You want to talk about crazy ministers saying awful things Sarah? Let’s…
Sarah Palin says she wants to talk about crazy ministers again – specifically Obama’s former Minister Jeremiah Wright, whose views Obama has publicly rejected. Palin has not revealed her own extreme religious views. Nor has she condemned the extreme sermons of various ministers and guest speakers she often takes part in services with at her churches in Wasilla, Alaska.
These views include the belief that critics of Bush will "burn in hell", that when Israeli Jews are killed it's a judgement from God on them for not converting to Christianity, that Jesus is "always in war mode" and that there are witches who need to be warded against or else killed.
For twenty years until 2002 she was a member of the Wasilla Assembly of God. Then she moved to Wasilla Bible Church (which is in fact just as extreme), but she still regularly visits the Assembly of God (1), (2). One visit was in June this year. She spoke enthusiastically about the church alongside her former minister, Ed Kalnins (3), (4). So what do Kalnins, Palin, Wasilla Bible Church members and the Wasilla Assembly of God believe?
Critics of Bush will “burn in hell”?
That would include John McCain and 70% of Americans.
Ed Kalnins, Palin’s minister at Wasilla Assembly of God from 1999 till 2002 , delivered sermons saying people who voted for Kerry in 2004 would not go to heaven – and that critics of President Bush would “burn in hell” (5), (6). (You can hear some of his sermons in full on the church’s own website here)
As recently as August John McCain has criticised President Bush’s administration over what Human Rights Watch called it’s “tacit policy of torture” and Amnesty International called “widespread and systematic…torture” (7), (8), (9). Many US military veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq also condemned the torture policy (10). McCain was tortured himself in Vietnam, so his stand against it is understandable.
So does Sarah Palin believe McCain will “burn in hell”? Has McCain shown good judgement in choosing her as a potential vice President (and so a potential President)?
Polls show two thirds of Americans say they disapprove of Bush’s policies (11). Is Sarah Palin’s ‘strong belief’ that they’ll all burn in hell likely to be a vote winner if they’re told about it? Sarah might think ‘You betcha’, but I wouldn’t be betting any money on it.
Palin’s Church says when Israelis are killed it’s a judgement from God on them for not converting to Christianity,
but Republicans still ask American Jewish voters to vote for her
On August 17th this year David Brickner of ‘Jews for Jesus’ a guest speaker at Wasilla Bible Church (Palin’s new and supposedly more moderate Church) , said terrorist attacks on Israeli Jews are God’s judgement on them for not converting to Christianity. You can hear the full sermon on the church’s website here. Palin was present and listened without criticising these views – and has never disowned them since (12). It’s a common view among right-wing Christian fundamentalists that the Jews must convert to Christianity before the Second Coming of Jesus or be destroyed by God. Before she joined the Wasilla Bible Church in 2002 Palin was a member of the Assembly of God Pentecostal Church for 20 years. Many of them believe in this version of the Second Coming (13).
Yet the Republicans are asking Jewish voters to vote for Palin – and quite possibly, given McCain’s age and health problems, President if the McCain/Palin ticket is elected.
Since Palin has also told acquaintances in Alaska that she believes she is living in the Last Days and that the Second Coming will take place in her life time Jewish voters might want to think twice before voting McCain/Palin (14).
Jesus operates in “war mode”? The Iraq war as a “task from God”?
Ed Kalnins also delivered sermons saying that “We need to think like Jesus thinks. … Jesus himself operated from that position of war mode”. (16). Palin herself prayed in her June visit to the Assembly of God that the Iraq war is a “task from God” (16).
I’ll admit to not being a great biblical scholar but I’m pretty certain that in the New Testament of the Bible Jesus tells his follower to “turn the other cheek”, “love thy enemy” and “love thy neighbour as thyself”. There was some discussion of swords and armour which were clearly figures of speech. I don’t recall him calling for any wars at any point. The message seemed to be one of peace, love and forgiveness. So he’d be far too ‘liberal’ and namby-pamby for Kalnins and Palin. Where Kalnins’ and Palin’s War Jesus comes from I don’t know, because he’s certainly not in the Bible. He sounds a bit like Osama Bin Laden’s weird interpretation of Allah and the Koran.
Witch-craft and burning out witches
Sarah Palin doesn’t just associate with one minister with extreme views though. She’s also taken part in ceremonies against ‘witch-craft’ led by Kenyan Christian fundamentalist bishop Thomas Muthee, who uses accusations of witch-craft to threaten political opponents with being stoned or burnt to death (17).
