Why Palin’s Book Should Concern Christians, Especially Evangelicals

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PalinLargeACK Christians, especially evangelicals, should be concerned about Sarah Palin’s book that releases on November 17th. It’s not quite on par with the coming of the apocalypse or government-sponsored death panels, but I think we have real problem on our hands.

It doesn’t have to do with Sarah Palin the author.

I don’t begrudge Sarah Palin writing a best-selling book. Good for her. I hope it pays the college bills for her kids and helps her grandkid. I know I was really excited about the release of my book, and I’m sure Sarah Palin is too.

It doesn’t have to do with Sarah Palin the politician.

Folks who drink up politics will certainly find it an interesting read, and I have no issue with the book as a political work. Does Palin want to lambaste the McCain campaign staff? Go for it. Does she want to raise her profile before running for President in 2012? Huckabee may not be happy about that, but don’t worry about me.

Go for it Sarah. I have no qualms with that. It’s a free country made up of mavericky, real Americans who will love her book. Some don’t think she should run for public office, but I’m not going to debate that because I know as little about politics as she knows about the Sunnis and Shiites.

We should be concerned because Sarah Palin knows her only shot in an election is mobilizing the conservative evangelical base. If we think Christianity has been overly-politicized now, we should shudder at the thought of what Palin can do.

In addition, as Palin stakes her claim as a “Christian” politician, Christianity and evangelicals in particular will continue to be painted as right-wing political affinity groups. Lost in the mix is the Gospel, Jesus, and the Great Commission. Will those on the left, who need to hear the Gospel, believe that Jesus comes with a Palin 2012 bumper sticker?

Read Palin’s book. Campaign for her. Vote for her. That’s fine with me.

But we should be concerned that the effectiveness of the Gospel message will be blunted because it is being associated with the Republican party, and Palin may need to do that all the more to solidify her place. Christians may play right into this by holding her up as a model Christian, a standard bearer for evangelicals.

Let’s remember that some could hold up President Obama up as an ideal Christian as well. For those on the right, such a notion should help communicate the polarizing effect of upholding Palin as an evangelical leader.

A Suggested Way Forward

Whatever we think of Palin, Obama, and their Christian beliefs, let’s resolve to carefully select spokesmen and spokeswomen who aren’t politically polarizing and who are best known for their faithfulness to Jesus, the Messiah and Prince of Peace. We could pick those who have passed from this world or we could pick those still among us.

We could talk about Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wendell Berry, C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham, or any other model Christian who has a solid record of preaching the Gospel, serving others, and gracefully representing the cause of Christ. Christians cannot afford to let a politician represent us because politicians have to take sides. For those called to reach the whole world with the Gospel, that is a mistake we cannot afford to make.

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30 thoughts on “Why Palin’s Book Should Concern Christians, Especially Evangelicals

  1. fangbanger06

    Brilliant.

    Palin 2012 bumper sticker.

    If the crazies are right, we won’t have to live to see this. Thank you, Mayans!

    ;)

  2. Chad Estes

    Great post.

    Great line. “I know as little about politics as she knows about the Sunnis and Shiites.”

    Now please write about the horrors of Carie Prejean’s memoir.

  3. John Ferguson

    Heh, welcome to politics in Northern Ireland! We have two parties for Catholics, one for Protestants and one for Free Presbyterians. Then each party isn’t even religious, or political in the way many would expect, they are mainly concerned with our relationship with the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, even when they are working on the real local issues.

  4. ed Post author

    Thanks folks.

    Chad, you mean that I should write about the way Christians latch onto celebrities in the vain hope of being validated in the public as followers of Jesus??? Yeah, I’m thinking about that one…

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  6. Bill

    Great post!
    As Christians its time we turned our attention away from politics and back to evangelization! If we want to change America, its by going and making disciples not through legislation!

  7. Nathan

    Hey Ed, just found your blog after a redirect from MPT’s tweet. While I understand and agree with your premise here, that we should be careful not to latch onto Palin just because she claims to be a Christian, I think this issue has much less to do with Palin [or insert name here] than it does with Christians in general, putting their hope and trust in politics.

    Ever since the dawn of politics, people have used lies and deceit (mainly in the form of religious commonality) to win the hearts and minds of people. That’s nothing new. To be fair, Obama did this too, and Bush and Clinton and W’s Daddy. Obama even took it a step further and made his campaign all about “hope and change” and was very successful in winning the hearts and minds of people in doing so. I don’t think it needs to be said, but I’ll say it anyway just as a reminder… true “hope and change” can only be found in Jesus Christ, period. We’re never going to find it in the democrat party or the republican party or in any man who claims they can offer it.

    I know in some Christian circles it’s the trendy thing to do to be ‘outside the box’ and endorse a guy who many in the “religious right” abhor and even refer to as the anti-Christ. While I certainly understand the want/need to do so, that’s not a good position to find yourself in either, because you start to find yourself imitating the person you’re trying to set yourself apart from (i.e. calling Palin an anti-Christ as one commenter joked). Really, we can do better. As Christians, we ALL can do better, despite our political loyalties. And for me personally, it started with realizing there’s no true hope and change outside of Jesus Christ. We may know that with our head, but do we know that in our heart?

