What Does Palin Mean to Evangelicals?

What Does Palin Mean to Evangelicals? July 6, 2009

Sarah Palin’s abrupt resignation from the post of Governor of Alaska has touched off a firestorm of speculation in the liberal blogosphere.  What dark secret, they wonder, was about to be revealed?  Apparently many believe she is soon to be indicted–and the Palin camp has responded.  While I have no knowledge of the truth of the allegations, the four-page letter sent to major news organizations (and the testimony of the FBI) is fairly compelling, and it’s certainly true that the national media have been quick to pass along any negative rumor about Palin without even a semblance of investigative work.  Of course, when it comes to Sarah Palin, hatred and derision make evidence an afterthought.  (I think we should do some writing on Patheos on evangelical perspectives on Palin soon.)

Meanwhile, accusations and counter-accusations continue to fly about whether Palin was a legitimate political talent with an impressive political resume whose debut was mishandled by the McCain campaign or a bit player who floundered once she was thrust onto a larger stage.  Palin herself, in any case, hardly sounds as though she’s done with the political arena, but even conservatives don’t think this is the way to become more credible on the national stage.

Some scoff when evangelicals talk of feeling afflicted or scorned in American society, where the number of those who claim to be evangelical is relatively high (25% of voters in the last election).  Now, there were many reasons why half the populace and much of the media were scornful of Bush and have been scornful of Palin.  But there is political opposition and there is cultural revulsion.  For many, it seems, who were just meeting Bush in the runup to the 2000 election, there was no need to know about Bush’s political history or policy preferences in order to despise him; all that was needed was to know that he was “born again,” cited Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and that he wore cowboy hats on occasion.  With Palin, too, much of the scorn centered around her (prior) attendance at a charismatic evangelical church.  While it may not be true that the American populace as a whole despises evangelicals, it still seems true that substantial portions of the ruling classes in academia, politics and media do.

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