Witch-hunts have led to many murders in Kenya. In one instance eleven old people were burned to death by a mob as witches (18).
It is not reassuring for mainstream Christians or non-Christians to know the Republican vice-Presidential candidate believes in bringing back irrational paranoia and witch hunts which ended hundreds of years ago after the Salem Witch Trials.
Palin’s beliefs aren’t ordinary or average –
they’re extreme, fanatical and dangerous
Some of Sarah Palin’s religious beliefs are admirable. Her belief that having a child with Down’s syndrome is a gift from God for instance is hard to criticise. However there is nothing “ordinary” or “average” about her church’s other religious views as outlined above. They’re extreme, intolerant, fanatical and dangerous. Sarah Palin has never once said she doesn’t share any of these views. Some of them are her own words.
The more Americans who are made aware of how extreme Sarah Palin’s religious views seem to be before the election the better – because given McCain’s age she could become President if McCain is elected. Even if McCain serves a full term Palin suggested in the debate with Biden that if elected she will expand the powers of the Vice President beyond even the unconstitutional actions of Dick Cheney (19).
(1) = CNN 9 Sep 2008, ‘Pastor: GOP may be downplaying Palin's religious beliefs’,
(2) = Newsweek 02 Sep 2008, ‘A Visit to Palin’s Church’,
cited by Huffington Post 02 Sep 2008 ‘Palestinian Attack In Israel Part of God's Judgment, Said Recent Guest At Palin's Church’ , by Seth Caltor Walls,
(3) = Huffington Post 02 Sep 2008, ‘Palin's Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview’, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/02/palins-church-may-have-sh_n_123205.html (includes embedded video of Palin and Kalnins at Wasilla Assembly of God church from 8th June 2008)
(4) = Wasilla Assembly of God – All 2008 services - http://www.wasillaag.net/2008.html (includes link to same video for 8th June but only playable with realplayer)
(5) = USA Today 03 Sep 2008, ‘Palin's former minister comes under scrutiny’,
(6) = Wasilla Assembly of God, http://www.wasillaag.net/all.html
(7) = Reuters 31 Aug 2008, ‘McCain criticizes Bush on torture of prisoners’,
(8) = Amnesty International 1 Nov 2005 ‘TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT IN THE ‘WAR ON TERROR’’, http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engact400142005
(9) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 - ‘Torture and Inhumane Treatment: A Deliberate U.S. Policy’ - http://hrw.org/wr2k6/introduction/2.htm#_Toc121910421
(10) = See e.g Washington Post Wednesday, September 28, 2005; A21,‘ A Matter of Honor’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701527_pf.html and http://www.duncanmcfarlane.org//who's_right_on_Iraq/torture/ as well as sources listed in it
(11) = USA Today 06 Oct 2008, ‘Bush approval rating hits record low’, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-10-06-bush-approval_N.htm
(12) = Miami Herald 13 Sep 2008, ‘Palin could rob McCain of Jewish vote’,
(13) = CNN 9 Sep 2008, ‘Pastor: GOP may be downplaying Palin's religious beliefs’,
(14) = Los Angeles Times 23 Sep 2008, ‘Into the wild of Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin once ruled’, http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lopez23-2008sep23,0,3506838,full.column (see 3rd from last paragraph)
(15) = See (3) and (4) above
(16) = Associated Press 4 Sep 2008, ‘Sarah Palin told ministry students: Iraq troops on task ‘from God’, http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/politics/2008/view.bg?articleid=1116928&srvc=rss
(17) = Times 16 Sep 2008, ‘Palin linked electoral success to prayer of Kenyan witchhunter’, http://timesonline.typepad.com/uselections/2008/09/palin-linked-el.html
(18) = BBC News 21 May 2008 'Witches' burnt to death in Kenya’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7413268.stm (cited by Irregular Times 17 Sep 2008, ‘Sarah Palin, How Is Stoning Women Feminist?’, http://irregulartimes.com/index.php/archives/2008/09/17/sarah-palin-how-is-stoning-women-feminist/ )
(19) = NYT 02 Oct 2008, ‘Transcript: The Vice-Presidential Debate’,
http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/president/debates/transcripts/vice-presidential-debate.html (link to video if the debate is on the same page)