Of Sarah and shoddy semantics

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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4 thoughts on “Of Sarah and shoddy semantics”

  1. A few things:

    1) Like most politicians, Palin uses religion (in this case, Christianity) as a marketing angle. You aren't going to appeal to the central states if you call yourself a secular humanist or dyed-in-the-wool politican. Sarah Palin is no more Christian than my toenail. Politics is a religion of Power and this has a dogma incongruent with the tenets of Christianity. However, most 'Christians' don't think in these terms, in which case, Sarah Palin is as 'Christian' as, say, a Cross necklace made of 14-karat gold.

    2) When Sarah Palin goes off-script, it becomes immediately clear that without the script, she's about as eloquent as a fart. There is nothing she 'says' or 'does' that is not concocted, planned, diagrammed and written by her political (aka: marketing) team. Like all political figures, Sarah Palin is an amalgamation of investment firms, corporate shares and marketing conferences. Thus, there is nothing she says that hasn't been written by a triune team of apolitical public relations representatives. She's a parrot, a mouthpiece. Left to her own vices, she wouldn't have even been able to come with something as clever, arcane and profane as 'blood libel.'

    3) As you said, it is hard to believe that nobody on her communication's team realized how inflammatory her usage of the term would be. They thought it would go over as easily as every other inane thing she has ever said (ie: her recent conversation talking about how America needs to support its 'North Korean allies).

    4) Perhaps this is one of the many nascent signs of how Evangelicals will inevitably become enemies of Judaism.

  2. I can't comment on #1 (that's God's job), but I can tell you I wholeheartedly agree with #2 and #3. I am not a Palin fan, though it would be fun to have coffee with her and talk about the Iditarod.

    Regarding #4 – I respectfully disagree because a vocal segment of Evangelicalism has been a good friend to Israel. Though some have their own self-serving theological and ideological motivations, others simply love the Jews because they love Jesus. There are a lot more Corrie ten Booms in the world than you can imagine. I've met them.

    There are, however, other misinformed Christians (google "replacement theology")who make me very, very nervous. I like to remind people that my faith in Christ would not have saved me from Auschwicz. I am a Jew.

  3. If I ever say something inadvertently anti-Semitic you have my permission to smack me. Like many people who belong to a racial/cultural/national group that has arrogantly assumed superiority for far too long, I am sometimes surprised by thoughts (or even, heaven help me, words) that I do not want in my head or my mouth.

    And thank you SO MUCH Sarah Palin for reminding us of an old, old slur. What is she going to come up with next, I wonder? It seems to me as if she's only just getting started.

  4. Thanks, Jane. 🙂

    I hope Sarah Palin is closer to being finished than getting started. I'm not a fan.

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