Sarah Palin and the Pentecostals

The first time I saw her presented through the media—seems like months ago but it must have been less than a week—Sarah Palin was identified as a Roman Catholic; and in fact, she was born and baptized into a Catholic family; and if the Catholics are like the Baptists her name is still on some Catholic parish membership list.

            Today, however, a friend said to me: “I heard that Palin is a Baptist.” That could be, I found out; because since 2002, Palin and her family have been what we might call Christians-at-large but what we more often call church hoppers: here for a while, there for a while, mostly in non-denominational evangelical congregations. Some of them could well be baptistic in ideology and practice.

            But in between her Catholic initiation and her Evangelical itinerancy, Palin was embedded in the life and work of large Pentecostal churches. One video circulating on the web records a brief testimony she gave to her “home” church—where she was saved, baptized and discipled as a believer. It was there she learned the religious rhetoric she uses no naturally in public and in private.

            It is inevitable that one day a Pentecostal will be President of the United States—or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or Ambassador to the United Nations: in the same way Muslims will hold high office.

            You recall we broke the Roman Catholic barrier back in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was elected President. Some people thought that would be the beginning of the end of our great democracy.

            Now five members of the Supreme Court are Roman Catholic—and that is worth a week of blogs!

            Pentecostal Christians live in a fairly new room in the Christian house (to employ an image popularized by C. S. Lewis). They started building that room in 1906, when a revival broke out in a storefront church in Los Angeles, California. The people practiced speaking in tongues, casting out demons, giving words of prophesy, and performing all kinds of what The Acts of the Apostles calls “signs and wonders.”  They also have bought into the end-of-the-world scenario popularized by the Left Behind books.

            Pentecostalism was an in-your-face, no-holds-barred, help-me-Jesus counterpunch to the ideas and preferences of the modern world. It took root on the margins of American society but spread like Kudzu into every religious tradition. Kathryn Kuhlman of Pittsburgh was a Pentecostal, as was Oral Roberts of Tulsa (until he became a Methodist).

            John Ashcroft was a Pentecostal; you recall he was Attorney General during George W. Bush’s first term. I wrote about him in my book, On the Other Side of Oddville.

            Now, Sarah Palin.

            Pentecostals should not be discouraged from holding civic office; nobody should. But the populace should know what we are getting if we elect such a person. I will write more about this in the weeks ahead.


            Next blog: Sunday night.

            Coming soon: book reviews of The Shack and The First Billion is the Hardest

            Number of viewers in the first three days: 340; and I am pleased.


1 comment so far

  1. veritas on

    i dunno, she comes off pretty Godless to me.

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