In her speech last night, Governor Palin missed a golden opportunity to explain how her religious beliefs would influence her policy priorities in the White House. This is a conversation that all of our political candidates should have with the American people, but it is particularly important one for Governor Palin given her alarming theocratic rhetoric that has been revealed this week.
According to a September 3 Associated Press story, Governor Palin addressed ministry students at her former church, Wasilla Assembly of God, this June. In her remarks she made some astounding claims: our troops in Iraq are on a “task that is from God” and it is “God’s will” to build a natural gas pipeline across Alaska. She even claimed that her work in the governor’s office is irrelevant without religion. “I can do my job…but really all of that stuff doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s heart [sic] isn’t right with God.”
This fusion of religion and politics serves only to further divide our country, and it has no place in our civic discourse. For years, politicians have trumpeted their positions on moral or social issues as being divinely inspired. But this is the first time I have ever heard a politician claim God’s will on a purely secular issue such as energy policy. Good and faithful people hold differing points of view in this the most religiously diverse nation in the world.
Claims such as these undermine the integrity of democracy by telling your opponents that if you have a policy disagreement, you risk incurring God’s wrath. More dangerous, claims like these undermine the sanctity of religion. God does not make partisan endorsements nor does God choose our leaders – the American people do. That is why we are a democracy, not a theocracy.
As a Baptist minister, I would never dream of telling my congregation, “You are not good Baptists unless you support…” one party or candidate over the others. I would hope our politicians would have a similar respect for our nation’s diversity.