Baptism And Waterboarding: In Defence Of Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin has said some words to the extent that if she were in charge she would put some “fear of the Lord” into terrorists and show them that waterboarding is how we baptise them. Shock and horror ensued. I think they are both vastly exaggerated.
The use of the word “baptism” outside of the sacramental context is very old, and certainly perfectly well liked even in times more Christian than ours. The Italian expression battesimo del fuoco (“baptism of fire”) indicates the first time a soldier faces a combat situation, and I have never heard of anyone, Catholic or Protestant, Christian or Heathen, ever complaining for its use. The word “battesimo” is also used, without any evil meaning, by “first time” situations, often unpleasant ones. A fall from the bicycle, say, would have people say to you “oh well, you have been baptised”, meaning sooner or later you would have to fall from the bicycle, and now you are a better cyclist for it. No disrespect to the Baptism is meant. On the contrary, you would rather find these expressions in Countries where pretty much everyone is baptised. I am rather sure many other languages of Christian countries have the same expressions, or similar ones. To complain about such expressions would in my eyes be, ahem, very Protestant.
Sarah Palin is, alas, a Heretic, but I think no reasonable person can have doubts about her Christian faith. I always write that words and phrases must be understood in the context, because isolating single words is often a misleading exercise. For example, we understand Francis’ questionable or heretical statements in the light of his countless other questionableor heretical statements; we do this, because they give the context for what he wants to say.
The same should, I think, apply to Mrs Palin. It is obvious she had no intention of belittling or banalising Baptism; rather, her was a robust way of saying that Christians can show Muslims terrorists they aren’t all daisy pickers, and can be as tough as it is needed. Which is good. Very good.
As to the waterboarding, I will not insult my readers’ intelligence telling them where I am on the matter. But this post is not about waterboarding, either.
Was Palin’s expression robust? Yes, it was. Could it have been avoided? Yes, pretty much everything apart from “good morning” could probably be avoided, but I honestly do not think she should have done it. Unless, that is, I should suddenly decide that “baptism of fire” is impious, too. Certainly, though, no reasonable person can say Palin wanted to belittle or disrespect Baptism, more than the Italian man using the words battesimo del fuoco would.
Look at the person, and understand the person as she speaks. If she’s a sincere Christian, do her the courtesy of recognising it. If you recognise it there can be no outrage, because we worship God, not words. There are discusdions at times that remind me of the stoning scene in “Life of Brian”.
But note this: in the same phrase, Palin mentioned the “fear of the Lord”. This is an expression I think I have never, ever heard from a high-rank politician in the UK, lest they offend the sensibilities of some heathen. Therefore, my deal is this: let Palin show Christian faith in her speeches and actions, and she can use the word “baptism” in whatever comparison she wants.
Some closing observations:
1. This kind of outrage is used often by neocons to isolate real conservatives. Conservatives are more robust in their expression, and it is easy to take – or fake – outrage at them. If Palin is damaged, cui prodest? The critics of Obama should think hard about this.
2. This “sensitive” mentality is what has allowed the Republicans to be screwed with McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012 and, no doubt, will allow them to be screwed with some other PC daisy in 2016. No divisive people, no divisive messages, only neutral words. The daisies would never use such phrases, you see, so you can happily lose the next election, safe in the knowledge that your losing candidate will only express himself in the appropriate way, will always say “gay” instead of “faggot”, and will allow you to see Hillary at the White House with the serene conscience that no Christian word has been used in less than the perfectly appropriate way.
I am not a US citizen, though obviously what happens in the US impacts us all too. But an awful lot of Americans will soon have to decide if their Country should continue to go down the drain because they can never pick anyone with a functioning brain and a robust spine, or whether they should rather decide that you pick a candidate because of his message and outlook on life, not his score in the PC electoral contest.