An Open Letter to Sarah Palin, from ex-Fundamentalist, Marlene Winell, Ph.D.
As a former fundamentalist, I'd like to call you on what you are doing.
The media has labeled you "opaque" about your religion. Why? Because you have not been honest about the most important thing about you: the fact that you are a born-again charismatic on a mission from God. 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.
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, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.
You believe that every bit of the Bible is God's perfect word. You, believe there is an unseen spiritual plain (Ephesians 6:12), and that on that plain there is an unseen war going on between good and evil beings, and that you are a leader in this war against evil. You believe that God has "called" you and "anointed" you to do his will. 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 trust 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.
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 have an individual approach emphasizing morality and responsibility, not a community approach emphasizing structural solutions. You would be judgmental and controlling of personal behavior like sex, reproductive choice, and books borrowed from the library instead of addressing global warming, poverty, and world peace. Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literally perfect Bible despite its cruelties, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, may leave your moral core numb. 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 continue to downplay 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, natural disasters, and water shortage, all as hopeful signs of Jesus' return. You would be a staunch supporter of Israel--though not of Jews--and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature. (You have publically said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime.)
The Assemblies of God denomination 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.
My message for you, Warrior Princess for God, is from all of us who know what you are about. 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, with world-wide crisis all around you, 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.
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.