Actions to stop terrorists who’d utterly annihilate America and delight in massacring our innocent children? Darn right I’d do whatever it takes to foil their murderous jihadist plots – including waterboarding. Whatever one thinks of my one-liner at the NRA rally about treating evil terrorists the way they deserve to be treated to prevent the death of innocent people, it’s utterly absurd for MSNBC to suggest that I could put our beloved troops in harm’s way, but we’ve come to expect the absurd from that failing network. If you want to talk about what really harms our troops, let’s talk about politicians who gut our military’s budgets, or a president whose skewed budgetary priorities slash military benefits, or an administration that puts our vets on endless waiting lists for care that comes too late to help those who’ve paid the price for our freedom, or those who break bread with those who think it makes no difference how our military heroes died in Benghazi or anywhere else trying to protect America. Those actions are a heck of a lot more harmful than declaring an appropriate message our enemies should receive. If some overly sensitive wusses took offense, remember the First Amendment doesn’t give you a right not to be offended. Perhaps hypocritical folks who only want Freedom of Speech to apply to those who agree with their liberal agenda might want to consider that the evil terrorists who were the brunt of my one-liner would be the first to strip away ALL our rights if given the chance. That’s why we do whatever we can to prevent them from killing innocent people. And for that, we should NEVER apologize. Good Lord, critics… buck up or stay in the truck. And if you love freedom, thank our troops! Thank our vets! And thank those who have the brains to support them and the guts to defend what they have earned!
– Sarah Palin
Regardless of criticism from the Left, I think Palin is missing the point of the criticism that she has been hearing from Christians. And that criticism has less to do with politics than it does with the integrity of the Christian faith that she professes.
There has been a longstanding debate about whether waterboarding equals torture. I agree with those who say that it is. Regardless of where you come down on that issue, however, everyone agrees that waterboarding is intended to inflict fear and terror on its subjects by making them feel like they are drowning. For Christians, it is offensive to compare this to baptism. Moreover, it undermines to Christian witness to use rhetoric that conflates coerced simulated drowning with Christian baptism. It distorts what baptism means, and it confirms to many Muslims some of the worst caricatures of Christianity that one finds in the Muslim world.
A friend of mine who has served as a missionary in the middle-east for two decades recently shared with me his thoughts about Palin’s remarks:
Words like hers harm our witness in the Muslim world, as they confirm their deeply-held belief that politics, military force and religion go hand in hand – as much in the West as in Islam… Statements like Palin’s increase the risk to our safety, as they inflame Muslim anger toward Christians. Personally, I think waterboarding is torture, and I think we are called to a higher standard than the people we are fighting. Even if someone disagrees with me on that, it is still totally unacceptable to connect waterboarding and baptism.
I care about foreign policy and about how America projects its power around the world. These are moral concerns that every Christian should care about. But I’m more concerned about the fortunes of the gospel in the world. Palin defends her remarks as an “appropriate message.” But is it appropriate to give ammunition to Christianity’s critics in the Muslim world? Is it appropriate to give the impression that American Christians aim to inflict coerced “baptisms” upon conquered foes? The good and noble desire to oppose terrorism does not excuse reckless rhetoric.
Yes, Palin was using a figure of speech. Nevertheless, it was a profane figure that distorts the faith and gives occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme (Rom. 2:24). For that reason, no Christian should be trading in and defending this kind of rhetoric.