Sarah Palin typically annoys the political side of my brain.
Recently, she has started annoying the theological side of my brain.
During the question and answer part of a Tea Party diatribe she said, “It would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country,” she said, “so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again.”
I’ve come to expect politicians to spout off political mumbo-jumbo that is neither logical nor intelligible. In fact, it’s quite difficult to find a politician that hasn’t said something pertaining to policy that makes you wonder, and question their ability to lead (if only for a moment).
When politicians start making theological statements, I get scared. Sure, we’ve heard, “God Bless America,” and other trite statements that somehow draw us together in our theo-political nationalism (Nevermind the fact that this statement alone leaves out many who don’t believe in God, or at least the God to which most mouths that utter this saying are referring to). But, when you say that we should “start seeking some divine intervention again in this country” it makes me wonder where you studied theology, or rather where you didn’t.
First, Mrs. Palin assumes that God is an interventionist or that God at one time was involved with humanity and then said, “Peace!” Maybe she was trying to shoot for Open Theist view which doesn’t hold a God that knows the future, but is still all powerful. God, in this view, can be petitioned to help and aid. But, something tells me this isn’t what she was going for. I’m willing to bet that Mrs. Palin probably believes that everything happens for a reason. I’m willing to bet that she believes that God knows forward and backward what happens, when it will happen, and why.
But, then again, she makes the claim that we need a Jeremiah-like version of A&E’s show “Intervention.” Can she imagine what that will even look like? If God were somehow to return from a prolonged vacation, and find the U.S. in such a state of ill-repair as she thinks we are in, what God would do?
First, God probably wouldn’t like the fact that she’s bringing God into the political realm. There was that saying from Jesus, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars.” Then, that whole issue with that one prophet Amos, she might recall him, who was deeply concerned with social justice. In fact, Amos thought that because of the injustices perpetrated by the rich, Jerusalem’s downfall would occur. With a widening gap between the rich and poor, I’d say that God would have enough to say to Mrs. Palin.
But, if God came back, and started intervening (whatever she means by that), perhaps she would have her complete world flipped upside down. Maybe she has read about the Kingdom of God? The Dream of God? But, maybe Mrs. Palin has a Bible similar to Jefferson, she cuts out the parts she doesn’t like. Maybe her Bible has had the Beatitudes cut out. I suppose that her whole idea of who inherits the earth probably doesn’t look or sound like her.
I suggest Mrs. Palin take a theology crash course. It might help her theological statements have a bit more logic, and she might be able to have the support of the history of an idea. Theology, as is not the case with politics, concerns itself with a kingdom that doesn’t exert power for control but for liberation. There is a yearning within Christian theology for language about God, not sound bytes. If Mrs. Palin wants to use God as a talking point, I’d suggest she read some Barth, Tillich, Johnson, Tupper, Aquinas, Augustine, or maybe even the Bible.
Politics and religion are messy in their own respects, and when they are brought together, the synthesis is no less messy. There is real meaning for many people in America and the world when it comes to religion. It’s unfortunate when a politician uses those three letters for gain in any sense of the world. History is littered with the dead bodies of wars fueled by religious rhetoric and idealism. To proclaim to have an insight into the divine nature is prideful, and that’s why theologians tread lightly when they write and speak. A theological statement which will become doctrine has the power to shake and move large numbers of people.
The theological statement Sarah Palin proclaims is that if God were to intervene, God would intervene on her behalf. On my read, Christianity means being willing to create not only communities in the sanctuary, but also sanctuaries in the community. These sanctuaries offer radical reconciliation that is active and participatory. The worship of God is found in reducing the chasm between rich and poor, deconstructing ill-conceived belief about the poor, and recovering the meaning of the Kingdom of God. Throughout all of this there remains a spiritual element, that gone without will only contribute to emptiness and burnout. Our worship-filled work is not accomplished by our own energy but that of the God and our community. If Sarah Palin was committed to that, I would support her call for divine intervention.
But, God’s already working through people to bring hope, peace, and justice to the world. That world needs less rhetoric and more action; less sound bytes and more sound bites; less division and more reconciliation. Invoking the name of God for the sake of political gain is far away from the intentional intervention of God’s people on Earth.
Until that day comes, I’d suggest she stick to one non-theological, theological talking point: God Bless America.