I think we all can stipulate this. Sarah Palin’s religious identity has been a major, if not the major, source of both the enthusiasm and the antipathy that she’s generated. The evangelical base of the Republican Party recognizes her as one of its own. The secularist base of the Democratic Party recognizes her as the religious right made vice presidential flesh. And so, in an era when candidates for national office are expected to sit down and chat about how their religious backgrounds shape their worldviews and public service, why have none of the handful of journalistic interlocutors who’ve gotten a whack at her ventured into this territory?
At the moment, there’s some Jewish unhappiness, including in the higher reaches of Jewish Republicanism, about Palin’s lack of responsiveness in addressing the “Jews for Jesus” question that arose when it emerged that she had been in the congregation when that organization’s head showed up and declared that Palestinian violence against Israelis was God’s judgment on the Israelis for not having embraced Jesus.
While a spokesman for Palin has said that the Republican running mate rejects this view, the McCain-Palin campaign has declined to say whether she shares her pastor’s general support for Jews for Jesus — a group that Jewish organizations accuse of using deceptive tactics because it tells people they can embrace Jesus and still remain true to Judaism.
Asked this week whether the Alaska governor would condemn the missionary group, McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb told JTA that “vice-presidential candidates cannot be in the business of condemning religious groups who do not commit violence” in a country that guarantees “freedom of religion.”
Goldfarb added that it is “extremely inappropriate for any elected official” to comment “on any religious group” and its mission. “That’s a fundamental breach of the separation of church and state,” he said.
Right. Like Sen. Lieberman should not celebrate the mission of Christians United for Israel and praise its leader as a Man of God.
There are, of course, any number of faith-based questions to be tossed in Palin’s direction. But the general expectation is that she is not going to be engaging in any more tetes-a-tete with MSM types until Nov. 5 or thereabouts. And so, like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, we seem to be condemned to knowing little more of Palin’s faith than the shadows cast on the wall in front of us by the flickering light of YouTube.