Max Blumenthal has the goods on the Kenyan preacher Thomas Muthee (who claims to have chased down a witch and cast out the spirit of witchcraft from his village) who laid hands on Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God church, apparently before she ran for governor. He prayed for the casting out of witchcraft, and for her financial and political success. This past weekend, Blumenthal himself filmed additional footage of Muthee preaching at the church, which he says he will post in a short documentary soon.
The footage Blumenthal posted yesterday at The Nation, along with the footage from Palin's 2008 speech to the church's "Masters Commission," is the best, and to my knowledge only, video of Palin in her church environment. She even referred to Muthee prophesying her political success in her 2008 speech, in which she also discussed her proposed gas pipeline as "God's will," and in which other church pastors referred to Alaska as an "end-times refuge" for believers.
In talking about the proposed pipeline, which I discussed in last week's FundamentaList, she told her audience that there was only so much she could do as governor to make it happen, and therefore they should pray that it, God's will, be done.
So we're getting a better outline of Palin's belief system -- and why the McCain campaign denied from the outset that she's a Pentecostal. Non-Pentecostals find Pentecostalism kooky. But 5 percent of Americans belong to Pentecostal denominations and another 18 percent are charismatic, part of a religious movement that shares antecedents and features with Pentecostalism, such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and faith healing. Leah Daughtry, who was the chair of the Democratic National Convention, is a Pentecostal minister and is known to believe in faith healing. Top religious outreach staff at the Obama campaign are Pentecostal.
According to a seminal 2006 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, 62 percent of all Pentecostals claim to have witnessed divine healings, 54 percent claimed to have received direct revelations from God, and 34 percent claimed to have experienced or witnessed exorcisms. Those numbers are higher than among charismatics (46, 39, and 22 percent) and than those among all Christians (29, 26, and 11 percent). The Muthee-Palin scene is fringy, but it's part of a pretty big fringe.
So is it the Pentecostalism itself that's kooky, or is it that Palin puts more stock in prophecy and revelation than in governing?
In her scant media interviews, Palin hasn't talked about revelations and prophecy, of course. But she hasn't talked about policy either, and has in fact shown herself to be completely ignorant, even of her party's long record of its own wing and a prayer, deregulation. She insisted to Katie Couric that McCain pushed to regulate the financial industry -- although she was characteristically devoid of substance to back up that preposterous claim.
If Palin were an eminently qualified candidate, steeped in policy and capable of addressing the intricacies of the current economic crisis, I would probably focus on her religion to the extent that she believes it should be fused with government, whether end-times beliefs inform her foreign policy (if she has one), how she might bring creationism-loving political appointees to the Department of Education, or push pro-abstinence-only, anti-choice regulations to the Department of Health and Human Services, for example.
But Palin's vacuousness on any substantive questions point to a more -- pun intended -- fundamental concern. Given that many of her followers believe Palin is anointed by God, and she said in her 2008 Wasilla Assembly of God speech that she believes in the spirit of prophecy and revelation, you've got to wonder how much that, in her mind, is a substitute for facts, analysis, and policy-making. It might very well explain why she acts so confident despite her utter lack of preparation to be vice president of the United States. And that is one hell of a scary faith-based initiative.