“under a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical.”
God “hath taken us to be his after a most strict and peculiar manner, which will make him the more jealous of our love and obedience. So he tells the people of Israel, you only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for your transgressions.”
I’ve written over the last couple of days about Sarah Palin’s references to a fundamental source of her political philosophy of American exceptionalism: Puritan settler John Winthrop’s sermon entitled A Model of Christian Charity. “That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill,” Palin has said, referring to John Winthrop’s sermon as a guide to proper leadership on several occasions over the last few days.
I have not, however, yet focused the most obvious problem in Sarah Palin’s political affiliation with the John Winthrop school of political philosophy: The problem of theocracy.
Theocracy is a form of government that predates democracy and is incompatible with it. In theocracy, religious elites, not freely elected officials, control the government. That’s just what John Winthrop called for in his speech. John Winthrop was not just any Puritan preacher, after all. He was the both the religious and secular leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Winthrop called for the creation in America of a theocratic government: “a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical.” In this theocracy, the religious government would have the right to enforce religious laws even in private household matters. “The public must oversway all private respects,” Winthrop wrote. In speaking of Winthrop’s sermon, and its American exceptionalist idea that the legitimacy of government is established by God, Sarah Palin is suggesting that she support’s Winthrop’s theocratic agenda for America.
Does that connection seem unfair? Does it seem like too much of a stretch to accuse Sarah Palin of palling around with a politician who has been dead for hundreds of years?
Let’s remember a couple of things: First, it’s Sarah Palin who has drawn attention to this connection between her own political career and the political philosophy of John Winthrop, and she’s done so over and over again. Secondly, although John Winthrop himself has been dead for hundreds of years, Winthrop’s ideas have been kept very much alive by authoritarian American Christian groups.
One of those groups, the Assembly of God, formed the center of Sarah Palin’s religious upbringing. The Wasilla Assembly of God continues to be Sarah Palin’s home church, to which she returns several times a year, although she no longer lives in Wasilla. The Wasilla Assembly of God shares much of the religious and political vision of John Winthrop, including theocracy. In fact, when Sarah Palin’s campaign for Governor of Alaska was announced at the Wasilla Assembly of God church, the introductory sermon of the day promised church members that if they voted for Sarah Palin, they would get a servant in government who would use the government’s power to impose the church’s religious beliefs. Sarah Palin was watching that sermon, and then took to the stage to confirm through a special prayer ceremony that it should all come to pass. It’s all on video.
It isn’t just Sarah Palin’s church that supports John Winthrop’s vision of theocracy for America. Think of John McCain’s pal, John Hagee. Think of Jerry Falwell, whom John McCain literally embraced before he died. Think of Pat Robertson.
These preachers have not only supported John Winthrop’s agenda of theocracy for America, they also have shared Winthrop’s idea that if American government is does not strictly follow even the most harsh religious laws to the letter in a kind of Christian sharia, God himself will damn America and punish our nation through all weapons at his heavenly disposal.
“If we shall neglect the observation of these articles,” Winthrop preached, “the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us, be revenged of such a perjured people and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.”
Sarah Palin says that she considers America a “city on a hill”, as John Winthrop did. Do you know what the context of that phrase was in John Winthrop’s sermon? Most people don’t know that it’s a warning: God damn America. Here’s the context from Winthrop’s sermon:
“We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us ‘til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are agoing.”
God damn America – that’s what John Winthrop warned about, and Sarah Palin seems to embrace that warning. So, how can Sarah Palin blast Jeremiah Wright for the same thing?
The sad answer is that, as far as Sarah Palin is concerned, it’s only a bad thing to call for the damnation of America when a Democrat does it.