[Note: On the anniversary of their TRYST three years ago, Bush and McCain are reluctant -- for some reason -- to be seen together. Monday's GOP speeches, including Bush and Cheney have now been canceled due to the impending landfall of Hurricane Gustav at New Orleans, Louisiana.]
Let me start with this: The GOP and their Right Wing Hate Machine put Obama’s church and his pastor on the table, so let’s not quibble that it’s not “cricket” to talk about what follows. If you have problems with the approach, contact that asshole Brian Ross at ABC and let him know how you feel.
i. Speaking in Forked Tongues
Full disclosure: I am intimately familiar with the Assemblies of God. In 1969, to rehabilitate her reputation as a home-wrecker, after a long, ugly affair with the Wyoming Cowboys’ football team doctor, my mother and our family moved to a small town in Kansas, and, following my inadvertent honest reporting on the horrors of 1968-1969, we moved to a BIGGER town (Salina, Kansas, which no newsie in the country can pronounce correctly, sah-LINE-uh, and NOT suh-LEEN-uh, or even SAY-leen-uh).
There, she fell off the Jesus cliff, ropes, carabiners and pitons. We were thrust into the “speaking in tongues” subculture and the incipient “charismatic movement” that has morphed into the current looney-right institutions as diverse as Pat Robertson’s “Regent University” (‘acting on behalf of the absent King’ get it?) Jim Bakker’s “Praise The Lord” TeeVee ministry that fell apart sometime after his pants fell off. And, even, when I stayed at an interdenominational two-week retreat in Hastings, Nebraska in 1971 with a then-unknown Ruth Carter Stapleton (Jimmy Carter’s sister) among the headliners. I know the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and “Rapture Right” very well.
And, aided by that fanaticism, my mother was able to return triumphant to the small Kansas town, and stare down the women in the grocery store who’d learned of her exploits via the beauty parlor across the street.
Yes. Jesus had forgiven her, and who DARED not, therefore, as well?
That’s another part of it that I’m intimately familiar with.
Later, I’d see Charles Colson (who converted to Jeeeeezus in prison) standing unashamedly on stage on “Justice Sunday” screaming for theocracy at some mega-church in the South, which is pretty much what became of the Charismatic movement of the 1970s. Here’s a “christic” Zell Miller (the strident ex-Democratic Senator who spoke at Bush’s RNC in 2004, famously challenging Chris Matthews to a duel) at Justice Sunday II (click on pic for big):
In that world of glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”) — one step removed from snake handling — prophecy, casting out of demons (they do a LOT of casting out of demons, believe me), laying on of hands for miraculous healing, etcetera, sits its elder member, the Assembly of God churches.
But first, I need to make this point: there is a grave danger in having an Invisible Friend named Jesus. That is, ofttimes, one’s “Jesus” speaks exactly the words we want to hear at all times: forgiveness (and, therefore, no need to explain, confess, atone or feel guilty) and, worse, moral justification.
My “invisible friend” Jesus (no matter what you believe about the one that Christian churches are allegedly about) is now my enabler, Jesus.
When Enabler Jesus rules your life, you can gloss over the most hateful and abusive acts as forgiven and speak and enact the most horrific and restrictive laws on your fellow citizens because Enabler Jesus conveniently Says So.
In the “moral outrage” that Americans are given to paroxysms of with a regularity that would kill an epileptic, Enabler Jesus loves to play his role at the top of somebody’s lungs. Ofttimes, many somebodies.
But one salient element that Enabler Jesus invariably lacks is “tolerance.”
The Enabler Jesus who tells them-what-needs-enabling just what enables them to act with Holy Justification is generally the Enabler Jesus that “forgives” the ugly little secret that them-what-needs-enabling are so desperately trying to hide from. It happens.
I firmly believe that John McCain listened carefully to Enabler Jesus in picking Sarah Palin, because WHAT supernatural being other than Enabler Jesus could have produced this whopper:
August 31, 2008
McCain: Palin a “soulmate”
John McCain, in his first television interview since his shocking vice presidential pick, said that he saw in Sarah Palin “a partner and a soul mate.”
“This is a person who will help me reform Washington and change the way they do business,” McCain told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
McCain was pressed by Wallace as to whether Palin, a 44-year-old governor who has yet to finish her second year in office, was the most qualified choice he could have made for his No. 2.
“What this brings is a spirit of reform and change that is vital now in our nation’s capital,” he offered. [...]