    So I agree with your post here, I just think we face a much larger problem as Christians, than the likes of Sarah Palin and company.

  8. ed Post author

    Thanks Bill and Nathan. Nathan, I’d agree that our problem is larger than Palin. She’s but one example. I think it boils down to the Kingdom of God vs. the Kingdom of America. We can’t Christianize America into the Kingdom of God. Whether it’s the Kingdom of America or the Kingdom of Rome, there isn’t a lot of room for a crucified Messiah who rises from the dead, blesses the poor, and overcomes through meekness and peacemaking… but I’m starting to get into tomorrow’s post now.

    Oh, and about the comment that refers to Palin as the “anti-Christ,” I think he was sort of joking, but not. ;)

  9. ed Post author

    Luke, Was Jesus a pacifist?

    As for myself… I’m not sure about pacifism, and apart from taking action as a peacemaker, it can be a moot point anyway. My goal is to get Christians talking seriously about what Jesus meant when he said blessed are the peacemakers and when he commanded us to love our enemies, as well as his priorities and actions. Those are the kinds of things we lose when Christianity serves political causes.

    I’m not too interested in pinning myself down as a pacifist, but rather in discussing the meaning and implications of Jesus for us today and the steps we can take in applying his message.

  10. Bill Lollar

    Hi, Ed. I found my way here through @Chad_Estes twitter recommendation. Love the article, but your title indicates that evangelicals should be concerned about Palin’s BOOK; and I didn’t find any references in the actual article about what the book says. I really didn’t want to purchase the book, so now I’m curious what you found in its pages that raises the alarm.

    Also, when you say, “let’s resolve to carefully select spokesmen and spokeswomen who aren’t politically polarizing and who are best known for their faithfulness to Jesus, the Messiah and Prince of Peace,” are you speaking of political leaders…like presidents and senators and governors? That seems to be the implication. If so, why do our political leaders HAVE TO BE Christians? I think that’s part of the problem in this country…evangelicals who insist that their civil rulers are openly committed to the Gospel.

  11. ed Post author

    Bill,

    WOW! I’m really glad you asked me to clarify. I mean that we need Christian leaders who are not politically polarizing. My point was that politicians are polarizing by nature, they have to take sides to a certain degree. We should pick Christian leaders who don’t come with this kind of baggage.

    I’m concerned about Palin’s book because it’s raising her profile and part of that profile is her Christianity. So we have a very polarizing figure whom many Christians will look to as a role model, as a way to validate themselves in our culture, and as a champion against the liberal left. That just doesn’t cut it for the Gospel that is good news for all people.

  12. Ryan

    Ed,

    Thank you for the insight presented in your article. I appreciate your stepping forward and openly warning about the marriage of religion and politics as a tactic used by possible political figureheads to garner votes from the christian (or any other religion’s) populous. I think that though I consider my self a conservative and a christian, a conservative christian stance isn’t wholly appropriate if its only used to gain the upper hand. However, I would be wary to avoid slighting a politician just because they have a firm religious stance. It seems like the book, though i have not yet read it, is more about her fracturing from the McCain campaign and conventional republican base than an attempt to frame her beliefs as a platform. Am I missing something that might require more in depth study? I don’t think she is trying to set herself up to be any sort of religious leader, but instead a leader who happens to be religious. Thoughts?

    1. Deby

      Ryan I like your comments. I think people are so harsh on her because she IS a Christian. Why are we fellow Christians, the first to stand in line to judge her brand of Christianity. I appreciate that she is a polarizing individual. One cannot be a politician and expect to get anything accomplished if you dont stand for and fight for what you believe in, unapologetically. I feel that most of the posters here are weighing whether she is Christian enough, just what we shouldnt be doing. I know I am NEVER EVER going to be Christian enough because my whole life is a journey towards sanctification until the day comes when I go to my heavenly home.

      1. Mallory

        I think I agree with y’all. I love Sarah Palin (commence tomato-throwing or worse now) specifically because she is a person of conviction. Her religious beliefs impact her political stances, as they should. To me, a lot of politicians use God or church to paint a socially-acceptable picture of themselves and garner power.
        To me, she seems sincere. Of course, I still think you can be a Christian and disagree with her viewpoints. I would just rather have someone of conviction on EITHER side. She is not a well-off, well-educated lifetime politician. More like a regular person who is also a Christian who decided to serve God in the civil arena and has risen to the top in unexpected ways.

  13. ed Post author

    Thanks for your comment Ryan. I’d say you are correct in saying what you said. However, my main concern is cautioning evangelicals about getting behind Palin because “She’s one us”. Let’s face, George W. got plenty of votes because he played the faith card. Palin, if she wants to get votes should she run in an election, HAS to play the faith card. And so we’ll have Palin emerging as a very public evangelical and as a politician and as a particular kind of evangelical in politics, I am concerned about the long-term ramifications.

