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Thoughts on Michael Joseph Gross’ Vanity Fair Piece on Palin

John on September 5, 2010 at 12:11 am

Many have pointed out the ways in which Michael Gross’ piece on Palin seems both unfair and under sourced. I won’t rehash all of that. I’ll just comment on the one section that stood out to me:

The term “prayer warrior” describes a person who offers a specific kind of supplication: asking God to direct an unseen battle between forces of light and darkness—literal angels and demons—that some Christians believe is occurring all around us…

Whenever I heard Palin speak on the road, her remarks were scored with code phrases expressing solidarity with fundamentalist Christians. Her talk of leading with “a servant’s heart” is a dog whistle for the born-again. Her dig at health-care reform as an expression of Democratic ambitions to “build a Utopia” in the United States is practically a trumpet call (because the Kingdom of God is not of this earth, and perfection can be achieved only in the life to come). But it is Palin’s persistent encouragement of the prayer warriors that most clearly reveals her worldview: she is good, her opponents are evil, and the war is on.

Having read this dismissive account of Palin’s faith, it surprised me to see Mr. Gross on television claiming he has a lot in common with Palin, including Christianity. It reminds me of that old car commercial “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Well, Michael Gross is not your father’s Christian. In fact he’s apparently a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary which is a long way from the faith of most evangelicals.

Since leaving Princeton, Gross worked as a speechwriter for Gov. William Weld, who is as liberal as it gets on social issues, then did a series of Christian anthropology pieces for liberal outlets like the Nation and Slate. Occasionally, a bit of Gross’ Ivy League condescension reveals itself in his work. Back in 1999, Gross wrote a blurb for the Nation about A.N. Wilson’s latest book. In it, he describes a speech made by George W. Bush and concludes “George W. Bush may be transforming himself into that rarest of creatures: saved, but smart.” One wonders if Gross would place Sarah Palin among the chosen few. I think the excerpt above probably answers that question.

In addition to his work for the Nation, Gross is also a contributor to the Advocate where he has written to assure gays that Barack Obama can be trusted to work for their issues. From his resume alone I can think of lots of things Michael Joseph Gross does not have in common with Sarah Palin. I can also see several possible motivations for him to write a piece trashing her. Perhaps he’s being honest about his initial sympathy towards her, but I’m metaphysically certain he also has lots of equally plausible reasons to dislike her and what she stands for. You don’t write speeches for William Weld and then suddenly become one of Palin’s pen pals.

The fact that Gross doesn’t see fit to mention any of his liberal baggage when he appears on TV suggests that he’s not being very honest. I think the real motivations come through in his work.

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Category: MSM & Bias, Politics |

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