Often people say, "What's the harm if people believe in whatever religion they want to, no matter how weird it might seem to others?"
What Palin's appeal to conservative Christian women says about feminism and the future of the religious right.
I've been told by a friend who was born in Germany, visits Europe regularly, and keeps up on European goings-on directly via reading online news sources that politicians in Europe keep religion almost completely separate from their professional lives.
She says that if someone bragged about how religious they are during a political campaign, he or she probably would lose. Whereas in the United States, it's almost imperative for anyone who aspires to a high national office to profess their faith.
I'm not disturbed about Palin's Christian religiosity. But when she makes it a central feature of her political views, and even states that she's on a "mission from God," that's dangerous.
(Which reminds me: the Vatican recently announced that "The Blues Brothers" movie, where Jake and Elwood are on a mission from God to save the orphanage they were raised in, is a Catholic classic. Good move, Vatican. We finally agree on something.)
I've argued before that religious values have no place in politics.
Reading the Newsweek cover story only strengthened my conviction that when people choose a political leader on the basis of his or her religious beliefs, we're much less likely to end up with someone competent.
Here's some quotes from the story. Part of what's so scary about them is how many American voters would find them totally acceptable as a reflection of the political process.
To millions of women, Palin's authenticity makes her a sister in arms...
To a smaller number she is a prophet, ordained by God for a special role in the cosmic battle against the forces of evil. A 2009 profile in the Christian magazine Charisma compared Palin to the Old Testament Queen Esther, who saved her people, in this case the Jews, from annihilation.
...Like many evangelicals, Garza believes a great cosmic battle is underway for the soul of America and that Palin has been singled out by God for leadership: "The annointing on her is so strong," she says. Assaults on Palin by the press only strengthen Garza's conviction, for as any Christian knows, martyrs most deserve to gain God's kingdom.
"She's just fearless," Garza says. "Jesus said, 'They persecuted me; they'll persecute you." To her Christian audiences, Palin talks about her own life in terms of mission and destiny.
She was the keynote speaker at a Women of Joy conference in April... Upon mounting the stage, Palin immediately thanked her "prayer warriors" for the "prayer shield" they built around her.
Wow. Sometimes I wish I Iived in Europe.
(If Palin ever became president of the United States, I might be seriously drawn to do that -- at least one poll early this year had her leading the Republican presidential pack for 2012.)
When lots of voters think that criticism of a candidate makes him or her more appealing, because more Christian martyr'ish, this is flat out weird. When lots of voters believe that a political leader has been annointed by God to hold high office, that's doubly weird.
Elections should be based on how well a candidate is believed to be able to solve problems and guide the ship of state, not on their "saintliness."
I doubt very much that Palin ever will become President, but if she does, this will show beyond a shadow of doubt that religion should be kept far distant from politics.