September 10, 2008

The back story and my Palin reaction

I’ve mentioned in this blog that I’m a Christian. Sarah Palin being, without a doubt, a very sincere believer, I should be ecstatic and ready to vote for McCain/Palin, right?

The reality is that by choosing her, McCain has guaranteed I won’t vote for his ticket.

In order to explain that, I should tell you some life history. (You can skip to the last three paragraphs if you just want the conclusion.)

Palin comes from a stream of Christianity called Pentecostal or Charismatic. Basically, in the early 1900’s a group of people began seeking God and the Holy Spirit showed up. People began to speak in tongues, to get healed, to speak forth what they sensed God wanting to say (‘prophesying’) and to be freed to do expressive worship, among many other ‘signs and wonders’. As has happened since the Roman branch split from the Eastern, out of one larger stream, factions divided. Today there are many different groups around the world that have different comfort levels with the power and ‘manifest presence’ of God. I’ve experienced much of the breadth of that stream.

My parents were charismatic Lutherans. They were people of deep intellect and curiosity, unthreatened by opposing viewpoints. They sent their kids to public schools and were comfortable answering tough questions. I was taught to be comfortable with people of all colors, classes and beliefs.

In college, both Jrex and I attended a church that was comfortable with the Gifts of the Spirit. I became comfortable hearing and voicing nudges of thoughts that were bigger than me. I can pray in tongues and have encountered some ‘interesting’ things spiritually (when you pray for someone and their stomach starts to ripple, it certainly ain’t expected).

Jrex moved to Rochester ahead of me. He found a church that wanted to reach out to people in one of the tougher neighborhoods in the city. When he joined, there were a number of core members of the church that also lived in the neighborhood. Within a few years, most had moved out to the suburbs. When I joined him in Rochester, I began attending that church with him.

It was a church full of very kind, generous people. I did notice that if I really expressed my emotions or was too vulnerable, people drew back and seemed uncomfortable. Most of the sermons had to do with our victory in Christ. If we had problems, we were likely being disobedient. For schooling, the children of the church either had a private Christian school, or a private Mom-run school. The front doors of the church were always locked. The back door had a buzzer that you had to ring to get in during the service.

When we got married, we moved into a house across the street from the church. Jrex was taken aside by men from the church and berated for exposing me to such a place. He explained that I grew up in a worse neighborhood than that one. Perhaps placated, they just assumed we both were weird.
Jrex and I went through some horrible years early in our marriage. Rather than dealing with any of it directly, my pastor just told me to ‘duck and let God get him’. I had a couple of good friends in the church, but their advice usually was to pray and trust God. I met weekly with an older woman in the church (I’d asked her if we could meet, it wasn’t required). In many ways she and I were very similar: strong-willed, bossy, natural leaders. She was wonderful on many, many levels. She called me out on my attempts to control Jrex, challenged me to trust the Lord, and prayed faithfully for me. Over time though, I noticed that she got a lot of migraines. I noticed that as I followed her advice, Jrex and I had more and more distance between us and I was more and more angry with him. I’ve never been a passive aggressive person, and I began to have those patterns. It took a while, but I realized that she was spiritualizing things that were emotional and pragmatic. Submitting to my husband didn’t mean never telling him what was bothering me. It meant talking things through and trusting him to make the final call. I tried to tell her my observations, but she thought I was in rebellion.

In the midst of all that, I was introduced to another group of Christians in the area. Their pastor passionately embraced my design/artistic gifts; he wept after reading a book I’d made expressing my heart for the city. My other pastor had looked at it and said, “What do you want me to do with this?” With the second church, I went to healing retreats in which the emotional garbage could get untangled while still dealing with the spiritual elements. It was a church where God could still speak, but the world was a place to be embraced not feared.

[It should be noted: after the death of the pastor of the first church, a new pastor came who has truly led the church out of fear and into social justice and revitalizing the city. So, the people were willing, God answered our prayers for the church, it just took longer than we expected…]

When I watched some clips of Sarah Palin speaking in her church, heard some of her childhood pastor’s words, I was strongly reminded of that first church in Rochester. My concern about her is that in the strength of her ‘righteous’ beliefs, she truly believes in a religious dictatorship. I do believe that Jesus is The way, The truth and The life, but I also deeply believe that God made our minds, that he doesn’t rape us into belief. He woos us, loves us, convicts us at times, but it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. I don’t want a government that blares Christian music and thinks that American Christianity should be forced onto every person.

