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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