A few days ago, I raised questions about Sarah Palin's religious beliefs. I basically consider people's faith a private matter - unless it impinges significantly on how they would shape policy. So Joe Biden personally believes life begins at conception; he personally has serious qualms about abortion; yet he wouldn't stop others from choosing abortion. I'm fine with that. When making policy, he keeps his convictions in the personal realm, recognizing the religious pluralism of American society.
Sarah Palin is on record as believing that God favors certain pipeline projects (not to mention certain wars in Mesopotamia). She sees direct her faith as directly applicable to the public realm.
This isn't surprising in light of reports that came out this week about Palin's home church. Now, people aren't responsible for everything their pastor says. I'm not going to apply a totally different standard to her than I did to Barack Obama when his former pastor, Reverend Wright, made some highly impolitic remarks.
I do think Palin needs to respond to this, however. Writing in Alternet, Bruce Wilson reports:
Sarah Palin's churches are actively involved in a resurgent movement that was declared heretical by the Assemblies of God in 1949. This is the same 'Spiritual Warfare' movement that was featured in the award winning movie, "Jesus Camp," which showed young children being trained to do battle for the Lord. At least three of four of Palin's churches are involved with major organizations and leaders of this movement, which is referred to as The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit or the New Apostolic Reformation. The movement is training a young "Joel's Army" to take dominion over the United States and the world.Again, none of this indicates directly what Palin herself believes. Even her appearance on stage at her home church doesn't mean she agrees with every particular of Reverend Kalnins' theology. (I'll admit that seeing video Wilson provides of them sharing a stage is pretty suggestive, however.)
Along with her entire family, Sarah Palin was re-baptized at twelve at the Wasilla Assembly of God in Wasilla, Alaska and she attended the church from the time she was ten until 2002: over two and 1/2 decades. Sarah Palin's extensive pattern of association with the Wasilla Assembly of God has continued nearly up to the day she was picked by Senator John McCain as a vice-presidential running mate.
Palin's dedication to the Wasilla church is indicated by a Saturday, September 7, 2008, McClatchy news service story detailing possibly improper use of state travel funds by Palin for a trip she made to Wasilla, Alaska to attend, on June 8, 2008, both a Wasilla Assembly of God "Masters Commission" graduation ceremony and also a multi-church Wasilla area event known as "One Lord Sunday."
At the latter event, Palin and Alaska LT Governor Scott Parnell were publicly blessed, onstage before an estimated crowd of 6,000, through the "laying on of hands" by Wasilla Assembly of God's Head Pastor Ed Kalnins whose sermons espouse such theological concepts as the possession of geographic territories by demonic spirits and the inter-generational transmission of family "curses". Palin has also been blessed, or "anointed", by an African cleric, prominent in the Third Wave movement, who has repeatedly visited the Wasilla Assembly of God and claims to have effected positive, dramatic social change in a Kenyan town by driving out a "spirit of witchcraft."
(See also this version at the Huffington Post.)
Everything Wilson writes about the Third Wave is consistent with scholarship that I'm intimately familiar with. (I translated a 15,000-word book chapter on the Pentecostal movement a few months back.) Spiritual Warfare is a real and growing movement. Lots of Pentecostal and Charismatic worshipers sincerely believe in the efficacy of demons, curses, and exorcisms. While blending these ideas with a belief in witchcraft is particularly common in Africa, the difference between witches and demons is mighty slender.
I, for one, would prefer political leaders who don't fear demons. Who can separate the secular from the sacred. Who haven't bought stock in Armageddon. And who don't believe in the Basement Cat.