Friday, September 5, 2008

Behind Sarah Palin's Support of Israel

A picture has been circling on the internet which highlights the fact that John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, has a flag of Israel in her office.

Prior to her big acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, she had cancelled all appearances except for a meeting with the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC.

The obvious questions then become "What is Palin doing with an Israeli flag in her office when there does not seem to be any natural Israeli or Jewish constituency in Alaska, since there are few Jews in Alaska?", " Why is  AIPAC the first an only group she  met with before her big speech?"

The answer is likely in Palin's religious beliefs.

The McCain campaign has said Gov. Palin was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church. At some point she converted to fudamnentalist Christian beliefs and a
s a junior high schooler, Palin was baptized at a Pentacostal church, the Wasilla Assembly of God. She worshipped for more than two decades there. According to WSJ, the congregants speak in tongues and are part of a faith that believes humanity is in its "end times" -- the days preceding a world-ending cataclysm bringing Christian redemption and the second coming of Jesus.

For the last seven years she and her family have attended the Wasilla Bible Church ,a nondenominational church in Wasilla. The church is evangelical, though not Pentecostal or charismatic, and believers don't speak in tongues. While in Juneau, the state capital, Palin attends the Juneau Christian Center, an Assemblies of God church. The continued Assemblies of God connection is key.

What does all this have to do with Israel?

The Wasilla Assembly of God, the Juneau Christian Center and the parent denomination -- the three-million member General Council of the Assemblies of God -- espouse core beliefs not widely ascribed to by major Christian factions, accordng to WSJ. The denomination's Web site says some scholars believe that the "end times" to the Holy Land, fulfilling a Biblical prophecy. The Assemblies of God is part of a Pentecostal movement that numbers 80 million people world-wide.

"Historically, the Assemblies of God have been dispensationalists, which means they believe in 'the rapture' of Christians that takes them out of the world. Central to that position is a very strong support for Israel. It's integral to their view of both prophecy and politics. Denying Israel is almost like denying the faith, " Merrill Matthews, an evangelical Christian specialst told the Washington Times.

In 2000, Dr. Gary North wrote an article, The Unannounced Reason Behind American Fundamentalism's Support for the State of Israel. In part of that article, North wrote:

The dominant premillennial view says that Jews will suffer the Great Tribulation. Born-again Christians will have flown the coop – literally. This is the doctrine of the pre-tribulation Rapture.

According to pre-tribulation premillennialists, who are known as dispensationalists, Jesus will come secretly in the clouds and raise deceased Christians – and only Christians – from the dead. Immediately thereafter, every true Christian will be transported bodily into the sky, and from there to heaven: the Rapture event...

The belief continues that all of the Christians, in the Rapture event, will have been removed from this world three and a half years prior to the beginning of a 42-month period of tribulation where two-thirds of all Jews will be killed. "The one third that are left will be refined and be awaiting the deliverance of God at the second coming of Christ," according to John F. Walvoord in his book, Israel in Prophecy.

North again:

The Rapture-based escape from history is now universally believed by fundamentalists to be imminent. Generations of fundamentalists have believed that they will escape bodily death. They will be transported into the sky, like Elijah, though without benefit of chariots...

But when? That has been the great question. The answer: "Soon"...

But how can they be so sure? Because of the events of 1948. In that year, the crucial missing piece of the prophetic puzzle – the restoration of the nation of Israel – seemed to come true. Critics of the dispensational system could no longer say, "But where is Israel in all this?" The answer, at long last: "In Palestine, just in time for the Great Tribulation."...

It should be clear why they believe that Israel must be defended at all costs by the West. If Israel were militarily removed from history prior to the Rapture, then the strongest case for Christians’ imminent escape from death would have to be abandoned. This would mean the indefinite delay of the Rapture. The fundamentalist movement thrives on the doctrine of the imminent Rapture, not the indefinitely postponed Rapture...Fundamentalists really do believe that they probably will not die physically...The presence of Israel validates the hope of fundamentalists that Christians, and Christians alone, will get out of life alive.

UPDATE: Details emerge of the Palin/AIPAC meeting from WaPo:

Joe Lieberman, who was the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee but is now an independent, has helped introduce Palin to officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby. In a meeting Tuesday, the day before she delivered her prime-time address at the Republican National Convention here, Palin assured the group of her strong support for Israel, of her desire to see the United States move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and of her opposition to Iran's aspirations to become a nuclear power, according to sources familiar with the meeting

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