Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who would Jesus Torture?

From  Human Rights First :

A new poll released Thursday (Sept. 11) finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified...

The poll, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57 percent of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.....

The findings of this poll, which did not define torture, compared to a Pew Research Center poll from February that found that 48 percent of the general public think torture can be justified.

The new face of American Christianity. Live and in person and voting for President.


Марко Фризия said...

In the Eucharist we assert a Real Presence of Christ. Amen to that!Perhaps we should also assert a Real Absence of Christ. By Real Absence, I mean we, as we sit in our pews or chairs in our parishes on Sunday, should be very aware that Jesus --truly God, but also truly human-- was removed from the midst of our human community by horrific and brutal acts of torture and violent murder. This mindfulness of the Real Absence of Jesus isn't a denial of the Real Presence, but a much-needed additional dimension to our Eucharistic thought (and a way of living out the Eucharist). Jesus roots the understanding of his continuing presence on earth in the bodies of "the least of these" (see Matthew 25:40). Look around at the Eucharistic celebration and visualize what human bodies created in God's image (and bodies where Christ said he could be counted on to be manifested) of "the least of these" are not present in human and Christian community because of torture, illegitimate incarceration, or murder. Who isn't physically present with us because they have no shelter, no food, and no medical care? It is uncertain who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews. Whoever she was, she calls the People of God to absolute and unconditional solidarity with victims of torture: "Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured." (13:3) A critique of American evangelical theology could be that they are, mostly, preoccupied with their own personal salvation. And when they do think of other people, they think of them in terms of finding ways to legislate their personal morality as a priority. I don't see much love for neighbor there and it seems like acts of tangible charity and hard work for peace and justice are written off as works righteousness, something to be avoided. I wish we could, somehow, take back the word "evangelical" from this group. "Evangelical" means "good news." These people live out the shadow side of the Gospel, the exact opposite of what Jesus calls us to be and to do. These people are anti-life, not pro-life.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Sullivan gives us more:

A new survey of global public opinion [PDF] reveals the appalling truth. Americans are now among the people on earth most supportive of government's torturing prisoners. The United States is in the same public opinion ballpark as some of the most disgusting regimes on the planet:.....

America's peers in the fight against torture, in terms of public opinion are Azerbaijan, Egypt, Russia, and Iran. This is what America now is: a country with the moral values of countries that routinely torture and abuse prisoners, like Egypt and Iran. .... More horrifying: a higher percentage of Americans - 13 percent - believe that torture should generally be allowed than in any other country save China, Turkey and Nigeria. And in the last two years, as the American president celebrates and authorizes the torture of people who have not been allowed a fair trail, support for torturing terror suspects has increased from 36 percent to 44 percent.

The only other countries where support for torturing terror suspects has grown are India, Nigeria, Turkey, South Korea and Egypt. In all other developed countries, support for an absolute ban on torture has actually risen in the past two years. America is now leading the way in legitimizing and celebrating torture as a legitimate tool for governments.
How can the country that pioneered the Geneva Conventions now be a nation more supportive of torture than any other developed nation on earth? .... the key segment of the pro-torture enthusiasts are evangelical Christians. Yes: evangelical Christians are now the greatest supporters of doing to prisoners what was once done to Christ.


McCain/Palin's America. Be afraid.

Cany said...

I read the original material last week and meant to post on it, but forgot... SO glad you did! Hectic around here right now.

When this whole torture thing began to rise (back when McCain was anti-torture) I remember saying to a friend that it was a national disgrace that we are even having a dialogue on it. I was right.

And it only got worse.

I am terribly disgusted with my country.

Apparently, I don't belong to the same Christ those folks do. Hope I am never confused with them.

Young fogey emeritus said...

As recently as 70 years ago Southern evangelicals would have been horrified by torture conducted by the state as they were by war (back then it was the mainline churches that wanted wars to spread Americanism around the world - they pushed for US entry into WWI). Something obviously went horribly wrong. One idea is that their well-meaning soft socialism (taking government aid like in the Depression) combined with the Cold War scare and a turning to the perceived law and order of the state after 1960s cultural change in the larger society (the fear that makes up McCain/Palin's appeal to their fan base today) account for this regrettable shift.

The Protestant right are vastly overrated as a political power (they were a footnote in the 1980 US elections); this torture is a neocon production but the neocons have successfully been using the Prot right shamelessly and for some time.

David said...

You know what makes this even sadder ? (if that's possible ?)

Any real expert on interrogation will tell you that torture isn't even an effective method of gaining useful information.

So it's brutal and useless. What's that say about us as a society ? :/

Anonymous said...

The new face of American Christianity

Please, IT! The connection between "white Southern evangelicals" and "Christianity" has LONG been tenuous at best. (Jimmy Carter and a brave, noble, few excepted)

To wit...

