I must disagree with my friends Andrew Sullivan and David Kuo, who criticized Palin’s answer to Charles Gibson’s question about “God’s plan” for the Iraq war.
The Republicans are guilty of one case after another of egregiously ripping Obama words out of context. This time it’s Palin’s words that have been taken out of context.
Here’s what Gibson asked:

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.

Actually, Palin asked members of the church to pray “that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”
In the quote as edited by Gibson, the meaning is that she thinks the war is part of God’s plan. In her actual quote, she’s saying it might or might not be part of God’s plan and we sure better hope, and pray, that it is.
My friend David Kuo, on his wonderful new website Culture11, chides Palin for saying she was really thinking about Lincoln and suggested that she was abandoning her actual theological views in favor of a politically more palatable answer.
First, she didn’t actually claim she was pondering Lincoln; she said her line was a “repeat” of Lincoln’s sentiment that we should pray we’re on God’s side, not vice versa. I view that as an inelegant way of saying that her views were akin to Lincoln’s words (albeit a tad less eloquent), when he declared, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Palin is right. Her sentiment was the same as Lincoln’s. Both said it’s important to figure out whether you’re on God’s side. So I don’t believe, as David does, that she abandoned her faith at all.
I understand the impulse to hear in that Palin comment the sentiment that the war is God’s plan. After all, she has in fact used that line of logic in other caes – like when she said it was “God’s will” that the state build a natural gas pipeline. (I wish Charlie Gibson had asked her about that!). Maybe this is a case of framing the guilty. And perhaps in this case Palin accidentally phrased it in a Lincolnesque way and some shrewd aide notice the parallels and suggested the Lincoln comparison.
But all we have is her words, which, in this case, were quite responsible.
If you want to know what is actually worrisome about Palin and religion, here’s a summary from my WSJ.com column:
Invoking Divine Support for Pet Projects: She told a group of young church leaders to pray for a gas pipeline because it was God’s will. “God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built. So pray for that.” This is well beyond what President Bush customarily said. Asserting that God endorses a particular energy strategy or public works project is exactly the sort of mindset the Founders feared. The vote-for-this-because-God-says-so approach means that those who oppose a particular policy are violating God’s will — and good Christians should view them that way. It turns policy issues into religious conflicts. Such a politician may be impervious to reason, evidence or compromise. If God has blessed an idea — and told you so personally — what possible argument could dissuade you?
Dividing the Electorate Into Believers (Helpful) and Non-Beleivers (A Hindrance): Gov. Palin suggested that her work as governor would be hampered “if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.” That means that if Gov. Palin fails, it will be in part because non-believers have not been “right” with God. So we’ll certainly know who to blame. It also ascribes largely spiritual explanations to the success or failure of policy, which makes assessing her performance nearly impossible. If she stumbles, it’s our fault.
Insensitivity to Religious Minorities: There’s been much attention to Gov. Palin having sat in the audience during a sermon from the head of Jews for Jesus, an organization most Jews find offensive. Honestly, a lot of the reason folks became so exercised with this is as kharmic retribution for the right holding Sen. Obama accountable for the sermons of Jeremiah Wright. I doubt this Jews for Jesus sermon would have gotten any attention without the Wright precedent. Until we know whether Gov. Palin herself actually agreed with this, then this sermon should be no more held against Gov. Palin than Mr. Wright was against Sen. Obama — and actually less so since it was a one-shot guest sermon.
What should be of concern to religious minorities is that Palin signed a resolution establishing a Christian Heritage Week. It didn’t actually declare the U.S. to be an officially Christian nation but it plucked Founding Fathers quotes way out of context to misleadingly imply they were devout Christians. In many other cases, this same technique has been used to promote the argument that America was created to be a Christian nation, and separation of church and state is a myth. Now, I’m willing to drop this from the list if can be shown that also has a Jewish Heritage and Muslim Heritage and Secular Heritage Week (I’m not holding my breath). That would mean she wasn’t giving preference to one religion over another.
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