Examining Palin's Pentecostal Background Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has electrified religious conservatives who see her as one of their own. The Republican vice presidential candidate brings evangelical credentials to the ticket and has a Pentecostal background.
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Examining Palin's Pentecostal Background

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Examining Palin's Pentecostal Background

Examining Palin's Pentecostal Background

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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Many religious conservatives see Sarah Palin as one of their own. Her evangelical credentials have helped them get behind John McCain's bid for the presidency. Palin's background is in the Pentecostal church.

And as NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports, what Palin has revealed about her religious beliefs offers a glimpse of her worldview.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: On June 8, Alaska's governor dropped in on Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church she and her family attended until 2002. During the service, she addressed a group of young missionaries. And at the end, she said she had a word from the Lord for them. She prayed that Jesus would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation.

SARAH PALIN: And that spirit of revelation also including the spirit of prophecy that God's going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you, and it's just going to bubble up and bubble over and it's going to pour out throughout the state of Alaska.

MARGARET POLOMA: When I listened to the tape, it seemed to me like she is the real McCoy.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: That's Margaret Poloma at the University of Akron, who has written several books on Pentecostalism and is Pentecostal herself. She says the words in Palin's prayer - divine revelation, prophecy and outpouring of the Holy Spirit - are hallmarks of this brand of Christianity.

Palin now goes to a nondenominational Bible church when she's in Wasilla, but her years attending Pentecostal churches, including the one she currently attends in Juneau, have no doubt shaped her faith and, possibly, her view of world events.

For example, here's Palin, speaking of the war in Iraq.

PALIN: 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 them out on a task that is from God. 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 plan.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Some people would hear that and go, she thinks this is a holy war, or Pentecostals think this is a holy war. Is that fair to say?

POLOMA: I would think it's fair to say. Yes.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: One reason, Margaret Poloma says, is that many Pentecostals believe that Islam is a false religion.

POLOMA: Many times, you hear it referred to as a kind of diabolical religion, and that comes in from their idea of Christianity being the true religion, but also their support for Israel, because they contend that Israel is God's chosen people and you dare not touch them.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Poloma says these points to a central belief that there is a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil. It was language Palin used when accepting the nomination on Wednesday night when she spoke of the war on terrorism, and it was language used by Palin's current pastor, Mike Rose, at Juneau Christian Center.

MIKE ROSE: Have you ever felt that way about the devil, the ultimate terrorist? Like, you know, I'm just really tired of the spiritual warfare. I'm done with it. Well, you know what, he never quits. So whether you and I like it or not, we are going to be in spiritual warfare.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Pentecostals believe God routinely intervenes in human affairs. Sarah Palin sounded like a Pentecostal when she asked people at Wasilla Assembly of God to pray about building a gas pipeline through Alaska.

PALIN: I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Darrell Bock, a New Testament scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary, says some Pentecostals hold to their convictions in the face of opposition because they believe that they are in tune with the will of God.

DARREL BOCK: What faith does in this case is to fuel a sense of mission and direction. It can also produce a little bit of element of certainty about that direction.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: But Bock warns against drawing conclusions about anyone's policies from his or her faith.

BOCK: Trying to figure out what the link is between a person's faith and their politics is very, very difficult business because there is so much pragmatically and ideologically that's also driving what's going on. It is not just the faith element.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Bock says President Bush and Democratic nominee Barack Obama have already been through this sort of spiritual vetting. Now it's Sarah Palin's turn.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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