Back at the time of the Republican convention, Gov. Sarah Palin was accompanied by Sen. Joe Lieberman to a meeting with the board of directors of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. "We had a good productive discussion on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship," said an AIPAC spokesman, "and we were pleased that Gov. Palin expressed her deep, personal, and lifelong commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel."
Last week on CBN, the Republican vice-presidential running mate was asked to "clear up exactly what you believe in" as part of her religious faith--including her involvement with Pentecostalism. She responded in general terms about how she counts on God for strength and guidance. "My faith has always been pretty personal," she said. This is all well, and good.
However, Gov. Sarah Palin's faith warrants further scrutiny after two videos taken in her former church in Wasilla showed up on YouTube. The first shows a visiting preacher from Kenya praying over Palin, asking God to favor her 2006 gubernatorial campaign and to protect her from "every form of witchcraft."
The second shows Sarah Palin at an event this past summer where her former Assembly of God pastor from Wasilla prays over her and declares that Alaska is "one of the refuge states in the Last Days."
It is now relevant to note Palin's apocalyptic Pentecostal convictions when applied to foreign policy. Her church preaches that, after a "mushroom cloud" kind of war in the Middle East-- Armageddon--Alaska would be a shelter for "saved" Christians at the End of Times when they ascend to heaven.
Israel and Iran
In her second Katie Couric interview broadcast on CBS on September 25, there was a segment in which Palin revealed her simplistic overview of Israeli-Iranian relations:
"We don't have to second-guess what [Israel's] efforts would be if they believe that it is in their country and their allies, including us, all of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe them off the face of the earth,"
Palin said when asked whether the United States should ever second-guess Israeli policy.
Factoring in "The Rapture"
There are many examples of strange relationships between Jews and fundamentalist Christians. Evangelicals support Israel because of biblical prophecy, including passages that tie the survival of Israel to the Second Coming of Jesus. Explains a Southern Baptist church leader, Israel is supported because evangelicals "believe God blesses those that bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews. Consequently, we believe America needs to bless the Jews and Israel, because if we bless the Jews and support Israel, God blesses us."
But it goes beyond that. The establishment--and continuation--of the State of Israel is essential to set the stage for the imminent return of Jesus. At the time of the Second Coming, these Christians believe, Jesus will descend from heaven, subdue all of Israel's enemies and take believers to heaven in what is known as THE RAPTURE. This series of events--the time sequence is a subject of debate--ushers in the end-times.
"Pastor Strangelove" on a Showdown with Iran
Rev. John Hagee, an avid supporter of John McCain, spearheads a pro-Israel Christian lobby out of his Texas church. He believes THE RAPTURE won't occur until Israel is a completely sovereign theocracy. More to the point, Hagee has written extensively about an inevitable war with Iran. He has authored an incendiary book, Jerusalem Countdown, purporting to show that the Bible predicts a military confrontation with Iran.
Hagee has earned the nickname of "Pastor Strangelove" in this nuclear age, when Israel possesses nuclear weapons and Iran is trying to obtain them.
Waging Spiritual Warfare
Of course, it is difficult to be certain what Gov. Palin believes. However, she has had a long association with religious leaders who practice an assertive brand of Pentecostalism known as "spiritual warfare." Demons are identified by names and ZIP codes.
Bishop Thomas Muthee, the Kenyan preacher shown on the YouTube video anointing her as she ran for governor, is celebrated internationally as a spiritual warrior who led a prayer movement that drove a witch out of his town in Kenya.
Critics say the goal of the spiritual warfare movement is to create a theocracy. A researcher that tracks religious groups has said: "One of the imperatives of the movement is to achieve worldly power, including political control. Then you can more effectively drive out the demons. The ultimate goal is to purify the earth."
Ms. Palin referred to "prayer warriors" in a radio interview last week with Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson told Ms. Palin that he had convened hundreds of people people to pray for "God's perfect will to be done on Nov. 4."
Pentecostals or "charismatics" believe that the Holy Spirit can touch believers directly through spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, divine healings, casting out demons and the ability to prophesy.
The governor's relationships with practitioners of spiritual warfare appear to go back many years. An Alaskan Native woman, who helped bring together the prayer warrior networks in the state, told a conference in June that Ms. Palin "became a part of our prayer group out in Wasilla" when she was 24, and that "God began to speak" to her about entering politics.
This citizen prefers political leaders who are steeped in the values of America's civic religion. But this requires a knowledge of the Constitution and our political history--knowledge that Gov. Palin has given little evidence of having assimilated--instead of the ethereal world of "charismatics." Who knows what secular demons (such as the idea of "the unitary executiive") in addition to religious notions are lodged in the Republican vice-presidential candidate's psyche?
*** I acknowledge the use of information contained in Laurie Goodstein, "YouTube Videos Draw Attention to Palin's Faith," New York Times. October 25, 2008.