Sarah Palin’s Crusade

This column also is published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.

When her critics point out that Governor Sarah Palin is inexperienced on matters of foreign policy they tend to note what she hasn’t done —she seldom has traveled outside the United States. In fact The New York Times reports that Governor Palin had to apply for a passport before traveling to Kuwait and Germany to visit deployed members of the Alaska National Guard in 2007. She also visited Ireland on that trip—The Wall Street Journal says she was there just long enough to refuel her plane—and it’s fair to assume that she’s seen the parts of Canada between Alaska and Idaho.

Governor Palin never has been to Iraq and she’s never visited any of America’s most important allies. Even though their population is roughly equivalent to that of Memphis, Tennessee, Alaskans must engage in foreign commerce, yet Palin has not visited Alaska’s trading partners. I have no idea if Palin has received foreign delegations to Alaska. I’ll leave it to more astute political observers to decide if what Sarah Palin hasn’t done qualifies her to set our nation’s foreign policy. I am a religious commentator. My job is to point out that, what Sarah Palin has done (or, more precisely what she has said), suggests that this affable hockey mom is theologically ill-prepared to lead on matters of foreign policy; and the American people should be singularly concerned if Sarah Palin ever is in charge of representing the United States in its relationships with the Muslim world.

Here’s the problem: on June 8, 2008, Governor Palin gave a talk at the graduation of a lay ministry training program at her childhood church in Wasilla, Alaska. During her remarks she asked the gathered graduates and guests to “pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.” (She also said that it was God’s will that Alaskans come together to build a natural gas pipeline, but that’s another matter.)

Here’s a video clip:

Now, I’ve watched a video of Governor Palin’s remarks several times (thanks to The Huffington Post), and I have to say that I’m not exactly sure what Sarah Palin is talking about. I don’t know if she’s asking folks to pray that national leaders would recognize the war in Iraq as “from God” or if she is praying that the national leaders might discern and follow God’s will as they fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Either way, in her address to the graduates of the Wasilla Assembly of God Master’s Commission Governor Palin touched what should be a third rail in American foreign policy: she mentioned God’s will and America’s wars abroad in the same sentence.

Whatever a person may think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the broader so-called “War on Terror”, I suspect that we all can agree that the United States needs leaders who will speak cautiously and wisely. Sara Palin’s suggestion that America’s wars in the Muslim world are be a manifestation of God’s will was neither cautious nor wise.

People in the Muslim world want to hear a Vice Presidential candidate suggest that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a “task that is from God” about as much as Americans want to hear Muslim leaders talk about attacking the West as an act of sacred Jihad.

Sarah Palin either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that in the Middle East we are fighting people who fear a modern day crusade—a return to the days when European Christians mistakenly and disastrously thought God was calling them to conquer the Holy Land. The best way to make sure that more fighters will join the ranks of those who would harm America is to further the notion that Americans believe we have been called by God to wage war in the middle east in the name of Christ.

A person could be excused for confusing Governor Palin with a modern day crusader, and that is an image our nation can ill afford to project. If ever our nation is going to find its way out of war, we’ll be needing leaders who know how to talk about America’s role in the world without scaring those with whom we need to make peace. So far, this is a test that Governor Palin has failed.

Here’s Gov. Palin’s entire speech:

16 thoughts on “Sarah Palin’s Crusade

  1. Pingback: Stop US Wars » Blog Archive » Sarah Palin’s Crusade

  2. If Sarah said it, I believe it. You “elitists” are always attacking the Faithful. A Crusade is a crusade is a crusade. All wars are a crusade on behalf of God. If it is not a crusade, why are we fighting the infidels? If Bush, Chenney, Powell, Rice, Rove, McCain, and now Palin believe it is God’s will, why do you resist our leaders? Don’t you know we are to submit to authorities in high places? Whoops, I think “submit” is a Muslim word. Selah!

