An Open Letter to Sarah Palin from Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I'd like to call you on what you are doing.

The media has found you "opaque" about your religion. Why? You have not been honest about the most important thing about you: the fact that you are a born-again charismatic on a mission from God. Most people who have never been entrenched in the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this really means, but I do. Like you, I was raised in the Assemblies of God and I was a zealous part of the Jesus Movement. Like you, my life was consumed with seeking God's will for my life and awaiting the imminent return of Jesus.

Former fundamentalists like me know that your worldview is so encompassing, authoritarian, and powerful that it defines who you think you are, the way you view the world, history, other people, the future, and your place in the world. It defines you far more than hockey mom, wife, woman, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.

You believe that every bit of the Bible is God's perfect word. You have a supernatural view of reality where Satan is a real entity. You believe that alongside our material plane of existence, there is a more important spiritual plane where good and evil beings are engaged in "spiritual warfare" (Ephesians 6:12). As a leader in the war against evil, you believe that God has "called" you and "anointed" you to do his will. This is why you have accepted blessing for office through the "laying on of hands" and prayer to protect you from witchcraft.

So what does this mean for governing? What could Americans expect with you at the helm?

You cannot affirm basic human decency or capability, because according to your dogma, we are sinful, weak, and dependant on God. And so, your decisions would not be based on expert advice or even your own reasoning, but on your gut-level, intuitive interpretation of God's will. This would allow you to do anything and claim you were led by God.

Your thinking necessarily is black or white. People and policies are either good or bad. After all, Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30). Under your leadership, diplomacy and cultural nuance would be less important than not blinking. In a spiritual war, you don't negotiate with the devil.

Regarding social policy, as a believer in individual salvation, you would have an individual approach emphasizing morality and responsibility, not a community approach emphasizing structural solutions. You would be judgmental and controlling of personal behavior like sex, reproductive choice, and books borrowed from the library instead of addressing global warming, poverty, and world peace. Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literally perfect Bible despite its cruelties, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, may leave your moral core numb. You might recall the verse, "If a man will not work he shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). However, faith-based initiatives would be okay because they would use caring to evangelize.

How about science? As it has in your governorship, your interpretation of the Bible would trump scientific scholarship and findings. You would deny the human role in global warming because God is in control. More importantly, you would not make the environment a priority because you do not expect the earth to last.

International affairs? Since your subculture has identified the establishment of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the end, you would see war, epidemics, climate change, natural disasters, and water shortage, all as hopeful signs of Jesus' return. You would be a staunch supporter of Israel and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature. (You have publicly said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime and that it guides you every day.)

The Christian fundamentalism that has shaped your thinking teaches that working for peace is unbiblical and wrong because peace is not humanly possible without the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 5:2,3). Conflict, even outright war is inevitable, for Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt: 10:34-37). Like millions of fundamentalist Christians, you may actually find joy in global crises because these things portend His return (Luke 21:28).

But all of this certainty and fantasy in today's complex world is dangerous, Sarah. There was a time when all of humanity thought the world was flat. Today, the stakes for such massive error are much higher.

My message for you, Warrior Princess for God, is from all of us who know what you are about. How dare you presume to take responsibility for our country and our planet when you, in your own mind, do not consider this home? I mean home for the long haul, not just until your rescue arrives from space. How dare you look forward to Christ's return, leaving your public office empty like a scene from the movie, Left Behind?

What if you are completely wrong and you wreak havoc instead with your policies? If you deny global warming, brand people and countries "evil," support war, and neglect global issues, you can create the apocalypse you are expecting. And as it gets worse and worse, with worldwide crisis all around you, and you look up for redemption, you just may not see it. What then? In that moment, you and all who have shared your delusion may have the most horrifying realization imaginable. And it will be too late. Too late to avoid destruction and too late to apologize to all the people who tried to turn the tide and needed you on board.

And you, John McCain, how dare you endanger all of us for the sake of your politics? How dare you choose a partner who is all symbol and no substance, preying on the fears of millions of Americans. Shame on both of you.
Leave this beautiful, fragile earth to us, the unbelievers in your fantasy. It's the only heaven we have and you have no right to make it a hell.

