle behind that too is as you're raised up out of the water it's like, 'hey world, this is my confession of faith that I'm going to try to lead and live my life according to my belief that God as my Creator has good plans for all of us, and we are to seek those plans and seek the destiny that he has for all of us.'

October 17, 2008

Palin: 'Thank the Lord' and 'God has so richly blessed this land'

Sarah Palin is ramping up God talk on the campaign trail.

The Associated Press reports that yesterday, she said, "God has so richly blessed this land, not just with the oil and the gas, but with wind and the hydro, the geothermal and the biomass.

And today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Palin said the campaign had seen some good news in recent polls. " 'We even saw today, thank the Lord, we saw some movement,' she said, looking upwards and making a fist when she said "thank the Lord."

October 16, 2008

Sarah Palin to Appear on Saturday Night Live

Sarah Palin will appear on Saturday Night Live this weekend, John McCain told David Letterman on his show tonight.

Several people have told me that they watched Tina Fey's depiction of Palin before watching Palin's actual interviews, and it's been interesting to watch the tiny religion references in the skits.

During the first skit, Amy Poehler portrays Hillary Clinton saying, "I believe global warming is caused by man," which Fey responds with, "And I believe it's just God hugging us closer."

And then Fey's response in the debate replay: "Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days.'"

October 8, 2008

Palin's Religion

I think we all can stipulate this. Sarah Palin's religious identity has been a major, if not the major, source of both the enthusiasm and the antipathy that she's generated. The evangelical base of the Republican Party recognizes her as one of its own. The secularist base of the Democratic Party recognizes her as the religious right made vice presidential flesh. And so, in an era when candidates for national office are expected to sit down and chat about how their religious backgrounds shape their worldviews and public service, why have none of the handful of journalistic interlocutors who've gotten a whack at her ventured into this territory?

At the moment, there's some Jewish unhappiness, including in the higher reaches of Jewish Republicanism, about Palin's lack of responsiveness in addressing the "Jews for Jesus" question that arose when it emerged that she had been in the congregation when that organization's head showed up and declared that Palestinian violence against Israelis was God's judgment on the Israelis for not having embraced Jesus.

While a spokesman for Palin has said that the Republican running mate rejects this view, the McCain-Palin campaign has declined to say whether she shares her pastor's general support for Jews for Jesus -- a group that Jewish organizations accuse of using deceptive tactics because it tells people they can embrace Jesus and still remain true to Judaism.

Asked this week whether the Alaska governor would condemn the missionary group, McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb told JTA that "vice-presidential candidates cannot be in the business of condemning religious groups who do not commit violence" in a country that guarantees "freedom of religion."

Goldfarb added that it is "extremely inappropriate for any elected official" to comment "on any religious group" and its mission. "That's a fundamental breach of the separation of church and state," he said.

Right. Like Sen. Lieberman should not celebrate the mission of Christians United for Israel and praise its leader as a Man of God.

There are, of course, any number of faith-based questions to be tossed in Palin's direction. But the general expectation is that she is not going to be engaging in any more tetes-a-tete with MSM types until Nov. 5 or thereabouts. And so, like the prisoners in Plato's cave, we seem to be condemned to knowing little more of Palin's faith than the shadows cast on the wall in front of us by the flickering light of YouTube.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 6, 2008

Climate change natural or 'End of Days'?

In case you haven't seen it yet, Tina Fey included a small religion reference in her most recent Saturday Night Live skit.

"Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days.'"

October 2, 2008

Liveblog: Vice-presidential candidates debate away

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are debating over tax breaks and healthcare during tonight's debate. Palin seemed very nervous at the beginning but smoothed out eventually. Here's a partial transcript from CNN.

When asked about climate change, Palin said she didn't want to argue over the causes while Biden said it is man made.

Biden says that same sex couples should have the same constitutional and legal rights as heterosexual couples. Palin say she's doesn't want to re-define the traditional definition of marriage, which Biden said he agrees.

Biden: "Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it."

The debate moves to foreign policy. Biden says religious leaders control Iran's foreign policy. Palin says there must be a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

Both candidates call for the end of the genocide in Darfur.

I'm waiting for the transcript to get the context for these, but Palin seems to be speaking Christianese: "Her reward is in heaven," "worldview," "city on a hill."

Update: Palin to Biden "I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right?"

Update: "That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here."

An abortion reference slipped in when Biden talked about why he changed his views on appointing Bork to the Supreme Court.

"Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties."

TV commentators are saying people who were hoping for a train wreck are probably disappointed.

The Susan B. Anthony List president implies a comeback for Palin but doesn't offer to say where she went.

"The Sarah we saw tonight was the same Sarah from the GOP convention - the real Sarah. She is back," Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

In a CNN poll, 51 percent thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job. However, respondents said Palin was more likable, scoring 54 percent to Biden's 36 percent.

The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson writes, "Joe Biden wasn't asked about whether he should take Communion. Sarah Palin wasn't asked whether she speaks in tongues. In fact, tonight's vice-presidential debate featured only minimal talk of faith at all..." Reuters' Tom Heneghan asks, "Has the faith factor fizzled in the U.S. campaign?"

October 2, 2008

Christian legal firm representing legislators suing to halt Troopergate

Liberty Legal Institute is representing five state legislators suing to stop the Alaska legislature's investigation into Troopergate, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Troopergate is an investigation of whether Sarah Palin dismissed a public safety commissioner because he wouldn't fire a state trooper who went through an divorce with her sister.

Sean Cockerham writes that Liberty Legal Institute lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values, but it's unclear in the article how the latter is involved in the case.

October 2, 2008

Poll: 4 in 10 evangelicals say Palin not experienced

About four in 10 white evangelical Protestants say Sarah Palin does not have the necessary experience to be an effective president, according to a recent poll conducted by Washington Post-ABC News.

Last weekend, two in 10 evangelicals planned to vote Barack Obama, according to survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

October 1, 2008

Palin and Biden offer Roe v. Wade views

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden discussed their opposing views on Roe v. Wade with Katie Couric in a CBS interview posted today.

Their answers are below, but many news outlets focus on Palin's difficulty naming another Supreme Court case she disagreed with besides Roe V. Wade.

Joe Biden

Katie Couric: Why do you think Roe v. Wade was a good decision?

Joe Biden: Because it's as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours. What does it say? It says in the first three months that decision should be left to the woman. And the second three months, where Roe v. Wade says, well then the state, the government has a role, along with the women's health, they have a right to have some impact on that. And the third three months they say the weight of the government's input is on the fetus being carried.

And so that's sort of reflected as close as anybody is ever going to get in this heterogeneous, this multicultural society of religious people as to some sort of, not consensus, but as close it gets.

I think the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment … offers a right to privacy. Now that's one of the big debates that I have with my conservative scholar friends, that they say, you know, unless a right is enumerated - unless it's actually, unless [it] uses the word "privacy" in the Constitution - then no such "constitutional right" exists. Well, I think people have an inherent right.

Sarah Palin

Couric Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see, um, further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

September 30, 2008

Palin speaks to Hewitt on faith

Sarah Palin spoke with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt about her faith earlier today. Here's a section where she talks about her faith:

Hewitt: Do you think the mainstream media and the left understands your religious faith, Governor Palin?