As recently as 70 years ago Southern evangelicals would have been horrified by torture conducted by the state as they were by war (back then it was the mainline churches that wanted wars to spread Americanism around the world - they pushed for US entry into WWI).

YF, the above perfectly embodies the saying "Mixing a little truth into the lie, to make it all the more deadly"

To the extent white Southern evangelicals once feared "torture conducted by the state", that was only due to the fear of Reconstructionists . . . interfering w/ the torture they were conducting on their own! >:-0

Do you think you can somehow paper over the Burning Cross and the Lynching Rope???

And *to the extent* that white Southern evangelicals opposed entry into WW2 (again, there were elements of WashingtonDC = "the forces of Northern Aggression" mixed in), wasn't because they were pacifists---it was probably because they sympathized with Hitler! (in his anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-"Anyone Not a White Aryan"ism) >:-(

Please, YF, take your racism-ignoring revisionist spin elsewhere? {Off to vomit now}

Anonymous said...

OK, OK: my bad.

I re-read the above, YF, and see that you were actually explaining the causes for entry into World War One, not WW2.

I'll stick w/ my first argument, though: white Southerners (overwhelmingly "Evangelical", in its *contemporary* meaning, of conservative Protestant) would have opposed almost ANYTHING "WashingtonDC" wanted, still seeing the U.S. national govt as a largely alien institution (despite the end of Reconstruction, meaning the worst RACIST CRACKERS had taken power throughout the South. "70 years ago" in the South was nothing less than a reign of terror for black people then: that can NEVER be overstated! :-( )

Anonymous said...

JCF, like it or not, the concept of "American Christianity" is defined by the rest of the world as well as by non-Christians in the US by the vocal fundamentalist evangelicals. Their stridency drowns out more moderate voices and their lockstep thinking threatens to give us a president more disastrous than the Shrub (and who woul d have thought that possible).

If someone tells me "I'm a Christian" I immediately become wary and distrustful. Generally, that's not a statement you hear from most Mainstream faithful.

One of the great failings over the last 20 years was the unwillingness of mainstream Christians to prevent the hijacking of the term "Christianity" by the Christianist movement.

And now, we have litmus tests for Christianism politics.

I distinguish this from Christianity, but most do not.


David said...

Again, I'd say IT has nailed it. Like it or not, in broad terms the struggle now is between arch-conservatives, evangelical Christians included, and thoughtful, forward-thinking secular progressives. Mainstream to Progressive Christians have blown this one.

If we were to use a WWII geo-political analogy, the conservative, evangelicals are the Axis and the secular progressives are the U.S. and Great Britain. And while mainstream to progressive Christians may want to be counted as part of the Allies, we'd be like...Belgium or something.

Sorry if this makes folks uncomfortable, but it's the way the culture is trending as far as I can tell.

Young fogey emeritus said...

As I wrote elsewhere recently, the Protestant left are invisible because politically they're not unique. If asked you may tell a pollster your views and how they differ from whoever's but in the end a vote for Obama (for example) is a vote for Obama, just like the RC right vote with the Protestant right which vote with the neocons. So politically those RCs are just as invisible. A voting machine doesn't know the difference, and the choices we're given aren't real choices. So the Christian groups end up being... Belgium or something.

That and mainline decline as Joseph Bottum has explained. Since about 1975, even though there are still lots of Methodists, if somebody like Dr Schori or the PC(USA) moderator tells the truth about torture, Iraq or Palestine (unlike Vietnam 40 years ago)... nobody in power's listening any more.

This is a secular left-neocon slugfest. The good old right and libertarians are as sidelined as the mainline here.

MarkBrunson said...

It hasn't happened here, yet, but, please . . .

So often when these things are reported it gives free reign to Southern-bashing. Keep in mind that I am a Southerner, born and raised no farther north than South Carolina, born in Atlanta. There are aspects of the South I don't love: our racist past and its legacy, the anti-intellectual stance of so many of our evangelical churches, the obvious corruption that still pervades our politics ("Zig-zag" Zell Miller, anyone?)

But there is a lot of my heritage I love, too. Unfortunately, it is less obvious, less easy to relate, so I just ask you to remember that when you pound away at Southerners - and I reiterate, it hasn't happened here yet - you are really hurting people like me simply because we are not the loudest voices in the South.

That said, two points: Jimmy Carter probably wouldn't consider himself an evangelical, but a Southern Baptist, which, until about 25 - 30 years ago were not synonymous. Second, polls like this make me wonder if we have not devolved so much that there are any truly human homo sapiens left.

Марко Фризия said...

