Palin’s Prayer Shield

In a recent interview with Greta Van Susteren, Sarah Palin played up her “fire in the belly,” but then played it down as a “problem.” Framing it as a “problem” is a classic conservative Christian woman’s phrasing: feeling (as a woman) moved to act, but realizing it is a problem because of family and children. By establishing a possible run as problematic, Palin can forge ahead, having acknowledged conservative religious gender norms, yet answering “the call.”

Palin also told Van Susteren that she has a “prayer shield,” meaning, in Pentecostal/charismatic parlance, that prayer will shield the believer from all attacks from the devil or satanic forces, based on Ephesians 6:16. Using the term “prayer shield” is a signal to her followers to continue to pray for her, and much like Mike Huckabee’s prayer request, serves to rally the followers around the “anointed one.” The upshot of the interview is that Palin can still be a good Christian woman, all the while asking her supporters to both pray and mobilize on her behalf, because God is calling her “for such a time as this.”

Palin’s fire in the belly is being stoked by media reports about her recent activities. Real Clear Politics reported this week that the film The Undefeated, which chronicles Palin’s political life, will premiere in Iowa in June, and is slated to screen in theaters nationwide. The Esther figure, along with her husband, reportedly purchased a $1.7 million dollar Arizona house through a shell corporation, Safari Investments. At the same time, she played a not-very-ordinary mom, with worries about her daughter Bristol’s upcoming new reality show.

The limelight isn’t pretty for Palin: Roger Ailes walked back comments attributed to him about how “dumb” Palin is. A former aide, Frank Bailey, has been promoting his negative book about Palin, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, released this week. Bailey’s book is also competing against Geoffery Dunn’s latest book, The Lies of Sarah Palin. With the unflattering books and criticism from her boss at Fox, you’d think that she would back off from running for president. Au contraire!

Should Palin enter the race (and I am betting she will), it will fill a gap left by Huckabee’s decision not to run. Palin will not appeal to all evangelicals or conservative Christians, but she does have her own contingent of followers.

All of this movement around Palin potentially entering the 2012 field reminds me not of a politician, but of an evangelist, specifically Aimee Semple McPherson. McPherson’s aim to bring back Christian America, documented by Matthew Sutton in his book on McPherson, reminds me of how Palin’s quest for relevance, to be an arbiter of conservative values, mirrors McPherson’s ideas about Christian America. McPherson, like Palin, sought not just the political and religious limelight, but the spotlight of Hollywood. (She even had a failed screen test.) She used the media deftly, but it ended up using her as well.

Palin’s life is going to be scripted into a movie by Stephen K. Bannon, who also filmed Generation Zero, about the rise of the Tea Party. It will be interesting to see if Bannon successfully retools Palin’s “testimony” into a story that will convince anyone other than her followers that that she is both Ronald Reagan’s successor and a figure anointed by God. Regardless, for her admirers, her tempered fire in the belly makes for exciting times.

UPDATE: Palin has launched a bus tour, “the Fundamental Restoration of America.”

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.