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
Another novel idea lurking in the spaces between the lines is that Palin thinks that we are the good guys. She’s presumptuous enough to voice the secular heresy that America may be exceptional, worth defending, and dare we say—moral. The implication is that American policy may, at some points, coincide with God’s moral order and, therefore, may be justified in its use of force. What may be most inflammatory about Palin is her presumption that there is objective evil in this world that must be destroyed by force of arms. This idea is diametrically opposed to the political and moral relativism of the Obama administration. Obama views America as an imperialist oppressor, cutting a huge swath of mayhem through the international community. For Obama, America is flawed in its founding documents and has only achieved its wealth and influence at the expense of the world’s less fortunate. He sees Russia and other totalitarian states as political equals and feels no compunction to thwart their incursions into American interests.
Palin’s statement is not mere rabble rousing, nor is it sacrilegious. Subjecting terrorists to a baptism of fire is rooted in the most ancient principles of natural law and is supported explicitly by Christian doctrine. Terrorists, who are evil, should be made to fear America’s wrath. They live their lives by the sword, so let us strive to see them die by it. It is appropriate for our government to exact an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth. This is the measure of justice among nations. To the atrocities of terrorism, the Christian patriot responds, “Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war.”