By The Associated Press
Sat. May 23 - 10:12 AM
Among evangelical leaders, debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists has prompted introspection about faith, ethics, the Golden Rule, just wars, Jack Bauer and Jesus.
A number of evangelical leaders have made opposition to torture without exceptions a moral cause over the past three years, part of a broadening of the movement’s agenda beyond traditional culture war issues. Others in the movement, including many Christian right leaders, have largely resisted or stayed silent.
Now, President Barack Obama’s release of Bush administration memos justifying harsh interrogation techniques and a new poll showing white evangelicals more sympathetic to torture have leaders taking stock of whether evangelical opinion has shifted on the topic.
"I have said before that torture is like a bone caught in our throat — we can’t swallow it and we can’t spit it out," said David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta and president of Evangelicals for Human Rights. "I think we’re still there."
The poll data from a survey of 742 U.S. adults released April 29 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 62 per cent of white evangelical Protestants said torture of a suspected terrorist could be often or sometimes justified to obtain important information.
By contrast, 51 per cent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, 46 per cent of white mainline Protestants and 40 per cent of the religiously unaffiliated held that position.
Those who attend religious services at least once a week were more likely than those who rarely or never attend to say torture is sometimes or often justified in that scenario — 54 per cent to 42 per cent.
The findings immediately prompted questions for evangelicals: How exactly did poll participants define torture, since the survey did not? Did evangelicals reach their conclusions because of their religious beliefs, or their politics or ideological leanings? How do you untangle those factors from each other?
Pew officials later updated the analysis to emphasize religion "is only one of many factors" — and that political party and ideology are much better predictors of opinions on torture than religion and most other demographic factors. At the same time, the report noted, religion itself can play a strong role in shaping partisanship and ideology.
"My experience is that people who are comfortable supporting torture support it because they think it’s going to produce information our country needs," said Rev. Richard Killmer, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister and executive director of the interfaith National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which formed in 2006. "I don’t think they would shy away from use of the word ‘torture.’
"During the last eight years, people have been concerned about this ticking time bomb thing and Jack Bauer and 24 and all that," said Killmer, referring to the TV drama in which the protagonist takes a by-any-means-necessary approach to extracting information from terror suspects.
The Sick Bastard Rate
Posted by Fred Clark on May 26, 2009 at 02:24 PM
Here's a depressing bit of polling data.
- 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants said torture of a suspect could be often or sometimes justified.
- 51 percent of white, non-Hispanic Catholics said torture could be justified.
- 46 percent of white mainline Protestants were willing to justify torture.
- 40 percent of the religiously unaffiliated chimed in to agree to justify torture.
This poll is particularly dismaying for those of us in that category of white evangelical Protestants. It's not like Catholics are going to be proud of these findings either -- nearly half of us disapprove of atrocities! Nor is the three-fifths disapproval of violations of human rights among the religiously unaffiliated anything to brag about.
But, jeez, "62 percent of white evangelical Protestants said torture ... could be often or sometimes justified." That's colossal failure and shame No. 1.
Colossal failure and shame No. 2 is that this is significantly higher than the Sick Bastard Rate of any other religious group.
And even worse:
Those who attend religious services at least once a week were more likely than those who rarely or never attend to say torture is sometimes or often justified.
The implication here is clear: Being a white evangelical Protestant who regularly attends religious services will likely make you a much worse person than you otherwise would be. It makes you more comfortable with gross immorality.
To use good evangelical language: Devout evangelicals who attend church regularly view sin as justifiable much more often than religiously unaffiliated people who never attend religious services.
Something has gone very, very wrong here.
Consider for a moment who it is that these torture-approving evangelicals claim to follow and remember how he died. The empire had him tortured and then tortured to death. The instrument of that torture has become a symbol that hangs in the sanctuary of every evangelical church. It decorates the pulpits from which their sermons are preached. It hangs from the necks of many of those 62 percent who say that torture is just fine if it makes them feel safer.
What the hell is going on?
The Associated Press article linked above notes that these poll results may simply reflect evangelicals' disproportionately partisan political views:
Did evangelicals reach their conclusions because of their religious beliefs, or their politics or ideological leanings? How do you untangle those factors from each other?
There's no need to "untangle those factors." Whether we ask "Why does evangelical church attendance increase the likelihood of support for torture?" or we ask "Why does evangelical church attendance increase the likelihood of the uncritical embrace of a political ideology that supports torture?" the underlying question is the same.
Something deeply wrong -- something evil, malignant and malevolent -- is being taught or learned in evangelical churches. This wrong thing contradicts the central symbol of their purported faith, contradicts the teachings of the central figure of that faith, contradicts the sacred text that they say is their only basis for understanding that symbol and that figure.
So, again, what the hell is going on?
I have some theories -- some ideas about a differential diagnosis and the corresponding prescriptions, and we'll get to those in a bit (for a particularly odious display of the disease I suspect, see ChristianShirts.net, from which the above image was borrowed).
For right now, though, I can't decide whether I need sackcloth and ashes or a whip of cords. Or both.
I wish more Christians would let their faith in, y'know, CHRIST influence their politics and values, instead of their faith in neocon talking points.
P.S. Click on that T-shirt link, it's fun times.
source: AP, Slacktivist