Romans 2:24

Romans 2:24 April 28, 2014

Will somebody bury the Thing that Used to be Conservatism? It’s really starting to stink.

She also derided those who she said place an emphasis on political correctness in handling the country’s adversaries “instead of putting the fear of God in our enemies.”

She said later in her address that if “I were in charge” — a line that drew applause from the crowd — “they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

If this is what being “prolife” means now, then the hell with it. I’ll take a real prolife movement any day. And the blasphemy of the sacrament of baptism really sells that whole God’s Party thang in a special way.

An excuse offered for this is that Palin (who’s not Catholic) doesn’t believe baptism is a sacrament–just as though this would help.  She doesn’t believe crucifixes are sacramentals either. But I bet no Catholic would bend over backward to make excuses for a secularist if she brandished a photo of “Piss Christ” for laughs. This is worse than “Piss Christ”, which only insulted an image of Christ, whereas she insults a sacrament in which he is present, in order to justify torturing a human being made in his image and likeness. This sort of talk should be radioactive and nothing but radioactive among all Catholics. There should be no excuse for it whatsoever, only a call for repentance and an offer of forgiveness.

Instead, the scandalous fact is, support for torture is highest among the most devout Catholics and the Evangelicals they foolishly take their marching orders from. Catholics are supposed to lead, not follow here. As long as conservative doctrine controls Catholic thinking rather than vice versa, the opinion makers and pied pipers in right wing leadership are not “natural allies.” Rather, we are natural suckers and dupes of a doctrine that is deeply corrupt and profoundly opposed to the Church’s teaching–at least as far as torture is concerned.

Almost nobody in my readership hears a Nancy Pelosi pontificate on Augustine’s supposed support for abortion and blathers, “Hear her out. She’s making a lot of sense.” So I don’t have to waste much energy telling any reader here that such nonsense is poison to be avoided for the same reason I don’t spend much time pointing out water is wet. But when a Palin stands up and spews this blasphemy, I can nearly always count on quite a number of Catholics who ought to know better cheering for it and telling me that I support terrorism if I reject her rhetoric as the blasphemous filth and mortal sin it is. To them I say, “The kisses of an enemy are profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend. Stop giving this filthy blasphemy a place in your thoughts.”

Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will live in them and move among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore come out from them,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Co 6:14–18

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  • Although I still object to you posting on politics, because I think it leads you to become rather vicious and also you do have unrealistic expectations even if you hate hate hearing that fact, I’d agree Palin has turned out to be disappointing and wacky Right-wing firebrand. I think she was likely being flippant, but it’s not the kind of thing to be flip about.

  • Dave G.

    I read this last night and just hung my head. At least it’s only Palin, I said to myself. She seems to have a niche crowd that many don’t pay attention to, I figured. Apparently many do pay attention. But then, I’m not sure Right and Left are useful terms anymore. I hear supposed conservatives jumping on board and gleefully cheering on things that any conservative I ever knew would cringe at, and I hear supposed liberals advocating and pushing for things that once were decried by the old time liberals I hung out with as nothing short of fascism. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been, if you think about it. Perhaps it’s inevitable that conservatism will never be what it used to be, and liberalism becomes what it always condemned.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    With a few exceptions, the GOP is no longer conservative. It’s Right Wing. And Palin is he court jester.

    • Peggy R

      The GOP is neither “conservative” nor “RIght Wing.” It is liberal-lite. It is Dem wanna be. The office holders stand for the principle of retaining their own offices. They are self-serving and stand for nothing. Whereas the Dem party stands for destruction of the rule of law and individual rights.

  • Guest

    Using the fact that her parents took her away from the Church when she was a baby and didn’t allow her to be raised Catholic as a way to insult and belittle — way to go Christian guy!!

    • HornOrSilk

      It’s not “using the fact that her parents took her away from the Church,” it’s the fact of what she says which is the issue. It’s Satanic to connect torture for political reasons and having nothing to do with Christ with baptism (I mean, we are not going to say they are martyrs for Christ, where perhaps, something could be said). We see Sarah Palin has little real love for Christ when she is willing to consider something so evil as a part of her speech. Anyone who is Christian would not want baptism (however you believe it) to be seen as the same as waterboarding — it will give atheists what they want, telling Christians we torture people by baptizing them!

