An Open Letter to Sarah Palin about Her Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs

Before you is a letter from someone I know and respect whose work is all about helping fundamentalist Christians who have chosen to leave their abusive and delusional religions do so in a safe and psychologically sound way. As the author of this letter has written, “Marlene Winell is a Bay Area psychologist who specializes in recovery from fundamentalist religion. She is author of Leaving the Fold:  A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving their religion. She is the daughter of Assemblies of God missionaries. A longer article about Sarah Palin’s religion is on Dr. Winell’s website:  http://www.marlenewinell.net.”

Please feel free to leave any comments at the bottom of this letter and reproduce the letter in its entirety elsewhere on the internet (so long as you provide Dr. Winell as the author). If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

An open letter to Sarah Palin, from Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to call you on what you are doing.

This is not about disrespecting your private beliefs.  But you have a huge conflict of interest here by running for office and you can’t have it both ways (see Jesus’ words in John 2:15).

You have not been honest about the most important thing about you:  the fact that you are a born-again, literal Bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian.   Voters need to know you are not merely a “Christian” – a follower of Christ’s teachings.

Most people who have never been entrenched in the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this really means, but I do. Like you, I was raised in the Assemblies of God and I was a zealous part of the Jesus Movement.  Like you, my life was consumed with seeking God’s will for my life and awaiting the imminent return of Jesus.  It’s clear to me that you want to do the Lord’s will; you’ve said and done things like a true believer would. You are on a mission from God. If that is not true, then I challenge you to deny it.

Former fundamentalists like me know that your worldview is so encompassing, authoritarian, and powerful that it defines who you think you are, the way you view the world, history, other people, the future, and your place in the world.  It defines you far more than hockey mom, wife, woman, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.

You believe that every bit of the Bible is God’s perfect word.  You have a supernatural view of reality where Satan is a real entity and where good and evil beings are engaged in “spiritual warfare” (Ephesians 6:12).   Like Queen Esther, you believe that God has “called” and “anointed” you to lead America.  This is why you have accepted blessing for office through the “laying on of hands” and prayer to protect you from witchcraft.

So what does this mean for governing?  What could Americans expect with you at the helm?

You cannot affirm basic human decency or capability, because according to your dogma, we are sinful, weak, and dependant on God. And so, your decisions would not be based on expert advice or even your own reasoning, but on your gut-level, intuitive interpretation of God’s will.

This would allow you to do anything and claim you were led by God.

Your thinking necessarily is black or white.  People and policies are either good or bad.  After all, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).  Under your leadership, diplomacy and cultural nuance would be less important than not blinking.  In a spiritual war, you don’t negotiate with the devil.

Regarding social policy, as a believer in individual salvation, you would emphasize individual morality and responsibility, not a community approach with structural solutions.  You would be judgmental and controlling of personal choices regarding sex, reproduction, and library books instead of addressing global warming, torture, poverty, and war.  Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literal Bible despite its cruelties and vengeful god, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, are likely to leave you numb at your moral core.  You might recall the verse, “If a man will not work he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  However, faith-based initiatives would be okay because they would use caring to evangelize.

How about science?  As it has in your governorship, your interpretation of the Bible would trump scientific scholarship and findings.  You would deny the human role in global warming because God is in control.  More importantly, you would not make the environment a priority because you do not expect the earth to last.

International affairs?  Since your subculture has identified the establishment of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the end, you would see war, epidemics, climate change, and natural disasters, all as hopeful signs of Jesus’ return.  You would be a staunch supporter of Israel and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature.  (You have publicly said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime and that it guides you every day.)

The Christian fundamentalism that has shaped your thinking teaches that working for peace is unbiblical and wrong because peace is not humanly possible without the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 5:2,3).  Conflict, even outright war is inevitable, for Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt: 10:34-37).  Like millions of fundamentalist Christians, you may actually find joy in global crises because these things portend His return (Luke 21:28).

But all of this certainty and fantasy in today’s complex world is dangerous, Sarah.  There was a time when all of humanity thought the world was flat.  Today, the stakes for such massive error are much higher.

So we want to know, Sarah, Warrior Princess for God —  How dare you presume to take responsibility for our country and our planet when you, in your own mind, do not consider this home?   I mean home for the long haul, not just until your rescue arrives from space.  How dare you look forward to Christ’s return, leaving your public office empty like a scene from the movie, Left Behind?

