Man, the 12 minute speech Sarah Palin gave to the NRA convention is awful. It’s just witless, red-meat blathering, delivered in that nasal whine of hers that makes it sound like she’s chewing wads of tinfoil. For people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like.
Fast-forward in the video to the 6:30 mark, though, and listen to what she says about terrorists. It’s part of a long harangue about lily-livered liberals, delivered in such a way that makes Archie Bunker sound like Cicero. Money quote:
“Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”
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.
I’ve long defended Palin against the offensive treatment she’s received at the hands of a blatantly biased media, a media that collectively lost its mind the moment she entered the national stage. But that hardly means she must be defended at all times. … This is a perfect example not just of civil religion but also how civil religion harms the church. Civil religion is that folk religion that serves to further advance the cause of the state.
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.
If I thought that kind of hateful declaration and abuse of the Christian religion was what conservatism stood for, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a conservative. Some conservatives do stand for that. They’re wrong, and they should be called out on it — not because some liberal somewhere is going to be offended, but first and foremost because we Christians who identify as conservatives are appalled by it.
UPDATE: Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition has a great response. Excerpt:
In our attempts to dehumanize our enemy we end up becoming less than human ourselves. It would be a Pyrrhic victory to save civilization and lose our humanity.
We must never hesitate to defend our culture, our future, and our lives against those who seek to destroy us. The liberal cosmopolitan elite appeal to tolerance and understanding in the face of such an enemy is suicidal. However, the right-wing populist position, which is willing to face up to and address the evil of terrorism, fails to understand the ramifications of becoming like the enemy by dehumanizing them.
The truly Christian position is to never forget that evil comes not just from the actions of “terrorists” or “enemies” but from the heart of a fallen, sacred yet degraded, human beings. If we are to preserve our own humanity we must not forget that our enemy differs from us in degree, not in kind. Like us, our enemies need to accept Jesus and to be baptized by water and the Spirit. That is the Christian way, not as Palin would have it, to have our enemies fear a pagan god and have their spirit broken by water.