Thursday, September 11, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - Poll: On torture, evangelicals not looking to Bible, doctrine

imageThings that make you say, "Hmmm."

The poll of 600 Southern white evangelicals was released Sept. 11 in Atlanta in connection with a national religious summit on torture. It shows not only are white evangelical Southerners more likely than the general populace to believe torture is sometimes or often justified, but also that they are far more likely—to tweak a phrase from Proverbs—to “lean on their own understanding” regarding the subject.

However, their views seemed to change when asked to consider torture policy in light of the Golden Rule. When respondents were asked if the United States should “never use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers,” more than half agreed.

read the rest of the article: Associated Baptist Press - Poll: On torture, evangelicals not looking to Bible, doctrine


Mike West said...

Sorry for the long comment; not an easy subject but I think best answered by a Christian who has experienced warfare first hand.
"Now I have completed a yearlong deployment. Most of my time was spent as a tank platoon leader in the cities of Mosul and Samarra. The battles we fought were far different from the conventional battles that we trained for. Our enemy took his family with him on the battlefield, using them and other civilians as shields. This enemy does not wear a military uniform or fight in the open, but seeks refuge within the city streets and alleyways. Every soldier in my platoon was decisively engaged with our enemy, pulling the trigger and killing them or maneuvering our tanks on them. We have seen the enemy collapse, explode, and vaporize at our own hands. We have seen civilians caught in the crossfire. As a Christian leader, what am I to do with these experiences? What can I share to help those leaders who are currently engaged with our enemies?

For the Christian, the Bible provides a wealth of guidance on warfare and killing. Numerous examples abound of warriors serving the Lord. Joshua, Samson, and David are three that come to mind. The Lord instructed Joshua to establish cities of refuge for those who "…killed his neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought" (Joshua 20:5). That provides comfort to me and those I know who have seen civilians fall at their hands in the crossfire of battles. It shows how the Lord looks at our heart when evaluating our actions. David spent much time in battle, evading Saul and defeating his enemies. David sings a song of praise after the Lord delivered him from all of his enemies. Here are some excerpts that are particularly relevant to what I have experienced.

"He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior-from violent men you save me…The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me…I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth; I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets…Therefore I will praise you, O Lord…" (2 Samuel 22). Upon completion of a successful battle, the Lord's warriors are called to give praise and glory to God. We are also cautioned; "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice" (Proverbs 24:17).

Some may ask the same question that I asked about killing. "What is it like to kill the enemy?" It is a very sobering experience. Killing is not hard. It happens very quickly, and when done, your principal thought is that you are happy that you and your soldiers are still alive. Killing causes you to question why the enemy is so ready and willing to die for their cause. It makes you wonder if they are brainwashed by religious or fanatical propaganda, or if they are simply seeking a payoff for attacking Americans. You wonder about what family and friends they are leaving behind. There is a satisfaction of knowing that you did your job well; knowing that you destroyed the enemy before he killed you or your friends and family. Killing causes you to evaluate your own mortality and death. The issue of one's own mortality is what I think bothers most of my soldiers and others who have killed in combat.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matthew 10:28).

As a Christian, I do not fear death. I think Paul put it best when he said, "To live is Christ; to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). But for those who do not know of their own salvation, death is a scary thought. I think one of Satan's best tricks is to prevent us from thinking about our own mortality. Satan would love for us to live moment to moment, focused on worldly pleasures and not thinking about our eternal future. I believe that this is why you see so many salvation experiences as soldiers deploy to combat and experience it firsthand. My experiences with killing and combat do not bother me. I know why I am here, what I have done, and am willing to talk about it. Many of my soldiers are quite the opposite. They prefer never to think or talk about the killing they have done or close calls they have had. The reason is simple…they are afraid of death and what lies beyond. This presents an amazing opportunity as a Christian leader to share the Gospel through word and lifestyle evangelism."

So...I say "torture" (forcing the enemy to give up valuable information) is a necessary evil for the protection of those seeking to make the world a better place by having freedom as the end result, which leads to the freedom of religion. Remember....our enemy would cut our heads off when given the chance.

Anonymous said...

white--you obviously mean white washed right?

If caesar's policy is to torture and the church follows along; that church is not following the head.

If the white evan. community believes torture is permissible; I ain't gonna eat @ their house, because you know the inside of the dishes are dirty!

Anonymous said...

Yah. Hmmm. The Jesus I know never tortured fact he said to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies. Love=torture? I think not.

Bryonm said...


Thanks for your comments. Just a couple of thoughts.

First, as you read the Bible, there is little instruction about war after David establishes control over Jerusalem. I know many refer to those books to justify criminal behavior in battle, but there are laws - the Uniform Cod of Military Justice - that govern a US serviceman's behavior. For some reason, we want the CIA to live above these laws... I digress. My original point is that it's a mistake for soldiers to invoke Old Testament stories as a "theology of war". After David, God doesn't have people fighting wars. Once God establishes the Temple in Jerusalem, you don't read about God approved war unless it's waged AGAINST Israel.

Second, don't misunderstand, I'm not a pacifist; I'm just saying that Christian's who serve in the military serve God first, must obey the UCMJ, and if the country makes policies that approve of the things God opposes (i.e., torture), we will reap what we sow.

