Sarah Palin: Religionless Christian?

Who's afraid of Sarah Palin? And her faith? I'm one of those who thinks all the hand-wringing about her supposedly ideological right-wing faith is way overblown. Could she be a right-wing religious ideologue if in office? Perhapsshe'd follow the script if that's whatshe was told to do.But what really emerges froma review of her statements about faith and policy is that there really isn't much connection,and efforts to connect herPentecostal upbringing (which shehas admittedly been running away from, and fast) to speaking in tongues or "Third Wave" theology winds up not only ascheap shots, but as pretty thin: I'm not sure she understand all that stuff any better than I do. Or Bonhoeffer (or Barth) for that matter. But she might want to check them out.As it stands now, her version of "religionless" faithcomes off asan all too typical American believer who doesn't reckon with tradition or faith in public life; yes, Biden and Pelosi aren't exactly Aquinas and Augustine. But I'm not sure how Palin's "values" connect with public policy, if it all.Palin has in previous campaigns said she's for teaching creationism, but won't push it, said she's for abstinence-only sex ed, then said she's "pro-contraception" sex ed, and said she's "pro-life" butwon't push policies against abortion. In another segment (NYT transcript here and Christianity Today here) from her Couric interviews, Palin again does this dance.

Ms. Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?Ms. Palin: I am pro-life. And Im unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion, and when it should be allowed. Do I respect peoples opinions on this? Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would also like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to take it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country, but I want them, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported, and adoptions made easier.Ms. Couric: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?Ms. Palin: Im saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if youre asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an abortion, absolutely not. Thats nothing I would ever support.Ms. Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning-after pill?Ms. Palin: Well, I am all for contraception. And I am all for preventative measures that are legal and safe, and should be taken, but Katie, again, I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see Ms. Couric: And so you dont believe in the morning-after pill?Ms. Palin: I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And again, I havent spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.Ms. Couric: Im sorry, I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning-after pill?Ms. Palin: Personally, and this isnt McCain-Palin policy Ms. Couric: No, thats OK, Im just asking you.Ms. Palin: But personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception.

Palin also endorsed the "right to privacy" that is the underpinning of Roe v. Wade, and I don't think this was a trick question, as Couric explained it to her very gently and carefully. That should give abortion opponents fits, no?Or this on evolution and teaching creationism:

Couric: Do you believe evolution should be taught as an accepted scientific principle or as one of several theories?Palin: Oh, I think it should be taught as an accepted principle. And, as you know, I say that also as the daughter of a school teacher, a science teacher, who has really instilled in me a respect for science. It should be taught in our schools. And I won't deny that I see the hand of God in this beautiful creation that is Earth. But that is not part of the state policy or a local curriculum in a school district. Science should be taught it science class.

Palin's most Falwell-esqueremark may be her view that homosexuality is a choice. Mark Silk has more on Palin's interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt and her view that she doesn't belong to any church, but that people are mocking her faith.In any case, does this sound like a Warrior Queen of the Religious Right? Perhaps tonight's debate will clarify.UPDATE: Sarah Pulliam at Christianity Today has transcripts of both Palin and Biden's comments to Couric re Roe v. Wade, and Palin on her support to the right to privacy foundation of the case. (Much was made of her lack of knowledge of any other Sureme Court cases, which didn't help her much. But I think her stance on the case she does know, Roe, is the most interesting.)

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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