What to make of Laurie Goodstein’s article in yesterday’s NYT on Sarah Palin’s connections to the spiritual warfare “brand” of Pentecostalism? You can check out the thing here and here. So far as I can tell–and I claim no expertise whatsoever–it’s a strain of evangelical thought that emphasizes the believing individual’s and community’s struggle with otherworldly forces, conceived in highly specific terms as particular demons and particular demonically influenced places. Palin’s regular invocation of “prayer warriors” (as in her recent chat with James Dobson) comes out of this strain of Pentecostalism. A representative of this tradition is Bishop Thomas Muthee, the Kenyan witch-hunter who visited Palin’s old church and laid hands on her to protect her from witchcraft prior to her gubernatorial run.
Should we be worried about having such a spiritual warrior a heartbeat away from the Oval Office? In the spirit of the moment, I suppose John Stewart et al. could start postulating a Palinesque belief that the un-American parts of America are demon-possessed. Palin as Pentecostal Ghost-Buster or Woman in (Valentino) Black. But I’m not sure if it’s really anyone’s business if a politician believes that part of her religion involves spiritual combat against Satan and his minions.
Not the least disturbing sentence in Goodstein’s article is:
“Religious leaders in Alaska, including Mr. Donelson [Patrick Donelson, ‘a pastor and fishing guide who helped found a spiritual warfare ministry’ appointed by Palin to the only seat reserved for members of the clergy on the state’s Suicide Prevention Council], declined interviews, with several saying they had been told by the McCain-Palin campaign not to talk to members of the news media.”
So Alaska’s spiritual commanders are taking their marching orders from McCain-Palin headquarters?