JIM CREES: On Palin and baptism

I admit, I sometimes have to admire the ... er ... moxie ... of the crazy right in making and defending a point.

My brethren on the radical (and even less than radical right) are willing to say some of most stupid things if it will gain them the admiration of the rabble.

Leaders of the neo-right are willing to say anything. Anything. They are willing to say things that if someone else — say a liberal journalist — were to say or write, the conservative world would be set on its ear.

Take for example the recent convention of the National Rifle Association.

One of the key speakers was former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, (“former” as in she served half her term before discovering she could make more money stumping on the conservative circuit spewing the first thing that popped into her noggin, and gaining millions of fans in the offing.)

So ... Sarah Palin was speaking at the NRA convention.

She had a fawning crowd of sycophants eating up every word she said.

And then ... this.

“C’mon! Enemies who would utterly annihilate America, they would obviously have information on plots. They 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.”

And the crowd went wild.

Still, let us concentrate on the last sentence: “ ... waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”


Two things here. First, I simply can’t understand how a self-declared born-again Christian can even bring herself to compare baptism with an act of torture.


Flogging Jesus with the cat-o-nine-tails — THAT was torture.

Forcing a crown of thorns on His head — THAT was torture.

Nailing Him to a cross to suffer and die — THAT was torture.

But baptism, to even the most jaded Christian, is symbolic of a rebirth into a new and blessed life as one of the Children of God.

Baptism by any stretch of the imagination IS NOT torture.

Allow me (the unordained) to attempt to explain.

Baptism comes to Christianity through the faith’s elder brother — Judaism.

Baptism (or in Greek, baptisma) was practiced by Jews in the form of “Tevilah” or “immersion.” This was generally done in a small pool called a “mikvah.” These mikvaot (plural) can be found all over the place, and at any number (as in hundreds) of archeological sites throughout modern day Israel — even from Jesus’ period of time.

Jesus practiced the ritual of “tevilah” and one of the big proponents of this practice was His cousin — John the Baptist, sometimes called John the Baptizer.

The Christian Bible tells us Jesus underwent “tevilah” or “baptism” in the Jordan River with the help of John.

There was no mention of “waterboarding” as part and parcel of the sacred rite.

Today, orthodox Jews still practice “tevilah” and many, if not virtually all, orthodox synagogues are connected to a mikvah — or a ritual pool.

Reform Jews ... not so much.

Baptism in Christianity carries over the symbolic use of water — either in dipping or in sprinkling (or affusion.)

Some Christian denominations require full immersion baptism. Others practice pouring water over the head of the person being baptized.

Some denominations believe in infant baptism (christening) others believe that a person cannot be baptized until they are able to make rational decisions and a confession of faith.

Whatever the case, most denominations practice some form of baptism as a sign not only of personal commitment to a new life, but also as an outward demonstration of their membership in the larger, more universal church.

In short, baptism is important stuff. A sacrament to some. An “ordinance of Jesus” to others.

For some denominations, baptism is REALLY important. The Roman Catholic church believes baptism is “Necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican Publishing House. 1993.)

For others, such as Quakers and Unitarians, not only is the rite not so important, but they don’t believe it is necessary at all.

Whatever the case, whether Christians believe in a “baptism by water,” a “baptism of the Spirit,” or “a baptism by fire,” baptism is a rite and ritual with deep, Deep, DEEP spiritual meaning.

And then ... Sarah Palin comes along.

“ ... waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

Rarely, rarely has there ever been anything more moronic spouted at a convention of this sort that has earned more applause and outright admiration.

In fact, despite the appreciation of the crowd, Ms. Palin’s comments demonstrate not only a general state of ignorance, but also an unfortunate (for her) state of spiritual weakness and a basic misunderstanding of what one of the most resounding tenets of her own declared faith is all about.

But then ... what should I expect?

If you can’t even conceptualize “compassion”, how then can you correctly rationalize baptism?