Sarah Palin’s Troubling Theology of Baptism

Over the weekend, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, former Vice-presidential candidate and current presence on reality television, gave a speech to the National Rifle Association.  

It covered the same ground as the other speeches at the convention, except for this remark, made when she was lamenting the US’s foreign policy: “Well, if I were in charge they [the terrorists] would know that water boarding is how we baptize terrorists.”  The crowd, already primed, cheered and applauded.

(See video of the entire speech here.) 

This has sparked controversy, even from Palin’s usual supporters.  One woman writes a blog post here, which points out that those of us who hold a high sacramental view of baptism really would never conflate it with a form of torture visited upon terrorists.  Doing so is a violation of the voluntary, saving nature of the sacrament.  (Also–it wouldn’t be very efficacious, would it?) 

Joking about forced baptism via torture would locate Palin’s baptismal theology somewhere in the vicinity of the Inquisition, only without all the clericalism to give it structure.

  And that’s setting aside the fact that she’s condoning torture at all–which by itself desecrates the image of God in humanity.  

We talk a lot about Christian education in the church, but, today, Sarah Palin serves as a prime example of why everyone needs to have a good grasp of decent theology.  Otherwise powerful people stand up and say, and do, things like this.   

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Paul Woodrum

    It’s difficult to take seriously anything Palin says and quite silly to impute theological nuance to her. However, if waterboarding is a form of baptism, in addition to immersion and sprinkling, perhaps terrorists will start showing up at church on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter.

  2. Gregory Orloff

    Au contraire, Paul. The fact that the “silly” violent, xenophobic, misanthropic things Sarah Palin says makes crowds cheer and applaud is reason enough to take them seriously and rebut them. And the fact that she makes a pretence of being the public face of Christian virtue and moral decency while spouting such blasphemous, un-Christian, anti-Gospel rot is even more reason to do so. I hope one day Ms. Palin discovers Christ Jesus and opts to follow his teachings and ethics. Thus far, her words and behavior show that has not taken place, yet she persists in claiming the mantle of Christianity, aiding and abetting the stereotypes many hold against all Christians.

  3. Paul Woodrum

    Perhaps Ms Sarah’s contemporary interpretation of baptism is waterboarding in the name of that most unholy Trinity of FBI, CIA and NSA.

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