A Look at Sarah Palin's Faith Walk

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Hers is a story of an overnight media sensation.

Afterall, how often do you see a gun-toting, pro-life Christian, hockey mom of five from Alaska get tapped to be vice-president?

Her fans see her as one of their own and that is music to the ears of the McCain campaign. She has single handidly changed the race for President.

And polls prove it. Before the conventions, white women supported Obama 50-42 percent. Now, there is a 20 point swing in favor of McCain. Enthusiasm is building too. Before Palin, only 12 percent were enthusiastic about McCain becoming president. Now it's 34 percent.

Crowds are also growing because of Palin. In Ohio this week, she finished her speech and some people left while McCain was still talking. On the campaign trail, she plays part attack dog, part maverick reformer --a tag team with a message of cleaning up Washington.

At rallies like the one near Youngstown Ohio you'll hear a lot of talk on the stage from Palin about her reformer image and maverick spirit, but the talk in the crowd is much different. It's a talk about her faith.

Call them faith moms, Bible study moms or whatever you want, but these women are coming out in droves because she's on the ticket.

Sarah's Walk with the Lord

Sarah Palin's walk with the Lord began in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, 45 minutes north of Anchorage. It's in a valley surrounded by snow capped mountains with a mocha stand, not coffee shop, on every corner. People there love to hunt, fish, ride their snow "machines" and they also love Sarah Palin. Palin Fever is there too and friends vouch for the no nonsense reputation she is gaining among the conservative base in the Lower 48.

"Her light definitely shines through and it's true. It's true," friend Julia Hamilton said.

To understand Sarah Palin, you must understand the role faith played in her life.

Rev. Paul Riley and his wife Helen sat down exclusively with CBN News. As then pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God Church, he baptized 12-year-old Sarah in a lake not too far from town.

"When she was a little younger, she was a little fidgety, but as she began to hear the music and began to hear the different illustrations given, it seemed to attract her and she was more motivated to respond and I think that drew her to the final commitment of stepping out and saying I want to be that kind of person," Riley said. "With all of her heart she began to serve God and began to memorize verses in the Bible."

Riley's wife, Helen, agreed.

"I think that Sarah hearing that over and over, hearing the word of God had a great impact on her life," she said.

Critics on Every Corner

The media has tried to dig deep into Palin's faith. Some critics take shots at her Pentecostal upbringing when they hear about people speaking in tongues or receiving the "gifts of the Holy Spirit." A Washington post cartoonist recently went as far as to suggest McCain was using Palin to communicate with God, but that God called it gibberish.

"We figure it's to be expected especially with Palin going for VP," Wasilla Assembly of God member Chris Bottoms explained. "Especially when you throw the tag Christian on it becasue there's not been a really good view of Christianity at times."

Recently, video clips of Gov. Palin speaking at the Church made their way on to YouTube. In talking about the Iraq war, Palin mentioned phrases like "task from God" and "God's plan." She was pressed about that in an interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson.

Faith isn't the only subject under the spotlight. Questions, even from some conservatives, have come up about whether she's experienced enough to be Vice-President. And perhaps one of the most emotional issues comes down to family.

Even some of her supporters wonder how a mother of five will be able to handle the role when she has an infant with Downs Syndrome and a 17-year-old who is pregnant. Those two examples may endear her to the pro-life movement, but bring up the important role of a mother.

"Being a mom, you have to be a multi-tasker. You are a chauffer, a chef, the doctor," Palin's friend, Sharon Bulawa, said. "You're so many different things in that role, that in itself lends to the facets of what you need to be, making lots of decisions, with things coming at you, but still being focused."

What the Critics are Saying

Palin has yet to silence her critics on a number of issues like her "Bridge to Nowhere" comments.

The Alaska Bridge was ridiculed as wasteful spending and while Palin did indeed ultimately reject it, she was on record at first as supporting it.

"They had her opposing these things called the bridges to nowhere. She never called them the bridges to nowhere. She supported them as a concept. How much to spend on them was another concept," House Democrat Les Gara said.

There are questions about earmarks as Alaska's governor. She champions herself as a reformer of wasteful spending, but critics point to Alaska's record of receiving the most earmarks per capita of any state in the country.

"I don't think its all been fair, but that's the media," Robin Reno, Palin's friend said. "But she's got a very thick skin, she's a very fair person, and it will all come out."

One thing is for sure-- because she's new on the national scene, the media vetting will persist from now until Election Day.

For her supporters, controversies don't matter at this point. To them, Sarah, as they call her, can do no wrong. Evangelical leaders say in unison that by picking Palin, the McCain campaign has energized the key social conservative base. And so the babies and their moms will still flock to the rallies, with signs like "Read My Lipstick." Sarah Palin soaks in all the attention while back in Alaska she has people like Pastor Riley and his wife praying for her.

"My prayer is that she will continue to be humble," Rev. Riley said. "That she will realize that she has God who is able to help her and give her wisdom and she will not be prideful over it. God will give her wisdom."

And Palin may have given John McCain what he needs too -- a ticket to The White House.

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