Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's deep roots are in the Pentecostal religious movement, where End Times theology -- the belief that Jesus , the Messiah, will return to earth a second time in a cataclysmic event to gather His believers from the unsaved -- is the prism through which adherents interpret world events. This calls for an open and transparent discussion with the Republican vice presidential candidate about her views of current and future national security challenges the U.S. faces, particularly in the Middle East and Gulf region.
As is well-known by now, Palin's foreign policy experience is non-existent as Alaska governor. She's only had a passport for a year, and that was for travel to Kuwait and Germany to visit Alaska National Guard troops. A brief stopover in Shannon, Ireland for jet refueling rounds out her international travel. The McCain campaign has said Palin may have visited Mexico on a personal trip, but they're not sure.
Interestingly, the day before Palin delivered her primetime address to the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, a meeting was arranged for her with officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby, courtesy of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Why then is anybody's guess, but Palin in her first speech to the nation dutifully checked off on AIPAC's three priority issues for all candidates -- support for Israel, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and stop Iran from developing anything nuclear.
Sen. Lieberman and AIPAC need not have bothered with the briefing. Support for the state of Israel is gospel in Assemblies of God churches as it is in virtually all Pentecostal and other Christian fundamentalist denominations and churches, including the Southern Baptist Convention. Stories about Old Testament heroes such as Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Elijah fill every Sunday school classroom.
But there is no greater Old Testament hero than the great warrior king, David, who created the first Hebrew state. He established Jerusalem as Israel's national capital. Under David, Israel defeated its enemies and created secure borders. It was a force to be reckoned with in the ancient Middle East. So, it should be no surprise that among conservative Evangelicals, especially the Assemblies of God, the security of modern day Israel is pre-eminent, regardless of other geopolitical factors.
The creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 is believed by Pentecostals and other conservative Evangelicals to be the beginning of the world's last days when the Jewish diaspora will return to the land of Israel in expectation of Christ's Second Coming. Another event significant to End Times theology is the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, originally built during King Solomon's reign. Only problem is that the Muslim Dome of the Rock sits on the site of the remains of the Hebrew temple.
Which brings us back to Palin, her religious beliefs with respect to End Times theology, and her long association with the Assemblies of God--the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States with almost 3 million church attendees. What does she really believe and how will it influence her national security policy formation? What is her priority as a government official: God's plan for America, as Palin believes it to be, or for Israel according to End Times theology, or what's in the best interests of a pluralistic nation? What is the line that separates personal religious conviction from policymaking in the public interest? Palin needs to explain her worldview and her beliefs about the end of the world.
It's already well known that an Israeli flag sits in Palin's governor's office in Juneau. What's not as well known is that Palin's home church as governor, Juneau Christian Center, is hosting an event on March 5 2009 sponsored by the Rev. John Hagee called "A Night to Honor Israel." This is the same John Hagee who Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) eagerly sought out for an early endorsement, then soundly rejected because of the pastors "deeply offensive and indefensible comments" about Catholics and Jews.
This is the same John Hagee who created the lobbying organization Christians United for Israel to lobby the Bush administration and next presidency in support of Israel. Hagee calls CUFI "the Christian AIPAC." And this is the same John Hagee who urged the Bush Administration to attack Iran for the purpose of instigating a Middle East conflagration to help prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus--all straight out of the End Times theology textbook.
Hagee's Pentecostal roots are deep in the Assemblies of God. He completed his theological study at the Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, and received an honorary doctorate from Tulsa, Oklahoma's Oral Roberts University in 2005. Although Hagee's Cornerstone Church in San Antonio is interdenominational and not affiliated with the Assemblies of God, his theology remains consistent with his former denomination.
Now, Pentecostals and Southern Baptists may disagree on a lot of theological issues, but they all agree that ancient and modern-day Israel are one and the same. Any obstacles to Israel reclaiming its former kingdom land must be removed and moved elsewhere. Like the Palestinians. Take for example former Arkansas governor and vice-presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, who visited Israel immediately prior to the Republican convention in mid-August for a two-day fact-finding tour. Huckabee said Palestinians could create a homeland in places other than Palestine, but not so the Hebrew people.
"The question shouldn't be "Do Arabs have a right to live in Jewish territory," Huckabee said, "but do Jews have the right to live in Jewish territory." One of Huckabee's minders on the trip, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind - a former acolyte of the radical extremist Meir Kahane -- gushed about the Baptist pastor turned politician's grasp of Middle East affairs. "Here's guy who says, 'Yes, I'm for a Palestinian state,' and then says, 'but in Saudi Arabia.'"
It's time for Gov. Palin to begin an honest and open conversation with American voters about her views on national security and how her faith will help shape her policy decisions.
Serge Duss is Director of the New Century Evangelicals project at Faith in Public Life and member of the Evangelical Advisory Council at the Center for American Progress