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.
In the last days of the 2008 US Presidential election, Sarah Palin was the victim of a prank. During a radio transmission heard in vast part of the country, the “French President Sarkozy” called to greet and congratulate her. The “French President” was, if memory serves, a professional actor, and Sarah Palin swallowed it hook, line and sinker. It made world news, and the big UK radio stations opened the news with it (gloating, of course) the morning after. Again, the prank happened in front of a big radio audience, just a few days before the US presidential election, when Mrs Palin was fighting for a place in history.
You may be pleased to know that Sarah Palin did not commit suicide.
Actually, she continued to be a very respected and influential politician and went on to become one of the two or three most important driving forces behind the Tea Party.
Whilst my three American readers may not know what I am talking about, my two English readers certainly do: the apparent suicide of the nurse who took the prank phone call from the two Australian DJs working for a radio station.
I might not be the only one in this country who smells the rancid odour of boundless emotionalism and political correctness here, but I have not managed to read anything reasonable on the matter until now. Therefore, I think it is fitting to do something awful here, and put a thing or two in their right place at the (welcome) risk of scandalising the usual suspects.
Firstly, a suicide is a horrible, horrible thing. A suicide puts the one who commits it in very great danger of damning his soul. In addition, a suicide irretrievably damages the lives of several people around the person who took his life. Moreover, a suicide encourages other people to commit suicide: suicidal people are rather gregarious, and a spike in suicides has been observed in the one-two days following “well-known” suicides, even if they are fictitious (say: on popular TV fiction programmes).
Every suicide helps other people to commit suicide; everyone who downplays the tragic reality of suicide does the same; you see here the logic of God’s creation, and the linearity of Satan’s work.
Secondly, every person with some sense will tell you the same that every sound doctor will repeat: suicides don’t just happen because of one disappointment. Something very bad has been going on for a very long time, and at some point the suicidal person “snaps” and something – something which might be very bad, or very trivial – tips the scales, and Satan very probably snatches that soul.
Thirdly, the thing no one says anymore in circumstances like this: the first person culpable of a suicide is always, always, always the suicide himself. And no, I do not care if this is seen as “insensitive”: to encourage further suicides through the all-too-common mellifluous wave of fake solidarity is much, much worse; but hey, people feel good, so those who feel suicidal are welcome to throw themselves from the next bridge, the next wave of sugary and smug solidarity is assured to them.
In past times – when people used to think, rather than to emote – all this was well understood. Suicides were not buried on consecrated ground, so that the horrified public may be able to give a good look at the abyss of hell. But the shiver they would get unavoidably helped them when the great tests of life came and the devil prowled around, seeking whom he might devour.
In these disgraceful times, however, people don’t “do” hell anymore, and every kind of sugary emotionalism is manna to them (that’s why they don’t believe in hell, by the way). Therefore, the terrible news of a mother of two hanging herself does not awaken any kind of sentiment concerning the immense stupidity and blasphemy of such a gesture, or considerations about what kind of depression might have been going on for who knows how long for something like that to happen. Rather, the public rage directs itself against two young people with a rather keen sense of humour, succeeding in a prank they had probably not even seriously planned and had certainly very innocently executed.
I herewith invite all those who have known of the prank against Sarah Palin and have not expressed the same kind of solidarity for her in 2008 to just do us the favour and kindly shut up; and all the others, to express any kind of questioning of the opportunity of telephone pranks only after they have said the things that must be said concerning the great danger of damnation of those who commit suicide, and the fact that the responsibility for their act lies firstly, secondly and thirdly by the suicides themselves.
Every suicide is a bomb exploding under the chair of Christianity. It signals a probable victory for Satan at the same time as it prepares the next one, or the next ones. A Christian must abhor suicide as he abhors child raping. Suicide must go back to being what it used to be: a taboo that can’t be abused for the sake of easy emotionalism and feel-good sugary platitudes.
I wonder how many priests would say this today? Read your novels, and you’ll know this is what every clergymen, even the Protestant ones, would have told everyone only a handful of generations ago.
Christianity is slowing vanishing from Western culture, and is being replaced by a concoction of childish assumed wisdom and effeminate emotionalism.
Time to wake up, and no mistake.
Say your eternal rest for the poor woman, for the sake of her soul (if she has managed to save it, which we hope) and in honour of her poor guardian angel, ignored and never thanked like most of them are.
But never for an instant lose contact with the utterly terrifying reality of suicide, and of its very likely consequences.
Let me start with a very European observation: I ‘ll never get accustomed to the way those american ads work. He looks at her smiling in a woody, embarrassing way as she talks, and she look at him with Newfoundland dog eyes when his turn comes; one almost expects to see her tongue dangling out whilst he gives her the bowl with the Royal Canin. Cheesy, I would call it. Still, if it works the other side of the Pond it is not for me to criticise…
What it is for me to criticise in this video is something that for many Christians in the US will probably be a detail, but for a Catholic actually never should: Pawlenty apostatised.
The messages I get from the video are the following ones:
1. Pawlenty discovered a profound connection to Christianity through Protestantism. He mentions very much en passant his being born as a Catholic, but it is very clear that the bible studies & Co. “introduced him to the Lord in new and powerful ways”. It seems to me that in Pawlenty’s environment Catholics weren’t doing their job properly (his family; his priest; the Catholic culture around him) whilst Evangelicals were. I can’t explain in any other way how the man could feel in him a desire to know the Lord “in a more powerful way” without understanding that the right way to do so is to improve his knowledge of Catholicism.
