In her Press column this week, "I am Sarah Palin's Media Slave", Rosemary McLeod connects the phenomenon of Sarah Palin with NZ life, and our own approaching election:
"I know I should be hooked on brown-skinned Barack Obama, and that he and his family would - probably will - look great in the White House, but Obama just doesn't look so sexy any more. Obama couldn't fell a charging moose with one shot, bear a baby and sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, all simultaneously while standing on one leg - and now he looks dull. I've always thought he'd be heavy going if you were stuck with him at a cocktail party, anyway. Earnestness is such a bore.
What gets me about Palin is that she unashamedly strikes a chord where no New Zealand politician seriously ventures - in the heartland they talk about, but wish wasn't there.
There is a New Zealand outside our cities still, believe it or not; small towns and farms, people who go to church, even a few lonely patriots in search of a flag to wave. We act like we're ashamed of them, but they're where I came from, and you can always win me over with the smell of smoking fireplaces on winter nights, and tended flower gardens - for a while, anyway.
You could call this the heart of conservatism, but it's also the heart of this country still, not university corridors. If you're scared of it, you're scared of who we are."
Something similar can be said about the Anglican church in Aotearoa NZ. In our smaller cities, country towns, and rural areas, the Anglican church has a different flavour - heartland - to many of our city parishes. Conservative in theology and morals, laissez-faire in liturgy and ritual, ecumenical in churchmanship (indeed, many country churches are interdenominational). The Nelson Diocese is heartland Anglicanism in this sense. We have no large cities. We have few liberals. We have a lot of isolated congregations, and our ministers sometimes get a bit lonely in their ministry.
Both Obama and Palin connect with people - two exciting, attractive people drawing huge crowds to themselves. Each has a vision of the American dream which they are articulating in a way which connects with American hearts. The US election will turn on how large the connection is made between the people and Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin and their respective dreams. In the future of the Anglican Communion, global and local, much is going to depend on how our leadership connects with 'ordinary' Anglicans. Yet this is not a time in which we appear to have an over abundance of exciting, attractive leaders cast in the Obama/Palin mould. And some of the visions being cast around the future resolution of troubling issues are not connecting with Anglican hearts.
(Here's an example of Anglican leadership which does absolutely nothing for me - hopefully its a worst case scenario!!)