Sincerely,
Marlene Winell
October 15, 2008

Marlene Winell is a Bay Area psychologist who specializes in recovery from fundamentalist religion. She is author of Leaving the Fold: A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving their religion. She is the daughter of Assemblies of God missionaries.

25 comments:

Valerie Tarico said...

Marlene is on the Daily Kos today, speaking for us all with this letter. If you are a registered member, please go and recommend it so that the topic will get more discussion!

Valerie Tarico said...

Oops, forgot the link: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/10/15/151753/66?new=true

eheffa said...

WOW!

This would seem totally extreme & unbelievable were it not such an accurate summary of the Christian Fundamentalist belief.

To my shame, I can relate all to well to this perspective as it was once my own.

Thanks for posting this Valerie.

Those of us living in other countries will thank you for keeping Palin out of the White House away from that glowing red button.

-evan (in Canada - somewhere between Alaska & Washington State)

eheffa said...

Oops,

that should read:

To my shame, I can relate all too well to this perspective as it was once my own.

Those of us living in other countries will thank you for keeping Palin out of the White House: Away from that glowing red button.

-evan

Luke said...

While I think much of this letter is well written and accurate, it reeks of politics more than it is about religion. Are we really supposed to believe that her fundamentalist beliefs taught her to ban books and not take on global warming? I understand the point about individual vs. community, but some of this is clearly out of the author's area of expertise. Instead of being a solid, religious based letter, it's clearly an anti-conservative letter. I'd be more inclined to take this seriously if it weren't written so divisively.

And while I agree with the majority of the points raised in this letter, "denying" global warming will not create the apocalypse and the "what if you're wrong" argument goes both ways. Global warming is a scientific issue, not a political one, and should be left in the hands of the experts, many of whom are "deniers" of human caused warming.

But as for the religion, I couldn't agree more. And for that reason alone, and not the political ones forced into this, I cannot support anything Palin does.

zilch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zilch said...

Marlene: yes.

oli said...

Luke, you seem to be mis-informed.

Global warming is indeed a political issue. It is one of the most important political issues of our age.

Despite your claim, scientists overwhelmingly agree that global warming is occuring, is caused largely by humans and is going to cause catastrophic damage to human society. They certainly do argue and bicker over exactly to what degree all these things are happening or going to happen but they do agree that they are true.

As for leaving it in the hands of the experts, these experts lack the means to slow/stop/reverse global warming. Only the vast resources of national governments can do that. And so far politicians have been all too eager to listen to right wing think tanks hired by the energy and auto industries to put out counter-arguements.
The world, and America in particular needs desperately to elect some politicians who see global warming as the foremost political issue of our time. Politicians who will act to put the resources into action to mitigate its effects.
Lunatics like Palin, due to their faith, do not believe in anything that contradicts their faerie tale world that they read about in the bible. The republican party has tied itself so heavily to big business and right wing religion that they cannot afford to acknowledge global warming as a harse reality. One of the many reasons that faith and politics should never meet.

You say the letter is anti-conservative but i wonder how you can describe people like Palin as conservative. She is a radical, dangerously gung-ho and with a fantasy outlook on life. What exactly is it you think Palin is conserving? Conservatives don't really have a party in American politics at the moment. To be fair, neither do liberals. Instead you have one center right party and one hard right party. The center right party is economically conservative and the hard right party is openly fraudulent. Its not too great a choice for either conservatives or liberals.
Look at Obama. While the McCain campaign is trying to paint him as some kind of arch-liberal, an examination of his record shows he is actually quite conservative in many of his views.

Insanezenmistress said...

interesting.

weird.

straw man much?

Referring to the open letter not to the subsequent cheers by like minded readers. Referring to the mind of the writer.

You have judged her based on your interpretation and lofty idealistic dogma of a faith you once belonged to. Do you know if, maybe she is a back slidden Christian? Do you know if she harbors any thought about the verse that states that we are to occupy until he comes. DO you know if she holds in her private personal prayers the sinful desire to be a "good steward" of this creation (earth and its people) to be found doing as she is supposed to be when the master arrives? (Luke 14 i think)
Do you know if maybe Mrs Palin ever pondered the end times and came to the conclusion that while she hopes His return is 2000 years imminent, things like the black death have happened before and one cant count all their blessings and redemptions until it actually happens and it would be in the best interest of all concerned to take care of each other through these troubled times?

