God’s Plan

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In the portion of his interview that aired tonight, Charlie Gibson unfairly truncated Sarah Palin’s now famous prayer regarding the war in Iraq:

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.

Exact words yes, but yanked out of context. Here’s the full prayer:blockquote>Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] 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 that plan is God’s plan.

Just to be clear, Palin did not assert that the Iraq war was a task from God, but was asking for prayers that that be the case.
Palin’s explanation, which bears all the marks of pre-interview prep, was:

But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said — first, he suggested never presume to know what God’s will is, and I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak God’s words.
But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.
That’s what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing.

That’s a good try, and probably close enough to carry the day. But it is one thing to believe, as Lincoln said, that the will of God always prevails, and that a victory could represent God’s judgment. It is something else to believe that God sets certain tasks for countries to do–which they presumably succeed in doing or fail to do. What the prayer suggests is that Palin sees the job of government, at least in a matter as consequential as going to war, as carrying out God’s tasks. In one sense, this is common personal practice for many religious people. Faced with a big decision, they pray for guidance, for God to show us what’s right. But in another sense, it’s seems like a rather curious worldview in which God gives you jobs but you aren’t sure what they are.