      • Guest

        Torture is wrong – no argument here. Palin was attempting to be funny — she is a protestant and doesn’t view of Baptism as we do. Part of being a protestant is not believing in some or all of the sacraments. Now to the point of my post — what does the fact that her parents were apostates have to do with the discussion? Are we suppose to reject anyone that isn’t a “Mark Shea” Catholic? I’m pretty sure Paul had something to say about that.

        • HornOrSilk

          Protestants do not view baptism as a sacrament. But they do view it as something good, as something Christians do, based upon what Christ told them to do.

          “It’s funny” is no excuse for evil.

          • Guest

            When she said it did you get the “vapors” and need to sit down and drink some water?

          • David Charlton

            Depends on how you define “Protestant”. Lutherans, certainly consider Baptism a Sacrament, although many prefer not to be called Protestants.

            • Total rabbit trail: I was not aware of Lutherans who prefer not to be called Protestant. May I ask, who? and why not? I ask from genuine curiosity and ignorance.

              • David Charlton

                Some Lutherans prefer to call themselves Evangelical Catholics and argue that it was never the intent of the signatories of the Augsburg Confession to start a new church, but to reform the only Church they knew. The Lutherans believe in the real bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they retained the historic liturgy and lectionary, and were willing to recognize the authority of bishops in preaching the Word, administering the Sacraments, forgiving sins, judging doctrine, rejecting doctrines contrary to the gospel, and excluding those whose wickedness is know from the communion of the Church.

                • Intriguing. Thanks!

            • chezami

              True. Mollie Hemingway did a fine job of rebuking Palin’s vile sacrilege.

            • HornOrSilk

              I’m talking within context of Michael’s comments, looking to Palin’s form of Protestantism. Obviously, some do see it as a sacrament (Lutheran, Anglican) but the Evangelical sort does not.

        • chezami

          What on earth is a “Mark Shea” Catholic? I’m glad you agree that torture is wrong. I repeat: would you cut a rep for Freedom from Religion the same slack if they cracked wise about “Piss Christ”?

          • Guest

            (1) I believe intention would be a mitigating factor. (2) I disagree with the statement — strongly — just don’t see what her parents apostasy has to do with it.

          • Guest

            “Mark She”Catholics — those agree completely with you on all prudential matters in Church teachings.

            • chezami

              Torture is not a prudential matter. Nor is sacrilege.

        • Andy

          What is even slightly funny about torture or for that matter making fun of what a large segment of America see as a sacrament? Would you cut a “liberal” the same slack?

        • jroberts548

          Nearly all Protestants view Baptism as somewhat sacramental. Certainly all mainline Protestant denominations do. So do Baptists, even if they mistakenly think it can be done multiple times. Maybe there’s bizarre sect of Alaskans who don’t believe in Baptism, but I don’t think there’s ever been a religiously literate Protestant to whom that wouldn’t register as sacrilege. Protestants are misguided; they aren’t heathen savages with no knowledge of Baptism.

          • One of my sisters is married to a guy who doesn’t view Baptism as necessary. It’s not that rare among Evangelical Baptist types from what I can tell.

          • Dave G.

            Nearly all Protestants view Baptism as important and special and even sacred, but not all see it as a Sacrament. It’s a complex thing the world of Protestants. Still, they all put varying levels of importance on it. That’s why the distinction over who would or wouldn’t be offended shouldn’t matter. Technically anyone who, when thinking of baptism, imagines Jesus being baptized to fulfill all righteousness versus Michael Corleone having the heads of the five families gunned down during his godson’s baptism should get the difference, and likewise should be offended.

            • Rosemarie


              In addition, some Evangelicals see baptism as simply an “act of obedience” to Christ. That’s what I was taught in Evangelicalism when they convinced me to get “rebaptized” (which I now know was invalid since my baptism as an infant was perfectly valid). I was taught that baptism is not at all necessary for salvation or even as an initiation into Christianity – that all happens when you “Accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.” Baptism is just something Christians should do because Jesus commanded it; you’ll get nothing out of it except that God may bless your obedience.

