If Sarah Palin Were in Charge

I am grateful for Robynn’s voice on Communicating Across Boundaries, whether on Friday or another day. Today she reacts to something we both found deeply offensive. We know there are varying opinions on these things. Please feel free to use the comment section to voice your thoughts, keeping our guidelines of communication and respect for honest dialogue in mind.


My blood is boiling. I’m so furious I could spit. I just heard a segment of Sarah Palin’s speech at the recent National Rifle Association Convention. During her speech she said,

If I were in charge they would know that water boarding is how we baptize terrorists”.

As someone who takes my faith seriously I am deeply offended. Here are a couple of things I’d like to say to Ms Palin:

  1. Thank God—-You are not in charge! Jesus is Ruler Supreme. He is King and He alone is in charge!
  2. Water boarding is evil. It is torture of the worst possible variety. According to Wikipedia, waterboarding is a form of torture, more specifically a type of water torture, in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage, and death.[1] Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years. More so, torture itself tarnishes the image of God in both the one who tortures and the victim of that torture.
  3. In my faith tradition, baptism is a holy sacrament reserved for those who’ve publically declared allegiance with Jesus. He welcomes anyone to come. No one is excluded. And for those who chose to believe, to follow after him, they’re invited into the sacraments as well. Baptism is a means for people to enter into the death and resurrection experiences of Christ. They voluntarily go down in to the water, dead to themselves, their sin, their old nature. They come up out of the water, alive to Christ, to new life. It’s a beautiful statement—a public commitment– of declaring loyalty to Jesus.
  4. There are those around the world who think that baptism is forced on the naïve and culpable. There are those who believe that Christendom is still stuck in the crusades, that converts are numbered and forced to drink blood and be baptized. This is NOT true. Christians in the past who did these things were WRONG to do them. Such exploitation of the name of Jesus is evil and blasphemous. It is our job—our mandate—to demonstrate that this is no longer true. We do that by quietly loving people. By laying down our lives for them. By caring for widows and orphans, by loving the poor, by reaching out to the ostracized, the marginalized, the foreigner, the minority, the misunderstood. These are the people who Jesus came for.  He came to invite lovingly, gently, the weak and the wounded to come.
  5. Ms. Palin, these types of comments made in public places by public figures, such as yourself, do nothing to erase the evil stereotypes that exist out there about Christians. You are reinforcing things that are not true about Christianity—and by association—about Christ. Please take back this thing you’ve said. Repent. Acknowledge the harm you’ve done. Ask for forgiveness. Jesus will welcome you back.
  6. When you use the word, “terrorists”, Ms Palin, I’m assuming by the greater context that you mean Muslims. I take deep offense at this gross generalization.  Terrorists are those whose violent acts are intended to promote deep fear. Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes. They wear jeans and miniskirts. They wear the hijab and turbans. They speak English and Chinese. There are millions of Muslims who are subject, in the same ways that we are, to the terror incited by non-Muslim and Muslim terrorists. Muslims and non-Muslims feel the same emotions. They also feel afraid. When their family members die, they also grieve.
  7. The flippancy and arrogance you display when you talk about such grave subjects as waterboarding, terrorism and baptism are astounding to me. These are topics reserved for serious conversations. These subjects should be handled with sobriety and with sensitivity. These are not punchlines for your political prowess. People’s lives and souls are in question here. Please speak with respect.
  8. I do thank God that you, Ms Palin, are not in charge. I also pray for you. I pray for the Spirit to convict you. I pray you see the lack of love in your soul. I pray you begin to see the inconsistencies between what you say you believe and the ways you live out that belief.I pray you will begin to love your neighbor as yourself. Because Love Matters.

*As people of faith, Christians specifically, Robynn and I both believe that what we say, how we live out our faith publically matters. This is why, in a space generally reserved for non-political topics, we address this statement on Communicating Across Boundaries.

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How Sarah Palin Convinced me to Blog

I thought I could be a fan. The day was August 30, 2008 and I was on my way home from speaking at a workshop when NPR announced the news that Senator John McCain had picked a running mate and changed the dynamic of the election. Her name was Sarah Palin and at a glance, it seemed we had a great deal in common. She was conservative, I consider myself conservative; she was once part of a union, as a nurse working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I am part of a union. She has 5 kids, I have 5 kids; She was homecoming queen, I was carnival queen; She can see Russia from her doorstep, I could see Pakistan
from mine… (oops, I really could, I grew up in Pakistan);  

She made involvement and influence from the unknown seem possible, and I am unknown.

But Sarah and I parted ways as I realized that we are as different as the geography of where we were each raised.  Her voice is louder and more influential, her bank account is larger, but my sense is that her view and opinion of the world is far smaller. Her voice drowns out one like mine, a less persuasive, but equally faith-driven and knowledgeable about the Evangelical world voice, and a voice convicted and convinced that the world is big and critical to our understanding of life. A voice that looks to find words to recognize the importance of a larger and infinitely complex world, where cross-cultural competency and negotiation deeply matter, where America is understood separate from exceptionalism.  It is her louder and more authoritative voice and audience that assumes her words are fact that convinced me to blog.

I want to have a voice. I stand as pro-Life, but want to be able to dialogue and negotiate with those on the other side; my faith is paramount to my worldview  – but I want that faith to challenge and inform, not dictate and demand.  Red – Blue; Beck – Maddow; Right- Left; they are all boxes and stereotypes that divide and prevent dialogue. And Sarah? Well, she’s climbed into a box and shut the lid.

The ‘parting of ways’ widened as my oldest daughter went to study Refugee and Migration studies at the American University in Cairo and her oldest daughter went to ‘study’ Dancing with the Stars.  It became a chasm when I realized that it was 2005 before she obtained a passport, and I realized that my tepid defense of her with strong, smart feminist co-workers was waning.  But the Grand Canyon emerged when Pakistan was overcome by floods, and Egypt experienced mass protests.  When asked about the situation in Egypt, at a time when the world, the nation, and the blogosphere all had something to say, Sarah was unable to give a single substantive word to her many constituents, many who would benefit from more information and  could have supported both the protests from their pulpits and Pakistan from their pocketbooks. Her Facebook page was equally silent, with no mention of either of those events through a medium that has given her well over 2 million fans.

Such a big audience… but so little said.

If I sat down with her for coffee we would most likely agree on some things. But over coffee I would have the opportunity to challenge her that a nation and politics are small when they ignore the larger world, and assume a false stature. That faith has to convict and inform, constantly drawing us to those who have less and need so much more. Most of all, that faith can be winsome and winning, not angry and disenchanting.

As for me? It was time to take my frustration and put it to action. A time to get on to my computer, find a blog platform, and move the words and voices in my head to the screen in front of me. Time to find my voice and use it. Time to thank Sarah for convincing me to blog.

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