Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The McCain/Palin Campaign Embraces "Agents of Intolerance". Part 3.


When Sarah Palin suggests that Jeremiah Wright should be returned to the political dialog in this ever-intensifying presidential race, she is not-so-subtly underscoring an important message- religion matters in the political sphere. Palin knows that many Americans felt threatened by what they interpreted as Wright's radical approach to Christianity. In this respect Palin is very well-informed, as I'll prove later in this post. She knows exactly how high the stakes are in this election. She is also well aware that she was chosen to be John McCain's partner because he would otherwise have had significant difficulty getting support from the Christian Right. It is patently clear to many political observers that the GOP is using Palin as a tool.

Unfortunately for the Republican leadership, its selection of Palin as the future of the party carries with it great risks of backlash from the more moderate segments of the base. For as clearly as Sarah Palin appeals to the Evangelical Christian Movement, she also has the potential to turn off voters who choose to make their voting decisions based upon economic and foreign policy. But that's not all... the McCain campaign must make sure that religion remains the unspoken subtext of this contest, rather than rising to the surface of mainstream consciousness. The Arizona Senator has notably declared religion (and as an extension, Jeremiah Wright) as off-the-table within the larger political discourse.

Many of Sarah Palin's most fervent supporters (which include the Christian Right and many Neocons) have bemoaned McCain's resistance to attacking Obama for his past connections to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But what they don't seem to understand is that such an assault could lead to even more dangerous territory than the subject of William Ayers. Not only is John McCain's personal faith less than convincing, but Sarah Palin's religious associations are downright radical. It's clear that McCain's more cautious advisers envision a net loss if these subjects are explored in the mainstream media. While they may be able to whip up the spirits of those who have already proclaimed their unwavering support, they would be at great risk of alienating the remaining undecided voters.

From the evidence so far, I'd say that the moderates on the McCain staff are correct in their assumptions about this issue. Obviously the Fundies have received the message... they are not going to flip in favor of Obama. And should more information come out about Palin's Pentacostal roots, McCain can only lose. A few weeks ago there was a YouTube video depicting an "Assembly of God" bishop named Thomas Muthee blessing Sarah Palin in preparation for her run for the Alaskan governorship. It wouldn't have been all that startling, except for the inclusion of an invocation intended to protect Palin from "witchcraft". This is not the ordinary experience of the vast majority of Christians in this nation. Instead, most rational modern citizens see witches more as fun holiday imagery with which to decorate their front porches.

What was less emphasized about that video is that Muthee was also asking God to bring Palin campaign contributions. While a lot of Americans may be able to relate to this type of prayer, it's doubtful that they will be especially comfortable with a Vice President that believes in speaking in tongues, the laying on of hands, and prophesy. These are all modern day Pentacostal beliefs taught in the churches Palin has attended for years. Additionally, some of her preachers have been intolerant. Ed Kalnins was the senior head of Palin's church in Wasilla. Among his highlights* are sermons during which he preached that those who criticize George W. Bush are doomed to hell. That's not the type of revelation likely to counter the Obama campaign's assertion that McCain/Palin will essentially be a repreat of the Bush/Cheney years.

* Kalnins has questioned if people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted in heaven, has characterized the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq as part of a great worldwide struggle about Christian faith, and said that Jesus ÔÇťoperated from that position of war mode". Most frightening perhaps is that he believes that Palin's political ascent is decreed by God, and that the "Biblical End Times" are near (link). How he relates these two "prophesied" events is pretty clear.

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