Palin's Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview
By Nico Pitney and Sam Stein
Post" -- - Three months before she was thrust
into the national political spotlight, Gov. Sarah Palin was
asked to handle a much smaller task: addressing the graduating
class of commission students at her one-time church, Wasilla
Assembly of God.
Her speech in June provides as
much insight into her policy leanings as anything uncovered
since she was asked to be John McCain's running mate.
Speaking before the Pentecostal
church, Palin painted the current war in Iraq as a messianic
affair in which the United States could act out the will of the
"Pray for our military men and
women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this
country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending
[U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God," she exhorted
the congregants. "That's what we have to make sure that we're
praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's
Religion, however, was not
strictly a thread in Palin's foreign policy. It was part of her
energy proposals as well. Just prior to discussing Iraq,
Alaska's governor asked the audience to pray for another matter
-- a $30 billion national gas pipeline project that she wanted
built in the state. "I think God's will has to be done in
unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so
pray for that," she said.
Video of Kalnins and
Palin from June 8, 2008 (via wasillaag.net):
Palin's address, much of which
was spent reflecting on the work of the church in which she grew
up and was baptized, underscores the notion that her world view
is deeply impacted by religion. In turn, her remarks raise
important questions: mainly, what is Palin's faith and how
exactly has it influenced her policies?
A review of
by Ed Kalnins, the senior pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God
since 1999, offers a provocative and, for some, eyebrow-raising
sketch of Palin's longtime spiritual home.
The church runs a number of
ministries providing help to poor neighborhoods, care for
children in need, and general community services. But Pastor
Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be
banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen.
John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the
9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war
"contending for your faith;" and said that Jesus "operated from
that position of war mode."
It is impossible to determine
how much Wasilla Assembly of God has shaped Palin's thinking.
She was baptized there at the age of 12 and attended the church
for most of her adult life. When Palin was inaugurated as
governor, the founding pastor of the church delivered the
invocation. In 2002, Palin moved her family to a
nondenominational church, but she continues to worship at a
related Assembly of God church in Juneau.
Moreover, she "has maintained a
friendship with Wasilla Assembly of God and has attended various
conferences and special meetings here," Kalnins' office said in
a statement. "As for her personal beliefs," the statement added,
"Governor Palin is well able to speak for herself on those
Clearly, however, Palin views
the church as the source of an important, if sometimes
politically explosive, message. "Having grown up here, and
having little kids grow up here also, this is such a special,
special place," she told the congregation in June. "What comes
from this church I think has great destiny."
And if the political storm over
Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright is any indication,
Palin may face some political fallout over the more
controversial teachings of Wasilla Assembly of God.
If the church had a political
alignment, it would almost surely be conservative. In his
sermons, Kalnins did not hide his affections for certain
During the 2004 election season,
he praised President Bush's performance during a debate with
Sen. John Kerry, then offered a not-so-subtle message about his
personal candidate preferences. "I'm not going tell you who to
vote for, but if you vote for this particular person, I question
your salvation. I'm sorry." Kalnins added: "If every Christian
will vote righteously, it would be a landslide every time."
Months after hinting at possible
damnation for Kerry supporters, Kalnins bristled at the
treatment President Bush was receiving over the federal
government's handling of Hurricane Katrina. "I hate criticisms
towards the President," he said, "because it's like criticisms
towards the pastor -- it's almost like, it's not going to get
you anywhere, you know, except for hell. That's what it'll get
Much of his support for the
current administration has come in the realm of foreign affairs.
Kalnins has preached that the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of
Iraq were part of a "world war" over the Christian faith, one in
which Jesus Christ had called upon believers to be willing to
sacrifice their lives.
What you see in a terrorist --
that's called the invisible enemy. There has always been an
invisible enemy. What you see in Iraq, basically, is a
manifestation of what's going on in this unseen world called
the spirit world. ... We need to think like Jesus thinks. We
are in a time and a season of war, and we need to think like
that. We need to develop that instinct. We need to develop
as believers the instinct that we are at war, and that war
is contending for your faith. ... Jesus called us to die.
You're worried about getting hurt? He's called us to die.
Listen, you know we can't even follow him unless you are
willing to give up your life. ... I believe that Jesus
himself operated from that position of war mode. Everyone
say "war mode." Now you say, wait a minute Ed, he's like the
good shepherd, he's loving all the time and he's kind all
the time. Oh yes he is -- but I also believe that he had a
part of his thoughts that knew that he was in a war.
As for his former congregant and
current vice presidential candidate, Kalnins has asserted that
Palin's election as governor was the result of a "prophetic
call" by another pastor at the church who prayed for her
victory. "[He made] a prophetic declaration and then unfolds the
kingdom of God, you know."
Even Palin expressed surprise at
that pastor's advocacy for her candidacy. "He was praying over
me," she said in June. "He's praying, 'Lord make a way, Lord
make a way...' And I'm thinking, this guy's really bold, he
doesn't even know what I'm gonna do, he doesn't know what my
plans are, and he's praying not, 'Oh Lord, if it be your will
may she become governor,' or whatever. No, he just prayed for
it. He said, 'Lord, make a way, and let her do this next step.'
And that's exactly what happened. So, again, very very powerful
coming from this church."
In his sermons, Pastor Kalnins
has also expressed beliefs that, while not directly political,
lie outside of mainstream Christian thought.
He preaches repeatedly about the
"end times" or "last days," an apocalyptic prophesy held by a
small but vocal group of Christian leaders. During his
appearance with Palin in June, he declared, "I believe Alaska is
one of the refuge states in the last days, and hundreds of
thousands of people are going to come to the state to seek
refuge and the church has to be ready to minister to them."
He also claims to have received
direct "words of knowledge" from God, providing him information
about past events in other people's lives. During one sermon, he
described being paired with a complete stranger during a golf
outing. "I said, I'm a minister from Alaska and I want you to
know that your wife left you -- you know that your wife left you
and that the Lord is gonna defend you in a very short time, and
it wasn't your fault. And the man drops his clubs, he literally
was about to tee off and he dropped his clubs, and he says, 'Who
the blank are you?' And I says, 'well, I'm a minister.' He says,
'how do you know about my life? What do you know?' And I started
giving him more of the word of knowledge to his life and he was
Kalnins has, of course, preached
on a bevy of topics ranging from humility to "overcoming
bitterness." But the more controversial remarks reported above
were not out of the norm, appearing in numerous sermons spanning
the four years of available recordings.
As for Palin, her views on these
topics is more opaque. In the wake of the controversy over
Jeremiah Wright, a debate has raged about whether political
figures should be held responsible for the comments of their
religious guiders. Clearly, however, Kalnins, like many national
conservative religious leaders, sees Alaska's governor as one of
his own. "Gov. Sarah Palin is the real deal," he told his church
this past summer. "You know, some people put on a show...but
she's the real deal."
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