I do not typically delve into the political as I am deeply convicted that there is enough of that swirling about the Internets and most of it is divisive, but today I will address a political figure. The following is meant to address Sarah Palin and her comments directly. Please do not view my thoughts as endorsing one political party over another. The truth is I would consider myself an independent, and while I am not in complete alignment with G.K. Chesterton, politically or theologically, I do believe his own words regarding the political stream tend to square up my thoughts quite nicely.
“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” - G.K. Chesterton, 1924
And I think, in large part, Chesterton’s summation of the American political landscape in 1924 can largely be applied to the ridiculously idiotic (yes, I mean it) and naive words Mrs. Palin needlessly spoke to a NRA hosted rally at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN over the weekend. I full-well realize that criticizing the “wisdom” of Mrs. Palin could quite possibly raise the ire of the Palin fan base to “rage monster” status, but I’ll beg everyone to hear me out here.
It would be a reasonable assumption to make that a significant number of Palin fans would identify themselves as both politically conservative, and a Christian. And, it’s the second half of that identification that I want to appeal to, because it should, and must, trump the first half of the identification. At said event, Palin addressed several topics and settled into that of enemies of the United States. And that’s where things get ridiculous.
"If I were in charge," she started, as the audience applauded such a thought “[our enemies] would know that waterboarding is how we'd baptize terrorists."
What an incredibly idiotic and naive thing to say, truly. At face value, for some, I’m sure such a thing just makes us want to stand and cheer, but it shouldn’t. And I say that because comparing the Christian practice of baptism to torture isn’t great oration, it’s sacrilege. That is the honest truth; it is speaking profanely about baptism and that’s pretty significant seeing as Jesus instituted two sacraments: communion and baptism. So, if we’re Sarah Palin, let’s go ahead and use one of those as a means of torturing someone, that cool?
No, it’s not.
And, what makes it even worse is this isn’t even a case of Palin’s adrenaline pumping and letting her rhetoric get the better of her, because NBC News later caught up with her and asked her if she would make such a statement again and here is her response.
“Would I make it again? Why wouldn’t I, yeah, absolutely.”
NBC News lobbed her a hanging slider, allowing her to walk her remarks back, but in essence she doubled-down on it. This is why blind nationalism is a dangerous path to follow: you end up making ridiculously silly and sacrilegious comments. This really shouldn’t surprise us though, since she is a bit of a maverick. At least that’s what she’s proudly proclaimed to us no less than eleventy bajillion times.
The reality is that treating waterboarding with such moral indifference is deplorable at best. We can watch Zero Dark Thirty as much as we want, but the issue of whether or not waterboarding is a successful tactic for extracting information from people is questionable. At this point we can only take the CIA’s word for it, and I think we all know how dangerous a practice that is. Especially after it seems the CIA wasn’t quite truthful in it’s reports regarding it’s own “enhanced interrogation techniques” recently. There is a fight in the Senate subcommittees over declassifying a report on CIA interrogation abuses being waged right now. In plain speak: waterboarding disregards the rights and dignity of the human being as an image-bearer. And, although I know many would argue these individuals have no regard for human life themselves, I have arrived at this personal belief for two reasons:
1) If terrorists were the first group to utilize waterboarding, we would all condemn such practices and strongly demand justice and vengeance.
2) People seem to believe that the War on Terror is simple: these are just religious fanatics that want to harm us because… America.
The problem is that the War on Terror is a bit of a PR campaign. You’ll never solve the issue of terrorism from the viewpoint that it’s simple religious fanaticism. Terrorism is motivated by more nuanced and complex factors. Does it involve religious fanaticism? Yes, not arguing that point at all, but religious fanaticism is merely a part that helps contribute to the whole. In a great many cases where terrorists are born and bred they are raised to believe Americans are evil because they have no access to information. There is one TV in the village, or no objective news sources, no internet. They only know what other terrorists or individuals with particularly anti-American sentiments show them and use to indoctrinate them into believing we are evil and their enemy. And, chances are soundbites like the one Sarah Palin offered up over the weekend will only serve as more anti-American propaganda for terrorist organizations to use to indoctrinate new adherents.
For Christianity her comments are especially horrible because it puts the practice of baptism, a beautiful and celebratory event, in a particularly bad light for those in other parts of the world that do not understand it. And, it would seem, Sarah Palin doesn’t understand it, either. This is where politics and rampant nationalism do incalculable damage to the witness of the church. The truth is Mrs. Palin needs to retract her statement, repent of it, and exercise more more restraint in her speech.
I would have a hard time believing that anyone, Christian or irreligious, would disagree with such a verse as found in the book of Proverbs:
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. - Proverbs 12:18
I think that the willingness to simply go along with what Mrs. Palin says needs to end. If this is to be here stance, it's probably for the best that she is not our "leader." Please don't take my criticism as an endorsement to simply "do nothing" in the face of terrorism. Certainly I would never advocate such a notion as I believe it is the responsibility of a people to defend themselves against such evils as terrorism. However, I will implore the church and those who profess themselves to be of the Christian faith to condemn Sarah Palin's line of thinking on such a matter. And, while I am in no way anti-gun, I also think it would be prudent of the NRA to also condemn her remarks as well.