1. Sarah Palin's Demons.
Sarah Palin's anointing by Kenyan witch-hunter Thomas Muthee has received a tiny fraction of the media coverage heaped on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright last spring. Wright, acting in the prophetic tradition of questioning authority, was deemed to be unhinged and a threat to the Republic. Muthee, who fretted that the future governor of Alaska might need his intercessory help battling the devil, is just a funny man with a foreign accent.
Muthee may well be influenced by some homegrown superstitions, but driving out witches and demons is a hallmark of many Pentecostal and charismatic Christian churches all over the United States. Dismissing Muthee's practices as not representative of American religion, as the usually well-informed Michael Crowley did on Hardball last week, is ignorant and naive.
You could -- and I have -- walk into a church or conference anywhere in America and see the likes of Rod Parsley casting out the "demons" of homosexuality, drug addiction or debt; you could hear John Hagee banishing the Harry Potter books because they are "witchcraft"; you might see Kenneth Copeland talking about Satan's long-held desire to destroy America, and claiming that "Islamofascism" is "an attack on Jesus"; you could see Harry Jackson, who is now leading an army of African American pastors to get out the vote for the Florida gay-marriage ban, talk about a "SWAT team of holy-ghost terrorists"; you might hear Lou Engle, founder of The Call, which held a rally on the National Mall this summer and is holding another rally in San Diego just before the election, talk about a "global army of prayer in the last days" as he tries to convince his followers that their "purity" (mainly sexual) will create the conditions for Jesus to come back; you could go to a stadium and see Ron Luce, the founder of the youth-evangelism force Teen Mania, symbolically brand teenagers with the "mark of a warrior."
I could go on. I've seen it all on the spiritual warfare front.
Although the warrior rhetoric of many of the leaders in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement is very alarming, when you get down in the trenches and talk to people you find a range of believers, from the diehard, blind supporters to the interlopers who find that different bits and pieces of different evangelists' teachings somehow make sense to them. People's lived religion -- and its impact on their politics -- is varied. That is why I waited to see evidence and clues about Palin's lived religion and politics before buying the notion that she thinks Muthee is anything more than an entertaining visitor to her former church.
I still don't know exactly what she thinks of Muthee or casting out witchcraft. But I've seen enough evidence from the avalanche of news that she knows absolutely nothing about geopolitics, domestic politics, law, or history. From the Gibson interview to the Couric interview, from the news that many evangelicals, charismatic and otherwise, believe that she is anointed, and from her clearly expressed views about performing God's will in politics, I can add it all up. She thinks her faith is a substitute for knowledge, education, and experience, and that it's okay because she's performing God's will and fighting the forces of evil.
2. Does Sarah Palin Think Putin Is The Antichrist?
Palin's defense of her claim that she has foreign-policy experience because of the proximity of Russia to Alaska had, to my Armageddon-trained ears, a disturbing ring to it. When she asserted that she was prepared to go toe-to-toe with Russia because "as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America," he will be over Alaska, I had a little jolt. Rears his head? Kind of like the Antichrist?
In certain popularized interpretations of the end-times, such as Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' Left Behind series and John Hagee's Jerusalem Countdown, Russia plays a central role: It will lead an army of Arab nations to destroy Israel, which will lead to the battle of Armageddon. At Beliefnet, religious scholar Diana Butler Bass was on the case:
For most of the twentieth century, American evangelicals and Pentecostals believed that the Anti-Christ would, most likely, come from Russia -- as would the army to lead the Anti-Christ's legions at the Battle of Armageddon. With great regularity, fundamentalist and Pentecostal pastors identified Soviet leaders with the Anti-Christ, believing that with Russia's every military move the apocalyptic clock ticked closer to the end of the world. A common way of talking about Russia and the apocalypse was "as Russia rears its head." Ms. Palin used the phrase in the exact way, with the exact intonation, as had millenarian pastors for decades --belying a kind of theological connective tissue between her church and her geo-political worldview.
But Palin's good-and-evil frame doesn't end there; when Katie Couric asked her about policy toward Iran, she replied that she would "fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe [Israel] off the face of the earth. It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth." The protectors of Israel, she added, "in my world, those are the good guys."
That's not a foreign policy, or at least it's one that you would think could only be dreamed up by a 10-year-old (or George W. Bush). But Palin thinks she does God's will in government, and therefore she represents the "good guys" and can vanquish "the bad guys." So she's not just engaging in simplistic rhetoric; her use of "good guys" and "bad guys" was a secularized rendering of God (Israel and the United States) versus Satan (the Muslim world). Her devoted followers might find this an acceptable substitute for understanding diplomacy and international affairs, but count me among the satanic elitists who find this extremely troubling.
3. Quelle Surprise! Pulpit Freedom Sunday Pastors All Endorse McCain.
It's not much of a surprise that the initiative, launched by the religious-right Alliance Defense Fund, which encouraged pastors to break the law and endorse a candidate from their pulpits, resulted in endorsements of John McCain.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State promptly filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, calling for an investigation of six of the congregations, which could result in the revocation of their tax-exempt status for breaking the law. This was just what the ADF wanted: an investigation, then protracted litigation that would eventually reach the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the 1954 law that bars churches that receive tax-exempt status from politicking in the pulpit.
Aren't the conservatives always complaining that liberals file frivolous lawsuits and waste taxpayer money?
4. Dominionist Group Claims Obama Is Not A Christian.
While McCain and Palin are on the side of angels, Obama is not, according to the latest smear videos produced by the religious right Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. The commission, headed by Gary Cass, a protégé of the late dominionist D. James Kennedy's Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, is releasing seven YouTube videos claiming that "Barack Obama is not a Christian by any biblical or historic measure." Last week's video lambasted such apostasies as his belief that there are paths to heaven other than through Jesus Christ. This week's video attacks him for not believing in the inerrancy of the Bible. "Who are you going to believe," asks the narrator, "Jesus or Obama?"
5. "Attack on God" at the Capitol.
Remember that little news tidbit from this week about the economy crashing and burning? Well, put that out of your mind because there's a matter of much greater urgency brewing on Capitol Hill, according to Virginia Republican Randy Forbes.
It's a war on God. Yes, the Architect of the Capitol, apparently working on Satan's behalf, has failed to include references to God and Jesus in the new Capitol Visitor's Center as requested by Forbes' Congressional Prayer Caucus. An "attack on God," charged an e-mail alert from Wallbuilders, the organization which worked with Forbes and is run by the religious right's historian David Barton, who claims the separation of church and state is a "myth." The refusal of the architect to include their godly demands led one unnamed congressman, according to Barton, to call the new center a "$600 million godless pit." No hidden message there.
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