Seeking to make a positive out of Palin’s paucity of national political experience, McCain, himself a fixture among the capital’s political and media elite, boasted that she had never been on “Meet the Press” and was not a regular at “Georgetown cocktail parties.”
“I say thank God” about her lack of a Beltway background, he said with a smile.
Is he kidding us? Throw her into the Washington stew that produced, on Vince Foster’s suicide note (Wikipedia):
A suicide note of sorts, actually a draft of a resignation letter, was found torn into 27 pieces in his briefcase, a list of complaints specifically including, “The WSJ editors lie without consequence” and lamenting, “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.”
? Really? Leaving aside the creepiness of Mr. Infidelity using that kind of language about “America’s Hottest Governor,” isn’t that just as insane as claiming that this Assembly of God anti-abortion, anti-birth-control, anti-gay, pro-drilling in ANWR moral prig from a small town on the western edge of nowhere is his “soul mate”?
But, then again, perhaps she is, after all. Consider the “Bridge to Nowhere.” According to Editor & Publisher:
The Daily News-Miner of Fairbanks
In her introductory speech Friday as McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin picked up on the Ketchikan bridge that was never built as a symbol of bad federal policy.
“I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress,” Palin said at her first campaign appearance. “In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we’d build it ourselves.”
That is not how Palin described her position on the Gravina Island bridge when she ran for governor in 2006.
On Oct. 22, 2006, the Anchorage Daily News asked Palin and the other candidates, “Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?”
Her response: “Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now — while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.”
Palin’s support of the earmark for the bridge was applauded by the late Lew Williams Jr., the retired Ketchikan Daily News publisher who wrote columns on the topic. Williams wrote on Oct. 29, 2006, that Palin was the only gubernatorial candidate that year who consistently supported the Gravina Island Bridge, the Knik Arm Bridge and improvements to the Parks Highway.
Two months earlier, while campaigning in Ketchikan, Palin made a positive reference to the bridge….A year later, she issued a news release as governor saying Ketchikan needed better airport access, but a $398 million bridge was not going to happen.
“Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island,” Palin said on Sept. 21, 2007.
The money was not sent back to the federal government, but spent on other projects. That was hardly “Thanks but no thanks.”
Alaska has a clear record of seeking earmarks.
In March, Palin’s Washington, D.C., representative, John Katz, wrote a defense of earmarks, published in the Juneau Empire in which he said the state is cutting back on its wish list.
The Palin administration requested 31 earmarks this year totaling $200 million and “we are not abandoning earmarks altogether,” Katz said, as they are a “legitimate exercise of Congress’ constitutional power to amend the budget proposed by the president.”
USA Today reports the same thing, today, to the USA. Even the uber-conservative Heritage Foundation called it a “national embarrassment”:
David Raskin of Homer, Alaska, wrote, “Alaskans owe an apology to the people of New Orleans, to Alaska Native people and to the Nation for their selfish shortsightedness in sending these scoundrels to Washington and voting to keep them there.”
In the Ketchikan News, Dave Person wrote, “Thinking about the immense disaster in the Gulf States, it occurred to me that the most effective thing that the residents of Ketchikan could do to help would be to return the money earmarked for our Gravina Bridge.”
ii. God Stalkers
There is a “Christian” calculus to the apocalypse. The equation goes like this.
Jesus = God
Muslims say God = Allah
But Allah ≠ Jesus
Therefore Allah = -God = Satan
(Quod Erat Demonstrandum, Ora Pro Nobis)
We cannot and should not deny that such an equation exists and is deeply embedded into the Apocalyptic mentality that a large if not vast number of Americans share.
This “rapture theology” is a very recent theological phenomenon — 1830s — spread widely in America via the Scofield Reference Bible after 1909 (EMPHASIS added):
The twentieth century has seen a dramatic paradigm shift in prophetic perspectives, first away from and now back toward its historic roots. This shift away from historic Christianity stemmed from a novel approach to Bible interpretation called dispensationalism which was developed in the 1830s and popularized with the 1909 publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. Dispensationalism, with its unique brand of premillennialism, has been thoroughly pervasive, being prominent in many churches, in bookstores, and among radio Bible teachers.
The distinguishing features of dispensationalism are a rigidly applied literalism in the interpretation of Scripture, a compartmentalization of Scripture into “dispensations,” and a dichotomy between Israel and the Church. Dispensationalists believe “this present world system . . . is now controlled by Satan” (not by God) and will end in failure and apostasy.”
