Saturday, September 20, 2008

Palin's Christianity

I've previously written to critique claims that Sarah Palin is a Christian reconstructionist or dominionist, or that she's a young-earth creationist or tried to put creationism in the public schools.

I still stand behind the former argument, but I think there is now some evidence that she is a young-earth creationist and supported Mat-Su Borough School Board candidates who aimed to put creationism in the public schools, but never got a majority on the school board. There's also now evidence that Palin is an advocate of pushing an allegedly secularized version of principles from Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles, which I previously wrote about here when serial killer Matthew Murray blamed them for his problems.

Palin's Creationism
David Talbot's article at about Sarah Palin's clashes with Rev. Howard Bess over his book about how churches should deal with homosexuality contained a passage that stated that she is a young-earth creationist:
Another valley activist, Philip Munger, says that Palin also helped push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school board. "She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the board," said Munger, a music composer and teacher. "I bumped into her once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of God. I said, 'Sarah, how can you believe in creationism -- your father's a science teacher.' And she said, 'We don't have to agree on everything.'

"I pushed her on the earth's creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she'd seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them."
Munger said the same thing on his own blog:
In June 1997, both Palin and I had responsibilities at the graduation ceremony of a small group of Wasilla area home schoolers. I directed the Mat-Su College Community Band, which played music, and she gave the commencement address. It was held at her [former -jjl] church, the Wasilla Assembly of God.

Palin had recently become Wasilla mayor, beating her earliest mentor, John Stein, the then-incumbent mayor. A large part of her campaign had been to enlist fundamentalist Christian groups, and invoke evangelical buzzwords into her talks and literature.

As the ceremony concluded, I bumped into her in a hall away from other people. I congratulated her on her victory, and took her aside to ask about her faith. Among other things, she declared that she was a young earth creationist, accepting both that the world was about 6,000-plus years old, and that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time.

I asked how she felt about the second coming and the end times. She responded that she fully believed that the signs of Jesus returning soon "during MY lifetime," were obvious. "I can see that, maybe you can't - but it guides me every day."
I spoke with Philip Munger by telephone on September 17, hoping to be able to find others who could confirm Palin's creationist views. Unfortunately, he said that there weren't other witnesses to his conversation, but he did give me a lot of background information about Palin's political career. He said that the Wasilla government had been dominated by Democrats until 1994, when it shifted to Republicans and John Stein became mayor. Stein was Palin's original political mentor, but she decided to run against Stein in 1996, under the tutelage of Alaska State Rep. Victor Kohring, Republican representative from Wasilla, who began a 3.5-year prison term for corruption in July. Munger described Kohring, a member of the Christian Businessman's Association, as a member of the religious right. Stein, while a Republican, was vulnerable to attack as being not sufficiently conservative, due to the fact that his wife is a pro-choice Democrat who hasn't taken his last name.

Munger told me that Palin also supported a slate of religious right candidates for the Mat-Su Borough School Board, including Cheryl Turner, who he described as a creationist. But he said that the creationists didn't win a majority on the school board, and as a result made no attempt to push that agenda.

Munger said that he called in a question to Sarah Palin when she appeared on the Don Fagan program around October of 2006, and he asked her if her views on creationism had moderated since the Dover case. Her response indicated that her views had not changed, and that she had no idea what the Dover case was. Munger offered to explain it to her in detail if she contacted him, but she never did. He said that she didn't say anything to explicitly endorse creationism, instead resorting to the same tactics suggested by the Discovery Institute of protecting academic freedom, allowing "both" views to be taught, teaching the controversy, etc.

My impression is that Palin is likely a young-earth creationist, but not one who knows much about it or has it high on her agenda for political change. She's probably smart enough to see that such could be a liability for her future political career and so will avoid questions about it or answer in generalities.

