I’ve seen a couple stories flying around the blogosphere regarding one of the pastors at Gov. Sarah Palin’s current church, the Wasilla Bible Church. Up until six years ago, Palin was part of the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church.
The stories that have gone around largely involve Larry Kroon, the Senior Pastor at WBC. The two passages I’ve noticed today were brought up by Max Blumenthal, who’s a left wing journalist and blogger. I know right that’ll be enough for many people to disregard this entry, but hear me out.
Of the two passages, I think at least one is of no concern.
The first passage came from a sermon he gave on July 20th, where he makes the case the sin is “personal to God” and that when the time of ending comes, no person, state, or nation on Earth will be spared. Here’s what Blumenthal chose to take out of the eight page sermon, “Sin is Personal to God“:
Kroon placed Zephaniah in a modern context, warning that the sinful habits of Americans would invite the wrath of God. “And if Zephaniah were here today,” Kroon bellowed, “he’d be saying, ‘Listen, [God] is gonna deal with all the inhabitants of the earth. He is gonna strike out His hand against, yes, Wasilla; and Alaska; and the United States of America. There’s no exceptions here — there’s none. It’s all.”
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Yet another conservative pastor saying America will pay for its acceptance of homosexuality and promiscuity, right? Lets read the entire paragraph from the sermon (2/3 of the way down pg. 3):
He has to be emphatic at this point; he has to get specific at this point, because the people of Jerusalem had the prevailing attitude—and it’s stated in Zephaniah—that ‘God won’t do anything to us, good or bad.’ And what Zephaniah says—‘Listen, He is going to remove everyone from the earth. He is gonna deal with all the inhabitants; so, as a result, understand He is going to deal with you, Jerusalem and Judah. There’s no exceptions here.’ And if Zephaniah were here today he’d be saying, ‘Listen, He is gonna deal with all the inhabitants of the earth. He is gonna strike out His hand against, yes, Wasilla; and Alaska; and the United States of America. There’s no exceptions here—there’s none. It’s all.’
After the Reverend Wright debacle, I decided the best way to understand anyone’s pastor was to actually hear or read what they have to say. Indeed, in any conversation or interview or speech, you must get things in context, because you can be sure the media – liberal, conservative, or otherwise – will take out the parts that sound the worst.
The passage is only a small part of an eight page, about 30 minute sermon that Kroon gives where he says that people cannot become complacent about waiting for the time of ending, even if that time isn’t right now. He says that it will come, and people ought to be ready, and not stray from God.
Basically, Blumenthal took the passage out of context. I read the entire sermon, and listened to it, and I see nothing of any concern there.
Where I do place my concern is in another sermon that Kroon had given the week before. In it, he says that God may strike if people stray too far from him. Specifically, he may decide to take down the nation by sending in another nation to do it. He started with by going over another Old Testament book, Habakkuk, who remained loyal to God, even though God was sending the Babylonians to take down Israel. After speaking of that historical time, Kroon set his sights and the U.S., and I thought he got pretty specific in what could happen. Emphasis mine:
Ok. You’ve been patient with me. You walked through the book of Habakkuk, and you got to that final point, that crucial part of what I call a wet-water exit, when we say, ‘Ok, what are you gonna pull when everything’s upside down. What is it you’re gonna grasp?’
And my response is you go to God. You go heart-to-heart with Him. That’s important. I need you to grasp it, because when I look at the future of America, my hope, my prayer, my desire is it looks like this [shows the first slide with sun and everyone rafted together]. It really is. But I want you to be prepared. In fact, I have a pastoral responsibility to make sure you’re prepared if it goes like that [slide of upside-down kayak]; and it could. It could.
What if…right now, God chose to respond to our nation, God chose to respond to our moral slippage, our persistent moral slippage? In fact, let’s be more precise—our persistent moral rebellion. What if God chose to respond to our chronic greed, that we don’t even recognize as greed anymore? What if God responded to our pervasive, our pervasive personal and national pride? What if God chose to respond to our epidemic gluttony? In a starving world Americans are trying to figure out how to get thinner. What if God responded to our multiple addictions? What if God responded to our endless excuses? What if God responded to our persistent self-absorption? That in any circumstance and any situation we’ll say ‘me-first’, no matter what it does to our family, no matter what it does to our friends, no matter what it does to our community? And what if God chose to respond to our casual and careless worship? And yes, in America worship is casual and careless! What if God chose to respond to that by raising up a modern version of the Chaldeans? It’s possible.
It’s so very possible that God, instead of responding by granting spiritual renewal and sustained prosperity, He could just as easily…it’s conceivable that He could just as easily, for example, raise up a revived, prosperous and powerful Communist Russia with a web of alliances across the Middle East. And our gas pumps would go dry. The dollar would collapse. And the markets would crash. The kayak could go upside down. And it could happen in a matter of weeks. That could happen. It could happen by this fall.
And do not think that God has ever guaranteed it would not. And don’t think that God would not. If He was willing to raise up the Chaldeans in ancient Israel, He’s willing to go to any extreme. We could find ourselves living in a land of foreign investment like tenant farmers, begging for scraps off the table of some other new superpower’s prosperity. That could happen, and it could be God’s doing.
It could happen this fall? Under what conditions? I don’t know…perhaps if Barack Obama is elected President?
On initial review, it seems like the conservative version of “the chickens have come to roost” or rather “the chickens might come to roost under the certain conditions.” I’ve will admit, it’s a passage that makes me ask questions. Like, what else is Palin’s pastor saying about the United States?
Now, to be fair, maybe the use of “It could happen this fall” is mere coincidence. Maybe, as in the first sermon I covered in this entry, is only using the United States as an example in a broader context.
But, at first glance, it doesn’t seem like that. It doesn’t seem like that because of the second paragraph I quoted. Kroon gets specific. He talks about America as he sees it, a moral-less, greedy, “me-first” nation. Then he says that God may respond to our current situation by bringing on an enemy force like that of the Babylonians. A doomsday scenario is what he outlines. And then says it could happen as early as this fall.
Why not the day after? The week after? Why must is be this fall?
So is this Sarah Palin’s Reverend Wright? That’s for you to decide. To all those who are screaming, “This is irrelevant,” I don’t think it is. Obama’s pastor was rightfully scrutinized earlier this year. Why not Palin’s?
Now, I don’t think a pastor necessarily defines a politician’s world views. Just as Obama claims not to share Wright’s views, Palin may not share Kroon’s views. She’s only been there for six years, after all.
Moreso, though, I think what it outlines is that you need context, and context is what we didn’t get with Reverend Wright. Clearly, Kroon doesn’t always say things like the second passage, but sometimes he does. That doesn’t make it the whole of his pastoral history, however. But it does raise questions, and it rightfully should.