Sarah Palin calls waterboarding 'baptism' of terrorists

Sarah Palin has received wide-ranging criticism for her remarks at an NRA rally last weekend.AP

Republican politician Sarah Palin has caused controversy by comparing the use of torture to baptism.

In a speech before the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis last weekend, Palin criticised the Obama administration's 'soft' approach to terrorism.

"Not all intolerant, anti-freedom, leftist-liberals are hypocritics...I'm kidding, yes they are!" she declared, which was met with applause and laughter from the crowd.

"And they are not right with policies that poke our allies in the eye and coddle adversaries, instead of putting the fear of God in our enemies.

"Oh, but you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we'd baptise terrorists," she said.

This remark has caused waves across political and religious spheres, with critics lambasting Palin for her offhand attitude towards the use of torture and what many see as a disregard for a key Christian sacrament.

Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition has called Palin's comments "sacrilegious".

"For anyone to confess Christ as their saviour and to compare one of the means of God's grace to an act of torture is reprehensible," he writes.

"I hope members of Gov Palin's local church will explain to her why her remarks denigrate the Christian faith."

Zack Hunt who blogs at The American Jesus – dedicated to exploring the absurdities of American Christianity – agrees, blasting Palin's comparison as "repugnant" and branding it an "abominable metaphor".

"The holy sacrament of baptism was frivolously used as a metaphor to justify the unholy torture of human beings. Unbelievable," he says.

Blogger Tyler Tully also joined the debate, condemning Palin's individual comments while suggesting her remarks are in fact symptomatic of a wider problem with American Christian culture.

"Not only did Palin seemingly praise torture by comparing it to a celebrated Christian sacrament, but she also demonstrated the utter lack of respect that the civil religion of the United States has for the Way of Jesus Christ," he writes.

"Should we be surprised? The civil religion of the United States dominates by using power over people, but the power of the Kingdom of God is demonstrated by power for people. One is a kingdom that manifests its might by killing, the other is a Kingdom that demonstrates its power through the Resurrection.

"One says 'the only way to defend your culture is to kill your enemies' and the other says 'love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you'."

He concludes: "Not only is torture un-Christlike...but any violence against anyone (especially one's enemies) is purely antichrist."

Despite wide criticism, however, it seems that Palin's views are welcomed by a large proportion of the voting US public. According to The Telegraph, a YouGov survey undertaken in late 2011 indicates that 47 per cent of Americans agree that the use of torture can be justified.