Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Grace of God

I need not feel embarrassed about never having heard of Sarah Palin before this week. I do not think too many others had either, unless they lived in Alaska. But I have followed her story, and I found reading her speech to the Republican Convention a very moving experience. But there has been something entrancing about her story of becoming a vice-presidential candidate which I am trying to put my finger on. I think it has to do with the elements of unexpected blessing. Someone with experience as mayor of a very small town (even by New Zealand standards!!), and governor of a state with a tiny population does not expect to be within cooee of being a heartbeat from the presidency of the United States of America. A family subject to harsh media exposure and criticism does not expect to find warm support from millions of fellow citizens who decide not to join as usual in the stone throwing but to say, ‘Hey, stop picking on them, they are just like us’. But perhaps the greatest element of unexpected blessing is the particular context of this presidential contest.

For many gruelling months Hilary Clinton slogged it out with Barack Obama in an attempt to become the first woman presidential candidate with the added bonus that at the end of eight years of Bushism this must surely hand the presidency to her. Whatever we think about Hilary Clinton – I loved a comment in an article recently that, should Obama become President, dealing with Putin will be no problem because he has stood up to the Clintons – we recognise that no one worked harder to achieve her goal, except perhaps Obama himself! What irony, then, to find that from seemingly nowhere, with no effort at all on her part, Sarah Palin is on a presidential ticket with the added bonus that McCain being an older guy, cancer survivor, etc, she could be the first woman president. Grace has succeeded where works were in vain! The blessing has fallen unexpectedly on the undeserving one.

In our Anglican contests, working hard to secure whatever outcome we are working towards by way of a better church than the one we see today, it’s easy to neglect the extraordinary possibilities of grace. Sarah Palin’s story encourages us to look afresh to the God of grace who is Lord of the church.


Anonymous said...

You do know Sarah Palin's a Penty (AoG), don't you?
Anyway, you'll have your chance soon to decide if you'll have three more years of Helen (not likely, on current form).
Is John Key an atheist?
& what's become of your once and future PM, HE Archbishop Tamaki?

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Sarah has outflanked the evangelicals, and there will have to be a new series of books on the influence of pentecostals on American politics!!

I do not know whether John Key is an atheist or not (I thought our Prime Minister was until she insisted she was agnostic) but he has openly acknowledged that he is not a church-going believer.

Brian Tamaki has a lower political profile these days, though the Destiny Party is still around.

Anonymous said...

I tend to think political conservatism (loosely defined) without underpinnings in religious faith can become a free-floating, individualistic kind of thing, while religious leftism can tend toward messianism (like the 'Obamessiah'). Conservatism without faith usually ends up following social liberalism (e.g on marriage, abortion, sexuality) but just tries to be tighter on the pocketbook. Not much of a philosophy. One of the interesting things about US politics (and what distinguishes it from Europe - and Down Under too, I guess)is the way religion and politics intermingle, sometimes just at the rhetorical level ('hope'), sometimes more substantially. Certainly the Saddleback appearances of McCain and Obama made a big impact nationwide.
I enjoy the web columnist 'Spengler' of the Asia Times for his fascinating (if not entirely convincing) views on how evangelicalism and Puritanism largely created the American soul, and how that reverberates in the world today.
But what about the NZ left? Who speaks for Christ there? Are there any Catholic MPs in Labour's ranks?
Why is Tim Barnett stepping down? David Benson-Pope will be miseed, of course ...

Peter Carrell said...

There are not many audible voices on the Christian left in NZ. I am not sure why Tim Barnett is leaving politics, or why Benson-Pope would be missed ...

You might be under-valuing conservatism as a political philosophy: enabling choice through restraint in imposition of laws and taxes honours the dignity of humanity which is distinguished from animals by the gift of the ability to exercise free choice. My own critique of conservatism is that, when all is said and done, that is, one works out all the hidden taxes, there may be little or no difference between 'left' and 'right' - at least not in deomcracies such as ours!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I was being ironic about Benson-Pope. ;-) He was a silly leftwing blowhard thirty+ years ago, I doubt he has grown up since. But maybe tonight I should pray for him to know Christ, instead of just denigrating him.
My own political 'pilgrimage' has been from moderate left to moderate right, with the insistence that government should be in the business of encouraging (and rewarding) a virtuous character in its citizenry - a Christian version, I guess, of what the Roman republic was allegedly like at its best (if Sallust is to be believed). Enterprise, self-reliance, self-restraint, love of family and country, public spiritedness, a loving concern for the weak - that kind of stuff. Freedom in the libertarian sense is destructive of self and society, leading to greed, licentiousness and unconcern. That's why conservatism aslo needs the inculcation of virtue (including the 'vir' in 'virtus'). As a young person I always hated the right for its apparent unconcern for the poor; as an older person I came to hate the left for its apaprent wish to keep the poor in dependency.