You really don't.

What you know are the outer tenets of the assemblies of god and then you accuse her for following them and then accuse her of following them blindly. What you know is your own rejection that you transfer onto her.

I am surprised.

The argument of your letter was not even addressing Mrs. Palin, but with ideas transferred onto mrs palin's outer structure.

Now of course i could be wrong, maybe she did get up on stage and tell America that Jesus was coming back to kill all the bad guys so she doesn't have to be concerned with global warming. But i think if she did say that, the public outcry would have knocked her off that podium already.

SO basically you are pulling guilty by association, and you are doing the associating. Pretty slippery for a person trained in psychology and recovery.

Justine

Harry McCall said...

People like Sarah Palin truly think a magical savior named Jesus the “Christ” will return very soon to redeem all the faithful.

Very soon…right; 2,000 years now and still counting and waiting!

Let me quote my favorite Bible verse in light of this false expectation: “"Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3:4)

zilch said...

oli- yes indeed.

justine: while I don't know what Palin thinks, or prays, it doesn't matter much to me. What does matter is what she does and what she says. And what she says is that Creationism should be taught in public schools, and she denies global warming.

Now, it may be just a coincidence that she is also a conservative Christian. But I suspect there is a connection.

lee said...

"You have judged her based on your interpretation and lofty idealistic dogma of a faith you once belonged to."

I was associated with the Assemblies of God for 22 years. If you no longer hold to those beliefs, It would seem prudent, since your base of voters is overwhelmingly christian, to declare your beliefs. If not , you may be judged by your associations. Isn't that the attempted case with Rev. Wright and the domestic terrorist Ayers. Isn't that precisely the argument that Sarah Palin is attempting to make? It would seem at the very least hypocritical for her to make accusations concerning Obama's former associations and not expect the same with regard to her fundamentalist and statistically less educated religious associations.

lee said...

"You have judged her based on your interpretation and lofty idealistic dogma of a faith you once belonged to."

I was associated with the Assemblies of God for 22 years. If you no longer hold to those beliefs, It would seem prudent, since your base of voters is overwhelmingly christian, to declare your beliefs. If not , you may be judged by your associations. Isn't that the attempted case with Rev. Wright and the domestic terrorist Ayers. Isn't that precisely the argument that Sarah Palin is attempting to make? It would seem at the very least hypocritical for her to make accusations concerning Obama's former associations and not expect the same with regard to her fundamentalist and statistically less educated religious associations.

Charlie said...

Um. Sorry to interrupt all the uncritical cheerleading. We all know Sarah Palin is nuts. But with all due respect, Marlene, your letter makes you seem just ignorant and politically motivated as her.

And, judging by your uncanny ability to read Sarah's mind in your letter, you're probably much more superstitious than she could ever hope to be, much more prone to form conclusions without evidence than she could ever hope to be.

Insanezenmistress said...

Hey Zilch *smile* ok ..so she gav her oppinion that creationism shoudl also be taught and that she thinks global warming is bunk.

The nice thing is that she wont be abel to make any move in office unless it goes thru ten to fifteen advisors.

First she is a polition, she SAYS something simply to cater to the "believer vote".

And ya know, my husband says global warming is bunk too, he's a heathen. He says the climate is changing....its climate change...not "man made global warming. I just smile and point out that we agree there are earth changes.

Now maybe Sarah hasnt done the math, nor seen the ganges' watcer source melting away over the last few years. heck maybe she hasn't looked at an ice core for herself.
Her job is to politic, and listen to her advisors.
But CAN the president make cirtien cretionism is taught...or even go as far as to make it taught exclusivly? i dont think they can, yet i am failable.

IF the vice president believes that global wamring is bunk, will that stop scientist form lobbying for research funding and prevent them from precenting their finds and plans of action to the advisors? i dont think it would.

