Palin, Prayer and Pipelines

Last week I posted an article called Palin, Prayer and Precedent. The article looked at Sarah Palin’s prayer for U.S. troops in relation to historical examples of U.S. presidents who also invoked prayer during times of war. (Gov. Palin’s remarks were made during an address to students at Wasilla Assembly of God Church in Wasilla, Alaska.)

The post was linked by Ann Althouse which prompted one reader to respond by raising an additional question concerning Palin and prayer — this time in relation to Palin’s request for prayer about the Alaskan pipeline (made during the same address to students at Wasilla).

We had a back-and-forth discussion in the comments section at Ann Althouse which I thought would be fun to reproduce here. A big thanks to Amy Jacobs for granting me permission to post her comments. Enjoy the discussion!


Amy: The Ray Fowler post makes the same arguments seen elsewhere for Palin’s prayer. The problem with Fowler’s spin is that it doesn’t explain a similarly bizarre comment from 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.” In this instance it’s clear that Palin claims to know God’s will.

Fowler’s attempt to spin Palin’s prayer offers up this distinction: “There is a big difference between claiming that something is God’s plan and praying that something we do lines up with God’s plan.” Palin says that building the gas line is God’s will. I have no idea how Palin claims to know God’s will regarding US economic and energy policy. In any case an invocation of Lincoln doesn’t help Palin out on this one.

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Ray: I don’t think Gov. Palin is necessarily saying she knows God’s will for the pipeline. I am sure if you asked her she would explain more clearly what she meant. It is similar to Senator Obama and the lipstick on a pig comment. His words could have been interpreted negatively towards Palin, but when given a chance to explain himself, he told us what he meant by the words. In the same way I think we should let Gov. Palin interpret her own words instead of jumping to conclusions.

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Amy: I can only go by what Palin says. In this case it’s perfectly clear: Palin claims to know God has a plan for building a gas line. Words have meaning, which is why you spent so much time analyzing precisely what Palin said about our troops in Iraq. We should hold our politicians responsible for their actions and their words.

Except the new Republican game is to defend ridiculous comments by Republican politicians by arguing that it’s just “verbiage.” Palin did this when she defended McCain’s assertion that the fundamentals of the economy are strong: “Well, it was an unfair attack on the verbiage that Senator McCain chose to use.” I think you use the same sort of defense of Palin: “I am sure if you asked her she would explain more clearly what she meant.”

It’s perfectly clear what she meant. She’s used phrases like “God’s will” and “God’s plan” on more than one occasion in support of political positions. If Palin had used the phrase “God’s will” in urging humanitarian work, it wouldn’t be a concern since the Bible offers instruction about charity and giving. But the Bible offers no guidance about gas lines. Therefore when Palin talks about “God’s will” regarding gas lines, she’s using religion to carry a political agenda.

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Ray: Well, it’s more than possible that I am reading my own worldview into this whole scenario, but I don’t think it is perfectly clear that she meant what you say. Palin said: “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.” Couldn’t she simply be saying that if its God’s will for this pipeline to be built, then it is going to take a lot of people coming together, so let’s pray for that?

Once again, I could be pushing my own world view onto this, but I come from a Christian background where we talk about God’s will a lot. And we never assume that “my will is God’s will.” We hope that what we are doing lines up with God’s will, and we pray for God’s will to be done, but I sincerely doubt that Sarah Palin was claiming divinely revealed knowledge about the Alaskan pipeline.

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Amy: That might be what she meant to say, but it’s clearly not what she did say. What she did say is that it’s God’s will for Alaskans to build a gas line and the project will require people and companies to come together.

I come from a Christian background too. I’ve heard people talk about “God’s will” and “God’s plan” in regard to Biblical lessons, but not in referencing specific political projects like building gas lines. Based on your Christian background, can you provide a textual reference to support the idea that God has a plan for gas lines in Alaska?

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Ray: How about Zechariah 4:12? (“Again I asked him, ‘What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?'”) Just kidding. I am sure both you and I would agree that this is an irresponsible use of the Biblical text by taking it out of context. But that is exactly my point. From what I know of Gov. Palin’s background, she also would be firmly against using a text like this to justify building a pipeline in Alaska.

I don’t believe Gov. Palin was saying or has ever said that she has Scriptural warrant or a direct decree from God to build a pipeline in Alaska. But she was asking for prayer about it. And she was praying for God’s will to be done.

Just as we let Senator Obama explain what he meant by “lipstick on a pig,” (and I accepted his explanation), I think we should let Gov. Palin explain her words instead of interpret them for her. Now, if she suddenly starts spouting Zechariah 4:12 in favor of two Alaskan pipelines, I will grant you your point and come over to your side. 🙂


Thanks, Amy, for a fun discussion. I enjoyed the back and forth even if we ultimately end up disagreeing with each other on this one. And the comments are open if you would like the last word!

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  1. 3D says:

    It’s OK to pray. About pipelines and everything else.

    What’s a problem is seeing Godliness in political expediancy. I wonder why you work so hard to see Godliness in Sarah Palin — a woman who, as far as I can tell, simply goes to Church.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    3D – There are two issues here that are important to me.

    One is the right to be in politics and maintain one’s religious beliefs. When Mitt Romney was running for the nomination last year, I spent some time on this blog defending his right to his Mormon faith, even though I happen to disagree with it. I felt he should be judged on his political stands rather than his religious beliefs. The same with Palin. A lot of people have jumped all over her faith whereas I think they should be looking at her political stands and her tenure as governor.

    The other issue is the twisting of a candidate’s words to make them say things they did not mean. This is happening to candidates on both sides. I know we live in a sound bite society, but the candidates are constantly talking and the cameras are constantly rolling, and candidates are bound to make verbal gaffes or mis-speak or say things that can be taken out of context. This whole focus on a few phrases here and there (e.g. lipstick on a pig) detracts from the larger issues at hand.

    I spent some time on these two instances of prayer from Palin (praying for the troops and praying about the pipeline) because I felt that people were unfairly characterizing these two statements to mean:

    1) Palin believes the Iraq war is God’s plan (or a holy war), and
    2) Palin thinks God instructed her to build the Alaskan pipeline.

    That’s not what she meant, and it is unfair to take her unscripted remarks in a church setting and derive policy from them, especially when she has said that is not what she meant.

  3. Barrie says:

    I agree Ray, I think it is wrong to twist any candidates words to infer something that they did not intend. I listen to all the candidates and have found that what they say and sometimes what is reported that they said are two different things.

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  1. Sunday at Sarah Palin’s Church at Ray Fowler .org

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