April 20, 2010

Steve Benen draws our attention to a speech given by Sarah Palin last Friday in Kentucky to an evangelical women's group called Women of Joy, one in which she appears to deny the existence of church-state separation:

I beg you, Women of Joy, to bring light and be involved, loving America and praying for her. Really, it is our solemn duty. Praying for true spiritual awakening to overcome deterioration. That is where God wants us to be. Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our Founding Fathers, they were believers. And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life.

As Greg Sargent observes, this is historical nonsense; many of the Founders were practicing Deists who ardently believed in separating religion from the conduct of secular politics:

There was a time when this sort of thing would provoke widespread media mockery and perhaps even be seen as a potential disqualifier for the presidency.

Ah, but we live in an age where a cable-TV network is doing the presidential qualifying for us.

What was perhaps most noteworthy -- and disturbing -- about Palin's speech, though, was how she publicly called out and thanked the "Prayer Warriors" who were out there on her side:

Palin: Given the chaos these days, just kind of standing up and speaking out for common sense has kind of become a full-time job. And it's keeping me pretty busy. And some days are kind of crazy. And my faith, my family -- they are what keep me grounded, keep me going.

Prayer Warriors all across the country -- and I know some of you are here tonight -- your prayer shield allows me and others to go forth. You give out strength, providing a prayer shield. That is the only way to put one foot in front of the other, and get through some of these days with joy.

I don't know how any politician could, or would want to do this, without knowing that there were prayer warriors out there, holding you up and seeking strength and wisdom for you. ... I am so appreciative of their efforts.

Thanks largely to the reportage of Max Blumenthal, we've known for some time that Palin was religiously affiliated with the "Prayer Warriors," but this is perhaps her first open public acknowledgment of it.

Who are the "Prayer Warriors"? Funny you should ask that: Bill Berkowitz explored that question for AlterNet:

Imagine a religious movement that makes geographic maps of where demons reside and claims among its adherents the Republican Party's most recent vice presidential nominee and whose leaders have presided over prayer sessions (one aimed at putting the kibosh on health-care reform) with a host of leading GOP figures.

It's a movement whose followers played a significant role in the battle over Proposition 8, California's anti-same-sex marriage initiative, and Uganda's infamous proposed Anti-Homosexuality Law, more commonly associated with the Family, a religious network of elites drawn from the ranks of business and government throughout the world. But the movement we're imagining encompasses the humble and the elite alike, supporting a network of "prayer warriors” in all 50 states, within the ranks of the U.S. military, and at the far reaches of the globe -- all guided by an entire genre of books, texts, videos and other media.

Imagine that, and you've just dreamed up the New Apostolic Reformation, the largest religious movement you've never heard of.

NAR's videos, according to researcher Rachel Tabachnick, "demonstrate the taking control of communities and nations through large networks of 'prayer warriors' whose spiritual warfare is used to expel and destroy the demons that cause societal ills. Once the territorial demons, witches, and generational curses are removed, the 'born-again' Christians in the videos take control of society."

The movement's notion of "spiritual warfare" has spread from the California suburbs to an East-Coast inner city, and has impacted policy decisions in the developing world. Movement operatives are well-connected enough to have testified before Congress and to have received millions of dollars in government abstinence-only sex-education grants, and bizarre enough to maintain that in its prototype communities, the movement has healed AIDS, purified polluted streams and even grown huge vegetables. Leaders in the NAR movement refer to themselves as "apostles."

Berkowitz also reported on Palin's ties to them:

Presidential campaign watchers got their first taste of the New Apostolic Reformation when it was revealed that Sarah Palin, while mayor of Wasilla, had been prayed over in a laying-on-of-hands by Rev. Thomas Muthee of Kenya, director of the NAR East Africa Spiritual Warfare Network, in a ceremony designed to protect Palin from witches and demons. Muthee, it turns out, is famous in his native land for driving out of town a woman he deemed a witch, a charge that had her neighbors calling for her stoning.

Palin, according to Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier, became part of her prayer network at the age of 24.

You can't blame Benen for being perplexed and outraged:

[F]ar less amusing is the fact that Palin and others of her radical ilk reject any notion that "God should be separated from the state." It's the 21st century, for crying out loud. There are some countries that endorse Palin's worldview and intermix God and government -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under Taliban rule come to mind -- but they're generally not countries the United States tries to emulate.

... Palin not only thinks the Founding Fathers opposed church-state separation -- in other words, she thinks those who came up with the idea opposed the idea -- she also suggests religious people necessarily reject the constitutional principle. This is just astounding.

But then, he's probably never encountered a True Believer like Sarah Palin before. If you polled most of the "Christian nation" evangelicals, you would find a large majority of them refuse to accept church-state separation -- and truly believe that God guides their every step. Just ask Sarah.

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