There’s a political debate over Palin, but what about the Pentecostal issue?

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governor Sarah Palin’s candidacy for vice president has electrified
the political scene and garnered huge media attention. It’s
helped McCain erase Obama’s lead in many polls, although press coverage of her is growing more critical as reporters have had time to dig into her record. A long, front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times painted a troubling portrait of her political decisions in Alaska.
   Purely political debates over her suitability as a candidate are likely to rage for quite a while.

   But, today, I want to ask you about an aspect of the Palin candidacy that has ignited a debate stretching back to America’s founding: the proper relationship of church and state.
   Church-state
separation is a firm American principle, grounded in the First Amendment,
but it has always been contested terrain. In early July, I raised
a church/state question on OurValues.org: Should “Christian”
license plates be allowed on state license plates?
This issue is small
compared to the key question about Palin and her religious beliefs:
Will Pentecostal beliefs influence public policy?
   I’ve
examined the concerns voiced in the media, and it seems to come down
to one issue: Will the Pentecostal beliefs that we live in the
biblical “end times” and that we have a mandate to enact God’s
will on earth lead to precipitous foreign polices that will, in fact,
create these prophesied End of Days? In other words, will Pentecostal
beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
   As
vice president, Palin would have limited influence on major policy decisions.
But in a post-McCain era, she would have much more.
   A
post-McCain era will occur in one of three ways. One, the Obama-Biden
ticket wins the election and Palin starts her run to head the Republican
ticket in 2012. Two, McCain-Palin win, and Palin becomes the presidential
candidate in 2012 (or 2016). Three, they win but McCain dies in
office (an actuary would say that that’s much more likely for McCain
than Obama) and presto—a Palin presidency.
   No
matter which scenario becomes reality, Palin is now on the national
scene, young for a politician, and rapidly becoming a celebrity.

   I’ve
asked a lot of people about Palin. Some describe her and her views
as “scary.” Others say that a Palin Pentecostal Presidency
is the medicine America needs. Still others say this is a tempest
in a teapot that will blow over just like concerns about Obama and his
(former) minister, Jeremiah Wright.
   How
about you? What do you think?

CARE TO READ MORE? One Web site tracking news reports about Palin’s Pentecostal background is the University of Southern California’s Knight Chair in Media and Religion. The USC site has collected a number of significant stories already.

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