  3. I know little about Sarah Palin, but her comments (or anyone else’s) about God’s plan in relationship to war is frightening and incorrect. Many men have been sent to war under the” banner of God”…a banner developed and promoted by people in leadership. God’s plan is for a world living in peace… mankind hides behind “the banner of God” and continues to wage war against each other.

  4. I guess it depends on just whose ox is being gored, doesn’t it? Where’s the almighty “context” alibi that you trotted out on behalf of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racist blabber, while excusing Obama’s 20-year membership in a congregation in which he almost certainly heard such drivel every Sunday he attended? Of course, it turned out that Wright really is a racist; he repeated all the bigotry in front of the National Press Club.

    As to Ms. Palin’s presumed lack of experience: I note that when she visited Kuwait and Germany, she managed to talked with wounded and recovering servicemen and women. That’s something Obama didn’t have time for, though he gave a rousing, if inane, speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in which he crowed about being a different kind of American face talking to Germany. (Well, there was Colin Powell and Condi Rice, but no matter.) It was well-received by 200,00 or so young Germans who were waiting for the free beer and rock music to follow. Too bad ‘ol B. Hussein Obama isn’t running for president of Europe.

    I think Ms. Palin’s experience racks up rather well against Obama’s. After all, he served one term in the Illinois legislature, in which he voted “present” on every single controversial measure. In one term in the US Senate, he has spent the bulk of his time campaigning for president, and has called no significant session of the subcommittee he chairs.

    Then there’s Joe Biden, two-time loser in the presidential hustings who makes much of his roots in hardscrabble Scranton, PA. He doesn’t mention that the family left sometime in the Eisenhower administration; that he attended private and exclusive catholic prep schools, then Harvard; and that he has done nothing but serve in public office since. His greatest foreign policy contribution has been the suggestion that the solution to the Iraq dilemma is a three-way partition.

    Ben, I’m particularly concerned at the way your latest screed approaches the double standard applied to Ms. Palin by the left-wing “official” feminist crowd, as exemplified by Sally Quinn, Ellen Goodman, Gloria Steinem, et. al. According to them, the problems with Ms. Palin seem to be that she: went to public schools; did not go to Radcliffe and Harvard (“Idaho? Omigod!”); has bona fide working/middle class roots; has managed to raise her kids without “a village”; has made her way thus far in politics without the help of a well-heeled husband or father; has more than the obligatory 0-2 children; is pro-life, and actually had a Down syndrome child; and worst of all, is inconveniently attractive, intelligent and articulate.

    As to your point about the muslim world, I, for one, care about their sensibilities about as much as they, frankly, care about mine.

    Bill

  5. OK Bill,

    So first of all, we’re friends, I’m your pastor, and ours has always been a relationship of mutual respect if not agreement. As such, you don’t get to call my writing “screed,” no matter you personal opinion of it. Just have to get that out of the way before I proceed.

    Now. I’m not sure you’re actually responding to my column. Read it again. I’m hearing you be angry about a lot of the treatment Palin has received in the press. But almost nothing you say has much to do with what I wrote.

    I completely understand why Sarah Palin has energized the Republican party. There’s a lot there to like. For the most part I admire what I know of her as a person, I disagree with most of her as a political positions, and I don’t think our nation or any other nation is safe in the in care of someone who thinks she or he knows God’s will well enough to send our troops off to war in the confidence of God’s blessing. I’m too much of a Calvinist. I don’t think that any one can know God’s mind in that way. A Christian leader confident that she is shedding blood with God’s blessing is every bit as dangerous and noxious as a Muslim who believes the same. Being able to field dress a moose notwithstanding.

    I realize that republicans don’t like media types going after Sarah Palin. I know this because the attacks on Obama have been equally harsh and unfair. It’s no fun to have one’s candidate picked apart.

    Ronn, yea, I’m one of those crazy elites. The Republicans had Meg Whitman on stage talking about how prosperous is America. She lives in Atherton and is worth more than a Billion dollars and evidently hasn’t driven the fifteen minutes over to East Palo Alto where America looks very different, but at least she doesn’t write for the New York Times. Then there’s Cindy McCain whose get up on the night her husband accepted he nomination was valued at something like 300K. At least she didn’t go to Princeton like me.

