Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Online media examine Palin's religious beliefs

The blogosphere is abuzz over the religious beliefs of Sarah Palin, who once attended the Assemblies of God church in Wasilla, Alaska, and now attends the non-denominational Wasilla Bible Church.

Shortly after Sen. John McCain named Palin his running mate, a video of the Alaska governor speaking at her church about the Iraq War began to circulate. Palin asked the audience to pray "that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan." Just what she meant, and how she mixes her faith and her politics, are sparking much debate.

Neither complete rejection or complete acceptance of Palin's approach to faith and politics is completely justified, writes Beliefnet editor Steve Waldman. To help draw a dividing line, he has a list of "What's scary, what's not" on his online religion forum. What's not scary, Waldman says, are those aspects of Palin's religion which she uses to develop personal character, but that they get scary when combined with public policy. But he does find scary her plea to "a group of young church leaders to pray for a gas pipeline because it was God's will. ... Saying a particular public policy is God's will is far over the line ..." (Read more)

Jeff Sharlet of The Revealer, an online review of religious news, finds Waldman's piece helpful in its parsing of language, noting that "Palin didn't declare the Iraq War 'God's plan' but rather hoped that the war to which she is sending her son is God's plan." However, the post criticizes Waldman for "setting his perspective up as the standard of reason ... the reasonable center Waldman upholds is an assertion, not a fact." (Read more)

Dan Kennedy of Media Nation agrees that Palin's comments about Iraq might have been misconstrued, although he finds a quote on National Public Radio article by a Pentecostal scholar who says that one could interpret Palin's remarks as calling for a holy war. Kennedy goes on to cite a comprehensive Anchorage Daily News article about Palin's religion.

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