Friday, May 01, 2009

Evangelicals and Torture - Jesus Creed

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey. More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

What do you believe? How would you answer the question at the bottom of this post?

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did. This is the question: "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?"

via: Evangelicals and Torture - Jesus Creed


Chuck said...

54%. That's close to the number of evangelicals that consider themselves conservative. I think this shows conservatives have believed the Republican talking points that torture is good.

Most believers I know in TN highly consider what they hear from conservative pundits while distrusting liberal pundits.

I think that's the most likely reason. The right has been saying torture is good for 7 years, and about 50% of evangelicals are conservative...

Mike West said...

Here's a good read from one of the smartest people in the world - Charles Krauthammer. You may have to subscribe to read it but it's worth it.

Bryonm said...


Thanks for the link.

Krauthammer says this:
"Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting them from war duty."

But this totally misrepresents (this is the same kind demagoguery conservatives charge liberals with) the values of many men who proudly wear this country's uniform both now and in the past - who have served their country in uniform both during peace and in a conflict.

Taking an oath to serve our country is not akin with torturing our enemies even if our enemies are guilty of the practice. That's what makes us different. In fact, men in uniform are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice which forbids torturing enemy prisoners.

Julia said...

I think that it's important to recognize what the motives truly are (or should be, at least) for torturing suspected and/or convicted terrorists.

One of the most popularly cited arguments against the use of torture is that it evokes false confessions. OK, sure, that is certainly reasonable. But the goal of torture is NOT to evoke a confession; the goal of torture is to gain intelligence. The terrorist's guilt or innocence should be determined by a trial, not by torture - but this does not mean that torture is not useful or justified. I would argue that torture can often be justified.

If someone has been convicted or associated with terrorist activity, they've given up their rights. They are facing the consequences of their crime, and to me, given that the motives of the torture are solely for the purpose of gaining intelligence and thus protecting American citizens, torture is justified. A non-example would be the appalling misconduct of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, who were rightly convicted for violating the very Code that you mentioned, Bryon.

Bryonm said...

I made the mistake of labeling and discussing this topic as "politics." This isn't about politics, it's about saving souls. Not our enemies' souls, but our own. Not un-believers', but believers' souls.

Mike West said...

Krauthammer also says:
Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent's life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life. He refuses to divulge. In such a case, the choice is easy. Even John McCain, the most admirable and estimable torture opponent, says openly that in such circumstances, "You do what you have to do." And then take the responsibility.
The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great. (One of the "torture memos" noted that the CIA had warned that terrorist "chatter" had reached pre-9/11 levels.) We know we must act but have no idea where or how -- and we can't know that until we have information. Catch-22. Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do. And that includes waterboarding. (To call some of the other "enhanced interrogation" techniques -- face slap, sleep interruption, a caterpillar in a small space -- torture is to empty the word of any meaning.) Did it work? The current evidence is fairly compelling. George Tenet said that the "enhanced interrogation" program alone yielded more information than everything gotten from "the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together."

Chuck said...

It looks like people for torture are people who haven't served in the military or aren't in intelligence agencies. People against it are people who have served (McCain, Jim Webb) or are in intelligence agencies.

And how does torture jive with "love your enemies"?

What would happen if you were being tortured in order to get a confession that Jesus is not really God?

Or what if you had to admit your sister-in-law was a Christian terrorist or they would keep torturing you? You would either falsely admit it and feel AWFUL or keep being tortured.

That is what Lenin, Mao did.

Some links:

Julia said...

"Or what if you had to admit your sister-in-law was a Christian terrorist or they would keep torturing you?"A Christian "terrorist"? By whose standards is said Christian a terrorist? Are not we, as Christians, forewarned by Jesus that we WILL suffer for His name?

I just, respectfully, think that comparing the persecution of Christian martyrs to the persecution of violent terrorists is comparing apples to oranges.

The purpose of "torture" should be to gain intelligence, to gain information that will help protect US citizens - not to gain a confession (which may be a false OR true confession, and only a trial can tell, and torture certainly cannot justly be called a "trial").

Because of the different degrees of what torture actually is as well as the circumstances and conditions, it would be brash to say that it is justified ALL the time. But I do think that it can be justified much of the time that it is used.

Bryonm said...

Julia, you have an interesting position on this subject. I can see old guys like me and Mike justifying torture to "protect American citizens."

There is never any shortage of people willing to keep violence and evil in circulation. The "justification" of violence and torture of enemies is only the beginning. It's a slippery slope. There are many governments that justify torturing its own citizens.

I worry about the soul of this country. I'm more concerned about the souls of our citizens than our enemies. If we justify torture, are we even redeemable?

Julia said...

I think I understand what you are saying.

Although it leads me to consider, again, the situation of Abu Ghraib prison. Those soldiers committed heinous acts; they tried to justify (there's that word again..) their acts as patriotic, when they were truly acting maliciously as they committed atrocities against the prisoners there. That was certainly torture.

But "torture" need not be defined as something that is utterly dehumanizing, as it was for those soldiers to...well, you probably have a clear idea of what it was, considering the horrific media coverage of it when photos were leaked from the prison.

