Monday, April 28, 2014

The Christianism of Sarah Palin

Andrew Sullivan calls Sarah Palin on her anti-Christian support for torture on The Daily Dish.

If you want a classic example of political Christianism – and its active hostility to spiritual Christianity – it’s hard to beat Sarah Palin’s remarks yesterday. I offered a brief response last night, but this obscenity needs to be unpacked some more. And the first thing to say is that a former US vice-presidential candidate did not just endorse a war crime; she endorsed it as routine for every human being suspected of terrorism. And she seems to endorse it as an introduction to captivity. “Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists” is a glib statement but a revealing one. Baptism is the beginning of something, an introduction. And so torturing prisoners accused of terrorism is a signature of the America Palin believes in. It’s how we welcome them to our prison camps.

Now look how far we have come from the original notion – pioneered by Charles Krauthammer and popularized by “24″ – that torture should only be used in the hypothetical ticking time-bomb case. That argument – only ever hypothetical – nonetheless assumes that torture is evil and should only be used in extremis to prevent imminent catastrophe. Palin, in contrast, like her party, has long since blown past such niceties. She believes that torture should be the first resort – a sign of how America treats its foes, a badge of honor.

What can one say but that this is a bona fide fascistic sentiment. It revels in violence against individuals tied down by their hands and feet and strapped to a terrifying board in order to be suffocated hundreds of times to near-death. It is the kind of statement you might expect from the Khmer Rouge, or from the Chinese Communists who perfected “stress positions”, or from the Nazis, whose Gestapo pioneered “enhanced interrogation”, i.e. brutal torture that would leave no physical traces. Except it’s worse than that. Even totalitarian regimes have publicly denied their torture. Their reticence and lies are some small concession of vice to the appearance of virtue. Not Palin – who wants to celebrate brutal torture as the American way.

And then she manages to go one step further. She invokes torture in the context of a Christian sacrament. Not since the Nazis’ Deutsche Christen have we seen something so disgusting and blasphemous in the morphing of Christianity into its polar opposite.

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