Friday, September 05, 2008

The Candidates' Preachers

Sarah Palin's Pentecostalism is now under media scrutiny. For outsiders, the alarming bit is not the speaking in tongues or praying for the Spirit of Prophecy or such. It's the imminent apocalyptic expectation coupled with advocacy for Israel, which together seem like an itch to personally bring on The End of Days.

SWNID famously despises the dispensationalism (not inherent in Pentecostalism but somehow coincident with it much of the time, at least in North America). We despise it for its miserable exegetical basis, and we despise it for its unintentional but nevertheless significant denigration of the suffering of people at present, which is somehow not great enough to merit categorization as The Great Tribulation (try telling that to folks in Gonaives right now). We have in the past noted with disdain the way that Christians infected with dispensationalism tend to interpret every glass as half empty and every new development as a sign of Impending Doom for All That Is Good.

But now we'll say this: Pentecostals manage somehow to raise families, build businesses, live their lives, pay their debts, make friends, and serve their communities. In fact, most seem to do it quite well. The fact is that their gloomy view of the future doesn't much interfere with their practical lives, their ordinary decisions, or even their extraordinary ones.

So we don't expect that Sarah Palin will try to get us all involved in Armageddon because she used to be a member at Wasilla Assembly of God. Least of all should her preacher's sermons be rehearsed for remarks that, if taken as a political program, appear politically radical. He wasn't imagining someone acting politically on his remarks when he made them.

So, fellow conservatives, we say once again that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The gander is Obama, and his preacher, Jeremiah Wright, has said some stuff himself. But since neither the candidate nor any significant number of his fellow parishioners seem to have taken those statements as an immediate call to radical political action, we say again that Obama's membership in Trinity United Church of Christ is no big deal.

So enough on the pastor-bashing and religion parsing. We'd be happy to go to church with any of these candidates, though we'd be happier for them to go to church with us. But let's settle this on the policy positions, not the theological exotica.

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