    But then I preached from the pulpit of Mendocino Presbyteiran Church this morning. It was good to be back, rehearsing my rural bona findes!

    Ben

  6. 1. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, one of the better desk-side references for any writer:

    screed: 1 a: A lengthy discourse. b: An informal piece of writing. 2: A strip (as of plaster of the thickness planned for the coat) laid on as a guide. 3: A leveling device drawn over freshly poured concrete. [ Note: phonetic spelling and diacritical marks have been omitted, as have OE and ME antecedents.]

    I believe the first definition in the series above applies to any blog entry online.

    2. I still note no “in context” explanation, or effort at same. That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with the comments attributed to Ms. Palin. But I do think that if comments by Jeremiah Wright can be explained in some context, then Ms. Palin’s remarks deserve the same consideration.

    3. Any comments about Ms. Palin’s lack of foreign policy, or indeed, foreign experience, are fair game for replies about those claimed by her rivals. Hence the comparison to Obama’s European trip that was reported as if it were some kind of victory lap, and since she opposes him directly for the office, Biden’s foreign policy offering re: the partitioning of Iraq.

    Bill

  7. Bill,

    I don’t know how you define “long” or “informal,” but I have yet to see “screed” used as a positive adjective. I take you at your word if you say you use it neutrally.

    The difference between Jeremiah Wright and Sarah Palin is this: in the case of Jeremiah Wright, a candidate was being knocked for the remarks of his pastor. I have knocked a candidate for her own words. I think this is an important distinction.

    Truth be told, Sarah Palin belongs to a church that you and I as Presbyterians would find strange. They speak in tongues. They obsess about “end times” prophecies. Last year I understand they invited the Jews for Jesus to speak at their church. (Jews for Jesus is an organization that tries to convert Jews and that has been accused of using “cult-like” mind and spiritual control tactics on its members.) If Sarah Palin and Barack Obama were being held to similar standard, the media would be all over her, asking her to disavow her church and denounce her pastor.But they wont. The media will let it pass.

    I agree with you on point number 3.

    Best,

    Ben

  8. Craig,

    Hit that button all you like. It makes me look like a well-read blogger.

    The religion and politics mix gets especially problematic when you throw war into the mix, and even worse when you come to find out that Governor Palin, just last Thursday, was suggesting that her son and his fellow Army recruits would be fighting the terrorists who attacked the US on 9/11 while in Iraq.

    Religion, politics, war, and ignorance. It’s a REALLY bad combination!

    Ben

  9. I am shocked and saddened by the obvious ‘dumbing down’ of Americans! Sarah Palin in no way represents Americans that I know.I am not a liberal. But hatred, whether contextualized within ‘god’ as Palin does, or without, is still hatred. Hatred of gays. hatred ofwomen by restricting their reproduction rights. hatred of liberal ideas, like equality, and religious freedom. We are sounding more and more like the people who hate us. Don’t get me wrong…she can and should live her life and raise her family any way she likes; that’s really America to me….but no one has the right to tell others, especially a politician. She is a typical embarrassment to womanhood: took five or six schools to get a college degree, shoots animals with high-powered weaponry (how sportsman-like) to be liked by the boys,and is unthinking in her words. Women’s rights will be set back a hundred years by people like her. Sorry, but as a true conservative, if Alaska is the last American frontier, then I do not want another cowboy in the White House. I deserve a thinking, educated, and intelligent person there. And all of those of you who do want someone like her, don’t know your elbow from a hole in the wall! Look at the economy…she’s not intelligent enough! Oh, and, secede from the Union??????What is she, Jefferson Davis???

  10. Lyn,

    Thanks for the note. Sorry for the late reply. Things just get weirder don’t they? especially in light of troopergate!

    Ben

  11. Pingback: Interesting Post on God’s Will, War, and Sarah Palin « Broken Corset

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