Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin, Pentecostal Preacher

Watching Palin last night  I realized that I've met her before.  Mostly in charismatic/Pentecostal churches.  I've also seen her on TV in the person of Joyce Meyer - big time TV evangelist (check her out here to see if the Palin/Meyer link isn't an apt one).  Same inflections.  Same "I'm just a small town gall" demeanor.  Same inner fire of self-confidence which makes her a riveting speaker.

 What we're looking at here is the kind of empowerment which comes from growing up in the Pentecostal church.  This is something the liberal establishment hasn't yet caught on to - that one of the most powerful organizational tidal waves world wide is the Pentecostal/charismatic movement.  It's power lies exactly here - in the self-empowerment it engenders in its members who are led to believe - and see evidence for the fact - that the Holy Spirit fills them with the Divine Presence allowing them to be powerful figures themselves.  

What distinguishes these powerful figures, both male and female (John Hagee is the male equivalent)  is that they are  fearless,  self-confident and just a tad  self-righteous. Mostly they  believe that they can accomplish anything they set their minds and hearts to because God is on their side.  And this from people who come out of a tradition that, for the most part (its always "for the most part" as Pentecostalism has as much variety as any other movement) expects women to be stay at home moms and give deference to their husbands.  That's the official party line.  But in practice these are highly capable, confident women whose husbands mostly cower in their presence.  

What Sarah Palin has been able to do is to translate the Pentecostal/charismatic experience and world view into a political platform, using the cadences and self-confidence of a Pentecostal preacher to wow the crowds.  She is a very effective speaker, but then, so is Joyce Meyer.  Palin also has the traditional Pentecostal sense of victimization, in this case feeling that she is being persecuted by the big, bad liberal media.  Get ready for even more of this as we near election time and the scrutiny of her thin resume becomes even more intense.  

I have many Pentecostal friends and would not want to stereotype them.  (Sorry Tony!)  But if you want to know who Sarah Palin is, you have to first get to know your Pentecostal neighbor.  That's where she's coming from.  Interestingly, what we have in this election are two powerful church traditions on display - the black church in Obama's case; white Pentecostalism in Palin's.  If nothing else, it makes for fascinating political theater. 

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