Why I am not jumping up and down over Sarah Palin’s comments on Baptism

May 1, 2014

Have a seat and this won’t hurt a bit. Let’s be quick about it too.

Everybody who follows politics (which is really not good for your brain, but that is another essay for another day) knows by now that the former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate popped off an ill-considered comment concerning terrorists, torture and one of what Anglicans would call Dominical Sacraments – a sacrament instituted in form and matter by Christ.

The most offensive part of the event was the audiences’ laughter and cheers. I suppose this will label me as one of Sarah Palin’s despicable liberals, but it is hard to imagine what anybody might find funny or agreeable about torture. Those who go along with this kind of yahooism are moral cowards. There is no reason to be surprised by such indifference. Every instinct of modern American culture and most of our institutions point to and encourage moral weakness. The reaction to Palin, both at the event and afterwards by supposedly sober observers, is astounding.

Now let us turn to Mrs. Palin, Follow me carefully because this has several steps in the discussion. Palin attends a Bible church up in Alaska and one might easily presume that it does not teach or practice very much in the way of sacramental theology. I am not trying to offend anybody.Anglicans have a high view of sacraments and a fairly well articulated doctrinal position in the 39 Articles. I have a hunch that a large number of the people who attend my rather large Anglican church in Little Rock, Arkansas could not tell you the first thing about sacraments. So, one should be careful about coming down too hard on Palin’s innocent display of ignorance.

I wonder if they ever read the Old Testament in Sarah Palin’s Bible church. The young men who would become the patriarchs of Israel got in quite a bit of trouble over a bloodthirsty act of vengeance (Gen 34). This was a mass murder responding to the rape of their sister Dinah. The sons of Jacob required that the men of Shechem be circumcised as part of the negotiated settlement, but the real intention was to murder the whole bunch of them during the recovery period. Simeon and Levi carry out the acts of violence and, as a result, are demoted in the tribal inheritance (Gen 49:5-7). One of the most important aspects of this passage is the misuse of God’s covenant ordinance and symbol, circumcision. There are certainly similarities between this story and Mrs. Palin’s outrageous suggestion, or joke, or whatever it was.

God’s “stuff” is important and people who give such marvelous lip service to serving some sort of higher power might know better than to make light of the Christian sign of initiation. This is the level of public discussions in the United States. It is a darned shame.



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