The Associated Press has an article reporting on controversial statements made by Governor Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assemby of God church in Wasilla, Alaska. Governor Palin makes an appeal for prayer about troops in Iraq declaring, “Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, 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.” She also made an appeal for students to pray for the implementation of a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state. The short impromptu address was given to graduating students at the Assembly of God church in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.
Governor Palin attended Wasilla Assembly of God from the time she was a teenager until 2002, according to the AP article. The Wall Street Journal reports that Palin attends Juneau Christian Center, also an Assemblies of God church, when the state government is in session. Another AP article refers to her current church as a non-denominational church, Wasilla Bible Church.
The earliest denunciation of Palin’s talk was highlighted by the Huffington Post on September 2. Their site also has the full video of Palin’s words to the students, and concerned readers should shape their own viewpoint from watching the video. The intention of the piece at the Huffington Post is to clearly link together similarities between the questions and concerns laid on Barack Obama for his long-time attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ, and his strong association with his former preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The Huffington Post declares:
And if the political storm over Barack Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright is any indication, Palin may face some political fallout over the more controversial teachings of Wasilla Assembly of God.
You can read the Huffington Post for a highlight of the “controversial” teachings they mention. My thoughts on the prayer differ from some of the critiques I have read. For those who have attended charismatic services, her language will certainly not seem unfamiliar.
Conversationalist prayer style, and petitionary prayer is delivered in a style that assumes submission to God’s will or Divine Providence. There is also a strong evangelical note where she emphasizes the importance of regeneration when she says, “All of that stuff doesn’t really matter if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”
It’s ludicrous to suggest that God can’t be present or desire transformation in Iraq just because the U.S. military is present. The religious left and its sympathizers cannot unconditionally identify the will of God with an American defeat. Does that necessarily imply God endorses this conflict? Of course not. At the same time it certainly doesn’t excuse mistakes that were made in the conflict from a political perspective. But God can certainly support justice for those who were persecuted and still persecuted, and deliverance for those who suffered and suffer under tyrants. Certainly many military chaplains can greatly attest and testify well to the presence of God in Iraq, as well as the protection for our soldiers, airmen, and Marines.
Palin’s prayer certainly falls within those parameters. It’s far too easy for those who hold a secular worldview to simply scoff at the prayer appeal. It also may be easy for some who hold a theological degree or advanced seminary training to find fault with some of the language. But it is still true that this is how most people pray in their congregations and in their own personal prayer life, especially those who attend churches outside of traditional Christianity or a church that has little or no liturgical makeup.
Possibly the most famous member of the Assembly of God denomination who was in public service was former senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft was unfairly demonized as a puritanical fundamentalist Christian, who supposedly ordered a bare-breasted statue at the Justice Department covered.
However, attempts to tie Palin to Ashcroft or other perceived stodgy Christians of the “religious right” should fail miserably. Sally Quinn has tried to drive a wedge between “value voters” and Governor Palin, as if conservative Christians were ready to pounce on her family with a scarlet “A.” The criticisms of Quinn and her ilk tell us more about how much these critics don’t know about the Gospel story than they do about Christians with a conservative worldview.