A reader sends the above video:
On reading your post re: Palin and torture, I couldn’t help but think of this “New Rules” on Maher’s show. I played it for my Sunday school class.
Don’t you think you and others are giving Palin a bit too much credit when you say things like “she is drawing on a brutal theology from the past” or it’s an “allusion to converting Muslim prisoners by coercion”? Do you really think she has any grasp on history? I agree her statements are barbaric, but I do not believe she is capable of thinking at the level you and others ascribe to her. She’s incapable of allusion. I think the thought process, such as it was, was more like “Baptism = water; waterboarding = water; that will get a laugh.”
Yes, it’s frightening that John McCain wanted to foist this creature upon the world, but I am angrier at John McCain than I am at her – that would be like being angry at a cat for thinking like a cat (no disrespect to cats intended.)
My view is that Palin is a delusional, paranoid fantasist. My point is perhaps better expressed thus: her conflation of torture of Muslims with a Christian sacrament could objectively be seen as a terribly dangerous provocation in the context of Islamist terror. Whether she meant it that way is something I cannot know. Another reader also quotes me:
“It reveals that vast swathes of American Christianity are objectively anti-Christian, even pagan, in their support for this barbarism.” Andrew, as a practicing and proud Pagan, I must strongly dissent. Pagans do not endorse torture. Please do not malign us this way.
Ouch. Another reader:
I’m not sure that you calling them “Christianist” really has any authority. Who gave you the power to determine who is Christian and who is not?
Palin and her ilk believe themselves to be Christians. Who am I or anyone else to argue with them? This is what Christianity is, revealed in its reality. And it has always been thus. It is the same Christianity that Nietzsche wrote about – a cult of revenge. A cult of revenge for those who feel themselves on the bottom. Whether it is revenge wrought in this world or the next, casting the “evil” to hell is revenge, pure an simple.
Andrew, sometimes you are smart, but you use your mind to see what you want to see, not to see more fully how the world actually is. You have come to see Republicanism for what it is, you have yet to see Christianity for what it really is.
And who are you to say what Christianity really is? My use of the term Christianist is simply to distinguish the political abuse of Jesus teachings from the teachings themselves. It’s an act of linguistic hygiene. And someone who sees the urge to torture others as intrinsic to Jesus’ teachings has simply never read the Gospels. Another dissent along those lines:
By any reasonable standard, Palin and her supporters are Christians. They believe in God. They believe that the Bible is the word of God. They believe that Jesus is both the son of God and his earthly incarnation, and that he sacrificed himself for the salvation of all mankind. They’re biblical people, alright. Since this book, which Palin and her followers believe – despite all evidence to the contrary – is the True Word of the Creator of the Universe, says that followers of other gods must be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 13:6 etc), it follows quite naturally that Palin and company need shed no tears over their sufferings. God has cursed the unbelievers (the “terrorists”), and they will suffer for eternity for their transgression, at least, according to other parts of the Bible.
One might hope that the love of Jesus will help to transcend these base mentalities, but since Jesus intends to bring the law of Moses to the world, we can expect that many will remain anchored firmly to the bedrock. According to you, this is just “fundamentalism”. To my mind, this is the natural result of faith – belief without evidence.
Jesus transcended the laws of the Old Testament, and transformed their rules into the single rule of caritas. Another adds:
You forget one thing in your well written rebuttal: the Inquisition was a Christian enterprise. Christians, or more accurately, Christianists, are highly capable of this.
Of course they are and have always been. That doesn’t make it an expression of Jesus’ teachings. A “committed evangelical Christian” chimes in:
I’m sorry, but these views on waterboarding are not and never will be anything that I agree with. But the more important question is this: What’s it going to take for this Christianist madness in America to dissipate? I can’t see any option other than a serious decline in adherence to Evangelical Christianity in America, at least among whites. That would disrupt and eventually destroy Evangelicalism’s accommodation with, and takeover of, the Republican Party. Given how the Millennial generation seems to feel about Christianity at the moment? Highly likely, I’d say. Politically, that would be a good thing. Spiritually, I’m not going to enjoy it.
Another wants to forget the whole thing:
At some point it might be worth asking whether more good would come from ignoring Palin entirely rather than addressing her most egregious slights, which merely lets her know how offensive she needs to be to elicit a reaction from the press. Maybe post a poll on “No More Palin News?” I don’t click on any stories on Yahoo or Google news, or Politico or other sites, that feature her in the headline. I figure page clicks only give them more incentive to run such stories, which in turn fuels her to say more asinine things.
One more reader:
Thanks much for shining more light on Sarah Palin’s embrace of torture, and the favorable reception her speech received. To be honest, the increasing popularity of torture in the United States, and the role of faith in that process, has been woefully understudied as its own “puzzling” development, one that is actually worthy of social scientific study on its own. I have a published study (pdf) engaging this “curious” case of torture’s increasing popularity, a trend that seems to befuddle even the most notable experts on torture like Darius Rejali (whose work I admire in so many ways).
In short, some of the process can be chalked up to the “hidden” nature of American torture. Because we can’t see the torture (with the exception of the Abu Ghraib photos), those who have a strong “faith” in what they cannot see but are told (by authoritative figures like Sarah Palin, or Dick Cheney, or George W. Bush) can imagine that the tortured are all “terrorists” and that water boarding isn’t “that bad” anyway, and that those who do the torturing are, like Jack Bauer, good and right and just. This is also one of the reasons why Jose Rodriguez’s illegal act to destroy the tapes of water boarding sessions was so effective – it removed a possibility that their heroic narratives of what torture is doing, and who it is doing it (and to whom), could be easily shattered by the screams and images and cruelty that is the reality of the torture chamber.
I know you’re swamped with emails, but if you get a chance to read the study, you’ll also notice that you and the Dish are quoted in my study. Your blogging and work on torture has inspired my own in so many ways over the years, so thanks for what you’re doing on it and I hope you continue to shed light on this incredibly troubling trend and politicization of this barbaric “tactic” that should be left in the dustbin of history.
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