One of the smear memes about Sarah Palin has been that she claimed the invasion of Iraq was God's will. She did no such thing. She prayed that our leaders would do whatever God's will would be:
Pray for our military. He's [Palin's son Trask] going to be deployed in September to Iraq. Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do also what is right for this country - that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan.
Charles Gibson got this wrong in his interview with Palin:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.
But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.
That's what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.
Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.
GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln's words, but you went on and said, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."
PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.
GIBSON: But then are you sending your son on a task that is from God?
PALIN: I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.
Molly Hemingway notes (at the end of the post) that ABC edited the clips down to his misrepresentation and her response, without any indication that he'd misquoted her, which makes it look as if she's changing her tune. Nice. Take awful journalism and cover it up by making it look as if the interviewer caught her in a gotcha moment of historical revisionism.
Steve Waldman of Beliefnet gets it right:
Palin asked members of the church to pray "that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan." That's very different. She's asking them to help insure that the war is part of God's plan, not declaring that it was.
Unfortunately, Waldman goes on to make exactly the same mistake immediately afterward, saying Gibson "should have asked her about her comment that it's "God's will" that Alaska have a great big natural gas pipeline."
But what she said there was exactly the same thing. We need to pray. We need to pray that our leaders are doing the right thing. For it to happen, "God's will has to be done in unifying people to get that gas line built, so pray about that." In other words, it won't happen unless it's God's will. She goes on to say that all the things she's doing politically are not important if the church isn't reaching people spiritually, if people's hearts aren't right with God. So she very clearly has the view that spiritual significance is what God cares most about, that it's still important to do things like meeting people's needs, and that we should pray that God's will be done, in particular when we have the idea that a certain proposal might be God's will. We should "strive to do what's right", as she says when describing her son's enlistment, but we should pray that God is behind it also, accepting humbly that we might be wrong.
What this shows about Palin is that she's humble enough to recognize that she may have come up with the wrong view. She still makes decisions instead of getting hung up on waiting for a sign from God. She uses her God-given abilities to make decisions the way God intended. But she seeks to do what's right, and she prays that she and other leaders will make the right decisions. This is exactly what a Christian leader should do.
I made this same point about Bush's language about God three years ago. This isn't a new problem of misinterpretation.