From what we can see and read, there is something deeply disturbing about Sarah Palin’s church and the utterances of some of her pastors. And I’m not talking about the obvious partisan rhetoric, such as the statement that people who vote for John Kerry, or ever dare to criticize the actions of George Bush, are bound for hell. No, I’m talking about the twinning of Pentecostal emotionalism with a dangerous end-times theology that is unique in the Christian world to American Protestantism. These are people who believe Alaska occupies a special position as a “refuge state in the last days”, that the Iraq was is part of a war that is “contending for your faith”, and that Jesus is operating from the “position of war mode”.
A former pastor of this Church defends the theology as follows: “Our basic belief is that God is God and he knows where history is going and he has a purposeful plan and within the middle of that plan we live in an environment in our world where certain events would take place. Sarah wasn’t taught to look for one particular sign — a cataclysmic sign. She knew as every Christian does … that God is sovereign and he is in control.”
Reading those words reminded me of another debate, the debate between those who believe in the God of reason, and the voluntarists. Catholics hold that God is reasonable, and even though the mind of God is vastly beyond our comprehension, the way we think is close enough to the way that God thinks to allow us to claim that God is an infinite and eternal intellect. God cannot act irrationally. And indeed, God’s own Word, or reason, became man so that man could become like God. Voluntarists, on the other hand, believe that God should be conceived as pure will, not pure reason and intellect, on the grounds that God transcends all human ways of thinking about him. Hence they define God in terms of his absolute power and sovereignty, and believe that humanity must submit to his will.
So, when we combine emotional frenzy with a belief that the end of the world in coming and that God will take sides in the coming war- are we talking about Ahmadinejad’s Shia Islam or this American Protestantism that Palin seems associated with? Either way, it’s frightening. And it’s time for Catholics in America to stop defending this nonsense simply because they view these people as part of a common political alliance.