Mostly, I’m tired of fear mongering in the name of Jesus. I’m tired of a world full of enemies from which only the Big Powerful Republicans can save me. I’m really freaked out by Mr. Rove in the background. He doesn’t even believe in the law, much less in God. The great manipulator is NOT someone I want around another four years.

When Jesus came with skin on, he didn’t rise to power or take over the government. Instead, he lived among the poor, without fear. He met enemy soldiers and treated them as human beings, even healing their servants. His biggest condemnations were for the religious powers of his day and he was killed for it. I know that He loves Sarah Palin (and Karl Rove—God being able to do the impossible), but that’s not reason enough to vote for any single faith to take over our country, even if it’s supposed to be ‘mine’.


Mama Nabi said...

I loved this post. In so many ways. I do believe in separation of state and religion - for progress, especially. And it feels like US has been going backward on that for the past 8 years.

Bea said...

What a wonderful post, you expressed perfectly so much of what I've been feeling!

Rachel said...

Thank you for writing about this. It was interesting to hear more about your spiritual journey.

I grew up in the same denomination Sarah Palin did, but left the church as an adult. I have plenty of issues with my old church, but at the same time the tone of some of the articles I've read bothers me. There are a lot of different types of people under the umbrella of that denomination, not all of them anti-intellectual, pro-war wackos. (Although I have to admit that group is pretty vocal.) Wish I could write about it on my blog, but I don't think I can.

My father always preached against "positive confession", which I remember being very trendy in the late 80s. We knew people whose lives were badly damaged by those ideas.

I won't be voting for Sarah Palin. I think she's really inexperienced, and I disagree with her views on just about all of the issues.

Anonymous said...

Thank you OTRgirl, very insightful, always thoughtful. I agree with so much of this, and appreciate your backstory to give it color as well.

They won't be getting my vote either.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for that post. It grieves me to hear that those who were supposed to be "spiritual mentors" to you only made things worse. Anyway, thanks for sharing so openly. I feel like God's been prompting me to be more open but it's hard.

OTR sister said...

Right on, sister!

I'm a Christian but I still believe in the separation of church and state.

Inkling said...

Hear hear! I used to teach at a Christian school that actually believed a theocracy was the way to go, as if God would still lead America like He did the Israelites. I think it was mainly because my boss thought everyone should be forced to attend church, vote certain ways, etc. That experience pretty much guaranteed that my child won't be attending a Christian school. (Well, that, and the legalistic nonsense that was pounded into my head on a daily basis as a student from K-8th grades!) I am so over-churched, and there's had to be a lot of healing for me to be able to love the Church again. (Not the institution - the people who make up the Body)

Anyway, I'm really uncomfortable with the way the GOP throws around the idea of Jesus, the way their religious supporters write about it, and the way they have become a one (or at most, two) issue party.

Every time I think about who should get my vote, I have this resounding thought...."So I'm for life, but I'm also for the right to govern my own body. And I kind of like the environment and would like to care for it instead of exploit it. Can I really be brave enough to veer off the GOP path my family has laid out for me since birth?"

There are a zillion other things I wonder and wish were safe to ask, but things are so polarized these days that it's kind of scary.

For what it's worth, I'm sorry that you and JRex were wounded by some people who claimed to know Jesus but didn't have a clue what He was really like.

Thanks for you gut-level honesty. It was very much appreciated this morning.

scarp said...

I wonder if I´ll ever be able to read or hear you talk about your church experience without feeling sad/weird about it. We both had authentic, real experiences there - but at different ages and stages of life and with very different personalities. It is intersting to see how that experience is still impacting you. Makes me wish we could get together and really talk some time instead of keeping tabs thru blog-land...

Aimee said...

Thank you for explaining your views.

I don't really want to say anything else, if that's ok. Not here, anyway. I don't want to cause a stink on your blog. :-)

Anonymous said...


otr mama said...

Such a good blog. I think 9/11 brings out the best in us.

Beloved said...


I loved this post, and my favorite part was this:
"I don’t want a government that blares Christian music and thinks that American Christianity should be forced onto every person."
That's exactly how I feel.

It's another topic, but a lot of people have been sending me emails about boycotting new American dollar coins that do not have the words 'in God we trust' on them. Of course, I believe that my religion (Christianity) is best, but I also strongly believe in religious freedom. I'd rather not have money that says, 'in Buddha/Allah/Shiva we trust' so why is it okay to have my god on the money?