Palin and Bill Gothard
Sarah Posner has a new article at titled "Sarah Palin, faith-based mayor." This article points out that the Wasilla City Council passed a resolution in April 2000 at her direction declaring Wasilla to be a "City of Character" and a supporter of the International Association of Character Cities, run by Steven Menzel. This organization promotes a secularized version of the principles from Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles, which is a sort of Christianity-lite cult that promotes the prosperity gospel and a whole lot of craziness like this:

Wives who work outside the home are to be compared to harlots — Bill Gothard

It is a total insult in Scripture to be called uncircumcised, and the only moral choice parents can make is to have their sons circumcised in order to follow in the footsteps of Jesus — Bill Gothard

“Unmerited favor” is a “faulty definition” of grace. Grace for sanctification is merited as we humble ourselves before God — Bill Gothard

Females who enjoy horseback riding have a problem with rebellion — Bill Gothard, from testimonies of people who use their real names who have heard him say this in person

Unbiblical submission taught — Abigail was WRONG to do what she did in saving Nabal and his servants — Bill Gothard

Tamar was partially at fault for being raped, because she wasn’t spiritually alert and didn’t cry out — Bill Gothard

Rock music is evil because it is evil — Bill Gothard

Cabbage Patch dolls are demonized — Bill Gothard

Palin learned about the IACC at a conference held at Gothard's IBLP International Training Center in Indianapolis in April 2000, a conference at which speakers included Bill Gothard and crackpot pseudohistorian David Barton, who argues that the separation of church and state is a myth.

It appears that the IACC features actually implemented in Wasilla are pretty mild and unobjectionable--giving out certificates of good character to citizens who do things like return lost wallets, as an example given by the executive assistant to Wasilla's current mayor.

Palin's also clearly no hardcore advocate of Gothard, at least with respect to the first rule listed above about women not working outside of the home. And I still don't think the fears of theocracy, dominionism, and Christian reconstruction have any substance. But what is concerning about her IBLP involvement is that she looks very much like another George W. Bush. As Posner's article notes, Gothard promotes the idea of "confidence that what I have to say or do is true and just and right in the sight of God," which seems to promote the idea of moving confidently forward in decisions with blinkered ignorance and disastrous consequences that are simply ignored. Palin seems to have governed Alaska in such a manner, acting above the law in "Troopergate" with her husband refusing to show up to testify and claiming to support the environment while implementing policies that have left both lakes in Wasilla devoid of life. She also seems to be submissive to her husband in ways which do not seem appropriate for a governor, such as allowing him to play a role in making government decisions, adding some real substance to the concerned questions raised at Debunking Christianity:
• Is it now your view that God can call a woman to serve as president of the United States? Are you prepared to renounce publicly any further claim that God's plan is for men rather than women to exercise leadership in society, the workplace and public life? Do you acknowledge having become full-fledged egalitarians in this sphere at least?

• Would Palin be acceptable as vice president because she would still be under the ultimate authority of McCain as president, like the structure of authority that occurs in some of your churches? Have you fully come to grips with the fact that if after his election McCain were to die, Palin would be in authority over every male in the USA as president?

• If you agree that God can call a woman to serve as president, does this have any implications for your views on women's leadership in church life? Would you be willing to vote for a qualified woman to serve as pastor of your church? If not, why not?

• Do you believe that Palin is under the authority of her husband as head of the family? If so, would this authority spill over into her role as vice president?

• Do you believe that women carry primary responsibility for the care of children in the home? If so, does this affect your support for Palin? If not, are you willing to change your position and instead argue for flexibility in the distribution of child care responsibilities according to the needs of the family?
(As I've already noted here, there are some evangelicals who oppose Sarah Palin because they don't think a woman should be in such a position of authority, which is more consistent with Gothard.)

UPDATE (September 24, 2008): David Talbot's "Mean Girl" at confirms several things that Munger told me, including Palin's betrayals of former mentors and (something I didn't write about here) her allusions that John Stein wasn't really a Christian, but a Jew, as part of her campaign to defeat him as mayor of Wasilla.

UPDATE (November 19, 2009): Palin's book shows that she's certainly a creationist.

1 comment:

TLC Tugger said...

Thanks for that info about Bill Got Hard. I was pretty alarmed that he doesn't know that there are many new testament passages which make it clear that circumcision is not part of Christianity (Romans 2:29, Romans 3:30, Acts 15:10, I Corinthians 7:18, Galatians 5:6, Galatians 5:2, Galatians 6:15, Philippians 3:2, Colossians 2:12, Matthew 9:12).

95% of the world's Christians do not circumcise. The ones that do are mainly in the US, but also heavily in South Korea and The Philippines.

How many boys have been harmed by GotHard's ignorant spoutings?