Torturing Baptism

April 29, 2014

Over the weekend, former Republican vice presidential candidate and part-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin compared the sacred act of baptism to torture. Speaking to a gathering of the NRA, Palin declared:

Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.
Well, thank God she is not in charge! Palin's comment not only demonstrates her bad politics but also her sacrilegious theology. Baptism, the sacrament that marks a Christian's entrance to into the Kingdom of God, is not a punchline nor should it be compared to torture (and, for the record, waterboarding is torture). Palin's outrageous remark provides several important conclusions.

First, Palin again demonstrates she has is part of the problem in contemporary politics. Her lack of civility harms the nation as her speeches are devoid of substance and instead are essentially a string of one-liners targeting anyone she does not like. Her extreme rhetoric should be rejected. Any politician who invites her to campaign with them should be rejected in the voting booth and any political organization (like the NRA) that gives her a platform should be condemned.

Second, Palin again demonstrates her poor theology. Republican John McCain choose her for the 2008 national ticket in part to win over conservative evangelicals, and since then Palin has since been a key speaker at numerous conservative evangelical political events. However, any Christian group that invites Palin after her sacrilegious torture-baptism remark should be rejected as a group more interested in politics than faith. After all, Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not to torture them in his name.

Third, Palin offers a theology that, ironically, makes her no different than the worst type of Islamic extremists that she claims to be against. To violently torture someone to bring them into the faith is what she claims Muslims wants to do. She has become the very thing she claims to oppose. The vast majority of Muslims who reject terrorism have a better worldview than Palin. True faith must be freely chosen, not something forced upon someone else.

Fourth, Palin places a burden on McCain to finally criticize her. Ideally, he would finally admit he made a mistake and apologize for launching her on the national scene. Palin was not ready to lead and was not properly vetted, which is why she actually cost McCain some votes during the 2008 presidential campaign. However, he has continued to support her and defend his decision. Yet, McCain has been the strongest Republican voice to criticize the George W. Bush administration for using torture (like waterboarding). McCain deserves praise for his strong moral voice on this issue and hopefully he will remain consistent and condemn Palin.

Fifth, Palin shows the corrupting danger of torture and violence. Too many conservative Christian leaders backed Bush's use of torture, which led to some tortured theology. As our nation launched a preemptive war based on false information and starting torturing people, we baptized ourselves into a way of violence and hatred. Sadly, Palin's scenario even occurred as U.S. soldiers during the Bush era dressed up like a Catholic priest and tortured a prisoner with a mock baptism. The proof of how we degraded ourselves came as the NRA crowd loudly cheered Palin's comment. When torture becomes a joke, an applause line, and a symbol of American religion, then we have already destroyed ourselves. Lord, have mercy!