But, adversely to what happened at Abu Ghraib and possibly at Gtmo Bay, torture can and should be without any evil intent. That may sound absurd, but I actually believe that to be true.

Bryonm said...

Julia... you know I love you...

That does sound absurd. Who do you recruit to do the torturing? How do you recruit? How do you train? How do you research, perfect, or make torture productive without knowing how to inflict pain, abuse, insult, threaten? How does one become good at these things and not leveraging the evil each human has running through him or her? A person capable of this would make a good antagonist in a fiction novel (like Hannibal Lecter). But a real person couldn't do this and keep himself unstained; untainted.

Julia said...

I love you, too. I hope my comments never imply otherwise!

Bryonm said...


you're love and respect are both implicit and explicit. Your oatmeal raisin cookies are love on display :)

nklyon said...

This whole conversation of Christians and torture is the biggest misinformed wacked theology I have read in a great long time.

While there are great rational augments for and against it, no where in the conversation is there a mention that God wants us to trust him for everything.

Including our security.

Taking that trust out of the equation puts our faith in a Reaganesque trust but verify mode.

Who cares if its biblical, just as long was it works. That is no faith at all.

It hardly resembles the God who warned the Kings of Israel, not to trust Chariots and horses, and not to go to Egypt to multiply them.

When we are ok with doing to someone, what no one would ever think we would want done to our own kids, then we are joining a great parade of Kings, who thought trusting God was good, as long as we could throw in some chariots and horses, and hey, I little torture might help God out now and then.

He sure seems to need the help these days.

A slippery slope indeed.

Julia said...

I agree with certainty that the Bible instructs us time and time, and time, again to trust God for everything.

Though I trust God to protect me AND to provide for me, does this mean I should not get a job? That I should not earn a wage (it is a given that I am talking about earning an "honest wage", here)?

If decide on a whim to say, "Lord, I am going to quit my job because I know you will pay the rent for me," am I being obedient? Or am I testing God so that I might avoid the trials of my work?

Didn't God bless David's army when he did used chariots and horses? Against the Phillistines and the Moabites and the Arameans? Thousands were put to death by David's army. And then "the Lord gave David victory wherever he went."

I would like to know (and I do not say this facetiously) more about what you think it looks like to trust God with the command of our military.

nklyon said...

David did trust God, But Soloman was another story. Trusting God and our responsibility are not mutually exclusive as you suggest. Trusting God for security does not mean there should be no consideration for a proper military and diplomacy. Equating trusting God for provision and our responsibility in the same conversation with torture does not make any sense at all. It just does not on any level..

Julia said...

To clarify, I did not intend to suggest that they are mutually exclusive; in fact, I was trying to say that trusting God IS our responsibility - as opposed to ignoring our responsibilities and very tough decisions (such as how to confront our enemies) that God has given us to face, while "trusting God" to simply make them go away.

Although I do understand that you did not recommend that we respond that way (the latter).

Anonymous said...

Julia, its never okay for a human to torture another human. God forbid another nation torture an American for intelligence, then it would be an abomination, right. We're worried about the safety of our nation when we're the most dangerous nation thus far. If your perspective is that we're the good guys, then i guess torturing the bad guys is what it takes. Well, we're not the good guys. I recognize that you're a Christian. Jesus speaks a lot about loving your enemies. How does your argument reflect that you believe this so far.

Julia said...

It doesn't seem you have bothered to read half of the statements I made in my comments above, such as:

"Torture need not be defined as something that is dehumanizing."


"Because of the different degrees of what torture actually is as well as the circumstances and conditions, it would be brash to say that it is justified ALL the time."

To say that I believe it is an abomination under any circumstances for an American to be tortured, that's false. You're trying to put words in my mouth.

Adversely, I believe that an American terrorist should be tried and and persecuted just as a foreign terrorist should be.

By offering me a speech about turning the tables, about America being the "bad guys", do you mean to imply that I am some kind of American chauvinist? Or maybe that you judge me as a hardcore conservative who is proud of every decision our government has made regarding national security (when in this very same conversation I criticized our military for the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib and Gtmo)? That every issue is really so black and white?

Well, it is simply not the case.

Anonymous said...

Julia, the comment i made was not made to put words in your mouth or to make you cop an attitude. You seem like a smart person, but i have a feeling you're ignorant as to what TORTURE is. Which in my previous comment I assumed you knew what it was. And i don't think it could be justified the way you think it can. as a Christian, how can you justify torture according to Christ's teachings of the believers standard of living?

Julia said...

First of all, if Jesus had specifically condemned the use of torture, then we would not even be having this discussion.

On the other hand, things that you may consider to be torture, such as waterboarding, seem like child's play compared to the torture methods that were used by the Roman government the last time Jesus walked the earth as a man. And yet Jesus was not "writing to his congressman" (so to speak) nor petitioning for the end of such torture methods. As you are surely aware, he wasn't exactly involved in politics in any way.

I recognize that Jesus teaches that we must love our enemies - even pray for them. Just the same, I acknowledge that He tells me to turn the other cheek to the man who strikes me.

But I do not think that Jesus tells us at all to apply these commands to our government's national defense and security.