              With such a minimalist understanding of baptism, maybe that explains how a certain brand of Evangelical might come out with such a statement. I’m not defending what she said; it *is* disgusting sacrilege. But maybe in her mind she wasn’t saying, “We’ll forcibly convert them to Christianity through water boarding,” since she probably doesn’t believe baptism constitutes conversion to Christianity. Maybe she’s making a flip statement about something she sees as a kind of afterthought to true conversion; just a secondary rite you must go through only because God says so, nothing more (and they accuse us of having empty rituals!).

              Though I could be wrong, of course, and I agree with the objections to her words which others expressed here as well. As one commenter pointed out, Muslims will certainly see it as threatening forced conversion, regardless of what Palin meant. Her statement is still indefensible and revolting.

              • orual’s kindred

                Maybe she’s making a flip statement about something she sees as a kind of afterthought to true conversion

                I think it’s quite possible that this is indeed how she sees her statements. Nevertheless, allowing categories for secondary rite[s] you must go through only because God says so, nothing more would seem to cast our Our Lord as a capricious deity making arbitrary demands. Or, perhaps, a supernatural buddy who makes odd requests from time to time. And a ‘joke’ about waterboarding being a Christian act, small or otherwise, should not be met with cheers and public endorsements.

                and they accuse us of having empty rituals!

                I tend to find such accusations lacking in substance.

                ^ See, see what I did there! 😀

                • Rosemarie


                  I agree completely.

        • Cypressclimber

          The reference to baptism is offensive precisely because it was connected to something evil — i.e., torture.

          After all, it’s pretty common to refer to “christening” a ship.

          Which raises yet another reason her comment was wrong. Imagine how the Al Qaeda types can play it: not only does the Great Satan torture while interrogating, they also force warriors to go through a Christian ritual of conversion!

          Thanks, Gov!

      • Guest

        Soldiers refer to something called “baptism of fire.” Should we condemn them? Should we check on their “Mark Shea” Catholic status?

        • chezami

          If you can’t distinguish between a metaphor for self-sacrificial love and the use of torture, then I can’t help you. Unbelievable.

    • Evan

      Okay, so maybe she’s not an apostate Catholic, at least not by choice, and that was poor word choice on Mark’s part.

      That does not change the fact that what Palin said is blasphemous, and it should be repulsive to any Christian of any denomination, because her statement defiles a sacrament, denies that a person is created in the image and likeness of God, and suggests that forced baptisms or conversions are acceptable.

    • chezami

      My mistake. I thought she was an apostate. I’ve fixed that. But as far as “insulting and belittling”: where?

  • Cypressclimber

    To me, the attitude toward torture is far more serious than her attitude toward baptism.

    One of the most dangerous ideas that we can get sucked into accepting is that human dignity, and all that it requires, only belongs to “our group.” So our enemies (no quotes needed) don’t deserve human dignity. Or they don’t even have it. So it’s OK to do what you want to them, the only limiting principles being need, practicality and our own distaste — but not any universal norms.

    No, hell no!

    Torture is wrong everywhere, for everyone, always! It’s not OK because we’re in a unique situation today. (We’re always in a unique situation, and everyone else always is. That’s always true.) It’s not OK because our backs are against the wall. (They’re not.) And it’s absolutely not OK because our enemy is “different” or uniquely awful. B(ogus) S(tuff).

    Finally, there is nothing “conservative” about this mindset. Mr. Shea has a valid point when he complains about conservatives buying into this. What always irks me is that he implicitly concedes the term “conservative” to such poseurs. It’s like conceding “clinic” to the abortionists. I refuse to go along.

    • Eve Fisher

      Amen. Torture is indefensible, no matter what. It is dehumanizing, to both the torturer and the tortured. It also does not work: as Joan of Arc famously said to the people who threatened her with torture if she didn’t recant, “…if I did say anything, I should always say afterwards that you had forced me to it.” Yes, you can say “But we’re at war”, but here’s a headline: American has been at war, with someone, since 1941.

      I must defend Mr. Shea’s use of the word “conservative”, because Ms. Palin claims that title for herself and her followers, loudly, vociferously, exhaustively, constantly. She practically posts it on a banner while wrapping herself in the American flag. It may be offensive to traditional conservatives, but this is the ultra-right wing; just as offensive, brutal, and nonsensical as the ultra-left wing.

      • Cypressclimber

        Yes, they do claim to be conservative. I am not so foolish as to deny that.

        Abortion chambers claim to be clinics.

