Religion Blogger Shreds Newsweek's Take on 'Saint Sarah' Palin

"You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting." That's how the biblical prophet Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall that heralded the imminent demise of the Babylonian Empire.

It could also sum up journalist Sarah Pulliam Bailey's take on Lisa Miller's "Saint Sarah" piece in Newsweek (emphases mine):

Journalists have long been puzzled over Sarah Palin’s popularity. In November, Newsweek took a stab at the trend with its provocative cover of Palin in running clothes: “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah Palin: How Sarah Palin Hurts the GOP And the Country.”

[...]

Lisa Miller’s thesis is compelling if it is true, but journalists usually rely on hard facts, polls, maybe interviews with political scientists to prove their points. Unfortunately, Miller’s article contains none of these to support her theory that Palin is somehow the new leader of the Christian Right. Instead, she strings together a bunch of anecdotes and quotes to prove what she thinks is happening. 

Pulliam Bailey devoted most of her June 14 Get Religion blog post to fisking Miller's argument. Here's just a sample (emphases are the author's):

The story leads with Palin’s classic story of how she decided to give birth to her son Trig.

Palin has already overshared: nothing makes a person, let alone a politician, appear more vulnerable, more ordinary, and more unambiguously female than a scene in a bathroom where she pees on a stick. But then she defies a generation of pro-life activists who preached that the life of the fetus is sacred, no matter what an individual woman wants.

Is there any indication that Palin doesn’t think the fetus is sacred? Lots of women who chose to give birth give testimonies about their decision-making process. Is she actually defying other activists?

Let’s face it: the Trig story is a women’s story, the kind girlfriends share over coffee or in church. It has all the familiar elements of evangelical testimony: tribulation and dread; trust in God; and, finally, great blessings. Many Christian women loathe Palin,

Who? Why?

of course, and many men love her,

Who? Why?

but a certain kind of conservative, Bible-believing woman worships her.

Who? Is it only Bible-believing women who worship her? And really? Worships her?

To a smaller number, she is a prophet, ordained by God for a special role in the cosmic battle against the forces of evil.

What forces of evil? Who thinks she was ordained by God? Does this smaller number think the political arena is the cosmic battle?

Perhaps the biggest failure on Miller's part? Pulliam Bailey notes that Miller insisted that

Palin has her faults, but the left is partially to blame for her ascent. Its native mistrust of religion, of conservative believers in particular, left the gap that Palin now fills.

The GetReligion.org writer then argued that, "Perhaps Miller should have spent more time writing about this part of the story. It would be more compelling to read more about the left’s mistrust of religion that left a gap."

Given Newsweek's cutesy take on "Saint Sarah," it was only fitting that an analysis critical of it should end with a biblical allusion. Pulliam Bailey didn't disappoint with the observation that the financially-struggling magazine is intent on "making Palin in its own image":

If Palin is really leading the religious right, has anyone captured photo evidence of Palin’s flock? The accompanying slideshow, titled “Cult of Palin,” features Palin condoms, porn movies and strip clubs. The slideshow does nothing to back Miller’s thesis about Palin’s new found leadership of the religious right. Maybe that’s because Newsweek is making Palin in its own image.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters