Thursday, 16 June 2016

"Jesus Fought for the Death Penalty All His Life"

The title of this page is in quotation marks because the source in which I read them ascribed them to the American former politician Sarah Palin. I reacted with jaw-dropped astonishment, though not because I had high expectations of accuracy in her comments. It was a combination of public faith and backwards policy that I would expect from her, but in a higher concentration than I had ever heard from her.

At this point, right near the top, I will admit that she never said it. I was taken in by a hoax. Only when I decided I wanted to write about it did I check the story and discover that no reputable news source covered it. It apparently originated on a satirical web site called The Daily Currant. Its top stories today include "Donald Trump: 'I have the greatest toenails in the history of mankind" and "Female Softball Player Comes Out as Straight." Your basic Mad Magazine type of headlines.

In my defence, the story was written with a commendable verisimilitude. It included such details as the name of the television show on which the comment was made, the names of the hosts, a criticism of the comment by the hosts, and an even more ignorant response to the criticism. If I followed a link to the site, I might well believe it was legitimate news.

For the record, here is what Palin is claimed to have said:
"I know the liberals hate it when you start mentioning the Bible," she told the pair, "but the truth is Jesus fought for the death penalty until the day he died. He was a tireless advocate of being tough on crime and making sure the criminals can't be out there raping and murdering people.

"In ancient Jerusalem crime was rampant.  The Romans and their pagan morality wouldn't allow the proper punishment wrongdoers deserve. So Jesus lobbied for capital punishment in order to protect the Christians and the Jews from the Palestinians and other Muslims who were killing people left and right.

"Unfortunately Jesus' ideas were never implemented and the Roman Empire fell as result. But here in America we've always followed Jesus' advice on the death penalty, and that's why we have the lowest crime rate in the world."
Now, let's spend some time on why I believed it. A painful subject, but necessary.

First, I knew that Palin sees no problem in the injection of religious belief into the laws of the nation. As she says,
Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers. And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life. 
And again,
I think we should just kind of keep this clean, keep it simple, go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they're quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments.  
Oddly, to me, she is also not shy about ascribing events in her political career directly to divine intervention. For example, with reference to some bad polls, she says,
... [it] strengthens my faith, because I'm going to know, at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4. So I'm not discouraged at all.
She is also unashamed about denying the reality of biological evolution. In the American context, this belief implies bad things about the legislation that a legislator would support.
But I didn't believe in the theory that human beings – thinking, loving beings – originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees; I believed we came about through a random process, but were created by God.
So, I think I'm safe in saying that Sarah Palin is a social conservative who rationalizes her beliefs with references to her religion, even to the point of rejecting logic or science to the contrary. The next question is whether, like many social conservatives, Palin supports the death penalty. She says she does:
If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again. 
She acted on this belief when she reinstated the death penalty in Alaska.

With this in mind, there is really no reason that we shouldn't assume that Palin supports the the death penalty with a religious justification. The Daily Current's made only one small step further in its claim. It's article doesn't just state that "God supports the death penalty," (a statement that has much of the Old Testament in its favour); no, it claims that Jesus, himself, during his life on earth, "fought for" the death penalty. That last claim is the step too far. Anyone making it would have to be profoundly ignorant of the words and deeds of Jesus as recorded in the gospels.

My general dislike of Sarah Palin preconditioned me to believe that, yes, she was just that ignorant. Mea culpa. She might be. In fact, she may believe that Jesus supports the death penalty (despite the evidence to the contrary in John 8:1-11), but she hasn't said so. The smoking gun is missing. The Daily Current article's genius was to supply the gun, and I was taken in.