Palin's pastor (and witches) problem

In 2005, Sarah Palin received a blessing from a pastor that included a prayer to protect her from witchcraft.

Published September 26, 2008 2:05PM (EDT)

Halloween's still more than a month away, but we don't have to wait that long to start talking about witches.

Earlier this week, Max Blumenthal posted a video in which a Kenyan pastor blessed Sarah Palin and asked the congregation of Palin's church to pray to Jesus Christ to protect her from "every form of witchcraft." The video was shot in May 2005, prior to Palin's announcing her candidacy to become governor of Alaska.

In the video, Palin keeps her head lowered throughout Bishop Thomas Muthee's blessing. In 2008, Palin spoke of her affection for Muthee, saying, "Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he's so bold ... And he was praying 'Lord make a way, Lord make a way' ... He said, 'Lord make a way and let her do this next step.' And that's exactly what happened."

The video, which can be seen below, has already become the object of online mockery. However, not all religious leaders see the humor in the witchcraft moment. The Politico's Ben Smith links to a letter issued Thursday by Catholic League president Bill Donohue deriding the media's criticism of the Palin witchcraft video. Donohue writes:

In 2005, Sarah Palin went to church and found that a visiting minister from Kenya, Bishop Thomas Muthee, was doing the service. He offered a prayer asking Jesus to keep her free from 'every form of witchcraft.' Palin said nothing -- she simply kept her head bowed throughout the blessing. Why this is newsworthy is one issue, but why it has quickly become the subject of scorn is another ... Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa, resulting in scores of deaths in Kenya over the past two decades. Bishop Muthee's blessing, then, was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil.

Donohue's protests notwithstanding, it seems doubtful that the video will derail Palin's political career. (Which leads to a question to ponder -- would a candidate of a non-Christian religion (or an atheist) in this situation still be politically viable?)

Andrew Sullivan highlights one other part of the Bishop Muthee video. Before Muthee called Palin to the pulpit, he said (video is below):

The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society, is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It's high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the -- you know -- if you look at the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today.

You have to wonder how that statement will play with Jewish voters, especially ones in key swing states like Florida. A poll out Thursday from the American Jewish Committee found that 54 percent of the Jews polled disapproved of McCain's selection of Sarah Palin.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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