Like Sarah Palin, my parents and grandparents were fundamentalists. My grandfather was even a “foot-washing” fundamentalist preacher. He and my grandmother firmly believed that God created the world in seven days, and that while he did it, a recording secretary observed and took notes that became the book of Genesis. They believed that a real man named Jonah spent time in a whale’s belly, and that a real man named Noah built an ark and filled it with two of every kind. Their belief was firm and their expectation of meeting loved ones in a heaven with golden streets was indisputable.
My parents weren’t quite that fundamentalist, but close. Growing up with people with fundamentalist beliefs gave me an unshakable faith in them. They were good, caring people. They helped anybody in need because they believed they might be helping Jesus in disguise. They gave to the church from their meager funds because they believed God would provide for them. They were also scrupulously honest. They didn’t lie even about small things; as far as they were concerned, God was just as stern about small lies as big ones.
I didn’t end up with my parents’ and grandparents’ fundamentalist beliefs, but I did end up with their respect for honesty. So I don’t have any problem with Sarah Palin’s fundamentalist religious beliefs. I can even stomach her distaste for sex education — although the belief that “sex education” means instruction in sexual intercourse is so ignorant that it leaves me astonished. What I have a problem with is her dishonesty. Every time I hear her speak of God in the same sentence with the false claim that she opposed the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” I imagine my grandfather shaking his head and saying, “Child, you are lying, and God knows it.” When she makes the dishonest claim that she sold the state airplane on eBay and saved Alaskans a bunch of money, I imagine my thrifty grandmother saying, “But that’s a lie. You sold it to a friend for less than its value.”
Fundamentalists like Sarah Palin give fundamentalists a bad name. They’re already besieged by people who believe life has evolved over millions of years and is still evolving and will continue to evolve. Now they have to contend with a woman who claims to have their beliefs but stands up in front of the entire country and lies like a rug. Every time I see her put her foot in her mouth, I have mixed reactions. For the good of the country, I’m glad to see her make an ass of herself. But then I think of my fundamentalist grandparents and parents, and I feel infinitely sad that she is making their beliefs look like slick talk from a charming con artist.