Palin: I think that there’s a lot of mocking of my personal faith, and my personal faith is very, very simple. I don’t belong to any church. I do have a strong belief in God, and I believe that I’m a heck of a lot better off putting my life in God’s hands, and saying hey, you know, guide me. What else do we have but guidance that we would seek from a Creator? That’s about as simple as it gets with my faith, and I think that there is a lot of mocking of that. And you know, so bet it, though I do have respect for those who have differing views than I do on faith, on religion. I’m not going to mock them, and I would hope that they would kind of I guess give me the same courtesy through this of not mocking a person’s faith, but maybe perhaps even trying to understand a little bit of it.

September 30, 2008

Palin speaks to Couric about global warming, abortion, evolution, and homosexuality

Sarah Palin sat down with Katie Couric for another interview to discuss her views on global warming, abortion, the morning-after pill, evolution, and homosexuality.

CBS has not posted the video yet, but in the transcript below, she seems to distinguish her personal views from John McCain's when Couric asked her about abortion and the morning-after pill.

Palin was widely criticized for earlier interviews with Couric. "Her halting interview with Katie Couric on CBS News alarmed many Republicans and gave fodder for a devastating parody on Saturday Night Live," The New York Times wrote today.

Global Warming

Couric: What's your position on global warming? Do you believe it's man-made or not?

Palin: Well, we're the only Arctic state, of course, Alaska. So we feel the impacts more than any other state, up there with the changes in climates. And certainly, it is apparent. We have erosion issues. And we have melting sea ice, of course. So, what I've done up there is form a sub-cabinet to focus solely on climate change. Understanding that it is real. And …

Couric: Is it man-made, though in your view?

Palin: You know there are - there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns are cyclical. And over history we have seen change there. But kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it. The point is: it's real; we need to do something about it.

Abortion

Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?

Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion, and when it should be allowed. Do I respect people's opinions on this. Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would also like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to take it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country, but I want them, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported, and adoptions made easier.

Couric: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Morning-after pill

Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning-after pill?

Palin: Well, I am all for contraception. And I am all for preventative measures that are legal and save, and should be taken, but Katie, again, I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see …

Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill?

Palin: ... I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.

Couric: I'm sorry, I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning-after pill.

Palin: Personally, and this isn't McCain-Palin policy …

Couric: No, that's OK, I'm just asking you.

Palin: But personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception.

Evolution

Couric: Do you believe evolution should be taught as an accepted scientific principle or as one of several theories?

Palin: Oh, I think it should be taught as an accepted principle. And, as you know, I say that also as the daughter of a school teacher, a science teacher, who has really instilled in me a respect for science. It should be taught in our schools. And I won't deny that I see the hand of God in this beautiful creation that is Earth. But that is not part of the state policy or a local curriculum in a school district. Science should be taught it science class.

Homosexuality

The governor told us though she's not a member of any church, she visits a couple of them regularly when she's home. She took issue with news reports that one of them, The Wasilla Bible Church, sponsored a conference where gays could be made straight through prayer.

Palin: Well, it matters though, Katie, when the media gets it wrong. It frustrates Americans who are just trying to get the facts and … be able to make up their mind on, about a person's values. So it does matter.

But what you're talking about, I think, value here, what my position is on homosexuality and you can pray it away, because I think that was the title that was listed on that bulletin. And you know, I don't know what prayers are worthy of being prayed. I don't know what's prayers are going to be asked and answered. But as for homosexuality, I am not going to judge Americans and the decisions that they make in their adult personal relationships. I have one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years happens to be gay, and I love her dearly. And she is not my "gay friend," she is one of my best friends, who happens to have made a choice that isn't a choice I would have made. But I am not going to judge people.

September 28, 2008

Finding religion in political cartoons

The Washington Post has received 750 e-mails from readers for posting a cartoon caricaturing Sarah Palin speaking in tongues. The cartoonist drew God telling St. Peter "All I can hear is some dam' right-wing politician spouting gibberish."

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Pat Oliphant's cartoon was not chosen for the print publication, but it was posted on the Post's website on September 9 with other syndicated cartoons that are posted through an automatic feed, The Washington Post's Ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote today. Howell writes that for political cartoonists, "being fair is not a virtue."

"Most cartoonists don't go out of their way to lambaste religion," Howell writes. "But the pope is a frequent editorial cartoon character, as are God and St. Peter at the Pearly Gates."

Here's a sampling of some recent cartoons that did include religion:

Nate Beeler

cartoon2natebeeler.jpg

Kevin Kallaugher

cartoonkevinkallaughter.gif

Daryl Cagle

cartoon.gif

Gary Varvel

cartoongaryvarvel.jpg

And Pat Oliphant again.

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September 25, 2008

Praying over Palin

A YouTube video emerged yesterday showing Sarah Palin being blessed in a prayer for her protection from "witchcraft."

The Associated Press reports that a Kenyan pastor Bishop Thomas Muthee prayed over her the the Wasilla Assembly of God where she used to go to church.

"Come on, talk to God about this woman. We declare, save her from Satan," Muthee said as two attendants placed their hands on Palin's shoulders. "Make her way my God. Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus. ... Use her to turn this nation the other way around."

Update: Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writes this:

"A year ago, Mike Huckabee was getting blessings like this one at Pentecostal churches, but the national media was ignoring him at this point, so the episodes never attracted much attention. "Laying on of hands" is a common way of praying in many evangelical churches. [Gov. Huckabee got prayed for this way at a Baptist megachurch in Orlando in January 2008 and at a Charismatic church in Irving, Texas in November 2007.]"

September 23, 2008

Battling in the states

Supporters of California's same-sex marriage ban have raised $17.8 million, compared to opponents, who have raised $12.4 million, the L.A. Times reports.

Dan Morain and Jessica Garrison write that Proposition 8 could be the most expensive measure focused on a social issue, according to Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and an expert on initiatives.

A separate state -- South Dakota -- is preparing for another abortion battle when voters will be asked on the ballot to outlaw almost all abortions.

U.S. News and World Report
writes that Sarah Palin's candidacy has sparked re-emergence of culture war issues like abortion.

Reporter Jay Tolson writes:

"The Palin pick was seen by many as McCain's way of reigniting the culture war - a limited culture war - while not getting too directly involved in it. In fact, says James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and the first scholar to apply the culture-war concept to the American scene, that war had never really gone away but had only moved into the background. The Palin pick, he says, returned it to the foreground, where it now shares the limelight (and headlines) with the economy and the war. But it's not, he believes, the same old battle. 'The lines of the culture war are changing,' he says. 'The gender views, for one, were so much sharper, traditional versus modern. So much has changed in the last 28 years.'"

"Although there is now more enthusiasm for the Republican ticket among religious conservatives, Pew Forum researcher Masci says that evangelicals 'are still up for grabs.'"

September 19, 2008

Magazines with women pastors cover pulled from bookstores

Gospel Today was snatched from more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstore racks because the women on the cover are church pastors, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, told reporter Christopher Quinn, "It is contrary to what we believe."

Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been pulled.

"It's really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church," Hairston told Quinn. "I was pretty shocked."

Southern Baptists are opposed to a woman being the pastor of a local church, but Richard Land told Christianity Today why would they support a woman as vice president.

"Mrs. Thatcher said that her husband was head of her home and she ran the country. Queen Elizabeth said that Prince Phillip was head of the home and she was head of the country. If Mrs. Thatcher had been an American, I would've enthusiastically supported her for president of the United States. The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church."