    So I’m kind of forecasting here, cautioning evangelicals from placing too much stock in her. As I said, support her as a politician if you like her policies and faith, but beware letting her speak as an evangelical leader. Her chosen career makes her too polarizing to have her as our movement’s figurehead. I know I’m making some careful distinctions here, but I think it’s important that we not allow evangelicals to become to wrapped up in the political game.

  14. HeidiRenee

    well said.

    i have been wondering with her new show and how she spends quite a bit of her time on it focusing on her wall and the journalist that moved in next to her why no one has asked her “who is her neighbor?” anyone who had nothing to hide would have had the man in for pot roast, turned him from an enemy into a friend in no time. i honestly can say that i am stunned that something that is so basic to our faith seems to be lost to her.

  15. Nikole Hahn

    Who makes Christianity political? I like what Palin is doing and have been watching her new show. But when a politician stands up for Christianity against wrongful legislation or against unethical people are we saying we are politisizing Christianity? It seems if anyone gets into the spotlight and tries to go against wrongful legislation or unethical politicians the media and others tend to say we are politizing Christianity.

    People here struggled to get a pro-life license plate, the funds of which would help Pregnancy Life Centers, and yet people accused us of politisizing Christianity. We did get that pro-life plate finally.

    I do think we need to fight. It’s a different arena. And we do need to keep each other accountable.

    1. DEBY

      I appreciate your response…I am so stunned to find that Christians are so offended by other Christians who are politicians. The personal (and for me, the spiritual) is political and we need Christians as politicians as much as we need Christians in every other profession. I often wonder if Sarah Palin doesn’t evoke great debate because she is a STRONG convicted woman? No, Im pretty convinced that is the root of the polarism she creates, just sayin.

      1. carrieb96

        Setting individual politicians aside, it’s very difficult to hold a biblical position while being closely affiliated with either party in our two-party system. Neither platform is consistently biblical, so Christians who choose to run in either party are choosing one partial good or the other. That should make Christians in office the ultimate bipartisans, since the Bible stands so far separate from and above our party system. Christians like Mark Hatfield demonstrated that. Our current crop are not.

        I think Sarah Palin stirs up so much debate because in the course of her career thus far she’s played aggressive politico with self-interest topping the agenda far better than the average politician, male or female. Ask anyone in Alaska who ever got on her bad side. People would be pleased to put her on the stand like John Edwards if there were any excuse to do so. If she behaved like a Mark Hatfield there wouldn’t be issues with her. People aren’t fond of “mama grizzlies” who exploit their disabled child for photo ops or who wrangle a marriage promise before the media (never to be fulfilled) out of the father of their teen daughter’s child. Just sayin’.

  16. Nikole Hahn

    I do think we need to fight in both areas–promoting the Gospel, but not like a salesman, but within our circle of friends; and fighting wrong in our world. Didn’t Jesus get mad at the money changers?

  17. Ann

    I frequently pray for Christian leaders, who will lead our nation with Godly principles. However, using the name of Jesus to get votes is something I can’t get behind.

  18. DEBY

    It sounds as though you are saying that Sarah Palin a Christian Republican cannot be an effective evangelical or politician for that matter because she wears two hats. You say “We should be concerned because Sarah Palin knows her only shot in an election is mobilizing the conservative evangelical base.” Her “only” shot, sounds as though she doesn’t have a legitimate vested interest or heartfelt passion to take the gospel right to the white house and make the political personal or the personal political. I think a woman or man can serve God in any arena and I applaud her unapologetic claim to Christ. Are you saying that her affiliation with politics makes her less credible as a Christian and will cause others to stumble. I think any Christian pursuing any profession is an easy mark per se for the general public at large to be judged and scrutinized. I don’t think the gospel will be lost because “some” will equate her Christianity with right wing conservatism. Sharp people know what they are getting. Don’t count out the right wing evangelicals themselves either. I think her presence on the political scene is going to open the door to a lot of conversations that may never would have happened.

    1. ed Post author

      I think a lot of my comments above speak to your concerns Deby. I don’t want to rule her out as a Christian politician. I’m mainly concerned about the way any politician, Democrat or Republican can stand as a figurehead for the evangelical movement. Either way, we end up alienating people. I’m just cautioning folks to support her as a politician who is a Christian, but to remember that for many evangelicals, she’s not the kind of person we want representing us as Christians. There are plenty of other Christians who are far less alienating that we can look to as public representatives for our movement. I hope that make sense.

      1. Deby

        I appreciate your response. Personally, I happen to pay attention to those figures who honestly annoy me and in the process learn a thing or two. I think smart engaged people might consider what she has to offer and decide on an intellectual level whether she is credible. Either way, the seeds of the Gospel will be planted.

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