There is a well-known Christian hymn that begins "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." As someone who looks to the precision of word selection to reveal the most accurate meaning, the word "know" in this context is of critical importance. Aside from the rhyme, the sentiment could have been "this I think" or "this I believe", but "know" really conveys the certitude that is the hallmark of fundamentalist Christianity. As a person of faith who believes somewhat differently, I would have to go with "think" or "believe" and continue to ask questions in a search for deeper understanding and knowledge. But the unwavering faith in their absolute truth that belongs to evangelicals (and was, in my mind, at the core of getting George W. Bush elected president twice) is incredibly powerful. And it's the reason why Sarah Palin is a brilliant choice as John McCain's running mate.
At first, I reacted to the announcement with equal parts disbelief and dismissiveness, as did so many others who were expecting a VP candidate to shore up the McCain ticket with attributes that spoke to the issues of the economy, foreign policy and experience. Was McCain just picking a woman to appeal to whatever disenfranchised Hillary Clinton voters were still out there and looking for another candidate that was capable of giving live birth? The short answer appears to me to be that Palin's gender was only the tip of this Alaskan iceberg. It has been widely acknowledged that evangelicals (euphemistically called "social conservatives") were reluctant to throw their support behind John McCain. Now with Palin on the ticket, despite the fact that most of us know virtually nothing about her, campaign contributions are reportedly flooding in. Why and from whom? Well, what we do know is that Palin and her husband have a 4 month old baby with Down's Syndrome and that her unwed 17 year old daughter is 5 months pregnant and plans to keep the baby. Should such personal information be kept apart from the political process? Absolutely. Is it reasonable to think it ever will be? No. Unlike some folks, I actually believe that the information about Sarah Palin's daughter did come out in the vetting process and that it was determined to be a positive to this campaign, not a negative. And even if it didn't come out in the vetting, certainly Sarah Palin knew about the pregnancy when she accepted McCain's invitation to join the ticket and was therefore prepared to expose her family to this level of scrutiny. Palin and her family are being applauded for continuing with the pregnancy as she was heralded for her bravery in proceeding with the birth of her developmentally disabled child. But if and when those decisions are not matters of choice but of law, families less fortunate than the Palins will be burdened for the rest of their lives by those that would legislate according to their religious beliefs. And therein lies the wedge issue that I believe will now overshadow the economy and the war in Iraq for the rest of the campaign. And once again the Republicans will appear to be the party with God on their side and many Americans will vote against their own self interest in this life in exchange for what they believe awaits them in the next life.
McCain would have us believe that this choice is in keeping with his reputation of being a "maverick". A "reformer". I see it as falling in line with his party's most familiar campaign tactics. Ironically, if McCain wins, he will be roughly the same age as President Reagan was at the beginning of his second term, during which we later learned that his capacities were diminished by Alzheimer's. A horrible and insidious disease that I hope and pray will be treatable in my lifetime. However if the evangelicals have their way, that may not be possible without the option of stem cell research... the practice of which the Reagan family advocates and supports. So if McCain is unable to fulfill his term in office, we will all be subject to a Palin presidency. And that, more than anything, fills me with the fear of God.
I believe that a candidate's faith should be kept personal and private as should their family and their sexuality. All of those areas should not influence governance within a secular America. And it offends me when I see entire hours of campaign coverage devoted to the faith of these candidates. But maybe we don't live in a secular America. I personally still believe in the separation of church and state. But I'm not an evangelical Christian. I don't feel compelled to impose the teachings of my faith on others. And I take offense at those who do. But maybe I'm in the minority. Since moving to the state of Georgia, I have become fairly certain that I am. This is I believe.