Dispensational premillennialists claim that their unique doctrines have been held since the early church, but these claims have been soundly refuted. Far from being the historic position of the church, premillennialism was described in 1813 by David Bogue as an oddity of Church history. Postmillennialism was the dominant eschatology from the Reformation until at least 1859.
The doctrine of a secret rapture was first conceived by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in 1827. Darby, known as the father of dispensationalism, invented the doctrine claiming there were not one, but two “second comings.” This teaching was immediately challenged as unbiblical by other members of the Brethren. Samuel P. Tregelles, a noted biblical scholar, rejected Darby’s new interpretation as the “height of speculative nonsense.” So tenuous was Darby’s rapture theory that he had lingering doubts about it as late as 1843, and possibly 1845. Another member of the Plymouth Brethren, B.W. Newton, disputed Darby’s new doctrine claiming such a conclusion was only possible if one declared certain passages to be “renounced as not properly ours.”
Sandeen writes, “this is precisely what Darby was prepared to do. Too traditional to admit that biblical authors might have contradicted each other, and too rationalist to admit that the prophetic maze defied penetration, Darby attempted a resolution of his exegetical dilemma by distinguishing between Scripture intended for the Church and Scripture intended for Israel. . . . Darby’s difficulty was solved by assuming that the Gospels were addressed partly to Jews and partly to Christians.“
Thus, the doctrine of the separation of Israel and the Church, the foundation of dispensationalism, was born out of Darby’s attempt to justify his newly fabricated rapture theory with the Bible….“
The reader is also invited to take a look at this collection of articles for further information.
iii. Right Behind
Just look at the sales of the “Left Behind” series of novels, which are based on that “Rapture Theology” and cover the much fire-and-brimstoned “Apocalypse,” “Armageddon” and the “Second Coming” (from Wikipedia):
The books have sold very well in the United States, many topping The New York Times list of bestsellers. In 1998, the first four books of the series held the top four slots simultaneously, despite the fact that the New York Times’ Bestseller’s list does not take Christian bookstore sales into account. Book 10 debuted at number one on this list. Total sales for the series have surpassed 65 million copies. Seven titles in the adult series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists for The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.
And, yes, they are direct descendants of John Nelson Darby and his Rapture (ibid.):
Origins of the Rapture seems to have been invented by an Anglo-Irish religious figure named John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). He was ordained in the Church of Ireland and worked there to convert Catholics. He joined a dissident group called the Plymouth Brethren and became a prominent leader. Around 1830 he began teaching that Jesus’ coming at the end of times would be preceded by a “rapture of saints.” Some members of his own Brethren community objected that this was not biblically founded, but Darby dismissed their criticism since he claimed that the rapture had been revealed to him by God.
But they’re not plagiarists (or are they?)
The series has also been accused of plagiarizing. One website states that: “These similarities [with earlier novel 666 ((by Salem Kirban, 1970 -- HW))] are noteworthy, I think, for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with [co-author Tim] Lahaye’s claim of originality for his series of books. In an interview in the March 28, 2000 issue of the Assembly of God magazine Pentecostal evangel, he insists that “Left Behind is the first fictional portrayal of events that are true to the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy. It was written for anyone who loves gripping fiction featuring believable characters, a dynamic plot that also weaves prophetic events in a fascinating story.” (ibid.)
Or, actually, put yourself in the shoes of a Catholic (25% of the US population at present) and take a look:
from Catholic Answers, “False Profit — Money, Prejudice, and Bad Theology in Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind Series” (EMPHASIS added)
Where does the Catholic Church stand on all this?
The Church does not endorse pre-millennialism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism.” Indeed, the Nicene Creed, which is said at every Sunday Mass, appears to reject pre-millennialism, holding that Christ will return “to judge the living and the dead,” not to reign on earth for a thousand years and then judge the living and the dead. Since the Church is not pre-millennial, the question of a pre-trib Rapture does not arise, as pre-tribulationism is a variant of pre-millennialism.
Which brings us by commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and environs: Sarah Palin in the Assembly of God churches, in Wasilla and The Juneau Christian Center in Juneau.
iv. Crossly Stationed
The Wasilla Assembly of God put this “Official” statement up yesterday (what “office” one wonders: “Official” being one of the most abused terms in current usage):
August 30th, 2008Governor Sarah Palin did attend Wasilla Assembly of God since the time she was a teen ager. She and her family were a part of the church up until 2002. Since that time she has maintained a friendship with Wasilla Assembly of God and has attended various conferences and special meetings here. This June, the Governor spoke at the graduation service of our School of Ministry, Master’s Commission Wasilla Alaska….
