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For Palin, It’s a (Christian) Man’s World
Posted on Sep 14, 2008
By Chris Hedges
In the mega-churches, the pastor, nearly always male, is obeyed by the congregation. It is the pastor who interprets the word of God. It is why Palin, along with Alaska Lt. Gov. Scott Parnell, went to be publicly blessed before some 6,000 congregants by Wasilla Assembly of God’s Head Pastor Ed Kalnins. It is why she calls Kalnins, who claims that some parts of the globe are controlled by demons and that family curses can be passed down through generations, for guidance and advice. He is her male conduit to a male God. The male leader in this belief system governs through a divine mandate. He can heal the sick. He can speak in tongues. He can prophesy. And if Palin wants to remain in God’s favor, she must be guided by men like Kalnins.
The movement builds concentric male fiefdoms. They radiate out from the home. They do not permit revolt, discussion or dissent. And women who buy into the paradigm, one that supposedly protects their families, makes their boys into men, their husbands into protectors and themselves into Godly Christian women, cede most of their personal, political and economic power. Those who are weak or different, those who do not conform to the stereotype, those who have other ways of being, must be forced by the stern father to obey. If they do not they will be destroyed by God.
The religious leaders that Palin admires, such as Dobson, are petty despots. They travel on private jets, have huge personal fortunes and descend on the faithful surrounded by a retinue of burly bodyguards. These little kingdoms, awash in the male leadership cult, mirror the America they seek to create. In this America, there is no questioning. In this America, followers surrender their personal and political power. The divinely anointed male leader rules a flock of obedient and submissive sheep. All must hand over their freedom. All must cease to think independently.
The simple-minded earnestness on the part of believers such as Palin gives the Christian mass movement its sense of sincerity and decency. Believers are not brainwashed. They are not mindless automatons. They are convinced that what they are doing is Godly, moral and good. They work with the passion of the converted to bring this Christian goodness to everyone, even those who resist. They believe that what they promote is moral and beneficial. They fear for their own souls and they fear for the souls of those who remain unsaved. This earnestness, although employed for frightening ends, is a powerful part of Palin’s attraction. She is willing to make great personal sacrifices for the cause of Christ. But nonbelievers, in the end, have no place on her moral map.
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Her reception at the gatherings she addressed was frightening. Crowds swarmed toward her. They asked her to touch them and heal them. Her status was nothing compared with that of Robertson, she said, “who stands for his followers as the embodiment of God’s conscience.”
“They were seeking a message, a healing, hope, a little encouragement,” she remembered. “They wanted a little piece of God. They thought I could give it to them. People wept when I prayed for them, touched them or hugged them. It was as if they were meeting a rock star.”
She was increasingly disturbed by the power that had been thrust upon her and the emotions unleashed by those who begged her for guidance. She understood how pliant these people had become and how cleverly they were being manipulated. The realization led her finally to leave the movement. Her experience was a window into how willingly followers hand over their conscience to these male leaders. Followers abandon all moral responsibility to obey those who elevate themselves to quasi-deities.
“They trusted us more than their family,” she said. “They thought we had a clearer path to God because we were on television. They thought we were on television because God put us there. We were prophets to these people. We were seen as people who could walk on clouds and heal and pray. We were God’s special messengers. Pat was seen as having the ear of God. He had words of knowledge that could identify their deepest fears and illnesses. We would identify people on the air by speaking about the color of their clothes or an illness they had. We would say, ‘There is a woman with a blue blouse crying at this moment. She has bad hearing in one ear. She is being healed right now.’ And viewers would claim these healings. They saw our presence on the show as a sign that we were anointed. They wanted to know how to live, how to operate on a daily basis, how to communicate with their family and friends, what jobs to get and how to interpret the world around them, even the daily news. They wanted every type of emotional, spiritual and physical information. We had this kind of authority over their lives. They abdicated their hopes and lives to us because we spoke for God.”
Palin enjoys the enthusiastic backing of the Christian right because she is blindly obedient to the male hierarchy. She does not question. She submits and obeys. Her views on abortion and marriage, on the Middle East, on gays and the war against Islam are precooked. They are handed to her by men who claim to speak for God. And in power she would be the perfect conduit for an ideology that seeks, in the end, to eradicate individual moral choice and replace it with subservience to a terrifying Christian fascism.
Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, is the author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”
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