Still, a 2007 survey showed that 44 percent of evangelicals say "Most men are better suited emotionally for politics than most women," USA Today reports. This is compared to 33 percent of evangelical Protestants, more than other Christians and markedly higher than Jews (29%), other religions (23%), and those with no religion (14%).

Cathy Lynn Grossman notes that Baylor University's data were gathered in 2007, when Hillary Clinton was seeking the Democratic nomination, but long before Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain's running mate.

September 16, 2008

The ABCs of AOG

A helpful primer on Sarah Palin's denominational ties.

Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy launched Pentecostalism into the spotlight because of ties to the Assemblies of God denomination.

"Pentecostalism has been described as evangelical experience on steroids," reporter Dan Harris wrote for ABC.

Rich Tatum, who attends an Assemblies of God church, wrote a piece for Christianity Today explaining the denomination's history and theology, in contrast to media reports of Pentecostals.

"There's the usual report of tongues, faith-healing, and 'end times' - threateningly caricaturized as 'a violent upheaval that ? will deliver Jesus Christ's second coming,'" Tatum writes. "Then again, news accounts of 'rational faith' have been rather scarce."

Tatum writes that about one in four Christian believers worldwide are Pentecostal or charismatic. "Their four core doctrines are a belief in salvation, divine healing, Jesus' imminent "second coming" (along with the rapture, tribulation, and the millennial reign of Christ), and that the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is a divine gift freely available to all believers," he writes.

"But while Palin may well have been 'a longtime member of the Assemblies of God,' she has not regularly attended an AG church since 2002," he writes. "And a lot can change in six years."

September 14, 2008

Young evangelicals straddling the fence

The Palin Effect may not work on younger evangelicals, the Associated Press reports.

"Polls have yet to measure the Palin Effect on younger evangelical voters, whose shifting political allegiances put the demographic in play for both major-party presidential campaigns," Eric Gorski writes. "But a portrait emerges through interviews with more than a dozen pastors, authors and others who either belong to that generation or track it: Conservatives are energized much like their elders, progressives are unimpressed and many undecideds are gravitating toward McCain-Palin."

The McCain campaign tells Gorski that it is reaching out to young evangelicals, but a 26-year-old Southern Baptist pastor says he contacted the campaign to arrange a conference call with young evangelicals and got no response.

"The McCain campaign is really out to lunch when it comes to reaching young evangelicals," Jonathan Merritt told the AP, adding that Palin's questioning of man-made global warming concerns him.

Slate writes about whether the youth vote actually matters, since it was just 17 percent of voters in 2004. But both campaigns are using new groups and tools to help the youth register before deadlines approach.

"If Obama merely pokes all his Facebook friends on Election Day, for example - well, that's 1.2 million pokes right there," Christopher Beam writes.

Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia, announced a new initiative to get the school's 10,500 students registered to vote, the Washington Post reports. Falwell will cancel classes on Election Day, and he promises to make buses available to shuttle students to the polls.

Tim Craig writes that Virginia's 2006 U.S. Senate race and the 2005 state attorney general's race were decided by fewer than 10,000 votes.

September 12, 2008

Gibson drills Palin on abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell research

Charlie Gibson asked Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin some hot button questions tonight during an interview that aired on ABC tonight.

Abortion

GIBSON: In the time I have left, I want to talk about some social issues.

PALIN: OK.

GIBSON: Roe v. Wade, do you think it should be reversed?

PALIN: I think it should and I think that states should be able to decide that issue. I am pro-life. I do respect other people's opinion on this, also, and I think that a culture of life is best for America. What I want to do, when elected vice president, with John McCain, hopefully, be able to reach out and work with those who are on the other side of this issue, because I know that we can all agree on the need for and the desire for fewer abortions in America and greater support for adoption, for other alternatives that women can and should be empowered to embrace, to allow that culture of life. That's my personal opinion on this, Charlie.

GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. Do you believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is in danger?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered. Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue who have a differing.

Homosexuality

GIBSON: Homosexuality, genetic or learned?

PALIN: Oh, I don't -- I don't know, but I'm not one to judge and, you know, I'm from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds and I'm not going to judge someone on whether they believe that homosexuality is a choice or genetic. I'm not going to judge them.

Stem cell research

GIBSON: Embryonic stem cell research, John McCain has been supportive of it.

PALIN: You know, when you're running for office, your life is an open book and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion, which may end up being different than what the policy in an administration would be. My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo and then destroy it for research, if there are other options out there. And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we're getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research.

The Washington Post reports that McCain has a new ad on stem cell research, but it doesn't specify between embryonic and adult stem cell.

They're the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change.
John McCain will lead his Congressional allies to improve America's health.
Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease.
Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.
Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns.
Stem cell research to help stroke victims.
And, John McCain and his Congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease.
Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster.
Change is coming.
McCain-Palin and Congressional allies.
The leadership and experience to really change Washington and improve your health.
Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden also reminded voters of stem cell research earlier this week.

September 12, 2008

Capitalizing on Palin enthusiasm

Sarah Palin and John McCain did not make an appearance at this year's Values Voter Summit, but the campaign's evangelical outreach director Marlys Popma kept busy handing out bumper stickers at a quieter reception this afternoon.

The campaign also handed out DVDs where John McCain talks about his faith.

"I think he’s more comfortable talking about it than people realize it. It comes up a lot in the town hall meetings," said Bob Heckman, who leads the campaign's conservative outreach. "Just because he doesn’t do it on national TV doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen."

The campaign is capitalizing on conservative evangelicals' adoration of Palin. Heckman and several of the summit attenders wore "Palin power" stickers. One man sold buttons that said "Pro-life, Pro-Palin" and "Sock it to 'em" displaying Palin's photo.

September 12, 2008

FRC says thanks but no thanks to Sarah Palin video

The McCain campaign offered to send a video of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to the Values Voter Summit, but the Family Research Council declined the invitation.

"I said, ‘That won’t work,’ because legally we can’t do that," FRC President Tony Perkins told me this afternoon. "Barack Obama wanted to come early on, and if I didn’t extend the same format that I had given to her, we would be open to challenge. We had a complaint filed against us last year which took thousands of dollars. It was cleared up, but I have to be very careful."

FRC will show a video with former candidate Mike Huckabee at a gala tomorrow night.

September 12, 2008

Media vs. Sarah Palin

Speakers at the Values Voter Summit this morning spoke of their disdain for the media and love of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called ABC's interview with Palin "stunningly distorted."

"They find Gov. Palin quite horrifying because she actually believes in God, she actually believes in family, she actually has five children and she actually is a conservative," Gingrich said. "It's as though John McCain had gone to Mars and brought back an alien."

The crowd cheered Lt. Governor of Maryland Michael Steele earlier when he said, "I know Sarah Palin and you don't want to mess with Sarah Palin. She shoots moose, what do you think she is going to do to a donkey?"

CNN's Lou Dobbs gave the opening speech saying that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins "brought me over to his way of thinking. It may cost me my membership card in the liberal media but that is how it is."

September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin's high value

I’m getting ready to hear Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, John McCain this weekend at the Values Voter Summit.

That’s if the summit is anything like the Republican National Convention. Last year, John McCain came in last of the six Republican candidates in the summit’s straw poll. He received just 81 votes of the 5,776 cast.

The Family Research Council will host the summit for conservative voters with "shared values," and issues like abortion and gay marriage are bound to be common themes.

The New York Times’ story out of last year’s Values Voter Summit was that Christian conservatives were divided over which Republican candidate to support.