I am a southerner, too. I was born in East Tennessee, foothills of Appalachian Mountains. Of course, I live in Bulgaria now. I could no longer live in red state America. It's also very inexpensive to live in Eastern Europe. There is much that is great about the South (cuisine, literature, folk music, scenery). I think "Southern Evangelicals" is inaccurate for our discussion. For example, there were religious fundamentalists up north in Dover, Pennsylvania who went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to try and teach creationism in public schools. They lost. There is a pervasive problem with the heresy of fundamentalism throughout the entire USA and this rigid, fanatical mentality is infecting some mainstream churches --Anglicanism included-- and some American Catholics (in terms of the intolerant, hateful, neocon-christianist mentality). Southern Evangelicals were critiqued because they were the group surveyed about torture at a conference meeting in the U.S. south. I have a strong feeling that northern and and western evangelicals probably share the same attitudes toward torture as the Southern Evangelicals surveyed for the original article. Bush's highest approval ratings in the USA are in Utah among Mormons. I wonder if the LDS folks share his attitudes, too, about torture. This isn't just a southern problem.

Марко Фризия said...

David, you wrote: "Any real expert on interrogation will tell you that torture isn't even an effective method of gaining useful information."

I was in the U.S. Army in spite of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The U.S. Army's two manuals on Human Intelligence gathering: FM 34-52 and FM 2-22.3 (the latter is classified) make it clear that abusive treatment of detainees is prohibited by law. And the Army manuals assert that maltreating detainees does not produce actionable, reliable, or accurate intelligence. Also, the Geneva and Hague Conventions are summarized in the Army's Manual "The Laws of of Land Warfare." This manual also makes it clear that detainees are not to be abused, tortured, or treated inhumanely. If American troops are captured and tortured with waterboarding now, the USA (which punished such behavior in U.S. military and civilian courts for over 50 years) has no legal standing (at least within the USA) to prosecute those who torture Americans. Yes, it is sad what has happened to our country.

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

I would prefer to keep my religion and my politics separate, particularly since MY religion never seems to make it to the forefront. Tis better that we try not to inject religion into this argument. Torture is not acceptable by the terms of the Geneva convention and it is/has been determined to be a crime against humanity. Anyone that likes the idea of torture, it seems to me, has a driveway that does not run all the way to the street -- so to speak.

Young fogey emeritus said...

The critics of anti-Southern comments and Fred are right; the wrongness of torture and the political clout or not of one's religion are different issues, and in a system with separation of church and state, religion conservative or liberal doesn't come into it. The survey is still a sad commentary on some who profess Christ.

David said...

YF wrote, This is a secular left-neocon slugfest. The good old right and libertarians are as sidelined as the mainline here.

Which is sad. I actually have quite a bit of sympathy for some positions that might be classified as "good, old right" or "libertarian." But neither can be found to any great degree in the current Republican party.

What ever happened to small gov't., avoidance of internat'l entanglements, fiscal responsibility, and just leaving people the hell alone if they weren't actually harming* anyone else ? All of those used to be considered Republican virtues :/

* As opposed to the imaginary "harm" caused by gays & lesbians to straight peoples' marriages, someone smoking a bit of marijuana in the privacy of their home, or other such "not harmful to anyone else" stuff. The neo-con Right is just as guilty of attempting to create a Nanny State as the Left they accuse such things of.

David said...

Oh, and yeah, I'm a Southerner, too - from waaay back (family's from Virginia, Pre-Revolution, and moved to Texas in the late 19th to early 20th cent.). And I agree with what Mark and others have said in our defense...

Young fogey emeritus said...

David: exactly!

Anonymous said...

I was a registered Republican in my youth. Hell, I even voted for Ronald Reagan the first time (but NOT the second...). My lesson was my dad, a small businessman, who taught me the responsibilities of the management class. There were periods when we lived frugally off my family's savings so that the struggling business could make sure the employees got a salary. We made do.

As expenses rose, he never ever considered that cutting health insurance was an option. He felt that his employees and their families were his responsbility too. Because he behaved ethically, he didn't need the govt telling him to do so--and he assumed that most others were the same. (Alas, the "greed is good" generation then arrived.) And he didn't think the govt had any business imposing their social mores on others' private business.

Now I'm what some call a "libertarian liberal" and Dad votes a Democratic ticket. The only old-style Republican I see on the map is Ahnuld, the Gubernator of CA.

I don't care for the excesses of progressive politics, and the left-wing nanny state and its bubbling victimology, but I find the neo-cons far more dangerous and irresponsible. Their marriage of convenience with the Christianist movement and their shameless manipulation of the truth is SO dangerous.....we are slipping into empire.

And what I find astonishing is the number of intelligent people who think the lying McCain-Palin campaign offers a better choice for the country. We're in an unjustifiable war and an economic meltdown, and a shamelessly mendacious 72 year old candidate from the incumbant party somehow still appeals? I don't get it.


