Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Before Bashing Bashir, Pivot Past Palin

Bashing Martin Bashir.

In the wake of a dust-up over the celebrated journalist's derogatory remarks about Sarah Palin and human excrement, Bashir has tendered his resignation from the left-wing MSNBC cable channel.  And many right-wingers are cheering this afternoon at the news.

You can Google what Bashir said about the former governor of Alaska yourself.  It's not worth repeating here.  Suffice it to say that, even though I'm no Palin fan, what came out of Bashir's mouth, and what he wanted to put in Palin's, equated to pretty much the same thing.

Bashir is a British-born journalist of Pakistani Christian heritage who gained international fame when he scored a rare personal interview with the late Diana, Princess of Wales.  Bashir was also a confidant of the late, highly eccentric Michael Jackson.  His peers consider him a workaholic, even by their own hard-driving standards, and he's developed an uncanny ability to cultivate unusually jovial relationships with the personalities upon whom he reports.

Well, obviously, except for Alaska's former governor, who has a talk show of her own on the FOX network, where her legions of fans, even this long after her failed bid for the vice presidency back in 2008, simply adore her, and vehemently defend her against her many, many critics.

What is far less known about Bashir, however, is that he's a born-again Christian, and attends Rev. Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

For some "new Reformers" and other evangelicals, in whose eyes Palin represents a sort of patriotic saint, it may make for an uncomfortable - and unwelcome - irony to be faced with a brother in Christ who has publicly pronounced a dreadfully vile analogy against another self-professing Christian.  It may not bode well for Redeemer's reputation, either, that one of Keller's more prominent congregants has been outed as such a ridiculer of the Republican right.  Some evangelicals have quietly supposed that Redeemer is full of closet Democrats, or at least - gasp! - moderate Republicans, who represent subversive elements in Christendom's attempts at wrapping the Cross of Christ in the American flag.

Two weeks ago, when I first heard of Bashir's remarks, which were not extemporaneous, but scripted, pointed, and wholly deliberate, leaving nothing ambiguous, I was disappointed, and a bit surprised, because I'd known about Bashir's involvement with Redeemer for a while.  And if you know what Bashir said he'd like to see happen to Palin, you know that his was not a Christ-honoring hope in any way, shape, or form.

Not that the rest of us haven't said things we wish we hadn't.  Granted, few of us do that in such a public forum, and to such a charismatic media darling.  But I wonder how many evangelicals would not have really had a problem with what Bashir said if he had been talking about Nancy Pelosi, for instance, or Harry Reid?  Or our current president?

Why does the name and identity of the person Bashir was talking about mean anything, if we're talking about the social propriety, respect for one's basic humanity, and concern for our faith witness that each of us believers in Christ should be intent on maintaining?

I've been reminded lately of a little phrase one of my grandmothers used to whisper to my brother and me when we were children, in kind of a sing-song fashion.  And it seems so appropriate here: 

Be careful of the words you say, and keep them soft and sweet.
You'll never know, from day to day, which ones you'll have to eat.

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