The McCain campaign may be trying to downplay Sarah Palin’s religious beliefs. Palin’s campaign staff have already told pastors at Wasilla Bible Church to zip it.

The campaign’s reticence is understandable. Palin and her closest spiritual advisers worship in ways that would give the average American pause. Major themes at Palin’s longtime spiritual home, the Wasilla Assembly of God, include belief in demons, witchcraft, and the end of the world in our lifetime.

At least three out of the four churches Palin has attended during her adult life are part of the Third Wave, or Spiritual Warfare movement–the same movement showcased in the documentary Jesus Camp. The Third Wave teaches that demons are real minions of Satan who can take up residence in people and places. Adherents believe that territorial spirits must be opposed by Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare.

Palin has made it clear that her faith influences her politics. Pastor Ed Kalnins of the Wasilla Assembly told graduating Bible students that upon meeting Palin for the first time, he immediately recognized that Palin she was "a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ before she [was] the Mayor." (video, starts 5:42)

"I can do my job there in developing our natural resources and doing things like getting the roads paved and making sure our troopers have their cop cars and their uniforms and their guns, and making sure our public schools are funded," she said in June to ministry students at her former church. "But really, all of that stuff doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God," Palin told graduating students at the same gathering.

The governor has a history of mixing her office and her spirituality. Earlier this year, Palin was publicly blessed by Kalnins and billed the state of Alaska for the trip.

Palin reportedly sees her political career as a means to God’s ends. Recall that Palin believes the world will end in her lifetime. That’s what she told my colleague, Phil Munger, in so many words.

What role does she envision for herself as God’s agent in this unfolding eschatology?

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein