Sarah Palin on God's Plan
Recently, much of the media has been all over Sarah Palin concerning her remarks to Charlie Gibson about God's will. I haven't watched the Gibson interview, but I've looked at the entire transcript on a website called The Mark Levin Show:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?I often hear evangelicals claiming God's will for just about everything, but they usually make a distinction between God's perfect will and God's permissive will. This gets us into some very abstruse and difficult theology concerning divine foreknowledge and human freedom, but roughly speaking, these two distinguish between what God wills and what God permits. The words 'quoted' by Gibson would imply that Palin believes that America's role in the Iraq War is God's perfect will.
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
But Palin responds in a way that recasts what Gibson 'quoted':
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God’s words.I'm no Lincoln expert, but I've previously read Lincoln's words on God's will, and Palin's recasting of what Gibson 'quoted' as her own words would suggest that like Lincoln, she was not claiming to know God's perfect will. I suppose that we ought to refresh our memories on exactly what Lincoln said, and one can find a lot of Lincoln 'quotes' online, but the internet is not the most trustworthy forum, so let's be careful.
But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.
That's what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.
Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.
Bruce Ledewitz of the blog Hallowed Secularism, professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law and author of a couple of books on religion and politics (American Religious Democracy: Coming to Terms with the End of Secular Politics and Hallowed Secularism: Theory, Belief, and Practice), would seem to know what he's talking about, and he quotes Lincoln as saying:
Let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.Is that what Palin meant? Gibson was doubtful:
GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln’s words, but you went on and said, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."Here Palin's remarks veer somewhat off from the main point and into American 'civil religion' -- as Robert Bellah called it -- for they unwittingly delve into Thomas Jefferson's theological views, which differed from Lincoln's. Palin would have done better at this point to recall her actual words, for these place her views in a different context, as I learned from an unexpected source, AntiWar.Blog, in an entry titled "'Palin: Pray That' Our Leaders Are Sending Our Troops to Iraq 'On a Task From God,'" which quotes Palin referring to her son's imminent deployment in Iraq:
PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.
"He's going to be deployed in September to Iraq. 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 we are praying for, that there is a plan and that it is God's plan."The blog entry helpfully provides a video, and this quote above comes from about 6 minutes into the video. I've listened to the quoted words (slightly correcting the quote as given), and Palin's remarks show that Gibson misinterpreted her meaning. Here's her point:
"Pray . . . that our leaders, our national leaders are sending . . . [our military men and women] out on a task that is from God."Moreover, she clarifies her point:
"[T]hat's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan and that it is God's plan."In short, she's saying that her church should pray to make sure that the United States has a plan and that America's plan in Iraq is consistent with God's plan. That sounds enough like Lincoln's point to confirm Palin's insistence that she was simply echoing Lincoln.
Gibson avers that he has quoted Palin's exact words: "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Technically speaking, those aren't her exact words, but more significantly, the 'quote' is so wrenched from its context that it has her stating the opposite of what she actually said -- and the same misinterpretation occurs with Gibson's other 'quote' from Palin, namely, that "There is a plan and it is God's plan."
In short, Palin didn't say that the US plan in Iraq is clearly God's plan; she said that her church should pray that the US plan be God's plan.
Gibson -- perhaps too intent on coming up with a 'gotcha' quote -- did a sloppy job as a journalist.