She appears to be concervitave christian but really how much of that dogma will make it to the public? It is not like we are choseing a Westboro Baptist family member, by choseing a christian leader.
I think there is a large difference. Besides dont most presidents claim to be concervitive christians? How offtian does their love for the way of jesus come into play in their wars and profiting?

lee said...

"And ya know, my husband says global warming is bunk too, he's a heathen. "

But he isn't running for VP on the ticket with a man who has had several melanomas removed and his actuarial probabilities for survival for the next four years barely exceeds 50%.

" Besides dont most presidents claim to be concervitive christians? "

You apparently have never attended a tongue talkin, casting out the devil, rollin in the isle, slain in the spirit Assemblies of God service. It is this particular brand of delusion that this author is referring to. The AG world view should literally scare the hell out of any rational person. It is cultic.
The indoctrination into this denomination is so intense that many struggle to escape its influence for the remainder of their lives. It is the reason for so much incredulity about her simply walking away from the AG. If she may one day be responsible for the launch codes these are questions that need to be addressed. The problem is most people do not have the ability to objectively evaluate her because they first don't know anything about the AG and second they view the world through their "god-glasses."

Insanezenmistress said...

Hello Lee

""You apparently have never attended a tongue talkin, casting out the devil, rollin in the isle, slain in the spirit Assemblies of God service. It is this particular brand of delusion that this author is referring to.""

She may reffer to the delusion with as much venom as she suffered, and she clearly does. But you cannot say that i am not famillier with it.

In fact, i am still a member of the ass of god. I have to admit i was not raised such, and i have to inform you that my poor church hasnt rolled in the isles for years. Perhaps they are dead.

I had been a christian for over 13 years and never sucumm to the indoctrination. I was more interested in the teachings of the wise man Jesus, and saw thru the brainwashing of doctrines. I guess i was lucky to have an Atheist for a Mother.

Now you may attack my ignorance.
But i will speak of the assumption of this letter.

Earlier you said something to the effect of "if she judged Obama by assosiation, then it is fair to Judge her back by association."

Is it?

You are a participator of this site. I know what this site's "Dogma" is. (granted it is less objectionable than the dogma of Ex-christian dot net) But i know the tenents of this place and in particular many of the beliefs of John Luftus.
I disagree with and reject many of them. Not a disimular position than the one of the author of the letter.

Will it be fair to judge you by association with John, and transferr all of MY feeligns about him onto you. Who knows? Maybe you are incapible of independance and by association with the strong repeated and harped on information here, have become indoctrinated.

You are willing to accuse someone you dont know of not having any mental strength. It must only be fair that your subject to your own method of judgment.

Now here, i dirgress. I admit i am defending Mrs Palin blindly. I am atempting to present a point of veiw and fairness. Do you know Mrs Palin enough to know wether her home church is a cult?
The Ass of God churches also work like franchinses....just because it says burger king, and shares a menu (statement of faith and theology) does not mean that the Managers do not differ. Some insist on handing out crown shaped kiddie hats and some don't.

Now, i also must concur that MANY are indoctrinated. Many of her Voters even. I concur that the indoctrination is really weird.
But SHE is running for office. Being a politic defines her more than what the sheeple in her home church are indocrintatied into.

Isn't she in violation of Paul's teaching not to usurp athority over a man anyway? Is this a sign that she may not be all that brainwashed by the church's defintion for her role?

You cannot attack someone by your hatred of religious tenents they may or may not fully practice.
You can only judge a person by what they do. Not for all the things the people around them think they should be doing.

This letter is just as paranoid and unfair as the auther believes Mrs Pallin would be.


PS. just because i never dropped my membership does not mean that i am a christian, so you cant even judge me by association.

Charlie said...

I know of countless atheists in the libertarian movement who believe global warming is not caused by humans. Perhaps Marlene will write open letters to all of them, denouncing them on DC.

Valerie Tarico said...

The core issue on matters such as global warming or evolution or reproductive education, for example, is whether we are data driven or ideology driven.

The question of fundamentalist identity is very relevant here, because fundamentalist dogma trumps data.