Mitt Romney won 28 percent of the votes, with Mike Huckabee trailing him close behind. The Washington Times writes about how Palin rises as the new conservative leader while others like Romney and Huckabee fade to the background.

September 11, 2008

A task from God

I will be covering this weekend's Values Voter Summit, so I was on a plane to DC during ABC's highly anticipated interview with Sarah Palin tonight.

So far, it looks like this was the main religion exchange:

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.

But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.

That's what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.

Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.

GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln's words, but you went on and said, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."

PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.

GIBSON: But then are you sending your son on a task that is from God?

PALIN: I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.

Melissa Rogers has more questions for Palin:

The other question I think she must answer regarding her talk at Wasilla Assembly of God flows from these remarks:
[Palin] said the state needed more than just economic development.

"Really, all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God," she said. "Your job is going to be to be out there reaching the people - hurting people - throughout Alaska and we can work together to make sure God's will be done here."

What does Palin mean by this, and how do her beliefs affect her public service? Does she think it appropriate, for example, for the government to promote (with its funds or otherwise) conversion or adherence to a particular faith or to some religion? Or is Palin saying that encouraging religious devotion is not the job of government but rather the job of the church?

Either way, does she regard public service as useless if the people being served are not "right with God"? If elected vice president, would she treat (and ensure that other governmental officials treat) people of all faiths and none as citizens of equal value? If so, how would she make good on that commitment?

Update: GetReligion's Mollie takes Gibson to task for his question. I'm hoping that we can just hear simple ABC questions about her faith.

September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin and Rick Warren Chat by Phone

Sarah Palin and Rick Warren are chatting by phone, though it's unclear who initiated. Warren seems less happy than ever with Obama, while still claiming to be above partisan politics.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

September 10, 2008

Palin preaches to the choir

Sarah Palin may possess the evangelical vernacular John McCain needs to win in November, Michael Lindsay argues over on Beliefnet.

"Why would a person seeking the country's second most powerful office talk about governing with a 'servant's heart,' and more importantly, why would she repeat such an odd phrase in the biggest speech of her life? Quite simply, it is one of her main assignments--to mobilize fellow evangelicals for the religiously unmusical John McCain."

Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, argues that when Palin referred to governing with a "servant's heart," the phrase resonated with millions of evangelicals who have heard that phrase all of their lives.

"When John McCain began his bid for the Oval Office, observers thought he didn't have a prayer of winning their support. With this 'Hail Mary pass' of enlisting the Alaskan governor as his running mate, John McCain's political savior may just turn out to be a pit bull with lipstick."

September 10, 2008

Palin, the Alaska Context

As the scrutiny of Palin's religious views begins in earnest--here's CNN's take on Anderson Cooper last night--it's important to understand the Alaska context in which evangelicals like her operate. Alaskans may seem like rednecks in mukluks, but religiously they are a much better fit with the rest of the Pacific Northwest than with the redneck South. Their rate of religious affiliation is low. According to the North American Religion Atlas (data base developed by the Polis Center as part of the Greenberg Center's regions project), 60.2 percent of Alaskans are religiously unaffiliated or uncounted, putting them in close proximity to Washingtonians (62 percent) and Oregonians (65 percent) but far away from, say, Oklahomans (30 percent). And whereas over half the population of Oklahoma is affiliated with an evangelical church, in Alaska less than 15 percent are.

What this means is that Alaska's evangelicals constitute a distinct subculture if not the kind of self-conscious counterculture that characterizes them in the rest of the Northwest. Nowhere else in the country are evangelicals so skeptical of environmentalism, which in Oregon and Washington has acquired the status of a civil religion in and of itself. (For more on this, see chapter 10 of our new book, One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics.) Under the circumstances, Palin has needed to be circumspect about translating her very conservative social views into either electoral politics or governance. She may have wanted to get immoral books removed from the Wasilla library shelves, but her tentative effort to do so failed. She'll ask fellow evangelicals to pray for a gas pipeline but not Alaskans at large. Wedge politics based on a religious right agenda requires considerable delicacy in Alaska.

Abortion, the premier religious right issue, is the most notable case in point. Alaska is a pro-choice state by a considerable margin; a 2005 state-by-state survey ranked it as the 32nd most pro-life state, with 58 percent of Alaskans describing themselves as pro-choice, as opposed to 37 percent pro-life. There's no question that Palin, who makes no bones about it, is about as pro-life as a politician can get, opposing abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother. But open anti-abortion politics is not a winner in Alaska. In her gubernatorial campaign against pro-choice Tony Knowles two years ago, her campaign insisted that she would not advocate for her anti-abortion views, and in fact she's been very gingerly in pushing for anti-abortion legislation as governor.

No doubt, Palin will be asked about her views on abortion by ABC's Charlie Gibson on the road in Wasilla this week. My guess is that she will, as she did in Alaska, enunciate her pro-life position and then accuse her opponents of using abortion to divide Americans. ("Tony Knowles is working to divide Alaskans by making abortion an issue," her spokesman told the Juneau Empire in 2006.) It's called having your cake and eating it too, and it's pretty good politics in a country that's exactly as pro-choice as Alaska is.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

September 10, 2008

Faith-Based False Rumors About Palin

FactCheck.org has posted this list of the false rumors targetting Sarah Palin. Notice how many have a religious tie-in:

Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn't cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years.

That sham accusation seeks to undermind Palin's commitment to special needs children as exemplified by her decision to carry her Down syndrome baby to term, largely for religious reasons, ie faith-based opposition to abortion.

She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated list were not even in print at the time. The librarian has said Palin asked a "What if?" question, but the librarian continued in her job through most of Palin's first term.

This one portrays Palin as a narrow-minded Bible thumper.

She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She's been registered as a Republican since May 1982.

OK, that one has nothing to do with religion.

Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president. She once wore a Buchanan button as a "courtesy" when he visited Wasilla, but shortly afterward she was appointed to co-chair of the campaign of Steve Forbes in the state.

This one paints Palin as an out-of-the mainstream culture warrior, though some conservatives took it as proof of her allegiance to the cause.

Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools. She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

That one needs no explanation.

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.

September 9, 2008

Jews for Jesus director defends remarks

Jews for Jesus came under scrutiny after Politico published remarks made at Sarah Palin's church before she was chosen as John McCain's vice presidential candidate.

Politico reported that Jews for Jesus executive director, David Brickner described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity.

Brickner.JPG

A spokesman for the McCain campaign said that Palin did not know Brickner would be speaking that day and did not share his views. "Governor Palin does not share the views he expressed, and she and her family would not have been sitting in the pews of this church for the last seven years if his remarks were even remotely typical," Michael Goldfarb wrote in an e-mail to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Brickner gives the same message at churches across the country for Jews for Jesus, group composed of Christians with Jewish lineage. I spoke with Brickner earlier this week, who also defended his message on the Jews for Jesus website.

Did you expect your comments to emerge later?
When I went to Wasilla, I had only briefly heard that Sarah Palin was being considered as a possible running mate, but by then, people were saying, ?No no, it's Pawlenty. It's Romney.' When the pastor told me she was going to have her baby dedicated that Sunday, I just thought, ?Wow that's cool.'

I didn't expect the kind of scrutiny and misappropriation of my sermon for the ends of attacking her. We've been trying to scramble to cover the misunderstandings over the last few days.

