“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4
Suggesting or pronouncing that baptism is a form of torture sounds absurd at best and down right heretical from most theological positions among Christians. In fact, I am not sure if it has been said in the modern age.
Sarah Palin has now used baptism as a metaphor for torture amidst cheers at a recent NRA rally.
Let’s give her some slack; she was trying to make a joke. We all make bad jokes. If this came out of the mouth of Bill Maher, Louis Black, or Louis C.K. we might be offended, but expect to be offended since these are comedians. The difference is that she made this leap not as a comedian, and at an NRA rally. She engaged the audience and they lapped it up like parched dogs. I give her credit for that. But she also revealed utter theological ignorance and an ironic lack of conviction for her faith.
I haven’t spoken to or heard from any Christian who thought she was clever or amusing. The reaction has been quite the opposite. Pundits all over the map are registering really bad reviews for her near sadistic rant.
Here’s the snippet of what she said:
“They obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad,” she said at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting on Saturday evening, referring to prisoners. “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.”
This statement should alienate her from any Christian who takes sacraments seriously. Baptism is perhaps the most universally revered of the holy mysteries of Christianity as it marks the initiation of one’s life with God and the Christian community.
Baptism was certainly important in her own religious upbringing. Ms. Palin became a Christian as a member of the The First Assembly of God in Wasilla, AK. The Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination of Christianity, believes that one is baptized after the initiate declares a pronouncement of faith in Jesus Christ, and encourages a Baptism in the Holy Spirit, a sign of which is speaking in tongues.
Ms. Palin has never been shy about her faith, offering often loud and convicted statements. Baptism played an important role in her own life as told in Charisma Magazine in 2009.
“It was so cool growing up in this church and getting saved here, getting baptized by Pastor Riley … my whole family getting baptized,” she told the congregation, just two months before her vice presidential nomination.
With these pronouncements, her language at the NRA rally takes a rhetoric of fear, violence, and hatred up many notches. Her faith preached from the pulpit of the gun is now scarcely recognizable from what it may have been.
Here is another comparison. The above image is an infamous photograph called Piss Christ (1987) taken by Andres Serrano. Here a Crucifix is submerged into a beautifully colored container of urine. Lovely. This work of art drew the ire of many, but the loudest voice was from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the United States; a conservative Catholic organization. The Crucifix Serrano used in the photo is distinctly Roman Catholic.
“I would argue that ethics should dictate that you don’t go around gratuitously and intentionally insulting people of faith,” (Bill) Donohue told the Guardian. “I don’t care whether you’re Muslim or Jewish or Catholic or whatever you might be.”
Whether it’s pissing on a Crucifix or telling us that a method of torture is like being baptized, Christianity was just mocked by one of its supposed champions.