Catholics and other Christians have criticized Sarah Palin’s recent comments comparing waterboarding to baptism, calling them disrespectful, irreverent, and even blasphemous.
“Not all intolerant, anti-freedom, leftist liberals are hypocrites. I'm kidding, yes, they are. And they are not right policies that poke our allies in the eye and coddle adversaries instead of putting the fear of God in our enemies. Come on! Enemies who would utterly annihilate America,” Palin said April 26 at a National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis.
“They who’d obviously have information on plots, say to carry out jihad. 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.”
Edward Peters, professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote April 29 at his blog, “In the Light of the Law,” that regardless of one’s political affiliation, Palin’s statement about baptism “should shock the conscience.”
He referred to Deacon Ed Kandra of the Brooklyn diocese, who wrote April 28 at the website Patheos that “Equating torture with baptism is extremely offensive – and, in fact, blasphemous.”
Peters suggested that Deacon Kandra “might be right” in calling her statement blasphemous, adding that “even if Palin’s words only meet the lesser standard of ‘irreverence’ toward God or holy things, they were wrong to utter and wrong to applaud.”
“I think Palin’s guardian angel … wept at her comparing baptism to waterboarding.”
Deacon Kandra said in his post that waterboarding “degrades human life” and that Palin “made a mockery of the foundational sacrament of our faith.”
“As someone who calls herself ‘pro-life,’ she should understand that we are called to respect life in all its forms, at all times, from conception to natural death. Pro-life Americans should be appalled.”
Writer and editor Rod Dreher wrote at The American Conservative that “Palin and all those who cheered her sacrilegious jibe ought to be ashamed of themselves. For us Christians, baptism is the entry into new life. Palin invoked it to celebrate torture.”
“Even if you don’t believe that waterboarding is torture, surely you agree that it should not be compared to baptism, and that such a comparison should be laughed at.”
Mollie Hemingway, a Lutheran who writes at The Federalist, said that “joking about baptism in the context of (waterboarding) suggests that we don’t think baptism is as life-giving or important as it is.”
James Arnold, editor of Alliance Alert at Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote that “comparing baptism to waterboarding – and this is, I think, regardless of your position on both the efficacy of baptism for the transference of grace and of the usefulness of waterboarding for the extraction of information – is simply disrespectful.”
At The Gospel Coalition, a group of evangelical Christians, Joe Carter wrote that it is “reprehensible” for a Christian “to compare one of the means of God's grace to an act of torture.”
He said that Palin’s position “seeks retribution and ‘dehumanizes’ our opponents in order to distance them from ourselves,” which can be “dangerous, particularly for those who must carry out the fight against terrorism.”
“In our attempts to dehumanize our enemy we end up becoming less than human ourselves. It would be a Pyrrhic victory to save civilization and lose our humanity.”
As an infant, Palin was baptized Catholic, but she was raised in and continues to attend a non-denominational ecclesial community. She is now a TV personality, but served as governor of Alaska from 2006 to 2009 and was Republican Party candidate for vice president in 2008.
After the offensive nature of her comments, she failed to apologize for the remark about baptism. Two days after the NRA convention, she posted on Facebook saying, “If some overly sensitive wusses took offense, remember the First Amendment doesn’t give you a right not to be offended.”