Certain of the articles I have read portray attitudes reminiscient of those I encountered toward Christian churches in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Iron Curtain when Pentecostals were considered to be in need of psychiatric treatment. Newsweek's article about Sarah Palin's church was much more irenic in tone, but ended by saying, "Sarah Palin may not call herself a Pentecostal, but she has deep and long experience in Pentecostal churches. And as the race wears on, this biographical fact will likely become another religious Rorschach test--pleasing to some, discomfiting to others."
This is the second time in this election that a candidate's choice of a church home has sparked controversy. Barak Obama's long-term friendship with Pastor Jeremiah Wright turned out to be such a flashpoint that the candidate publically disassociated himself from both the man and his message (Read more about this here). What strikes me as very different this time around is that criticism has moved from controversy surrounding specific, issue-related comments by Rev. Wright to a visceral rejection of such foundational Christian doctrines as eternal punishment for those who reject Christ as Saviour or certain facets of New Testament spirituality clearly depicted in the New Testament Book of Acts as normative for members of the Christian faith.
I suppose none of this should surprise me. The flurry of speculation and observation surrounding Sarah Palin's particular flavor of Christian spirituality appears to be emanating from the same segments of American intelligentsia that have gleefully stooped to holding up a seventeen year old girl's pregnancy as an object for intense public scrutiny, sometimes tinged with ridicule. This is being done while that same young woman is walking through a very difficult time in her life, simply in order to score what the journalists mistakenly believe to be political "points." I for one wholeheartedly commend Governor Palin's daughter for courageously welcoming another precious life into the world instead of killing it for the sake of convenience.
Politics has always been a rough and tumble business and our civic history may be replete with examples of journalistic excess, but in my opinion we have just reached an all-time low. I believe these latest jouralistic extremes bode ill for what lies before us as Christian believers in our nation unless God graciously sends our country a deep spiritual and moral renewal. I also believe it shows the extent to which spiritual forces are at work on many different levels and in many different quarters during this election.
Whatever your political persuasion, I urge you to join me in prayer for the Palin family and for the pastors and churches cited in the aforementioned articles. While I have never met Governor Palin, I have known one of the ministers referenced, Pastor David Pepper from the Church on the Rock in Wasilla, and his family for over thirty-five years. Pastor David and his wife, LaRae, are two of the finest people I have ever met and form a very effective ministry team. I would be honored to call them pastor and consider their flock privileged to have them serve them in that capacity. David and LaRae certainly do not deserve the treatment they are getting in the press.
As all of you who attend Hillcrest Church know well, I do not take public positions regarding political candidates or openly share my personal political opinions or intentions about what I will do when I enter the ballot box. My appeal to you as your pastor is very simple:
- Be sure to vote! This is an historic election. Be a part of it.
- Find out all that you can about the candidates and their policies. Focus on reputable sources and ignore the gossip and innuendo you hear from others, whatever their political persuasion.
- Prayerfully ask God to help you make the right choice in light of His Word, His character, and His purposes in the earth. Vote your deepest convictions. Pray in faith for His hand to be upon the process, assuring its outcome will be according to whatever He knows is best for our nation.
- Intercede before the Lord on behalf of all the candidates and their families. Pray God's protection upon them, that they will speak truthfully in all things, and that anything hidden in their hearts or lives that might disqualify them from public office will be known before Election Day.