At the NRA’s last annual meeting, Sarah Palin uttered a sentence that raised the ire of some religious conservatives and some not so religious liberals. She said, "Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we'd baptize terrorists." Many have found fault with the comparison of Christian baptism to an interrogation technique. But these critics are missing the point. I think what is far more interesting are the presuppositions inherent in Palin’s comparison.
The apoplectic response of Palin’s critics reveals interesting and erroneous attitudes. On the surface, people seem to feel outrage over her supposed sacrilegious use of a Christian sacrament to make her point. However, I think people find offense, not so much in the particular use of Christian baptism but, more broadly, in associating Christian doctrine with the state’s use of force. It’s disconcerting for secularists to hear someone who seems to be perfectly at ease with allowing Christ to obtrude into secular matters.
It’s as if Palin sees no distinction between the sacred and the secular. Her political ideology is intertwined with her theology, and Palin shares this trait with our founding fathers. Even Christians feel cognitive dissonance when confronted with the concept that politics is as John Adams described it, “as the divine science.” The extent to which secular liberalism has infected the way we think about politics is illustrated by the knee-jerk reaction to Palin’s statement. Most people feel fine about the non-threatening infant Christ but would rather not discuss the Messiah who fashioned a leather scourge, driving money changers before his thundering whip.