Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Sarah Palin and Religious Prejudice

In the midst of all of the current controversy regarding John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in the upcoming Presidential election, one specific development has caught my attention more than any other. Yesterday I noticed that the media "feeding frenzy" began to take a new turn as articles began popping up which highlight the churches she has attended and the shepherds who lead them. These include popular blogs like the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos and historic print publications like Harper's Magazine. News items surfaced which cast both pastors and congregants in a very negative light, asking whether or not someone from a "Pentecostal" or "Charismatic" background is fit to serve our country in such a high office.

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:
  1. Be sure to vote! This is an historic election. Be a part of it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Let's believe God together for a better future!


  1. Thank you Pastor Brand for sharing this information. We need to stand up as Americans for our right to vote and get on our knees as Christians and pray, pray, pray.

  2. Thank you pastor for your views, but I think when it comes to politics, it is difficult to judge the minds of these folks. Sarah Palin may have professed her faith and believes, but I do not aggree with her that the USA is fighting God's war by being in Iraq, or that voters in Alaska should pray so that a some gas line can be approved by voters because Gods wants it. Would Jesus really endorse any politician as we have them today: lying, corrupt, self serving, lying, and neglecting the "likes of these". She is not the only one that has professed her faith publicly, one of the other is Obama, and he is still not accepted. Christians still blog that he is a moslem, or ignore such characterization. He has stood up to accept Christ and he is not accepted. Maybe he is also self serving, and so we should leave them to do what they do best. A true christian can never be a successful politician in these times pastor, so I will withhold any benefit of the doubt for Sarah Palin.

  3. One thing is for sure - God knows what is in everyone's heart, including Senator Obama's and Governor Palin's. God knows who is truly committed to Him and who is not. I believe we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and guide us to the right decision as we vote and not make our decision based solely on what we read in the media. I believe every journalist has their own bias and tends to perceive, evaluate, and communicate things through that lens, however well intentioned they may be. I am not sure, for instance, that the attitudes you apparently attribute to Governor Palin accurately reflect what she meant by the prayer she prayed. I have listened to the video recorded prayer many journalists refer to and it sounded to my ears like she was saying something very different than what many journalists infer she was saying. Perhaps your thoughts have been influenced by their thoughts. In the end, if every voter prays and asks God for guidance as they vote, He will do just that and whoever He knows is best suited to serve our country will be elected, and whoever is elected will certainly need our prayers as they take office and endeavor to lead our country forward!