Homo Evangelicus Extremus

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by Maggie Foster
Wednesday, 29 October 2008

avatar01sSarah Palin was apparently the McCain campaign's choice for running mate because it was figured she could both bring in the evangelical vote, and do the attack dog thing in one fell swoop: a VP candidate who could comfortably look America in the eye, and say, with a straight face, that Barack Obama is a socialist, that he pals around with '60's era radical terrorists, and that he does not love America.

It so happens that the combination of "pit bull" and "religious warrior" are indelible Palin traits that coexist perfectly within this Assembly of God candidate for the second highest office in the land. More to the point, Sarah Palin's Pentecostal roots are firmly based on a foundational polemic that godly forces (Republicans?) are locked in battle with satanic forces (Democrats?), a notion often supported by fundamentalist pastors routinely talking-the-talk about "holy war" (potentially, a church-fulfilling-prophecy).

The rhetoric of spiritual warfare, particularly in the context of political battles, is not uncommon among Pentecostals, including the Wasilla Assembly of God where Governor Palin was saved and baptized. Fighting such fierce battles is presumed part of God's plan; indeed, it has been reported that three out of four of Palin's churches are involved with a Warfare movement manifested in the training of a young "Joel's Army" to take dominion over the United States and the world (the movie "Jesus Camp" depicts such young children being trained to do battle for the Lord).

This appears to be the perfect preparation to carry forth the "us versus them" banner embraced and executed by the McCain political hit squad-- a clear extension of the Pentecostal upbringing that shaped this self-described "pit bull with lipstick" who speaks of small towns as the habitat of real Americans, as opposed to those who do not inhabit small towns (which is most Americans). Anything can (and often does) get defined within the biblical context of a holy war, contending for your faith or, as in the current milieu, for your vote. It is a truism that any church that defines itself as the one true Church is laying the groundwork for what inevitably morphs into a "us versus them" exclusivity mind set, and few fill this role more joyfully, and relentlessly, than the good Governor of Alaska.

Organized religion in the modern world has evolved over many decades, spawning a relatively new and recent species identified by some religionists as Homo Evangelicus (H. evangelicus), a religious genus said to have mastered the art of fire and brimstone: Christian churches "that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scripture, especially of the New Testament, in opposition to the institutional authority of the church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ." The concern here, however, is with a subsequent emergent evangelical wing, one thought by many to constitute enough differences to qualify as a separate religious genre, to wit: Homo Evangelicus Extremus (H. evangelicus extremus).

Pentacostal congregations such as Wasilla Assembly of God, though they share some characteristics with other charismatic evangelicals, are much more conservative, far more likely to believe in the rapture and end-times, and are majorly energized by such otherwise complex issues as abortion and homosexuality. Pentecostal religions experience "spirit-filled" expressions, including speaking in tongues, receiving divine prophecy and revelations, and witnessing of miracles. As one now prominent member of the H. evangelicus extremus religious branch recently declared: "I grew up in Wasilla Assembly of God. Nothing freaks me out!!" Speak for yourself, Governor . . . though for many this confessional statement may speak volumes.

In this cloak-and-dagger charade Republicans are so fervently waging, it appears unseemly--even ungodly-- to cloak oneself in the mantel of religious warrior in the battle for the White House, especially when it so obviously entails a card carrying member of H. evangelicus extremus. We must never be afraid of speaking truth to faith, especially when considering that the church where Sarah Palin grew up and was baptized preaches some of the most extreme religious views in the nation. The horde works in mysterious ways, but illusory religious perceptions have no power to negate what is real, any more than belief in a flat earth was able to alter its true shape.

Maggie Foster

Furl it!