Sarah Palin 'witchcraft' flap all smoke and no fire

By Jessica Fargen
Friday, September 26, 2008 -
A video of Sarah Palin and Kenyan...
Photo by AP Video
A video of Sarah Palin and Kenyan Pentacostal Bishop Thomas Muthee has been fodder for critics.

The video of a Kenyan bishop asking Jesus to protect Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin from "witchcraft" has turned into a political witch hunt, says one Harvard expert who found "nothing unusual" about the blessing.

"He was giving an African prayer to an American Christian," said Jacob K. Olupona, a Harvard African studies professor. "His prayer reflects his own background and his own training and his own world view. America may not believe in witchcraft, but witcraft is a reality (in Africa)."

Catholic League President Bill Donohue echoed that sentiment, saying witchcraft is a "sad reality" in Kenya that has resulted in scores of deaths.

"(The) blessing was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil. While others are not obliged to accept his interpretation, all can be expected to respect it," he said in a statement.

The 2005 YouTube video shows Palin being blessed in a Wasilla, Alaska, church by Kenyan Pentecostal Bishop Thomas Muthee, who prayed for her protection from witchcraft as she prepared to seek higher office.

"Save her from Satan," Muthee says in the video. "Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus . . . Use her to turn this nation the other way around."

Palin does not speak during the blessing.

A spokesman for GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain declined to comment, but said McCain's running mate does not consider herself Pentecostal.

Pentecostals believe in "baptism in the Holy Spirit," which can manifest itself through speaking in tongues and faith healing, which includes the laying on of hands.

Muthee is a popular figure in Kenya and often visits the U.S., said Olupona, a native Nigerian who teaches in Harvard's Divinity School.

He said Muthee's blessing has been kicked around in a game of political football.

"People should not be demonized on the basis of their faith simply because you are looking for votes," he said. "I do not know how a Christian nation like America became so negative responding to people's deep spirituality."

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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