When did you think you were being misrepresented?
The comments that were made were taken out of context. They were trying to make it sound like I believed God was sending the terrorists attacks on Israel for not believing Jesus.

Any evangelical would say that the whole world is under the effects of sin, the judgment of God for unbelief. So many things happen in the world, broken families, terrible things that happen in the world. When I was talking about Israel, I was talking about the things that have gone over there, and that this world is broken and Jesus is the only hope.

Do you think Jews find you offensive?
We should think that Jewish people should believe in Jesus, just like everybody else. That often gets criticized, but I had never been criticized for this before.

Obviously Sarah Palin is the real target in all of this and I happened to be fodder in the whole process. I'm sure the story will blow over for Jews for Jesus but I doubt that Sarah Palin will be out of the line of attack until the election.

Sarah Palin naturally had to say ?I don't hold those views' and I would say ?I don't hold them either.'

People are reading and listening to sermon. They're going to hear a message of love, of the message of Jesus." The Jerusalem dilemma is the Wasilla dilemma, which is the dilemma of the heart.

If you had known that people would hear what you said, would you have changed it?
It's hard to say. I might've been a little more thorough in using the illustrations I used. Having just been in Israel, the terrible conflict that is raging in the middle east is symptomatic of all of the problems humans face, being estranged from God. I don't think I would want to be in a place where I would diminish the impact of sin, but I spent more time focusing on the love that God has. When you take one sentence out of a 6 and ? page manuscript you can pretty much distort anything you want.

Did you pay attention to when reporters broadcasted comments Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee had made, and if so, how did you feel then compared to what you are experiencing now?
I think the comparison, which was attempted, is a stretch. One thing is sure. The old adage that you can't believe what you read in the press has been driven home to me. I don't feel any responsibility to try to defend Rev. Wright's comments, that I can assure you.

John Hagee's comment that the Holocaust was God's judgment is a comment that's also been made by many religious leaders, including rabbis. I believe you have to be able to distinguish between Satan's efforts to destroy people, which was the Holocaust and God's judgment. God often used judgment to bring about repentance. I believe there's a huge difference between judgment, which is God's redemptive plan, and the diabolical efforts of the enemy to destroy God's people. I believe the Holocaust is an example of Satan's efforts to destroy God's work and his people. I would never say the Holocaust was God's judgment.

The quotes that were attributed to me were cast in such a way that was the opposite of what I was saying.

You give this message to several churches across the country. Have you tailored your message any differently?
No. I think that maybe I will be more careful to give a context and a caveat when I talk about sin and judgment, but I will never stop talking about it because the Bible talks about it. As Christians, we need to continue to articulate the fact that sin has its consequence and that God does judge sin.


How do you know the difference between God's judgment and Satan's attempts?

I'm sure there are evangelical theologians who won't agree with me on that point. In terms of scope, when the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and took the people captive, God warned the people that this was going to happen and the results of their sin would lead to judgment, but the judgment was never one of extent of what the Holocaust was.

The intent was never on the part of others to annihilate all of the people. God when he judges, he allows things to happen. God's intent was always to call people back to himself.

What do you think about Palin's candidacy?
Jews for Jesus is not a political organization. My personal view was that she is somebody who is an evangelical Christian who loves the Lord and believes in life and lives that out. As for her pastor, I know he's a godly man and he has a genuine evangelical conviction. I would stake my confidence in the messages he's preaching.

Jews for Jesus provided the photo of Brickner speaking with an Israeli in Tel Aviv a few months ago.

September 9, 2008

Belief barrier: What Palin's religion could mean for the race

Journalists are still searching for Sarah Palin's religious ties to her policies, but Family Research Council President Tony Perkins doesn't see any yet.

This is a clip from a CNN interview:

Roberts: Do you have any idea at this point about how her faith will inform how she governs?

Perkins: No. There's not a lot of evidence in Alaska other than, you know, she's conservative. I mean there's not -- you can't point to a lot of policies that people say [she adopted] because she's a conservative evangelical.

Steve Waldman at Beliefnet created a list of statements Palin has made that seem to tie her faith to her policies. Waldman tries to explain which ones could be scary to those on on the left and which aren't.

September 8, 2008

Keeping faith on the DL

Reporters keep searching for hints of Sarah Palin's faith, but it looks like the campaign is keeping it on the down low.

Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, told the New York Times that Palin had been baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, but declined to comment further.

"We're not going to get into discussing her religion," she said.

Comella also declined to talk about her background to the Wall Street Journal. "I think talking about where she worships today and how she characterizes herself speaks for itself about where she is today on this issue," Comella said.

So since the campaign is quiet, reporters are digging up speeches and videos of her speaking or sermons her pastors have given.

Here's a clip that Chicago Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear dug up.

"I can do my job there in developing our natural resources and doing things like getting the roads paved and making sure our troopers have their cop cars and their uniforms and their guns, and making sure our public schools are funded," she said in June to ministry students at her former church. "But really, all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has changed the entry under Palin's religion from "Protestant" to "Attends several evangelical Christian churches in Alaska."

Sen. John McCain has always been quieter about his faith. He grew up in an Episcopal church but has been attending North Phoenix Baptist Church for more than 15 years. Although his wife has been baptized there, McCain has not, telling the Chicago Tribune, "Oh, it's just something I'll be able to work out with Pastor [Dan] Yeary."

Reporter Brachear recalled when a journalist covering the 2000 campaign asked McCain to name his favorite Bible verse.

When McCain came up with nothing, the reporter suggested John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

"Is that the one about the end of the world?" McCain quipped.

McCain told the Tribune that he began attending North Phoenix Baptist because pastors there offered a message of spiritual redemption.

"The message was more in tune with what I was seeking in the way of spiritual assistance and guidance," McCain told the Tribune. "All of us are human. None of us is without sin or failings. The key to it is to try to move forward and be better and do better."

September 4, 2008

Tom Delay on Palin's Inspiring Christian "Worldview"

In a brief interview I had today, the former House Majority Leader said he was deeply unenthusiastic about McCain but now shares the prevailing ecstasy about Sarah Palin.

"It's obvious that's a woman with a world view. I could see it in the way she looked at her family. I could see in the discussion around her child. It's obvious her faith is her foundation. A Christian has a world view that allows you see a situation...they've made the bad choice. So do you see it as a punishment as Obama does or as a blessing as Christians see it?"

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

September 4, 2008

Hastert: VP pick ‘quintessential John McCain’

I ran into former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert just before he was about to go on the radio. He agreed with my hunch: evangelicals are more excited about Sarah Palin than John McCain.

"I wasn't necessarily a McCain guy, but I think [the vice presidential pick] is certainly quintessential John McCain. That's what the American people are looking to, and that's what his vice presidential choice was: non-conventional and somebody who I think represents the quintessential American family. The kids aren't going to Ivy League schools, the son got out of high school and went into the army at 18-years-old, so it's something that people can relate to. And even the problems the family has are problems every family has, someone down the street, or somebody at our church, or in the neighborhood.

It seems like evangelicals are more excited about Sarah Palin than McCain. What do you think?

I think so, and I think that's kind of typical. I just watched my wife and she just kind of lit up. She just thinks it's really amazing.

What about evangelicals, do you think their agenda is broadening, and if it is, will that help Barack Obama get votes?

Where you really look at evangelical responsibility, I think the evangelical creeds [emphasize] individual choices and individual responsibilities. John McCain and Sarah Palin represent that much more than Obama. Obama believes that government is good for people, it ought to make decisions for people and it's all encompassing

What about Obama's religious outreach? He's done a lot.

Well it's because he has to, because he doesn't have any otherwise."

September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's religious background and what it could mean

Reporters are scanning church Web sites, listening to clips of sermons, and digging through policy decisions for more details on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's whether her faith affects her politics.

Her religious background and its influence on her public policy are still emerging, reporters for the Associated Press write.

Eric Gorski and Rachel Zoll write:

As Alaska governor, she signed a proclamation as Alaska's governor honoring Christian Heritage Week and said creationism shouldn't be barred from classroom discussions.

She used traditional evangelical language in praying that a natural gas pipeline be built in Alaska and that the U.S. mission in Iraq was a "task that is from God." Yet she's also said she would not force her views on others.

Suzanne Sataline writes at the Wall Street Journal that the McCain campaign isn't eager to talk about Palin's spiritual beliefs.

"I am not going to get into that. I think talking about where she worships today and how she characterizes herself speaks for itself about where she is today on this issue," says Maria Comella, a campaign spokeswoman told Sataline.

Sataline writes:

"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country," Gov. Palin said, in a video of the talk posted on the church's Web site. Pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure we're praying for: that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

David Gushee, a Christian ethicist at Mercer University in Atlanta, says he is troubled that a public official might presume that government action could be God's intent. "I would never think it is appropriate to describe the actions of the United States military or the strategies of our commanders as a plan from God," Mr. Gushee says.

Mr. Gushee says Gov. Palin should explain her beliefs concerning the inevitability of a cataclysm and the end of time. "To me, it is highly relevant to someone who potentially has her hand on the nuclear button," he says. "If that is her worldview, I would want to know about that."

September 4, 2008

The Servant

In her acceptance speech, Sarah Palin repeated the line from her Dayton announcement speech in which she signaled fellow evangelicals that she was one of them, to wit: "We are expected to govern with integrity and goodwill and clear convictions and a servant's heart." John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter explained the enthusiasm that greeted the final item the first time around as follows:

That reaction wasn't simply about approval of good government; the phrase "servant's heart" is a popular bit of Evangelical terminology, used as a short-hand for Christian humility. A quick web search reveals thousands of churches, ministries, and bands that use some variation of "servant's heart" in the title; there's even a residential cleaning service in Calgary called "Servant's Heart."

The term is so common, in fact, that Christian comedian Tim Hawkins has poked fun at it. "I hate it when somebody tells me I've got a servant's heart," Hawkins says. "It means they want me to start stacking chairs."

When Palin pledged to govern with a "servant's heart," Christians, especially those with an Evangelical background, had no trouble recognizing one of their own, even without the convenience of a denominational label on Palin's resume.

Lest you thought the culture wars were over.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

September 3, 2008

Excerpts from Sarah Palin's speech

Here are excerpts from Sarah Palin's prepared remarks tonight:

"I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better. When I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too. Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."

"I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

"Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America’s energy problems - as if we all didn’t know that already. But the fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines...build more nuclear plants...create jobs with clean coal...and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources. We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers."

"Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."

September 3, 2008

Palin's former pastor scrutinized

Another pastor has been thrust into the spotlight this election since Sarah Palin came onto the scene.

The Huffington Post reviewed sermons preached by Rev. Ed Kalnins, pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God.

"Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war 'contending for your faith;' and said that Jesus 'operated from that position of war mode.'"

"Whether I influenced Sarah, I don't know," Kalnins told Religion News Service's Robert Stern. "You can take any kind of a sermon ... without an introduction and without a conclusion and say that this guy is weird."

A spokesman for the McCain-Palin ticket told RNS that during the last seven years, she and her family have attended a nondenominational evangelical church in Wasilla.

September 3, 2008

Palin's former church swamped with Web hits

Sarah Palin's former church Wasilla Assembly of God's Web site is being swamped since the Alaska governor was announced as John McCain's pick.

Here's what happens when you go to the Web site:

WasillaAG.net was never intended to handle the traffic it has received in the last few days.

Due to technical limitations, WasillaAG.net will be unavailable for the immediate future.

Thank you for your visit.

Official Statement Concerning Governor Palin

Governor Sarah Palin did attend Wasilla Assembly of God since the time she was a teen ager. She and her family were a part of the church up until 2002. Since that time she has maintained a friendship with Wasilla Assembly of God and has attended various conferences and special meetings here. This June, the Governor spoke at the graduation service of our School of Ministry, Master's Commission Wasilla Alaska.

We have had some inquires into Governor Palin's beliefs. We do know that Gov Palin is a woman of integrity. She is a servant of the people, she is a strong leader. As for her personal beliefs, Governor Palin is well able to speak for herself on those issues.

As Alaskans we are excited about our Governor being selected as the nominee for Vice President. As residents of Wasilla, we are ecstatic about one of our own being thrust to the national forefront. However, as a church, it is not appropriate for us to endorse any one candidate over another. As believers, we are reminded in 2 Peter 2.13 that we are to submit to those in authority. 1 Timothy 2.1-2 tells us pray for those in authority. This we will do no matter who is elected. We wish the best to Governor Palin, and Senator McCain, as well as to Senator Obama and Senator Biden.

May God continue to bless America.

(h/t, Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News)

September 3, 2008

Alaska isn't that religious

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life has put together a page on Alaska's religious profile, showing that the state really isn't that religious. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a self-described "Bible-believing Christian" and her vice president candidacy has thrilled several conservative evangelicals.

Thirty-one percent of Alaskans say that religion is not important in their lives, 15 percent higher than the national average, and 47 percent seldom or never attend religious services, which is 20 percent higher than the nation. Twenty-six percent of the Alaskan population are evangelicals, which is the second largest religious group behind unaffiliated.

September 3, 2008

Former U.S. treasurer on Palin: If I could do cartwheels, I would

Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin has a few things in common with Governor Sarah Palin. Marin was mayor of a small town. She was named miss congeniality at a beauty pageant. And she has a child with Down Syndrome.

What do you think about John McCain’s vice presidential pick Sarah Palin?

I love her. If I could do cartwheels, I would. I just think she’s awesome. I’m very excited. My child is 23-years-old and her baby is six-months-old. So I just think that she herself her person her persona is able to communicate and relate to so many working mothers, career professionals, political professionals in trying to balance life. And I think that we have no better example of the working woman the working professional woman who somewhere somehow by the grace of God is able to manage all of that. And I think that many women across the United States like me say ‘Wow, if she can do it so can we.’

Can you tell me what it’s like to raise a child with Down Syndrome?

There’s a difference between her and me. I did not know that my child was going to have Down. It was my first child, hers is her last child and she knew that her child was going to have Down Syndrome. The pain is no less the same still because regardless you are expecting a different child not this one. Yet you love this one, this is yours your flesh and blood, you love him and you don’t see the Down Syndrome. The difference is she knew and yet you know she made the right choice, she chose to keep this baby, just when it would be so easy not to when it would be very understanding by many people. The fact that she chose to keep this child I think speaks volumes. Not better, not worse, just volumes about a woman.

I think that you have to live your faith. Here’s a woman who has lived her faith in a very crystallized way. I mean it’s very clear this is a woman of faith and she chooses to live her faith and all her decisions are founded in her faith. I remember when I thought I was going to lose it because he had many different medical problems. That I talked to God, yelled and scream at him because I said, ‘Please don’t take him.’

After my first child I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. And that was very difficult, very, very difficult. I got pregnant a third time, and fortunately the baby was born and she’s now at Columbia University and she wants to be a civil engineer. But I also know how many other women have chosen a different decision for them. And because I have a special relationship with God, I believe that that decision, whatever it is, it’s a decision between that woman and her God, I cannot impose upon somebody my own beliefs, my own philosophy. But I do tell people pray a lot and the right decision will come. And what is right for you is what is right for you.

What do you think about the McCain-Palin ticket?

Fabulous. Absolutely brilliant. You know I just think that there is so much more to offer and I think there are so many women who would see themselves reflected on her. I think it will change the debate.

Were you as excited about the ticket before Palin was chosen?

I trust McCain’s judgment. The best thing about us is we have excellent choices. I mean Mitt Romney was wonderful, Governor Pawlenty was awesome and certainly Sarah Palin is just fabulous.

September 3, 2008

God-o-Meter Q&A With Sarah Palin's Biographer

There's been lots of confusion and questions about Sarah Palin's faith life since John McCain picked her as his running mate last Friday. God-o-Meter caught up with Kaylene Johnson, author of the new book Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment on Its Ear to set the record straight. An important note: Johnson's book covers the period up to Palin's 2006 election as governor of Alaska, so she didn't have much information about the role that religion or religious groups has played in her role as her state's chief executive.

Sarah Palin was baptized as a Catholic but became active in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God church while still young. How did she go from one tradition to the other?

It was through her mother, Sally. Sarah was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church. And her mom discovered a more meaningful experience at an Assemblies of God Church in Wasilla, where Pastor Paul Riley had really formed a community. And Sally enrolled her kids in church camps and Bible school. This was when Sarah was about 12. She asked to be re-baptized. The whole family was baptized at the same time, at a lake right here in Wasilla called Beaver Lake. I don't know that her father was baptized--it was a mom and the kids. It was a milestone that Sarah never really forgot. She knew she claimed a moral compass that would stay with her.

Was that pastor--Pastor Riley--a major influence in her life? Can you talk about him?

Pastor Riley and his wife became lifelong family friends to Sarah because she grew up in that church. Now he is retired and serves as a chaplain in jails. They are known for taking people in, including--sometimes--prisoners that Pastor Riley ministers to. He was at Wasilla Assemblies of God for 44 years.

How active did Palin become in the Assemblies of God once she was re-baptized?

She was active in high school. She used to sign her yearbook with Bible verses. She was the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her high school. She was a basketball star, and as a junior her team went to a state tournament in Juneau and they lost a really close game. The coaches told me a story about the game, where the following morning the coaches met for breakfast and they didn't see the girls. They waited for the girls to come down from their hotel rooms and wondered if they had stayed up all night and partied. And the coaches got up to walk out and saw the girls walking back from somewhere. They had Bibles in their hands. They'd gotten up early to go the church. And Sarah Palin was kind of the ringleader. It was pretty telling.

Today she attends an Assemblies of God Church in Anchorage and a nondenominational church back home in Wasilla, right?

It's a Bible church that she attends in Wasilla, a nondenominational church. So her faith tradition is eccentric in the sense that she's a Christian but doesn't hold one tradition in higher esteem than the other.

How does her faith influence her worldview and politics?

It's really central to who she is and how she views the world and her job. One of the things I felt with talking with her is that, unlike with a lot of politicians who are running for office, there's not a sense of political ambition as much as there is a sense of service. I think that' s unique. She comes at her job as a servant.

But how do her religious beliefs shape her policy views?

I can't talk about how her faith influences policy because I haven't spoken with her about that specifically.

Adding Palin to the ticket has helped McCain excite religious conservatives a couple months before Election Day. Did she make her faith and values an issue in her campaign for governor?

Her faith didn't play a big role. It's a very big part of who she is but she's also very private. It's not something she uses as a campaign tool. I don't think she would hold it secret at all if asked about it directly. She would freely speak her mind about it. It would be interesting to see how she responds to that question because it's such an important part of her life.

Palin has become a darling of the nation's conservative evangelical leadership. Was she close to that community in Alaska? Did they play a big part in her election as governor?

No, not really. I would not say that I was sort of amused [by Palin's rollout as a family values candidate] because she is a family person and is not shy about saying so. But it's not something used in her campaign. Her campaign was really about her call for ethics in government. That's what clinched the deal.

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.

August 31, 2008

Palin and the Other Women

The campaign (and pundits) seem to think picking Palin will pick up disaffected Hillary voters. I doubt it. Let's think about who the Hillary voters are. First, some are ardent feminists, furious with the rejection of a highly qualified woman. It's unlikely that they'll go for a pro-life, relative3ly unqualified candidate. A second bloc are those who don't want to vote for black. They'll vote for McCain (or more accurately against Obama) in any case, regardless of the VP.

While I do think the Palin pick might help lure women, it's not the women all the pundits are talking about. The Palin pick will help attract moderate, young evangelical women, whom Obama had targeted, and it will insure that conservative evangelical women will show up at the polls and work hard. It might also with undecided, independent women who were not Hillary supporters and are still on the fence.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 30, 2008

The Best Thing About Sarah Palin

The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate has all sorts of interesting political implications, which are being diced and parsed as I write. But I'm more interested in the long-term cultural implications of the choice of Palin, whether the McCain?Palin ticket wins or loses in November, for one of the most vexing horizons of impossibility in our culture: the abortion rate among unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Upwards of 85 percent of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome elect to terminate the pregnancy, according to several studies in the peer-reviewed journal Prenatal Diagnosis. A 1999 British study in that journal found the termination rate to be between 91 and 93 percent. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I remember seeing many people my age and younger who had the distinctive facial and behavioral characteristics of Down children. These days I rarely see a Down Syndrome child at all.

What is peculiar about Down Syndrome as a reason for termination is that, plainly put, you rarely meet a Down Syndrome "sufferer" who is notably unhappy. The condition has a range of manifestations, some more disabling than others, but many, many persons with Down Syndrome thrive as children and adults, even if they may not have the same range of capabilities as you or I do.

The fact that this syndrome has become a reason for termination is evidence of the terrible power of culture. A culturally neutral artifact (prenatal diagnosis of congenital diseases) combined with a culturally tragic artifact (elective abortion) begins to make it plausible that parents should avoid the challenges and risks of a Down pregnancy by ending it. The decreasing number of children born with the condition begins to make it more difficult to imagine that "normal" families can absorb the stresses of raising such a child, and undermines public support for public programs that support families who have made that decision. Which, over time, makes carrying a Down Syndrome baby to term ever more inconceivable, leading to increased rates of termination, leading to decreasing plausibility . . . until one day the burden of bringing a Down Syndrome child into the world is seen as so grave that less than 10 percent of parents take the risk.

But Sarah and Todd Palin have done it. I cannot think of any other public figures in my adult life, at least of the prominence they are about to enjoy or endure, who have made this decision. They will cause many, many families to reconsider the horizons of the possible. Their public example could very well lead to a cultural sea change - a dramatic shift in the "horizons of the possible." That phrase from my book is no metaphor. Those horizons are so real that, for a future generation of children and their parents, they are quite literally a matter of life and death. For this reason, which utterly transcends politics and this year's election, the sudden prominence of the Palins is, in the deepest sense, an extraordinary act of public service.

