The Palins And The Religious Right

The big theme from the Obamoids about Sarah Palin and her pregnant daughter is how this will drive a schism between Palin and the religious right. That shows just how little those people understand the religious right.

As a pronounced agnostic (which makes me a non-Christian), I might not be the best person to explain this. But I think that gives me a certain level of objectivity. That, combined with my past and present associations with some very devout, very conservative, very politically interested Christians, puts me in what I think is a pretty good place to observe and translate.

First up, let’s dispel a few myths. “The religious right” has nothing to do with the Westboro Baptist assholes, and wants nothing to do with them. They are offended by the Phelps clan claiming to be Christians and pronouncing what they consider God’s word, but they choose to ignore them and deny them the attention they deserve seek.

Also, the televangelists Christians are also not that fond of the televangelists. Pat Robertson isn’t as much of an asshole as the Phelps clan, but he’s certainly of a kin.

The fundamental (if you’ll pardon the word) attitude that my friends have held towards the conduct of others has been “love the sinner, hate the sin.” They understand that people are flawed, occasionally weak, and make mistakes and wrong decisions and do wrong things. It’s all part and parcel of being human — we’re all sinners, it’s just in the particulars that we all differ.

When someone commits what they consider a sin, such as Bristol Palin did, they are not angered or disgusted or appalled. They see it as their Christian obligation to help her — help her recognize her mistake, help her atone for it, and help her bear up under the consequences of her sin.

In this particular case, the repentance is pretty much a given — I strongly suspect that this pregnancy was more of a “whoops” moment than a “I wanna get knocked up” decision. I know that when I was about that age (actually, slightly older), I had two distinct such incidents, but in both cases was far, far luckier than she was. (Hell, if Palin only got the votes of half the people who have been involved in a pregnancy scare, the Republicans would win in a landslide.) She was probably terrified and horrified and mortified when the little plus sign turned up (or whatever she used).

So that is out of the way. She did it, it’s done, she’s preggers. She deeply regrets the decisions she made that led up to it. What the hell does she do now?

Well, she decides to not have an abortion. Under Alaskan law, she could get one, without her parents’ consent or even knowledge, but she did not. She chooses to bear the child.

She also decides to keep the child, instead of giving it up for adoption. And she and the father choose to get married — it’s too late for the child to be conceived in wedlock, but they can at least guarantee that it will be born to two married parents.

And what is her family’s response? They don’t cast her out, they embrace her — and her child. They know she has done something sinful, but they love the sinner. They will not completely protect her from the consequences of her actions, but they will do all they can to help her, her future husband, and the future grandchild.

Because that is their Christian duty. That is what God has told them to do.

And because the girl in question is their daughter.

The process, as I tend to understand it, is that most Christians are positively eager to help folks in trouble. It’s, as I said above, their Christian duty. And they don’t put much in the way of conditions on their help — the only one I’ve ever seen is that the person in trouble really ought to be sincerely repentant of their sins. They’re not that interested in helping a sinner who’s eager to go right back out and sin again — it strikes them as an exercise in futility, and they prefer their good deeds to actually accomplish things.

That’s where they tend to run afoul of folks such as gays. They have no problem helping gay people, generally, but they sincerely believe that homosexual conduct is sinful. Most gays don’t, so they aren’t overly repentant of what they do. So the Christians havepretty much given up on “saving” the gays; they’ve just resigned themselves to asking “please don’t do this right in front of me” and “please don’t ask me to honor and sanction and support what you do.”

Most Christians are not looking at the Palins and saying “that harlot of a girl — her mother MUST be a horrible mother to let her daughter get herself pregnant.” Rather, they’re saying things like “that poor girl, she has NO idea what she’s gotten herself into — and her poor mother, having to deal with that along with everything else in her life.”

But from what I’ve seen of the Palins, they will accept the prayers of others, but they aren’t interested in getting others involved. They see their situation as a family matter, and the family is drawing together to handle things. The only “outside” help they’re interested in is from the father of the child, and they’re “drafting” him into the family so he won’t be an outsider.

And most Christians will respect that, because most of them know at least one family that’s had to deal with a similar situation.

There’s a lesson I’ve learned from my work — where we are developing a strong, loyal clientele — is that most people are sensible. They don’t expect perfection every time. They hope for it, but they know that everyone’s human and will make mistakes.

The real test of a business is not whether or not they will screw up. They will. That is a given.

The real test of whether or not a business is worthy of loyalty is how they handle those screwups. If they quickly acknowledge the mistake, accept responsibility, and do whatever they can to make things right, then you know you’re dealing with a good business.

The same principle holds true for families. Everyone screws up. That’s a given. It’s how that person handles the screwup — and how the family as a unit handles it — that shows the true character of that family, and its members.

Personally, I’d be a bit happier if Bristol Palin and her fiance’ didn’t show up at the convention, and instead quietly withdrew from the limelight to start their own lives, but that’s their decision. Perhaps Bristol has inherited a healthy dose of her parents’ strength and is determined to say “here I am, you’re not going to destroy me, you’re not going to use me to destroy my mother, and you’re not going to shame me into becoming a hermit.”

Regardless, it’s their decision, and they’ll be the ones who will be dealing with the consequences of it.

I find myself hoping that it goes well for the Palin family. In the brief time I’ve known about them, I find myself liking them, and hoping for the best.

Besides, their youngest daughter scares me just a little. She does NOT look like someone you want angry with you.

Republican National Convention - Night 3
Michael Monsoor's story