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Progressive Revival

In an interview with Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin responded to the host’s question about her attacks on Barack Obama.  Praising her for “forcefulness,” Rush asked, “Can you attack as you wish?”  Palin replied, “I’ve got nothing to lose in this.”

Well, Governor Palin, nothing but your soul.

Mrs. Palin was obviously added to the ticket to shore up “the base,” including, of course, the sizable community of conservative Christian voters.  And Sarah Palin is a Christian, baptized as a Catholic, re-baptized as a Pentecostal, and, it appears a regular churchgoer with interests in theology and ministry.  As a sister Christian, I cannot and do not question her faith–no matter how differently we interpret the message and teachings of Jesus.

Sister Sarah, the Bible says that if I disagree with you, I should come to you directly to talk about my concerns.  But I hear that you are not doing any interviews.  So, I need to share with you my worries about your spiritual life on this blog–and call you to account for your attacks–that “Pit Bull” quality that you have parlayed into your signature political style.  While attack politics may be grist for the mill in the Alaska Republican party, it is not acceptable behavior from a follower of Jesus.

Although I am now a progressive Episcopalian (wink), I come from a long line of Pentecostal evangelists and preachers.  They loved Jesus and they loved to quote scripture.  From them, I developed a deep love of the Bible.  And, from those Pentecostal relatives (as well as my friends in a Bible church I once attended), I also learned that the scriptures (both the Hebrew stories and the Christians ones) expressly forbid attacking the reputation of one’s neighbor.

The Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:16), one of those verses upon which the Judeo-Christian moral tradition is built, says “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  Jewish law expands this idea by forbidding the spread of “false reports.”  The wisdom literature of Proverbs says that false witness is deceitful, that false witnesses will not “go unpunished,” and the “false witness will perish.”  The prophet Isaiah warns, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”  Evidently, attacking one’s neighbor on the basis of half-truths or outright lies is a serious moral offense.

The New Testament is equally clear.  Jesus says that the summary of the law is to “love one’s neighbor as one’s self.”  Exactly what part of attack politics counts as loving one’s neighbor?  St. Paul writes that Christians are not those whose words contribute to public ugliness; rather, as he writes:  Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think on these things.  And, in the book of Galatians, he flatly states that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I have to ask:  How does your pride in attacking Senator Obama actually fit in with your Christian faith?  How do you reconcile being a Christian with your approach to politics?  How can you rejoice in acting in a way that directly contradicts the sacred texts of the faith of the millions and millions of Christian people you are supposed to represent?

Of course, politics isn’t a pretty business.  And, of course, it involves making a case for your beliefs and policies through contrast with an opponent.  But can you honestly make a case for Christian attack politics, brag, and make jokes about it without any sense of pained conscience or spiritual doubt?   

I don’t expect much from your running mate, Senator McCain.  After all, he hasn’t made a very big deal about being a Christian and it isn’t at all clear what he thinks about God and Jesus.  But you have and I expect better from you and cannot keep quiet any more. It pains me to see you violating the plain words of scripture as written by the lawgiver Moses, King Solomon, the prophet Isaiah, the apostle Paul and our Lord and Savior Jesus.  

As your sister in Christ, I ask you to stop.  Not for the sake of Senator Obama, but the sake of your own soul.  As, I suspect that my Pentecostal grandmother would say to you, “It just ain’t right.  It ain’t Christian.”

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