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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A Review of the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Vice-Presidential Debate

Last night I watched the entire VP debate, and I’d love to take a moment of your time to tell you a few thoughts I had and hear about anything that you observed.

1. The Moderator

I liked the moderator. Now, Biden and Palin made it easy for her because the arguing was minimal, but I thought her questions were good and she wasn’t afraid to call someone out for not answering the question she asked.

2. Demeanor

Palin was ner-er-vous. She put herself in this situation so I couldn’t feel bad for her, but she seemed downright terrified when the debate began. Her anxiety didn’t seem to diminish drastically over the night, perhaps in contrast to how confident Biden seemed. I don’t know if that made Palin seem endearing or week or Biden competent or patronizing. What did you think?

3. Talking Points v. Points to Talk About

Biden knows his stuff, but of course, this makes sense. He’s been in Congress for decades, and when Palin would bring up a bill that he, Obama or McCain voted one way or another on, he could talk about that bill and the reasons in far more detail than she ever could because he was involved. This was in stark contrast to the Obama-McCain debate when both candidates intimately knew the details of these bills and could – and did! – argue back and forth about what was what. With Biden-Palin, there was little back and forth and I wonder if it’s because she simply didn’t know what to talk about. I don’t mean this as a criticism (that’s left up to how you take her pride about not being of the Washington bunch) but merely as an observation. It seemed that Palin had been seriously prepped with canned lines and points and told to avoid all sorts of other things for fear of a huge mistake. How did you feel?

4. Gaffes

Speaking of huge mistakes, let’s talk about the one thing that all the political pundits really wanted to see – a gaffe. Now, I don’t know that there were any huge gaffes that can’t be undone. Palin did call Joe Biden “O-Biden” and she also told the moderator and Biden that she wasn’t there to answer the questions she was asked but to say what she wanted. Palin also referred to her ticket as a “team of mavericks” which is a bit oximoronic – a fact I think was lost on her. Biden was probably advised to say less than he wanted to because the more active he is the more patronizing he appears. In 90 minutes, though, these were not the big things that came out. Did you notice anything particularly outrageous that slipped by me?

5. Summary

It’s unclear to me what will come out of this. I don’t really want to give you my opinion of the particular political positions as the VP candidates stated them last night – I’d rather discuss the importance of this debate and how the candidates appeared to Americans and the world. However, as an aside, I will mention that I thought it was funny when the moderator established that the two agreed about gay marriage (despite my own disagreement with their mutual opinion). Everyone had a nice chuckle.

Pundits, as they are want to do, said that this debate could be a make-it-or-break-it moment in the political process, but I didn’t notice anything happen that would have been so swaying. I know who appeared more competent, more capable and more knowledgable and I know who appeared more presidential (mentally, not physically or genderally), but I also know that a lot of Americans are looking for something else and appreciate the different image that is being provided for them in this race.

What did you think? I’d love to hear all of your opinions, whether issue-related, debate-related, political or otherwise.

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Religion in the News: Where God Comes into the Republican Presidential Ticket

It should be noted up front that this is not an endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden. It is merely a few thoughts I have about the religious elements of the Republican nominee, John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, prompted by my recent viewing of the Republican National Convention.

First, I’d like to mention something that McCain said about a month ago when he was at a gathering of religious folk and required to talk about his religious beliefs. He said that he knew that no matter what he did in this life, he would be forgiven by God and accepted into Heaven.

Holy crap! I cried. That is not the kind of attitude I want my president to have. That attitude does not go well with leadership. No leader should have the luxury of believing that no matter what he does, simple repentance will result in forgiveness and a trip through the pearly gates. Such a belief leads to the possibility for cavalier missteps, especially by someone who self-promotes the whole maverick idea, wide open. I want a president who fears for his soul with every action he takes so that he calculates each and every move with unparalleled precision and forethought. Or one who isn’t concerned at all with the afterlife…

Then there’s Palin. Palin doesn’t believe in evolution. I happen to think what she’s done in Alaska is great and I like her governing style. But wait: she doesn’t believe in evolution. Seriously? You don’t believe in evolution, Mrs. Palin. Oh boy….

And those are some brief thoughts about the Republican ticket and religion.

What do you know about any of the candidates religious proclivities that you’d like to share? Anything worry you or set your mind at ease? Do you think faith should have a place in politics?

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