Of Sarah and shoddy semantics

Of Sarah and shoddy semantics January 13, 2011
I rarely post anything of a political nature, but I couldn’t let this pass without exercising my First Amendment rights:

In the wake of Jared Loughner’s evil attack on Arizona Congresswoman Giffords and the crowd who’d gathered for a Saturday morning meet `n greet at a grocery store, Sarah Palin and her media team produced a statement designed to redirect attention onto the event and away from the charges that overheated conservative hyperbole somehow contributed to the tragedy. Unfortunately, ex-govenor Palin chose to use one of the most loaded pieces of hyperbole in the English language in order to try to ensure that her audience would remember that she, too, is a victim – of the media:

“But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

For those who aren’t quite sure what “blood libel” means, click here to learn more about it. This heinous phrase has been used to justify two millenia of anti-Semitism, though it has dropped out of common usage (except in White Supremacist circles) until Ms. Palin’s usage of it brought it back into the limelight. What made her usage particularly offensive is the fact that Rep. Giffords has been a member of a Reformed synagogue since 2001. I have a hard time believing that no one on Palin’s communications team realized that her usage of this loaded phrase wouldn’t be…well, so reprehensible.

Since my audience is mostly Christians, let me apply this to our context. Palin, who has been quite vocal about her faith in Christ, communicated afresh to Jewish people that Christians aren’t necessarily safe or sensitive people.

I know this isn’t true. Some people who wear the banner “Christian” aren’t safe or sensitive, and it doesn’t take a dunderheaded remark by a spotlight-lovin’ politician to demonstrate this. However, many others who love Jesus live their love for him and others in countless, selfless kingdom ways. I am praying that those who live in this narrow way lives rub up against those who’ve been reminded this week that a lot of hurt has been heaped on Jewish people by spiritual pretenders and believers who’ve flat-out ignored their calling and ministry.

When a church baseball team is named “The Crusaders”, when a pastor calls the temple or a synagogue “a church” in a sermon, when someone tries to buddy up to a Jewish visitor using a line like “My accountant/doctor/neighbor/fill-in-the-blank is Jewish”, the words sprinkle salt into old, old wounds. Let Ms. Palin’s icky word choice give all of us an opportunity to think about how to choose gracious words that honor our Jewish Savior and Lord and demonstrate love to his beloved children.

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