(Cross-posted from Andy Crouch's Culture Making.)

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."

Palin1.JPG

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."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life broadly describes Palin as Protestant. Although it's clear that some evangelicals are excited about her, I wonder whether she calls herself an evangelical.

Update:

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?
Christian.

Any particular...?
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.'"

August 30, 2008

Cizik's caution vs. Dobson's elation

I'm finally in Minneapolis (the airline lost my luggage, but at least I have my laptop), and I'm catching up on the Sarah Palin developments.

Although I've seen thrilling remarks in the press releases from conservative evangelicals, Suzanne Sataline from the Wall Street Journal talked with one evangelical who is more cautious.

Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said he was initially stunned because he had never heard of the Alaskan governor.

"Do we have a Dan Quayle on our hands? I'm open to being persuaded otherwise if she proves herself," Cizik told Sataline.

"I like some of the personal choices she's made, such as carrying a Downs child to term,'' Cizik said, referring the governor's infant son who has Down Syndrome. "So will millions of evangelicals.''

Cizik has been an outspoken advocate for environmental issues, which drew heavy criticism from some conservative Christians, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Cizik said he and other evangelicals need more information about Palin's views on the environment and global affairs.

"I don't think evangelicals are going to vote for this team for superficial partisan reasons. I think lots of people are looking beyond labels this time around,'' he said to the Journal. He told Sataline he hasn't decided how he will vote.

On the other hand, Dobson is pretty excited. Even though six months ago he planned not to vote for John McCain, he told Dennis Prager, "But I can tell you that if I had to go into the studio, I mean the voting booth today, I would pull that lever."

He said in a statement: "Sen. McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is an outstanding choice that should be extremely reassuring to the conservative base of his party. She is a strong executive who hates corruption and puts principle above politics. After floating the names of Tom Ridge and Sen. Joe Lieberman in recent weeks ? selections that would have created consternation among pro-family Republicans ? Sen. McCain has chosen a solid conservative who has a reputation for espousing common sense."

August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's faith

I am watching all the positive press releases from conservative evangelicals roll in on Sen. John McCain's vice president pick. So far, I haven't seen a negative one.

I am dying to blog more, but like the other 15,000 reporters, I have to get to the Denver airport to make it to Minneapolis.

More coming, but for now, Dallas Morning News reporter Jeffrey Weiss writes about her Pentecostal background and Mollie over at GetReligion has pulled together several articles on the religion angle.

Update: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has put together a biographical page on Sarah Palin. Right now, it's mostly background information but a closer look at the new Vice Presidential candidate's faith will be coming.

August 29, 2008

Rice sociologist calls McCain's pick 'strategically brilliant'

Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, believes that Sen. John's McCain's decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a strategically brilliant development. Lindsay is author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. I spoke with Lindsay this morning.

"The only dirt I know on [Palin] is that there’s some kind of indication that she was using political pressure to get [her ex-brother-in-law] fired. She has a lot of appeal for evangelicals. She’s pro-life, that’s something that’s important to evangelicals. No Republican has ever won the White House without evangelicals."

"If [McCain] had chosen a pro-choice candidate, like Ridge or Lieberman, [evangelicals] would have voted McCain, but they wouldn’t have mobilized around him. [Palin] is pro-life, she was involved in [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] growing up, she has the right background. Her child has Down syndrome. That shows not only a commitment to pro-life, but to living it out. That will be important for evangelical supporters of McCain. I think evangelicals honestly are probably relieved that McCain chose a pro-life candidate. In my research, the reason so many of these leaders were Republican was because of abortion."

"The real liability McCain faces is that he’s built his campaign against Obama on the issue of experience. Here’s a first term governor who was mayor of a small town in Alaska. Not a lot of executive experience, but McCain may be able to say there are different elements in the campaign that are important."

"I don’t know enough about [Palin] to say if she’s a perfect candidate. She doesn’t have the national profile that Mike Huckabee has. It is possible that McCain can introduce her to evangelicals in a way that’s winsome in the next couple of days."

Is she an evangelical?

"I don’t know what her church attendance is like. She’s been involved with groups that cater to evangelicals, but I don’t know if she is or not."

What about Sen. Obama's religious outreach? Do you think it's working?

"I think he’s very smart in terms of religious outreach. He’s got some great people working on his staff working on that front. The thing about Senator Obama’s campaign is that he does not have to win large segments of the evangelical votes. All he has to do is carve off some of votes in certain places. The cosmopolitan vote is the one most up for grabs."

"A cosmopolitan evangelical is someone who is less interested in converting the country or taking the country back for Christ; they are interested in seeing their faith as attractive. They’re less prone to see the evangelical subculture as their primary point of reference. It’s the cosmopolitan evangelicals that [McCain] has to win over in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida."

August 29, 2008

McCain picks Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for VP

Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, and so far, it seems like bells and whistles from the conservative evangelical community.

Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America said in a statement: "Governor Sarah Palin is a bold choice for Vice President who is a courageous advocate for unborn children. In addition, she is a conservative who is a reformer not afraid to shake up the establishment."

Back on Aug. 8, Richard Land told CBS she would be the pick that would most excite Southern Baptists and other conservatives.

"Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist."

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins said in a statement:

"On February 11th of this year, for example, she signed into law the 'Safe Haven for Infants Act,' facilitating the safe surrender of an unwanted newborn to a place of safety and hope. Her actions contrasts sharply with the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who when he was in the Illinois Senate repeatedly helped to kill a bill that sought to protect babies who survived abortion."

Over on the Between Two Worlds blog Andy Naselli has found an article from four months ago when Al Mohler highlighted the Palin family in an article ("Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin") and on his radio show (also titled "Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin").

Here's a description of the radio show:

A little boy with an extra chromosome was born on April 18. His name is Trig Paxson Van Palin and his new home is the Alaska Governor's Mansion in Juneau. His mom is Governor Sarah Palin, who along with her husband Todd, has welcomed Trig as their second son and fifth child.

On today's show, Mohler explains why Trig's very existence defies the Culture of Death and gives us all hope.


In 2006, the Anchorage Daily News included her religion in a series of articles on her.

"Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings)," Tom Kizzia wrote. "They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years."

August 11, 2008

Richard Land's VP Advice to McCain: Pick Sarah Palin

It's not the name you typically hear on the lips of Christian Right heavies leaning on John McCain to pick a rock-ribbed social conservative as a running mate: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But that's Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief--and Beliefnet blogger--Richard Land cited in his recent CBS News interview as his top veep pick:

CBSNews.com: Who's on the list of people mentioned for VP that you think would most excite Southern Baptists and other members of the conservative faith community?

Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist.

On Mitt Romney, meanwhile, Land is personally enthusiastic but says a good chunk of evangelicals would oppose him on religious grounds:

CBSNews.com: And what about Mitt Romney?

Richard Land: I think Mitt Romney would be an excellent choice. There are people in the evangelical community who would have a problem with his Mormonism. I am not one of them. I mean, I'm very clear that I do not believe Mormonism is a Christian faith. But that does not disqualify someone from being President or Vice President. And my guess would be that, probably, about 15 to 20 percent of the evangelical community would have a problem with his Mormonism.

So Palin, eh? If Land's saying it, her name must be making the rounds in evangelical circles. And God-o-Meter thinks Land's got a strong point about her ability to deliver independent women voters. How many other vice presidential picks could excite both cultural conservatives and swing voters?

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.