A month ago, Sarah Palin identified herself to Time as a “Bible-believing Christian” and, asked what church she attends, replied:
A non-denominational Bible church. I was baptized Catholic as a newborn and then my family started going to non-denominational churches throughout our life.
The non-denominational Bible church is, by all accounts, the Wasilla Bible Church, which she and her family began attending six years ago. It is hardly the case, however, that her family previously went to non-denominational churches. It belonged to the Wasilla Assembly of God, part of the largest historically white Pentecostal denomination in America.
Fast forward to now. Palin tells Katie Couric she’s not a member of any church, a position she reiterates in the following exchange on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday:
HH: Do you think the mainstream media and the left understands your religious faith, Governor Palin?
SP: I think that there’s a lot of mocking of my personal faith, and my personal faith is very, very simple. I don’t belong to any church. I do have a strong belief in God, and I believe that I’m a heck of a lot better off putting my life in God’s hands, and saying hey, you know, guide me. What else do we have but guidance that we would seek from a Creator? That’s about as simple as it gets with my faith, and I think that there is a lot of mocking of that. And you know, so bet it, though I do have respect for those who have differing views than I do on faith, on religion. I’m not going to mock them, and I would hope that they would kind of I guess give me the same courtesy through this of not mocking a person’s faith, but maybe perhaps even trying to understand a little bit of it.
Whether or not the Palins are enrolled members of Wasilla Bible Church–and I have no idea how that church counts members, if at all–it is misleading for her to say, simply, that she doesn’t belong to any church. And to describe her faith simply as putting her life in God’s hands is to jettison the evangelical identity signified by the term “Bible-believing.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but what’s on display is Sarah Palin distancing herself from who she is religiously. I’m more inclined than ever to attribute her departure from Wasilla Assembly of God as a political move intended to remove a stumbling block to her political career–and wish some interviewer would ask her about it.
Be that as it may, however, it’s nonsense to claim that she has been mocked for “putting my life in God’s hands.” Mockery there’s been, some of it based on ignorance and anti-evangelical prejudice, but it has had to do with specific beliefs and practices that Palin is now disavowing, such as (see here) making a place for teaching creationism in the public schools. Simple avowals of trust in God do not elicit mockery in American culture, beyond the small world of Christopher Hitchens and company. Personally, I’d like to see Palin bearing true witness to her faith, and to see some of her blogospheric defenders–yo, Getreligionistas!–acknowledge that she isn’t.