The law of sowing and reaping is a higher law than the laws we suspend to achieve short-term results. As Christians, we need to have a prophetic voice when it comes to these issues, not a voice that invokes fear and revenge. We need to look at the big picture and understand that we represent and are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, first. Our orders come from that Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

is the uniform cod of military justice an aquatic policy? sounds fishy to me--is spongebob somehow involved? :)

very good analysis about a tough topic. Like you, I have often seen the bumper sticker "Who would Jesus Bomb?" My answer is simple--the devil!

Bryonm said...

cod. oops :)

Mike West said...

We are staring evil in the face when we see bombs being strapped on the mentally ill and sent into innocent crowds. The only way to stop them is to kill them. What would Jesus do about this? Well He was God - the same God in the Old & the New Testament. Right? What did jesus do when he faced down evil? He cast it out. He certainly didn't turn the other cheek. Sorry man. We disagree again. These Islamic terrorists are as evil as it gets. If we can get valuable information out of them that stops the killing of more innocent people, than we have done the right thing. So what's your solution?

Bryonm said...

Solution: the rule of law. not barbarism.

Mike West said...

Who has broken the law? It's as easy to say "I'm against torture" as it is to say "Nazis are bad. "
I guess we could debate the definition of torture. You were tortured in boot camp right? Maybe I'm missing your point. My point is that it's OK with me to use, say water boarding, for example to get an answer out of one of the evil ones. I'm not saying it's OK to cut their heart out. Where do we draw the line? is bullying in schools considered torture? Not yet anyway. There does have to be a line. Who draws it for the USA? I think the Commander In Chief.

Bryonm said...

Here's the topic: White southern evangelicals say torture is okay. My point and the point of the article is that holding that position is inconsistent with New Testament teaching. It's difficult to say that the teachings of Christ are up and running in the life of a person that is okay with inflicting torture upon prisoners.

To bring it to a more practical level, I was also taught in boot camp that we didn't do to our prisoners what they do to us. That's what makes us different from our enemies.

The Commander in Chief does not draw the line. He's sworn to tow the line, to protect the line, and to not cross the line. Not make the line fuzzy. Not cross the line and then act like there isn't one. Again, I digress.

I was never tortured in boot camp, by the way. Taunted? Yes. Brain washed? Definitely. Pushed beyond the limits? Thank God. I volunteered for it. But none of it was torture.

Punishing prisoners without a trial, without a judge, without any kind of process is not what makes this country great. If we punish individuals, terrorize and torture them we have a problem. We have to broaden the definition of the word "torture" the way Commander in Chief Clinton did/does when he redefines the meaning of words. Christians had no problem being prophetic in that case, but what about in the way we conduct war? Isn't that more serious than the sophomoric dalliances of the former Commander in Chief. He thought he had the power to draw different lines, too. Where are the cries for justice now?

Mike West said...

So do you view the prisoners that came about as a result of the war in Iraq as combatants captured on the battlefield or as any other prisoner captured in this country as the result of a crime? If you view them as the same, then we just agree to disagree. BTW - some would say you were tortured in boot camp. The same who won't even allow ROTC on their campuses.

Brodad Unkabuddy said...

There's a dirty nuclear device hidden somewhere in Chicago. If it goes off, hundreds of thousands of people die. You have the guy who knows where it is in custody. What do you (as a Christian) do? It's up to you and no one else.

Waterboarding is not torture. Having been subjected to it, during survival training during the Vietnam war, I thought I was going to drown, but didn't. It's very effective.

One other point, if there was anyone who would know the significance of sacrificing one for the sake of millions, it would be Jesus. He WAS tortured for OUR sins, wasn't he?

Bryonm said...

nice try, mike's brother. this isn't a novel or 24.

Brodad Unkabuddy said...

Then what is it? How many times do you think these type of decisions have to made during a war? I think what it IS is reality.

Bryonm said...

if torture is such a great tool, why stop at using it during war? think of all the crimes we could solve if we tortured convicts? i bet that would produce results in the war on drugs or the war on gangs or the war on fill in the blank. or why wait till someone's convicted? let's torture people based on suspicion or phone in tips. think of the lives that could be saved.

let me ask you this since we're being hypothetical... the year is 1944. the japanese get a whif of the manhattan project. they torture informants and save hundreds of thousands of japanese lives. is torture then justified?

Brodad Unkabuddy said...

It's relative. The Japanese were hugely in violation of the Geneva Convention protocols concerning their treatment of POWs throughout the war. However, if I were a Japanese citizen whose life was saved as a result of torture, I would be all for it. Torture is relative. Depends on whether you're the interrogator or the interrogatee. Criminals, under our system are considered innocent until proven guilty. Torture under those circumstances is against the law.

Combatants during wartime are considered guilty until proven innocent and are not afforded the same rights as US citizens. Nor should they be. In the past under the Geneva Convention, POWs were not exchanged until hostilities cease. Have hostilities ceased in War on Terror? However, it is US policy to NOT torture POWs - always has been, always will be.

Mike West said...

And don't be messin' with my brother - when ya mess with him, ya mess with me. :)
Don't make me call in the rest of the West troops. :)

Bryonm said...

you'll need ALL the West troops. just don't bring Mary... she scares me.

Mike West said...

LOL - she should.

Anonymous said...

bombs attached to mentally ill? or just sincere religious folk that believe they have something to give to a false God? the mentally ill would not know how to engage the device.

as for the dirty instrument in Chicago; my thought is that a certain popular talk show in Chicago is infinitely more dangerous because it spreads falsehood from coast to coast bringing havoc everyday to homes and families in the form of "modernity" and "liberation" without credence to the truth! "O" what a tragedy.