And, in case you wondered, here’s their statement on speaking in tongues (EMPHASIS added):
what we believe
16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God
These are nonnegotiable tenets of faith that all Assemblies of God churches adhere to. This list is derived from the official Statement of Fundamental Truths.
[ellipses -- those three periods ... -- are theirs]
WE BELIEVE…the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a Special Experience Following Salvation that empowers believers for witnessing and effective service, just as it did in New Testament times. [1 of 4 cardinal doctrines of the A/G]
WE BELIEVE… The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Speaking in Tongues, as experienced on the Day of Pentecost and referenced throughout Acts and the Epistles.
Oh, and Millenialism?
WE BELIEVE…in The Blessed Hope.? When Jesus Raptures His Church Prior to His Return to Earth (the second coming). At this future moment in time all believers who have died will rise from their graves and will meet the Lord in the air, and Christians who are alive will be caught up with them, to be with the Lord forever. [1 of 4 cardinal doctrines of the A/G]
WE BELIEVE…in The Millennial Reign of Christ when Jesus returns with His saints at His second coming and begins His benevolent rule over earth for 1,000 years. At that time many in the nation of Israel will recognize and accept Him as the Messiah, the Savior who died for them and all mankind.
And, of course, the ever-cheerful:
WE BELIEVE…A Final Judgment Will Take Place for those who have rejected Christ. They will be judged for their sin and consigned to eternal punishment in a punishing lake of fire.
Now, compare and contrast with that “Christian” calculus of apocalypse I alluded to, earlier.
And imagine what a good religious fanatic from the Assembly of God would think of the Afghan president, the Pakistani president, the Iraqi president, the Iranian president, the Soviet president … you get the idea.
v. The Old Rigged Cross
Yup. But it’s interesting that at the “One Lord Sunday” Palin’s old minister from Wasilla Assembly of God, well, here’s the caption from the gallery page on their website:
On June 8th was the 2nd Annual One Lord Sunday service at the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex. The place was about 80% full of believers from churches across the Valley. Pastor Ed was asked to pray over Governor Palin, Lt. Governor Parnell and Senator Murkowski.
And here he’s praying for the Hottest Governor in America, as the Senator and Lt. Governor look on (click to enlarge):
It doesn’t note whether or not he was speaking in tongues.
(And here’s another .mp3 file of someone SPEAKING in tongues and trying to translate it. He’s seemingly Australian). Take a listen, think about the Rapture Right and I’ll be back later with even more interesting stuff.
But ask yourself this: doesn’t this take us back down the road to crypto-theocracy? And isn’t the (absolute pillar of faith) Rapture religion more than a little out of touch with the mainstream of America? Can we afford a Vice President (and possible president) who sits across from the King of Saudi Arabia or Jordan, or the President of Egypt or Pakistan believing them to be Satan-worshippers?
This isn’t some hypothetical construction. We’re talking about a woman who became pregnant at age 43 because she doesn’t believe in birth control, brought a baby to term knowing he was afflicted with Down Syndrome, and now is traipsing the country with candidate McCain rather than tend to that self-same 4-month-old disabled “special needs” child.
Her Operating System needs to be examined, and not merely glossed over in the name of “religious tolerance” — a quality which McCain’s Veep pick may or may not exhibit herself.
And is any reporter going to ask: Do you believe in the Rapture? And do you speak in tongues?
They really need to. We’re being asked to put this steaming slice of fringe theology a heartbeat from the presidency of a two-time cancer survivor, a fellow who would be the oldest president in American history.
Praise the lord: Let us prey.
UPDATE 4:27 PM PDT, 2 September: Late to the party (40 hours and 17 minutes, to be precise) but welcome nonetheless, there is a good parallel piece on the Huffington Post today: Palin’s Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview.
Although lacking in context, it kind of makes the same point, coming at it from a different tack. The Juneau Church that Palin now attends is ALSO an Assembly of God church, so, here are the tenets of ALL Assembly of God churches (from the MotherPage):
You will please to note that they are not any different from those presented above from the Wasilla church’s website — whose preacher added the first comment to this post, by the by.