ChiTrib Religion Blogger: Palin Should Have Talked Pentecostalism at Debate

"Does Palin have explaining to do," Chicago Tribune religion blogger Manya Brachear asked in her post-vice presidential debate blog post. Here's how Brachear opened her October 3 entry at her "The Seeker" blog:

Pentecostals have called on the mainstream media to stop mocking their sister Sarah Palin. But when will the Republican vice-presidential candidate answer the questions that swirl every time a new church video surfaces on YouTube? Was Thursday's prime time debate yet another missed opportunity?

By contrast, a review of Brachear's blog entries dealing with Sen. Obama's controversial former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, show Brachear did not have similar concerns with Obama's relationship with Wright. Indeed, back in June, Brachear asked, "Can a candidate worship in peace?" The Trib staffer was referring to the fact that Obama was leaving Trinity United Church of Christ, blaming media scrutiny for ruining the worship experience for himself and his fellow parishioners:

Sen. Barack Obama chided reporters in South Dakota on Saturday for suggesting that he joined Trinity United Church of Christ 20 years ago to fulfill his political aspirations.

He also made it clear that his recent departure from Trinity had everything to do with the controversy it added to his presidential campaign and the anxiety that his bid brought to the South Side church.

Is there a congregation that can welcome the Obama family into its pews and withstand the scrutiny that accompanies them? Is there a pastor out there who wants to give it a try?

Leaders of Trinity and its national denomination expressed regret about Obama's unexpected decision on Saturday. Rev. John Thomas, president of the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, indicated that the denomination was caught by surprise.

Prior to Obama's announcement of his presidential bid, the Illinois senator championed a public conversation about the power of faith and the role it plays in people's lives. He was invited to address that topic during the UCC's national convention in Hartford, Conn. last June.

Near the close of her October 3 post, Brachear lectured the McCain-Palin campaign about openness on the Alaska governor's religious views (emphasis mine):

It's the pundits' tendency to pick the answers apart unfairly afterward that cause him concern. But if the campaign or Palin explained her spiritual foundation, where she goes to church now and why she believes what she does, that might not happen as often.

By contrast, a review of other Wright-related blog posts in Brachear's archive shows the Trib religion reporter was concerned that perhaps Wright was just misunderstood by the media and political pundits (emphases mine):

Just when many African-American churchgoers thought Barack Obama had squandered an opportunity to explain the bond with his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright Jr., the Illinois senator stepped to a podium this week and did much more.

Fittingly in Philadelphia, Obama preached a message of brotherly love. By refusing to write off his Christian brother and beloved spiritual mentor, he tried to demonstrate to Americans how love and loyalty could transcend politics.

Clergy and scholars across the country predict that Obama's speech, which mentioned but did not condemn recent comments by vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, could launch a vibrant conversation about race in America. They also suggest that conversation finally could move beyond the generation of Jeremiah and Geraldine, two leaders who came of age when the language was more charged and the dialogue was quite different.

Theologians add that much of the recent tension stems from two quite different vocabularies. When Wright proposed "God Damn America" as an alternative to the song "God Bless America," religion professor Sandy Martin at the University of Georgia did not hear any anti-American sentiment.

"What came to mind was somebody who sees himself as God's servant, one who is duty bound to give God's word and sometimes that word is chastising," said Martin, an ordained Baptist minister. "Every nation including the U.S. is under the judgment of God and I think it's easy for that to be misunderstood by people who are not used to that mode of addressing the issue. Sometimes the literal words are not exactly what is being conveyed."

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