2. Pawlenty doesn’t see a problem in his apostasy, nor probably do most of his viewers. He doesn’t say a word of real justification as to why he apostatised; he seems not to consider this a possible source of trouble with the 70 million of US Catholics. He presents his choice as a kind of “path to unity”, basically still sending the message that he did something good. There’s not even a hint at his feeling, today, some degree of guilt, or at least discomfort.
From the points above I can only deduct that the Church in the US must have done something massively wrong for decades, as I can’t imagine any other possibility to explain how someone could not only apostatise, but think that he can candidate to the office of President without this becoming at least an issue that must be seriously dealt with.
Mind, I am not saying that Catholics shouldn’t vote for an apostate, as every sincere believer, pro-life supporter and defender of the real marriage surely is a zillion times preferable to Adolf Hussein Obama. I am also not saying that having apostatised should make every man not worthy of a Catholic’s esteem (Sarah Palin is, as far as I know, another apostate, and Glenn Beck a third; no doubt, there will be many others). I am merely pointing out that the absence of a real debate on the matter – a debate strong enough as to force Pawlenty to say a bit more about the issue than his utterly unacceptable “I wanted unity in my family, so I apostatised” – clearly indicates that there is an awful lot of religious relativism going on in the Church in the US and that this goes on unchallenged.
Independently of Pawlenty’s suitability as a President, it seems to me that:
1. he is still awfully ignorant of the relevance of the step he took at the time;
2. the broad public, even Catholic, is not much better instructed than he is;
3. the US clergy, collectively seen, doesn’t seem to care.
Irrespective of the US presidential race, it seems to me that there is a lot of work to do.
Terry Jones doesn’t know me. Not that this is a very rare evenience, or a particularly disgraceful one. But in this case knowing me might perhaps (just perhaps) have had some advantage.
He might have called me, for example, and asked me what he should do. He would have probably told me that he is terrified, that this thing has gone completely out of control, he has everyone against him from Obama to the Pope to Sarah Palin and not even paramilitary groups have wanted to be at his ceremony.
Well, if he had called I would have said to him: “Don’t panic, old boy. You made a very clever move and showed to the entire planet the danger represented by Islamic fanaticism, a religion with a lot people ready to start massacres just because you burn books they consider holy”.
“Yes, Mundabor” he would have said “but I now really, really want to get out of this. What shall I do?”
“Very simple, Terry, old boy” I would have answered. “Put your nicest face and your nicest suit on, go in front of the cameras, say that you have already reached your objective of showing how dangerous Muslim fanaticism is. Say that you do not want the eruption of this senseless violence to be linked with your name and announce the end of the initiative without the burning of the Korans. Then send your best greetings to the boys in Afghanistan and go away with the notoriety, the point well made, your face and an intact reputation”.
This is what I would have told him. But you see, he didn’t call me. Not only because he doesn’t know me but because he is a Protestant. Which makes things a bit weird.
Therefore, he retired in prayer with his community, waiting for a “sign”. Which is strange, isn’t it? If you are waiting for a sign why do you announce the initiative in the first place? Was there no sign then? Has God changed His mind?
Then he and his small community (all terrified, one supposes) decide that the sign can be, in fact, pretty much everything… a phone call and he is out, God must have told him. The President would be best, but really, pretty much everyone big in Washington would seal the deal.. and one wonders what a phone call would then change wouldn’t one…. what kind of difference can a phone call conceivably make…..
But he doesn’t get any call (that I know of, but I think also that I do not know of) and suddenly God gives, in His mercy, another sign: if they renounce to the mosque near Ground zero (can’t remember hearing him complaining about that; it must be me) then he has a deal. And if they don’t renounce, well ok it is fine if they move it. And if they don’t move it, well it’s still fine, these things take time, provided that there is an agreement…
And so he announces that there is going to be no bonfire, because he has an agreement with some strange Imam (not the owner of the real estate, mind) that they are going not to build anymore, ahem, to build elsewhere, ahem, to discuss about building elsewhere…
In the meantime, it appears the owners of the project have given no assent whatsoever to stop or move the project at all and frankly, this would have been surprising…. so one wonders what signal has God sent to the chap, after all……
I wonder whether this man will not appear as a drunken idiot tomorrow, when with a bit of common sense and political antennae he could have been, for a day at least, the darling of the nation.
But then I reflect that he is a Protestant. He talks to God. Receives signs. Several a day. With multiple choices. I imagine (I cannot imagine anything else, besides substance abuse) that this kind of “God has sent us a sign at 4pm and another sign at 5pm, but we have gone for the 8:15pm sign which is not even there”-mentality does have followers. It seems drunken nonsense to us but hey: he is the professional; he earns his livelihood out of that small community; he must know….. perhaps he just couldn’t have done purely what is most reasonable; perhaps he is supposed to be inspired….
Well, the entire matter has ended with a big laugh instead of violence. I still think that the message was brilliant and that it has been understood by most people. But this kind of disordered desperate search for the emergency exit and this idea of the broadband connection to Heaven will, I am afraid, gravely damage his credibility and the impact of the entire story.
Bonfires are best left to the Dominicans.