        I refuse to concede the words to those who seek to pervert their meaning.

    • chezami

      I rejoice to hear you reject this. FWIW, precisely the reason I coined Thing that used to be Conservvatism is to distinguish this postmodern monstrosity from authentic conservatism.

      • Cypressclimber

        “…precisely the reason I coined Thing that used to be Conservatism is to distinguish this postmodern monstrosity from authentic conservatism.”

        Well, not to be cranky since we’re being so convivial, but…more of this latter point would be helpful. One of the reasons I ding you in these comments is that it doesn’t seem to me that the point in the words I quoted here is anywhere near as clear as you think.

        After all, I don’t recall you coining the term, “The Thing that Used to be Catholicism.” And I’m very glad you didn’t, and I don’t suggest it. But as you’ve pointed out, the problem isn’t just that self-described conservatives are betraying their professed conservatism (which is quite true)…and the same point can be made in terms of pro-life–and you’ve made it…

        But the data you cited here says the exact same thing about faithful Catholics. And of course, lots of other data can be cited to support that as well.

        Well, I’ll stop there and just thank you for kind words.

  • Sherry

    I’m sorry she said this, I wish she had not. I wish someone close to her, whom she trusts to speak truth, would tell her, this is morally wrong, it’s politically stupid, it is ethically blind and devoutly insensitive in a true offensive way, to those who know Baptism to be a sacrament.

    • Dave G

      I’ve watched her over the years. She doesn’t seem to take advice well. Shortly after she became a FOX News contributor, I caught her first interview with Bill O’Reilly. Bill tried to make that her comeback interview. He even said it was her chance to take a different path, to dig in and hit the books and show people how informed she really was. All she would do was respond with ‘I’m just a mamma grizzly’, or similar canned comebacks. I could sense Bill’s frustration as the interview went on. He was trying to help, but she’d have none of it.

    • kenofken

      That’s the cruel paradox of idiocy. Those who have the insight and self-awareness to allow close advisers to save them from themselves generally don’t need such assistance. Those who desperately need such help will not avail themselves of it because they’re convinced they’re the smartest people in any room.

  • KM

    The Thing That Used to Be Conservatism has officially entered the brain-eating Zombie phase. It’s no wonder that recent polls have shown most Americans self-identify as Independent.

  • FatherPhil Bloom

    As someone who had parishioners subjected to torture (when I was in Peru), I can only say “Amen”, Mark.

  • Matt Talbot

    I wish the American Right would stop hanging “Kick Me” signs on Christianity.

    • sez

      This. Precisely!!

  • LFM

    Arrrgh. Someone ask that woman to retire, please!

  • Peggy R

    I have seen nothing but criticism of her remarks in the conservative media.

    • kirthigdon

      Sean Hannity supported her statement yesterday on his radio show.

      Kirt Higdon

      • chezami

        And read the comboxes. The support for her remarks is volcanic over the magazine that used to be National Review.

  • Elmwood

    Who represents “authentic conservatism” anymore besides the church (our modern Popes and GKC… etc.)? Seems even good conservatives like Ron Paul hold to some things progressive, like his libertarian view of individualism.

  • Willard

    And to those who endlessly bash the President…this woman could have been VP. I’d say we dodged a bullet.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      They told me in ’08 that if I didn’t vote for Obama we’d get a whitebread warmonger with no regard for civil liberties for president, and an idiot for a veep.

      And they were right!

      What kind of sucker calls this dodging a bullet?

      • What kind of sucker calls this dodging a bullet?

        The kind of person who does not confuse the word ‘a’ with the word ‘all’.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    In all this, I think what I’m most baffled by is the defense of her that ‘she was being funny!’ Leaving aside the grave moral evil of torture and the indefensible blasphemy of linking it to baptism… her remark was, ummm, not funny. Not that that’s the main point, of course, but… really, folks. Not funny. Not even close.

  • JM1001

    Let’s also not forget what has made this possible:

    Torture remains on the table as a future policy choice.

    So what happened? The president has rejected three clear opportunities to erect a high legal wall against the return of torture: he has made it clear that criminal prosecutions for torture will not go forward; he has opposed the creation of a truth commission to examine events comprehensively; and he has affirmatively intervened to stop civil litigation by detainees against their torturers. …

    President Obama had the opportunity to leave an unambiguous legal legacy that prohibited torture and inhibited the torturers of tomorrow from finding legal cover. Instead, we may reap the whirlwind of his timidity, and soon.

