Either someone needs to teach Sarah Palin a few lessons about the constitutional separation of Church and State or else the state of Alaska marches to the beat of a different drummer than the U.S. Constitution. I’ve reported here on Palin’s address to the Wasilla Assembly of God church in which she called the Iraq war a “task from God,” and similarly called a pipeline she favored a divinely blessed project (“I think God’s will has to be done, in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that”). She added that her goal as governor was to ensure that Alaskans get right with God:
…The people of Alaska’s hearts [must be] right with God. And that’s going to be your job…Your job is going to be: to be out there, reaching the people…throughout Alaska, and we can work together to make sure God’s will be done here.”
The speech she gave was an address to the Church’s “Master’s Commission” which is an intensive brainwashing-evangelizing program which brings teenagers to places all over the state to testify to their intimate relationship with their Lord and Savior:
“The Master’s Commission program is something that’s going to take a young person and lead them for the rest of their lives in passionate journey for Jesus,” the [Church] video says. The instruction is “designed to take students in from around the nation and…mold disciples of the lord Jesus Christ.”
The program isn’t just inward looking — the graduates are expected take the message to people around the state.
“We seek him in the morning with worship, with live worship, with intimate worship, to know him face-to-face,” the video says. “The first part in the morning is to know God, and then from that afternoon you go out and make him known.”
In words similar to Palin’s, the video stresses the program’s ties to Alaska:
“God has a destiny for the state of Alaska, and we know that master’s commission is one of the keys that God is going to use to unlock his glory for that state,” a speaker says.
In other words, Palin was furthering an evangelical project.
The Anchorage News reports that the state of Alaska paid for Palin’s jaunt to Wasilla to the tune of a $520 airline ticket and $120 in meal money. The governor’s spokesperson replied that she spoke at the event as the governor and not as a private citizen. Therefore the state SHOULD reimburse her.
That’s not the point. Of course, she went as the governor. The video of the event makes clear that she’s there in that capacity. But the question is: why was she there in the first place? Why should a governor actively engage in religious proselytizing? Further, if she did this as governor why shouldn’t we expect her to continue doing precisely the same thing if she’s elected vice president?
Here again Palin’s representatives are tone-deaf about the difference between a politician expressing solidarity with religious groups within their constituency (something American pols have done since the founding of the Republic) and becoming an advocate of one particular religion and doing so with the state’s apparent blessing:
“Public officials travel and speak to a religious group as part of their official duties,” Leighow said. “Virtually every day there is a state or federal public official who speaks to members of the faith community. The governor can speak to secular audiences as well as faith-based audiences, and Republicans and Democrats routinely do this.”
Leighow compared Palin’s urging on of the young evangelical students to her attending the 2007 installation of Rabbi Michael Oblath at Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage.
“What’s the difference?” Leighow said.
Here’s the difference: if Palin went to Rabbi Oblath’s installation and told the congregation that it was Jewish destiny to turn Alaska into a state dominated by Jews doing the Jewish God’s will, then sure there’s no difference. But if she went to his installation to politely express her support for the state’s 6,000 Jews and show them a dash of solidarity–then hell yes there’s a big difference. Only a Christian evangelical deaf and blind to the nuances of state-church relations would not understand that there IS a difference.
And make no mistake, this is much more than an issue about a misappropriation of $600. This is a story revealing much bigger constitutional questions which the U.S. media and American voters (especially Jews) should be pondering as they consider sending her to Washington as their vice-president.
I found your article as a link on the anchorage daily news website concerning an article about the state funding of a trip Gov. Palin made to speak at the Wasilla Assembly of G_d Church. When I first read the article posted on the adn website, it bothered me when the comparison was made concerning Palin’s visit to your temple. Had I not pulled up your link, I would not have been aware of the inaccurate comparison Palin’s aid made.
I wish that a wider audience could read your article
I couldn’t find the link referred to above, but assuming the poster is correct – Richard, you are really getting around!
Great post. And if your readers want more on Palin and her direct link to God, yesterday Amy Goodman interviewed two authors:
Frederick Clarkson, editor of the forthcoming book Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics and author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy and
Esther Kaplan, author of With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House.
You can listen or read the transcript at:
Lots of born-agains think they are or ought to be the state religion of the US. There’s a folk belief that only a few decades ago, they WERE the state religion! And everything was ipsy-pipsy, of course. Most don’t blame Jews for the change, but some do. A year or two ago, I had a conversation with an American at a restaurant here in China. He was claiming that Dispensationalism, the familiar the-world-is-ending-soon-and-Israel-is-a-sign theory, was a Zionist plot! As Dispensationalism fails (in spite of Bush’s wars), I would not be surprised if this feeling grows.
Interesting that you are reading this blog in China. By your name you are Chinese, but you write English like an American.
This is what one web site says about dispensationalism, and I think it is true, “Largely unrecognised and subliminal, it has increasingly shaped the presuppositions of fundamentalist, evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic thinking concerning Israel and Palestine over the past one hundred and fifty years.”
I don’t agree with you that it is failing, and I’m not up on the distinction between dominionism and dispensationalism. But I know that both are closely tied to Christian Zionism, and Christian Zionists have been a huge support – financially and otherwise – to the settlement building.
Israel happily takes their money, not minding that to them, the only good Jew is a dead one or a converted one.
Zhu Bajie is a pseudonym! It’s the name of one of the characters in _Journey to the West_, a well-known folk-tale collection.
As for Dispensationalism, it’s influence is as obvious as snow in Iowa, come January. Read up on Paul Boyer, _When Time Shall Be No More_. Norman Cohn, _The Pursuit of the Millenium_ is the classic on Christian millenialism generally.
Internet is common in China. I came across Tikun Olam while looking for some rational discussion of Israel, 9-11, Iraq, etc.
“’m not up on the distinction between dominionism and dispensationalism.”
Dispensationalism is about the End of the World, which is supposedly any day now.
Dominionism is about Christians ruling the US or even the world. Think about The Scarlet Letter or the career of Oliver Cromwell, Baptist Dictator.