The scientific method has been called "what we know about how not to fool ourselves." As findings accumulate that threaten dogma, believers have become more and more invested in undermining not just the data on global warming or pregnancy reduction but on the authority of the scientific method as a whole.

Call Marlene's letter political if you will. My impression is that among folks who have neither an ideological answer to these questions nor an economic interest at stake, there is remarkably little question about 1. the cause of global warming. 2. the mechanism of speciation or 3. What kind of education results in the fewest unintended pregnancies.

And just to piss off absolutely everyone :)--my impression is that libertarianism is just about as data driven as marxism, free market fundamentalism, or Christianity.

Valerie Tarico said...

Insanezenmistress -
My guess would be that Marlene doesn't believe she knows what Sarah Palin believes. (I think of an open letter as a device for making a broadly relevant question more personal and interesting.) What Marlene does have is some likely hypotheses based on the evidence her own AG experience, Palin's public statements, and the policy positions of Palin's fundamentalist peers.

Insanezenmistress said...

Valerie..

OK.

So this is like an "if so; then this" kind of letter.

I still hold my oppnion that it is personally unfair. But i am sure you could counter me by asking if i would be so kind as to vote in a Ku Kluxer becasue he may not really hate other than white people.

I believe i woudl find my sence of fair play challenged.

But while i was pondering these things my mind wrapped around the word atheist....no not the lack of belief but the word in relation to Racist.

I think some of the judgments we make of religious others can be rather "racist"...(religion-ist?)

And i believe we need to guard ourselves from any such "ist" in our oppnions.

Your defence of Marline is basically what i concured to before. That she applied her experiences and distaste of the same via her assosiation with teh ass of god. And with that, i cant argue. And it is agreeable to me that an "If so, then IS this" approach is usefull to open dialage and give Mrs Palin a chance to clearify things.

Of course we cant expect Palin to specifically cater to the point.something percent of her voters that are Atheist, and she cant ever please those who are Athe-ist.

eheffa said...

For insanezenmistress,

This is an off-topic & unsolicited comment from someone who has quite rudimentary & poor typing skills...(I know: "pot/ kettle / black")

I trust you can forgive me for my rudeness, but I think your comments could be significantly enhanced if they were subjected to the liberal use of a spell checker prior to posting. Many browsers like Firefox have them even built into the program.

This is meant to be just a friendly suggestion...I'll go back to my room now.

Cheers.

-evan

zilch said...

And just to piss off absolutely everyone :)--my impression is that libertarianism is just about as data driven as marxism, free market fundamentalism, or Christianity.

Sorry, Valerie, you didn't piss me off: I agree. A common theme of practically all religious belief, and most political belief, is that there exists some perfect (or at least best possible) system of laws and rules: all we have to do is find it and adhere to it, in order to be as happy as is humanly possible.

But coming from an evolutionary standpoint, there is no reason to believe this. We did not evolve to live in large societies: if we want them, we have to make compromises with what our genes tell us. Religion substitutes "sinful nature" for "genes", and works mostly by threats and promises in the afterlife. Politics appeals to various things: "reason", "class conflict", or "enlightened self-interest", but also requires some dispenser of threats and promises, although in the here and now: police and an economic system.

What both politics and religion usually take for granted is that humans were made to live in societies, and that we simply have to find and defend the "right" way of building a society. But that's simply not so: human societies are a relatively newly evolved system, and consist of culture making a deal with genes.

It's always a balancing act, a trade-off, and although it can work well enough to give us cathedrals and iPods, there's no reason for anyone to be complacent about the "truth" of their religious or political views. Living together and enjoying the fruits of culture is an art, something we have to constantly work at, and we must be sensitive to what the real world tells us, not what some holy book or political tract says. Global warming is a case in point: the Bible, the Constitution of the United States, and Das Kapital are mute on the subject.

Joe E. Holman said...

My hat goes off to Marlene!

I couldn't have said it better if I tried!

(JH)

tigg13 said...

It seems to me that this discussion really boils down to two options: either Sarah Palin is a dangerous, deluded member of backwards cult or she is a lying, cheating, dishonest sack of scum.

(I'm voting early!)