    Caesar disobeyed his own rules and then did not hold himself accountable for disobeying his own rules. As a result, the moral norms against torture have been weakened to nonexistence. Caesar can now capitalize on such a morally degraded culture by daring to reconceive of torture as not just morally permissible, but as a sacrament.

  • KM

    Surprise! Hannity defended Palin’s waterboarding remarks because “that’s how America rolls.” But just to make sure he’s not misinterpreted, Hannity noted that “I think I’d baptize them [terrorists] again and again and again …”

    Hannity added, “I don’t understand the sensibility of liberals.” According to the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism, anyone bothered by religious-sounding statements or jokes in support of torture must be a damn librul.

    • JM1001

      “Well what do you want to do with terrorists?” –Hannity

      Suspected terrorists. And what I would like to “do with them” is try them in a court of law, as we did for decades before the United States went collectively insane.

      In his comparison, the authorities detain one of the kidnappers, but the kids are still missing.

      “Let’s see. Would you want to baptize by water boarding the guy who took your three children? I think would. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t really be much of a question. I think I’d baptize them again and again and again until I found out where my kids are,” he said.

      You know, this hypothetical made me think of the movie Prisoners, in which we see Hannity’s scenario play out. In that movie, we see the main characters, while trying to find their abducted children, descend into barbarity, evil, and dehumanization:

      Under the pretense of searching for his daughter, [Keller Dover] returns day after day to torture Jones, attempting to extract information. Justifying his actions, he says Jones “is not a man.”

      The “Our Father” serves as a foil to Keller’s actions. The prayer tells men to depend on God for daily bread, but Keller is convinced it comes through sweat rather than grace. The prayer instructs the forgiveness of enemies, but forgiveness is not an option for Keller. There is only one graphic moment in the whole film: when we see the bloated, infected face of Jones after being pummeled by his kidnapper. In the final scenes, it becomes clear that Keller’s motives are not all that different from the villain’s, a perverted sense of justice that thwarts God’s will rather than following it.

      In the minds of people like Hannity, America needs to be Keller Dover — wounded by an act of barbarity, which it then uses as a justification to perpetrate more barbarity. A never-ending cycle of violence.

  • MeanLizzie

    Terrible headline. Just terrible. Better headline: If this is what being “prolife” means now, then the hell with it.

  • Keith

    Conservatism may be dead in America for lack of founding principles left to conserve. But liberalism is dead, too. I haven’t met a good liberal in years. There seems to be nothing left but radicals on the left and right. If I can’t stand Palin or Hannity, I’d better stand with Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Michael Moore, Al Gore, Pelosi, Biden, Obama, or Hilary? Ridiculous. At least none of these radical people are in charge . . .

  • peggy r

    Mark, I’ve got to work here, but the thing I point out is that you continue to treat the political right as a lockstep movement with no variation of opinions and police prescriptions. It is not lockstep. There are diverse voices with diverse policy prescriptions to “save America” from the Left. Some of those policy prescriptions, such as torture, are morally untenable to some segments–but not all. Now, this NRA crowd apparently wants blood. That is not the movement as a whole. There is not uniform leadership. The elected GOPers are out for self-preservation with no uniform over-riding principles. Thus, the conservative Right doesn’t have uniform or united leadership, frankly. Those on Left on the other hand, sure favor self-preservation, but also have a larger movement that is at stake. Any one who messes with that is ousted, but otherwise, “all are welcome” eh?

    Just as some rank and file on the right seem to want blood, the Dem rank and file despise God as we saw at their convention in 2012.

    • chezami

      No. I don’t. I’ve cited several instances of sane conservatism condemning this vile stuff. But the fact remains that the majority of conservatives roar with approval for torture and Sarah Palin knew that when she made this a sure fire applause line.

      • peggy r

        But your headlines and statements condemnign what you see as a movement now morally bankrupt does not fit…there are divergent views. You acknowledge in this reply. I’m no touchy feely liberal, but your posts on these matters reek of “judgmentalism” as well as unjust condemnation of an entire group of people, particularly when evidence exists to the contrary. (typed w/o reading glasses.)