Palin the Pentecostal

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can of worms.jpegThanks to the likes of AP’s Eric Gorski and Rachel Zoll (here) and the Wall Street Journal‘s Suzanne Sataline (here), we now know that Sarah Palin was formed religiously in a pretty old-timey Pentecostal church. Here’s the lede to Sataline’s story in yesterday’s paper:

At the Pentecostal church where Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin worshipped for more than two decades, congregants speak in tongues and are part of a faith that believes humanity is in its “end times” — the days preceding a world-ending cataclysm bringing Christian redemption and the second coming of Jesus.

Baptized a Catholic, Palin was re-baptized as a teenager at Wasilla Assemblies of God, and continued to belong there until 2002 when she left to join a non-denominational Bible church in Wasilla. When she’s in Juneau, however, she worships at a church of her old denomination. It’s the biggest of the American Pentecostal denominations, and up till now the most prominent member in politics has been John Ashcroft.
Will Sarah Palin get up close and personal about her “faith journey” sometime before the election? Will she say why she left the church that formed her spiritually? Is that any of our business? I confess that after reading any number of articles claiming that Obama joined Trinity UCC for the secular and political connections, I’m curious that, as she prepared for taking a place on a larger political stage, running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor, Palin should have gone over to a church where they don’t speak in tongues, where the teachings are, in the words of its pastor “so normal” (albeit welcoming of Jews for Jesus). And the fact that she and her biographer and the McCain campaign seem to be doing everything they can to gloss over her Pentecostal roots.
This is plainly a can of worms. But in a world where candidates get to reveal all kinds of positive things about their private lives, are the things they don’t want to reveal necessarily out of bounds?

  • I was born into an Assembly of God family. In young adulthood and since my marriage, we ave attended some churches of other denominations. But, mostly mostly until 1996, we attended the Assembly of God church where my father was pastor.
    For the past 12 years, we have been part of a Baptist church where the teaching and worship are not appreciably different. The differences are at peripheral points in a doctrinal statement.
    It is misguided and ungracious to treat these people as though they are two-headed space aliens.

  • Mark Silk

    I agree, and hope you are not referring to me. But it seems not illegitimate to note that Gov. Palin has seemed to want to hide her Pentecostal background, and perhaps even to wonder whether she left her church because it might prove an embarrassment in her political career. There’s a hint of an acknowledgment of that “problem” (if you see it as such) in the following story from today’s Religion News Service: “Palin, at the appearance last June at Wasilla Assembly of God, jokingly referred to her travels around the state as governor, when pastors might warn her that she might be surprised by the raising of hands or clapping in a congregation she visits.
    “‘I say, I grew up at Wasilla Assembly of God,’ she said. ‘Nothing freaks me out about the worship service.'”

  • David Johnson

    I was raised Pentecostal, and will carry these beliefs with me to the grave. It is quite sad to think that someone who has been exposed to such wonderful truths would try to hide what they have been shown and apparently believe in to further a career. Being optimistic, could it be that she isn’t trying to hide anything? Is it just that the media is trying to sensationalize this for their gain? Quite frankly, how refreshing it would be to have one of our leaders who knows, understands, and is of pentecostal faith as I and so many others are.