Sarah Palin's recent comments at the NRA convention linking baptism and the water-boarding torture method are egregious and reprehensible. Regrettably, however, they are also all too common in two ways.
First, our political speech has become increasingly extreme by all
sides of the political spectrum. And Palin often places herself at the
forefront of this practice, of which there are too many amateur
as well as professional practitioners. Perhaps they fear not being
heard above the cacophony of political noise. Perhaps theirs is a
woefully misguided attempt to rouse an increasingly apathetic nation.
More likely, this method is merely an attempt to grab today's headlines
so that the name or issue stays out there. Regardless the reason, this
extreme speech loses more ground than it gains.
Second, we live
(and have always lived) within a non-sacramental milieu, both because
the ruling Christians have historically been from traditions which are
rooted less in the mysterious and more in the rational or emotional; and
because their fading numbers are being replaced by those (Christian and
non-Christian alike) whose morality is as materialistic as it is
relativistic. In this context, baptism and other sacraments and
sacramentals are nothing more than a figure of speech.
view, the response is not to turn to those groups which cynically use
such egregious and reprehensible speech to advance their own agenda; nor
to engage in petition-signings which too often delude us into thinking
that we did something meaningful. The response, in my view, is to remain
faithful, to eschew such extreme speech, and to be ready to give a
defense for the hope that lives within us.