Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's (R) comment at an NRA event this weekend that "waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists" is earning some criticism from a group that is otherwise often aligned with Palin: conservative Christians.
Here's a sampling:
For anyone to confess Christ as their savior and to compare one of the means of God's grace to a reprehensible act of torture is reprehensible. I hope members of Gov. Palin's local church will explain to her why her remarks denigrate the Christian faith. Such remarks bring shame on the Body of Christ and to our witness in the world. Even more shameful, however, is the fact that so many Christians would cheer her support of torture (and yes, waterboarding is torture).
Gov. Palin was attempting to appeal to the basest political populism (nothing in her remarks could be construed as genuinely conservative) by claiming that current U.S. counterterrorism policy is overly-tolerant and empathetic toward our enemies. She contends that proper policies would "put the fear of God into our enemies."
Unfortunately, what Palin is proposing is a mixture of pagan ethics and civil deistic religion.
When my husband (who was baptized 10 years ago today, as it happens) told me about this, I had a hard time believing that she actually said it. Not just because baptism couldn’t be taken more seriously in traditional Christianity but because the media routinely misquote or fail to provide context for quotes. But the video makes the statement seem even worse.
So why did the crowd cheer when she said it? And why did some folks defend or downplay the statement on Twitter? I couldn’t begin to say, but they shouldn’t have done so.
The Lutheran catechism, which I have here on my shelf, is a collection of teachings for the church. A teaching aid for family use, it goes through the commandments and creed and sacraments and what not. The section on the sacrament of baptism explains what baptism is — the water connected to God’s word; what that word of God is — the Gospel of Jesus, and what baptism gives us:
OK, stop. Not only is this woman, putatively a Christian, praising torture, but she is comparing it to a holy sacrament of the Christian faith. It’s disgusting — but even more disgusting, those NRA members, many of whom are no doubt Christians, cheered wildly for her.
Palin and all those who cheered her sacrilegious jibe ought to be ashamed of themselves. For us Christians, baptism is the entry into new life. Palin invoked it to celebrate torture. Even if you don’t believe that waterboarding is torture, surely you agree that it should not be compared to baptism, and that such a comparison should be laughed at. What does it say about the character of a person that they could make that joking comparison, and that so many people would cheer for it. Nothing good — and nothing that does honor to the cause of Jesus Christ.
And finally, from Andrew Sullivan:
What can one say but that this is a bona fide fascistic sentiment. It revels in violence against individuals tied down by their hands and feet and strapped to a terrifying board in order to be suffocated hundreds of times to near-death. It is the kind of statement you might expect from the Khmer Rouge, or from the Chinese Communists who perfected “stress positions”, or from the Nazis, whose Gestapo pioneered “enhanced interrogation”, i.e. brutal torture that would leave no physical traces. Except it’s worse than that. Even totalitarian regimes have publicly denied their torture. Their reticence and lies are some small concession of vice to the appearance of virtue. Not Palin – who wants to celebrate brutal torture as the American way.
And then she manages to go one step further. She invokes torture in the context of a Christian sacrament. Not since the Nazis’ Deutsche Christen have we seen something so disgusting and blasphemous in the morphing of Christianity into its polar opposite. Mercifully, some Christians on the right have managed to say something.