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Smearing Palin’s Faith (Update)

John on September 12, 2008 at 9:49 am

Update: Hot Air has a pretty effective ad responding to some of what I discussed below:

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Not familiar with the group that made it but I think the sentiment is right.

[End Update]

I’ve seen it coming for more than a week. The media were going to attack Palin for her faith and try to paint her as some sort of nut. It started, not surprisingly, with Daily Kos which had a diary titled Sarah Palin: Dominionist Stalking Horse back on August 29th. This post was one of the first to trot out the smear that Palin would be demanding “creationism” be taught in schools, based on some fragmentary quotes. It aslo points out that her church (shocker!) is explicitly pro-life.

From there the idea spread that Palin was an extremist. That was reinforced by two things. First, a videotape of Palin praying at her church. More on that in a moment. Second, a list of meant-to-be-funny quotes which a liberal talk radio host had created to satirize her supposed views got taken seriously. One of the made up quotes read:

God made dinosaurs 4,000 years ago as ultimately flawed creatures, lizards of Satan really, so when they died and became petroleum products we, made in his perfect image, could use them in our pickup trucks, snow machines and fishing boats.

The quotes are broad enough that most people would probably suspect the joke. But at least two liberal celebrities have come out treating this as genuine. Matt Damon demanded to know if she really believed dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago. Even more embarassing, liberal columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a column which seemed to reference the same invented quote.

If there are any genuine quotes about this topic from Palin, I haven’t seen them. She did say once that she was for “debating both sides” of the evolution issue. Much has been made of that. But as Factcheck.org noted, she never pushed for intelligent design or young-earth creationism in Alaska’s schools and in fact said that it wouldn’t be part of the curriculum.

The other, more serious attack had to do with a prayer she offered at her church. She said:

“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 [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God,” she exhorted the congregants. “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.”

This is clearly an exhortation to pray for our country and our leaders, that they would have wisdom as they send troops out. However, with the removal of a few words, the AP managed to turn this into the claim that Palin was advocating Holy war:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a “task that is from God.”

“Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God,” she said. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.”

And last night, ABC raised the issue in Palin’s first interview. Charlie Gibson seems to have relied on the condensed, AP version of her quote:

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

But of course those weren’t her exact words. ABC has perpetuated a lie that paints Palin unfairly. Her response makes perfect sense once you know what Gibson left out:

But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.

This is by far the most serious attack on her faith and also the most unfair. There have been other less heralded ones as well. Yesterday a professor of theology from Chicago wrote a piece saying:

“Wives be subject to your husbands, as unto the Lord.” So says the Christian scriptures in Ephesians, 5:22. What I would like to know, first of all, is who is going to have the final authority as Vice-President if Sarah Palin is elected, Palin or her husband? In fact, I think the first order of business with Palin is to ask her to give the same kind of speech that was demanded of John F. Kennedy re his Catholicism. Kennedy said he would obey the Constitution over the Pope. Will Palin obey the Constitution over her husband?

The author of this hit piece then goes on to rehearse the same smear that Charlie Gibson fell for using the same condensed version of her quote. She then drags out another debunked claim, that Palin was against sex education in schools. In fact she supports sex-ed in schools.

No doubt there is a viceral reaction by many on the left to faith, especially when it intersects with politics. So there’s no doubt that part of what’s happening is intentional and designed to paint Palin as outside the mainstream (and therefore unelectable).

In the case of the AP, I suspect this is simply so far from the experience of their reporters and staff that they couldn’t see the difference between an exhortation to prayer and a call to holy war. In other words, I don’t think they were malicious, just ignorant. That doesn’t excuse it of course. Charlie Gibson, for one, owes Palin and his viewers and explanation and an apology.

C.S. Lewis once said (paraphrasing) that people are most afraid of that which they are least likely to become. For all the hysteria on the left over “dominionists” what’s clear is that we’ve never seen as much open hostility to religion as we have in this election. That includes the treatment of Palin, of Huckabee, of Mitt Romney and even Obama himself. Far from becoming a theocracy, our media elite seemed determined to weed out any but the most bland expressions of conventional faith from seeking public office.

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Category: Politics, Religion & Faith |

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