What if you are completely wrong and you wreak havoc instead with your policies?  If you deny global warming, brand people and countries “evil,” support war, and neglect global issues, you can create the apocalypse you are expecting.  And as it gets worse and worse, and you look up for redemption, you just may not see it.  What then?  In that moment, you and all who have shared your delusion may have the most horrifying realization imaginable.   And it will be too late.  Too late to avoid destruction and too late to apologize to all the people who tried to turn the tide and needed you on board.

And you, John McCain, how dare you endanger all of us for the sake of your politics?  How dare you choose a partner who is all symbol and no substance, preying on the fears of millions of Americans?   Shame on both of you.

Leave this beautiful, fragile earth to us, the unbelievers in your fantasy.  It’s the only heaven we have and you have no right to make it a hell.

Sincerely,
Marlene

Marlene Winell, Ph.D.
October 21, 2008

Press Release – October 21, 2008
Contact:  mwinell@gmail.com

If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

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In the News: Protestants and Catholics Still Over Centuries-Long War

U.S. President George W. Bush has just gone to the Vatican where he was welcomed warmly by Pope Benedict XVI. That is, an evangelical leader of the free/WASP/non-Catholic world (perhaps that’s giving a lot of credit to Bush, but allow it for the sake of comparison, please) has met with the Pope, the spiritual leader of the world’s billion or so Catholics.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to not the sixteenth century.

Now, of course, pope’s and U.S. presidents have been meeting for years now, and the Catholic Church and the Protestant world (though it isn’t so easily grouped in a unified way as Catholicism) have long since made amends…effectively. I for one, would like to state quite clearly how awesome that is.

We really take for granted in our day how wonderful it is that there is a relative amount of unity, a high degree of peace and a general disregard for the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The Christian world is pretty much A-ok on an inter-denominational basis. Sure, the Christian and Muslim worlds are effectively at war (though I neither believe that it is as ubiquitous as I have made it sound nor as dichotomized as Christian v. Muslim), but it’s great that Catholic-Protestant relations are at the height of their strength. Why am I harping on this issue, you ask?

Well, it really wasn’t like that for a very long time. The Puritan roots of this country can be traced back to a need to escape the Anglican Church because it was too close to and corrupted with popery – or Catholicism – Puritans claimed. People in the colonies hated, persecuted and banned Catholics in various places for a very long time. Life as a Catholic in America wasn’t easy for a while. Now, can I blame Protestants (back-in-the-day Protestants, that is), for being terrified of and hating Catholics? Considering the Church’s history and the way it treated dissenters, no, I really can’t, but let me be frank: relations never had to normalize.

Wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe were on an unimaginable scale, comparable to parts of the crusades, in certain areas of Europe killing up to a third of the population (sometimes more deadly than the Black Plague), and many people believed that Catholic and Protestant countries would never be at peace with one another. Slowly but surely, however, countries realized that interests other than religion set them at odds with one another and unified them with each other, and today, in our post-industrial, post-Cold War, newly hyper-globalized world, issues like whether you are a Protestant or Catholic country are really not the issues at hand. And that’s spectacular.

But then again, we’re not talking about countries, per se. The Holy See may be a country, but at the end of the day, it’s the Roman Catholic Church through and through, and I still think it’s awesome that an evangelical Protestant leader and the pope can greet each other warmly and genuinely, get along, discuss their common goals and interests (even if, unfortunately, some of those happen to be banning abortion and stem-cell research and continuing to promote abstinence – issues we will get to in due time, I’m sure), and be so friendly. It’s important, and not what one would expect after a few centuries of animosity and wars. If in the seventeenth century you’d asked who a Christian’s biggest enemy was, he’d say, a Catholic – never a Muslim, a Democrat or Oprah Winfrey or anything like that (don’t you love topical humor!).

So, that’s my thouhgt: we shouldn’t take for granted that the Protestant and Catholic worlds are effectively at peace (save a few small pockets of course), and when U.S. Presidents and Popes are hanging out together, we should appreciate that we’ve come a long way since the Thirty-Years War.

Note about tomorrow’s post: I will be posting in the afternoon because tomorrow is Movie/Book review day and I am going to see a matinée of The Happening. I have pretty low expectations but a close friend is a screenwriter of horror movies so we’re going – let’s see if it can break the low bar I’ve set. Check back tomorrow afternoon for the review of The Happening.