Sarah, Sam, and Religion

What about the religion question? Can we be sure that Sarah Palin is not going to demand a Theocracy? I believe that she needs to be ready to answer the question with authenticity and integrity. Its ironic that both Obama and she have the religion question. We don’t really know how deeply he was influenced by his Pastor Wright. He may say that the “God damn America” tirade was an aberration, but I think not. I believe that for a man to say the outrageous so boldly, it has to come from deep within. I believe Pastor Wright preached the same theme of black oppression and white suppression every week in one form or another. In talking to the National Press Club Pastor Wright contrasted preachers and politicians and he was correct. Politicians say anything in order to get elected. Pastors speak from a different perspective, it’s deeper, more reflective, most intensive because he is a representative from God. He cannot change the message, unlike the politician, precisely because his message is from God. Obama may disavow the man and his message, but I don’t believe he can disavow the influence of 20 years of his leadership, his mentoring, his connection with his family. Obama heard and saw something in the pastor that spoke to his life, something that gave him direction, something that encouraged him to act upon his hopes. The twenty years of influence cannot be disavowed out of existence.

On the other hand we have Sarah Palin who was baptized Catholic, raised in a Pentecostal church and now attends an independent evangelical church. She too has been influenced by her background. She needs to speak about her faith and its importance to her life and mission as a politician. How does that faith affect her decision-making. Has it given her a sense of destiny and purpose?
I thoroughly reject Sam Harris’ article, “When Atheists Attack” and its notion that Christians should not be in politics, that just because one believes in God that disqualifies him, that society should not “give these people our nuclear codes”. One third of the world population believes in the Christian God. And most of the rest of the world believes in some form of deity. We need leaders who can understand religion and the power of its faith. In particular, Sarah Palin has a background in the Pentecostal/Charismatic branch of the Church. This is the fastest growing branch of Christianity. There are 20 million Assemblies of God believers in Brazil, a country of just under 200,000,000. There are nearly 1 million such Christians in Argentina, a country of about 40,000,000. (figures from the Assemblies of God website and Wikipedia). She will fit in very well with Central and South America and the Caribbean where such churches are strong. Another place is Africa where there is large numerical growth in such churches. Her faith will make her a favorite on those continents.Let me make this observation about religion and its importance in government and especially foreign policy. We would have never had gone into Iraq if one of the strategists had understood Islam and the difference between the Sunni and Shia. They would have known that it is extremely difficult to form a government with such hatred and rivalry between the two groups. I am positive no one ever asked the question, “What are their religious beliefs?”. Rather than demand that religion be excised from political life, we should be seeking knowledge and understanding of such faith and its power to motivate and direct human life.
Harris writes as if he is knowledgeable of the Assemblies of God and their beliefs, but lacks understanding of them and of religion in general. There is nothing irrational about believing in God, and specifically a God who is engaged with our world. Pray flows from such a belief. If there is a God, then He is a God, otherwise why believe? If Sarah Palin believes in God, then she prays to such a God. If she prays then there must be the expectation that God MAY answer that prayer. She is not irrational because she prays. She is not disqualified because the world is a dangerous place and she may try to play God. (Again Lincoln would be a good example of someone who believed in God, prayed to that God, saw an apocalyptic event and could never be described as irrational or absurd).Finally let me return to my main point, Harris wrote, “You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps.” I agree. The company SHE keeps loves God, loves this country, and believes that it should share a message of love with everyone it can. The company “HE” kept for twenty years loves God and thinks that God should “damn America”.