Palin accepts blessing from witch-hunter: View the video

September 25, 2008

Sarah Palin’s former church congregation, led by a man who believed a demonic presence once caused car crashes in Kenya, prayed to protect the U.S. Republican Party vice-presidential candidate against witchcraft. But is that really significant?

As I wrote in March with regard to U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and his former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I don’t think it’s useful to judge a layperson by every word that emerges from the people at the pulpit of his or her church. So, just because Palin’s church in Wasilla, Alaska welcomed a preacher who has said he got his start in Kenya hunting witches and fighting a demonic presence that was causing automobile accidents, is it fair or useful to imply that this means something significant about Palin’s potential performance as vice-president of the United States? Probably not, but for one factor we’ll get to in a moment.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that for most believing Christians, one of the essential duties of their faith is to spread it among other people. How actively they pursue this spread varies greatly, but the point, for these Christians, is to bring to other people the benefits and rewards they believe a Christian faith and life brings to them. It is intended to be a loving act. So with that in mind, it doesn’t seem all that odd that any Christian church would want to spread its faith.

Further, for many believing Christians, their faith is one of the primary lenses through which they view the world. Whether something is right or wrong — and what they should do about it — is determined by its conformance with the tenets of their faith. Therefore, the believer is required to strive to live his or her life in accordance with faith.

However, these two well-intended desires can bump up pretty hard against another high principle, one manifested in the essential component of American democracy that the government may not establish a religion. Or, to use a Bible reference, the principle that that which is Caesar’s (the everyday world) is separate from that which is God’s (the spiritual world).

That’s what brings us to the point where whatever Sarah Palin believes, in a religious sense, becomes potentially significant. Palin has said that she has not been a member of that church since 2002. But as you may see in the videos below, Palin doesn’t just sit as a member of the congregation while Muthee talks about the need to make the media and public educational systems active instruments of God — she gets up on the dais and participates.

I don’t think it’s any fairer to judge Palin solely by her religion any more than it was fair to judge John F. Kennedy solely on the basis of his Catholic faith. Still, I urge you to view these videos — particularly the second one — in full, and make your own judgments about what you see. Make up your own mind about the significance of Palin’s faith, Obama’s past link with Wright, Joe Biden’s Catholicism and McCain’s general reluctance to talk about his religion.

The first video below comes from MSNBC’s “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann. The first few minutes will give you the basics of this story. Unfortunately, Olbermann mocks and ridicules religious faith, which isn’t appropriate no matter how different that faith may seem to him. The second video, though nearly 10 minutes long, is perhaps more useful because you may see the context of the “anti-witchcraft” blessing in which Palin participates.

By the way, the Times of London had a good piece about this, click here to read it.

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The grating din of happy children

October 2, 2007

Playgrounds at some San Francisco public schools will be open to the public on weekends under a new program announced Monday.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Unified School District board member Hydra Mendoza met at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School to say that the district would open as many as 14 playgrounds and schoolyards starting in November.

After the mayor’s strange “send me a resignation and then just relax while I think about whether I’ll accept it” demand of department heads and his insistence on turning San Francisco into a crime-camera surveillance society, this is a welcome change.

To be sure, there are many details still to be worked out. But Newsom and school district leaders should be congratulated for seeking to unite neighborhoods with their public schools.

I live close by a Catholic church and school that keeps its yard open on weekends and until about 11 at night. As long as you don’t mind the grating din of happy children (a melodious sound integral to a healthy city), this is a wonderful resource for the neighborhood. There’s always something going on over there, usually with some adult present. Bored kids can get up off the couch, parents can do something with their children, and the resultant back-and-forth foot traffic makes the surrounding streets safer (without cameras).

This isn’t an effect limited to private schools. Before Proposition 13, San Francisco public schools filled the same role. I remember playing in the yard of the school in the neighborhood where I grew up: It was full of kids of all ages on summer afternoons and weekends, with one or two adults supervising in the school gym.

The San Francisco Examiner’s story is here and the Chronicle’s is here.