You gotta give Sarah Palin’s book tour credit for one thing: It’s really putting the passive-aggressive instincts of the religious right on public display.
And not just because she spends much of her 432-page book blaming campaign media flacks and hairdressers, bless their cinder-black hearts, for the McCain/Palin ticket’s loss in 2008. Here’s Sarahcuda talking up Going Rogue for the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, reproving her critics by saying, "These are probably some lonely people, some shallow people who want to take a shot like that, and we need to pray for these people."
The former (for half a term) governor of Alaska sounds a bit like the Saturday Night Live Church Lady, who pretended to be generous and devout but was always on the verge of boiling over with resentment, even barely contained violence, for anyone whose demeanor she considered insufficiently pious. (What would Dana Carvey’s character have said about Palin’s too-tight skirts and stiletto-heeled red pumps, I wonder?)
On the Sean Hannity show that aired the same day, Hannity asked Palin about David Letterman: Would she "have anything to do with him? Because you’re a Christian. You want to, you want to forgive people."
"Well, certainly," Palin fumbled, caught off guard, as she tried to pass the forgiveness buck to God, by saying, "Forgiveness and vengeance isn’t mine." But with her next breath, she denied one of Going Rogue‘s undeniable motifs: "I’m not out for vindication," she claimed–but no way would she give Dave the high ratings she can always deliver by going on his show.
This kind of passive-aggressive religiosity (which comes, of course, in Jewish, Muslim, and atheist varieties) has been around for generations. But as conservative evangelicals lost their faith in George W. Bush and witnessed the rise of Barack H. Obama, their wrath has been on the prowl for somebody to blame.
Take, for example, the "Pray for Obama" merchandise–the bumper stickers, T-shirts, Teddy bears, mouse pads, and other paraphernalia that have been popping up across the country, telling you to pray for POTUS specifically with Psalm 109, verse 8, which reads, "Let his days be few; and let another take his office." The next verse continues, "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." On The Rachel Maddow Show, former right-wing evangelical leader Frank Schaeffer likened this to "trawling for assassins."
For at least the past 10 years, the megachurch evangelical movement has been telling its parishioners that Jesus wants them to get rich. That fit rather nicely with the triumphalism of Bush/Rove & Co. as it built its "permanent majority" with their votes, testifying that it was their all-American duty to trample the environment and the poor, and to kill Afghan and Iraqi Muslims, on the way to God’s kingdom. In imitation of the way Bush paid for his wars, many of the devout simply loaded themselves up with debt, buying SUVs and McMansions in spanking new developments.
Since the capitalist collapse, of course, that debt has become toxic. Now, in their dismay and confusion over having supported Bush–one of the first governors, by the way, to declare an annual state "Jesus Day"–evangelicals are left with a terrible anger. And they desperately don’t want to turn that anger inward.
Instead, some of them want to smite Obama because they can’t admit that Bush led them, lemming-like, into a betrayal of Protestantism’s founding belief. Debt, trade, and the work ethic were all central to the disputes that launched the Reformation, after all. The Catholic Church preached that bank interest was "usury," that it would corrupt society and impoverish the people, and the early Protestants were sensitive to this criticism. In compensation, they hemmed in their financial speculations with strict condemnations of personal excess–whether through sex, drink, cards, dancing, sumptuous dress, or what have you–in order to project a prudence that would make economic risk seem manageable, even respectable.
And now we have the Great Unraveling. As the waters recede, what’s left behind are follies like the "Drowning Jesus" (a/k/a "Touchdown Jesus"), a 62-foot-high sculpture of Christ set chest-deep in a reflecting pool at the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, one of the non-coastal states Palin is visiting on her book tour. And who’s to blame for that embarrassing excess, constructed in 2004?
I know: ACORN.