April 28, 2014

Sarah Palin, the Christian Right, and the evil of Torture

I haven't posted much Andrew Sullivan lately.  His new site is less accessible for me, and I haven't decided whether to subscribe.  But this post on Palin is dead on accurate, and he suggests, rightly, that this represents a clear rejection of traditional Christian values (cheered on by the NRA, I might add).

A couple of great lines:
"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 this after he notes that evangelicals still support torture at somewhere around 60%:

Support for torture is highest among those who attend church at least weekly and lowest for those who rarely or never go to church. In America, torture is a Christian value. And some people wonder why I prefer to term “Christianist” to describe these people.
This was my canary in the mineshaft.  I thought maybe I should be more generous and extend to people the right to be fearful in the aftermath of 9-11.  But after 13 years, I thought that would have ebbed, and the people who flocked to Mel Gibson's torture film on Jesus would at least find some relative consistency on something this heinous.  But Palin's remarks demonstrate how deeply the tribal affiliations run.  Opposing torture, in that circle, has become akin to liberalism and speaking about climate change or evolution.

As I told a friend in an email, this is another little test.  If evangelical Christianity cannot see this woman for the evil she is, then they can't see any evil in their midst, and still cling to the notion that premarital sex and gay marriage are the threats we face.  This is disheartening.


leighton said...

"Can't see any evil in their midst" indeed, or any good outside the tribe for that matter. I wish believers would use a Buddhist interpretation of "judge" in Matthew 7.1. It's true that in context (especially with the specks and logs in eyes), it pretty clearly means "Don't judge people negatively." How it is exploited to mean "Don't ever criticize people who appropriate the label Christian" is a conversation we've had at least once, I think. But I think the whole passage works better if you use "judge" in the sense of "evaluate". Since followers of Jesus are ostensibly loving everyone, is it really necessary to construct a measurement of people at the same time, to decide whether they're good people or bad people? This is something I've been thinking about after reading someone else's FB conversation where a friend of a friend defended a theocratic David Barton fan because she "knew him" to be a "good person." Character is a useless diversion when discussing bad behavior.

Institutions, though - those are possible to evaluate as good or bad, I think, though the more power they have, the more common it is to find mixtures. I do think Fred Clark and Rachel Held Evans are wrong: the bullies and tyrants own evangelical Christianity, and staying to face them and shout them down is a waste of energy that could be used for more good outside the fold. Evangelicalism cannot be saved any more than Enron could have been reformed from within. I wish sometimes that there were actually a god to whom evangelical leaders who spread hate and fear and anger and pain for the glory of Christ would have to answer someday. Since there isn't any evidence of that, it's up to us humans.

Streak said...

I think you are right that RHE and Fred want to believe that evangelicalism can shake this off. This kind of reminds me of the conversation about conservatism and white supremacy. Ta Nahisi Coates suggests that they are so deeply connected that we shouldn't be surprised when you scratch a conservative and get racism. The same might be said about evangelicalism and this kind of crap.