Tuesday, September 09, 2008

More on Sarah Palin and Judgment Day

From The Times of London:

At the Wasilla Assembly of God Church, Sarah Palin’s former pastor sees powerful signs that the end of the world is nigh.

Pastor Ed Kalnins cites conflict in the Middle East, America’s dependence on foreign oil and the depletion of energy reserves as evidence that “storm clouds are gathering”. He told The Times: “Scripture specifically mentions oil instability as a sign of the Rapture. We’re seeing more and more oil wars. The contractions of the fulfilment of prophecies are getting tighter and tighter.”

He declined to set an exact date for the Rapture, or the “End of Days” – the belief in a time when Jesus will return, raising up believers to Heaven and leaving the wicked to be ruled by the Antichrist – but hopes it will be in his lifetime. “I’m looking out the window and I can see it’s going to rain,” he said. “I’m just looking at the turmoil of the world, Iraq, other places – everywhere people are fighting against Christ.”

Since Mrs Palin’s nomination as John McCain’s Republican running-mate 11 days ago, her social and religious beliefs have become subjected to intense scrutiny. As a supporter of the teaching of Creationism in schools, an opponent of abortion – even in cases of rape or incest – and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, she threatens to reopen the culture war that has scarred American politics for a quarter of a century...

The Governor of Alaska left the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in 2002 after 26 years’ attendance, but she returned there in June to link religion to both energy and war. She said that troops in Iraq were on “a task that is from God”, and went on to urge the congregation to pray for the completion of a $30 billion pipeline across the state. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built,” she said.

Interviews with friends confirm that the foundation of her beliefs and constant source of guidance is the Bible...

At the main Sunday service at the Assembly of God, hundreds gathered to ask God to help their former mayor. “We’re showing our support through Jesus,” said Pastor Ed, “Sarah is a great woman. A religious woman.”

The service began with 40 minutes of song. Teenagers with ponytails and bandanas gathered at the front of the stage, dancing and swaying in time. Their eyes screwed tightly shut and their arms lifted towards the ceiling, some worshippers started speaking and singing unintelligibly. Pastor Ed said afterwards that they had been speaking in tongues, a common part of the church’s services.

This was the church into which Mrs Palin was baptised – or “saved”, as she described it – at the age of 12, immersed in the waters of a lake during a family holiday. Before that she had been baptised a Catholic as an infant, but her mother began to take her and her siblings to the Wasilla Assembly of God and her faith began to change.

She gradually embraced practices of the Pentecostal faith, such as the laying on of hands and speaking in tongues. “I grew up in the Wasilla Assembly of God,” she once said. “Nothing freaks me out about the worship service.” Later, as a high-school basketball star, she became the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, writing Bible verses in her friends’ senior yearbooks.

...Indeed, her decision to switch to the nondenominational Wasilla Bible Church has been interpreted by some as politically motivated – not least because it coincided with her first run for state-wide office.

...Pastor Ed knows that sermons such as the one he delivered in 2004, when he suggested supporters of John Kerry’s Democratic presidential campaign would go to Hell, are unlikely to help Mrs Palin this time around. He promises to refrain from “tongue-in-cheek” comments in the future.

Mrs Palin’s new church practises a less extrovert religion than the Assembly of God, where members stand up, clap, sing and cry with joy. “We’re more reserved,” Larry Kroons, the pastor of Wasilla Bible Church, said. “People can just sit down and worship.”

...But the Wasilla Bible Church is not necessarily a safe haven from controversy. Mrs Palin attended a service recently where a guest speaker, David Brickner, suggested that terrorism in Israel was God’s judgment against the Jews for failing to accept Christ as the Messiah.

The McCain campaign played down the sermon, saying that Mrs Palin “would not have been sitting in the pews of the church if those remarks were remotely typical”. But Pastor Kroons said that Mr Brickner had a point and that he would invite the “Jews for Jesus” leader back.

Last Sunday’s church bulletin advertised a forthcoming meeting of Focus on the Family, a group that believes homosexuality is a sin that can be “prayed away”. Pastor Kroons said he had no problem with the group, adding that he would like to see religion used to cure other “sins” such as pride or lust...

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