Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival

Praying for Pipeline

posted by Randall Balmer

Some years ago, Melissa Fay Greene wrote a book about the
rural South entitled Praying for Sheetrock. If Sarah Palin, John McCain’s
running mate, ever published an autobiography, she might consider calling it Praying
for Pipeline

It appears that God has a keen interest in the building of a
multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline in the forty-ninth state. “I think
God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line
built,” the Alaska governor said. “So pray for that.”

In fairness, however, God may have other things on his mind.
According to Palin, the United States invasion of Iraq is “a task that is from

No politician could have a better advocate for his or her
policies than the Almighty. And ritual invocations of God have become a staple
of political rhetoric, even beyond the vacuous – and obligatory, it seems -
“God bless America” at the conclusion of nearly every speech. John F. Kennedy,
for instance, famously remarked in his inaugural address that “here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

I wonder, though,
if Palin’s expressed sentiments take religious-political rhetoric to a new
level of specificity. Enlisting God as co-sponsor of a natural gas pipeline is
audacious, to be sure, for who dares trifle with the Almighty in opposing the

As a person of
faith, I resent the attribution of particular policies to God, especially ones
of such a questionable nature. Does Palin really think that God has an
unambiguous position on pipelines? What about the environmental effects of such
a project, the impact on the created order? (This is a woman who approves the
shooting of bears and wolves from airplanes, so we can probably assume that
environmental concerns are not at the top of her agenda.)

And the war in
Iraq? “A task that is from God,” she says. Has Palin, who claims to be a
Christian, ever juxtaposed the invasion of Iraq with just-war criteria that
have been part of the fabric of Christian thought for centuries? Is it a
defensive war? Is there a reasonable chance of success? Is the deployment of
military force the last resort? Is the amount of force proportional to the
provocation? Have provisions been made, as much as possible, to shield
civilians from collateral damage?

No one has yet
convinced me that the invasion of Iraq meets any of these criteria.

And yet Palin’s credentials
as a Christian and as an evangelical go unchallenged. Perhaps her connections
are better than mine, for she seems to know precisely what God is thinking on
issues like war and pipelines.

Comments read comments(9)
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posted September 5, 2008 at 10:18 pm

How can you say she’s been unchallenged? Every Christian out in
this world is challenged every day by the expression of the
non Christian dogma constantly forced into our lives.
She prays with the desire to do God’s will, not her own.
She seeks to bring spirit to state projects. She talks with youth
in prayer so that they too may ask for God’s will, not a free will
of sole material desire. What challenge do you want her to undertake
that would bring you some glee? Name it, please. We listen to the
mass mentality of non Christian groups everyday and change laws according to those voices, yet you deny that God would let one
hear him through the spirit’s power? She’s not a fruit loop, she
isn’t some wack job with no sense of discernment or wisdom. You say you are of the faith, then you would truly know that some can listen
to the spirit better than others. It’s not that they’re chosen, it’s that they choose to block out the choices of others that are not
being guided by the light. Whatever words or voice you choose to
listen to is what guides you. I can tell you right now, just
by observing her aura, she is guided by something that not many
have the gift of obtaining.
Free will versus greater good or God’s will. It’s your choice.

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Reader John

posted September 5, 2008 at 10:20 pm

I hope I’m not giving you too much credit when I reply as if your concern were real, and not a political hatchet job.
“I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that” could very well be a call for prayer “Thy will be done about the pipeline.” Don’t expect a politician from a Bible Church, formerly from an Assemblies of God Church, speaking in some unidentified megachurch, to have the precision of diction of the Book of Common Prayer. (And I think you might have acknowledged that she outlined some big economic benefits of the pipeline before asking for prayer about it.)
Do you really want to get into challenges of candidates’ credentials as Christians and evangelicals? By what criterion can one be ruled out of the broad “evangelical” camp? Just war theory is no part of that amnesiac tradition.
And if we’re to question Christian credentials of candidates, I can think of nobody more deserving than the candidate who thinks that babies are a punishment for sexual sin but that one is permitted to avoid the punishment by killing the baby (certainly if the mom is the candidate’s daughter) at any stage of pregnancy or even after a failed attempt produces a live birth. That kind of thinking is utterly repugnant to the Church’s unbroken opposition to abortion from the beginning – much older and more universal that scholastic just war theory.

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Melissa Fay Greene

posted September 5, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Dear Randall Balmer:
Thank you very much for this thoughtful commentary. I appreciate your having quoted my book title. The people of rural McIntosh County who “prayed for Sheetrock” were deeply religious, while never presuming to understand the Almighty’s thoughts or plans.
Warm wishes,
Melissa Fay Greene

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posted September 6, 2008 at 12:35 am

Why didn’t Palin pray for wisdom–or was that presumed?

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posted September 6, 2008 at 1:23 am

So, if I believe that is God’s will that all oil companies go broke and the CEOs end up in prison for extortion and crimes against humanity, I’m praying to a different God than Sarah Palin?
When I pray that the war in Iraq be stilled and the president be charged with war crimes it is not going to be heard by God because Sarah Palin has decided that God wants us to kill Islamic?
When Jesus told us to help the needy, didn’t he mean all of us to help or did He exclude the Alaska from helping the women in need.
I will still pray for peace, prosperity and the well being for all Americans. I will still pray that world hunger be ended by turning of the fallow fields in America, that the planet be saved by reduction of fossil fuel consumption and that we return to restoring faith and love for each other.
While I will not vote for a “Hawk”, I can still pray for them and hope that they can return to the Gospel of the Sermon on the Mount.

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posted September 6, 2008 at 8:07 am

This post represents more of the same that we’re getting from the left and their “Amen chorus” in the media: grasping at straws in trying to bring this woman down.
What’s wrong with a Governor beseeching the Almighty on behalf of the welfare of her people and on behalf of the young men and women sent into war?
Praying for a gas pipeline may seem pedestrian to you, but getting that pipeline obviously meant jobs for these people and energy for the rest of the country. That may not mean much to a Barnard College professor from New York City, like the good Reverend Randall Balmer, but it does to the people affected by high energy prices and without a job.

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posted September 6, 2008 at 1:16 pm

America needs to bannish god.

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posted September 10, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Watching the video of Palin’s address at her former church, I did not hear her declaring that it was God’s will that a pipeline be built. I heard her asking that, in the gathering of people and interests to decide on what to do about a pipeline, that God’s will be clearly revealed and done. What, may I ask, is wrong with that? What is wrong with asking for God’s guidance and direction? I think the primary problem that many have with her request is that, deep down, they do not feel that God’s will can really be known. And for those who say “God has more important things to worry about”, I am utterly ashamed of you. Do you not pray over decisions about your family or your business dealings merely because they aren’t international crises? “Well, son, God doesn’t really care whether you go into missions. He’s got bigger problems.” That is folly.

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Mercy Martinez

posted September 29, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I am very sorry for this man, Balmer, who needs God desperately. God is not just part of a social gathering. Those who really follow Him allow Him to change their hearts.

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