Tripp Hudgins said...

Hey there...I followed this from a link on the Young Fogey's page. Thanks for the lead, YF.

As a white guy from Virginia, I concur with the regionalism stuff. That being said, I think we need to look hard at ourselves as a nation and I am not sure that we have such a desire.

These conventions and rule books only hold sway if we as a nation see ourselves as part of a global community. All the obvious problems with the blending of church and state aside, why aren't international church bodies standing up and saying to the US, "Hey, you signed this thing guys. You still have to hold to it or get out"?

If the Baptist World Alliance were to pull together, and Christians were to ignore the little black lines on the maps that signify a nation's borders, we might have something to work with.

Young fogey emeritus said...

Tripp: my pleasure. Churches don't get more international than Rome; the torture administration blew off the Pope on all this.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be astonished that there is no moral, let alone Christian, outrage at ongoing torture, along with imprisonment without trial, and the abolition of habeus corpus.

Just one small gay Bishop and the church is going to end.

Gay marriage in CA? Armegeddon! Oh the horror! the horror!

But degrading our Constitution and our values by descending to the level of a banana republic? ho-hum.

And what about the degradation of the human beings who are performing these atrocities? Do you really want them back on the streets at home, justifying abuse of "the other"?

All of us are "the other" in one way or another.

I am working on a post about the death of conservatism--I mean, REAL conservatism. What passes for conservatism now is like those movies where the bride is replaced by a zombie.


David said...


I loved your last, two posts about real conservatism vs this neo-con claptrap we're stuck with from the Republicans. Your last, two paragraphs above that begin:

I don't care for the excesses of progressive politics, and the left-wing nanny state and its bubbling victimology, but I find the neo-cons far more dangerous and irresponsible...

Sum it up for me perfectly.

Please do write that post on the death of conservatism!

Young fogey emeritus said...

The Cold War both begat the neocons and helped finish off real conservatism. I recommend the late libertarian Murray Rothbard's exhaustive history (you can read it online) describing how state-backed Cold Warriors like William Buckley betrayed the real thing.

Anonymous said...

Waitaminnit: am I supposed to be the "anti-Southerner" here?

Pardon my "French", but that's bullsh*t.

I'm anti-white-supremacist-racism WHEREVER it is (including, say, Russia).

I just think there's WAAAAY too much denial about the history, effects and continued prevalence of w-s-r . . . and that frequently denial comes out of a (perverted) sense of "Just Defending The South" (or "Southern culture" or whatever).

You can celebrate the South without rationalizing white racism. Just keep an eagle-eye on the latter raising its ugly head---and pass the grits!

JCF: father's peeps are from Old Virginny.

MarkBrunson said...


Since I was the one who first posted on the subject, I feel secure in responding, as all the others have simply seconded.

Please, friend, read what I wrote, specifically that no one here had engaged in Southern-bashing yet. I have had enough experience to know that it is not likely to be far behind, from some of the more intemperate drive-bys of our acquaintance, and as a write-off for the racism that is endemic to all mankind (see the comments in praise of Akinola against those "funny people," the whites on MadPriest's blog).

If what I wrote was unhelpful, forgive me, but I wanted to head off hurt before it happened.

Anonymous said...

NPR interviewed a group of PA voters. The whites almost to a one were pro-McCain with comments that Obama was a Muslim, they didn't trust him, and that they weren't racists but thought black folks got "special treatment" and that Obama's tax plan would raise their taxes (which is not true) Un-believeable.

The greatest skill of the Republican machine is making working Americans vote against their own interests over and over again while exploiting the worst sort of identity politics. While they have found fertile ground in the south, it's not regionally limited.

But even defensive southerners have to admit you do seem to have a higher profile in this lunacy.


Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

I did a post on the NPR project and the fact is that this Republican (McCain/Rove) have devised a means to bring out racists tendencies in the white voter. Since they only need about 4-6 points they do not need all the white voters, just those that think that by voting for a woman they are "progressive" as opposed to the reality that they get to vote white without a pang of conscience.

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

Sorry, I should read around before I say things. I know you know.

MarkBrunson said...

That's the problem, IT . . . we Southerners don't. Those Southerners do.

Doorman-Priest said...

Deeply disturbing, partly because it is not at all surprising.

Anonymous said...

I didn't hear the NPR interview but I did hunt for it. Here's the link to the transcript of what I think you're talking about. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

OK, Mark: w/ all that "seconding" going on, I guess I was feeling a little bit beat-up on. S'alright!


Re PA voters (Disclaimer: JCF used to live in Central PA. Remember, of PA, it is said: "Philly and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in-between" :-0), there's also this:

One [Holy Rosary, Scranton] parishioner ruled out voting for Mr. Obama explicitly because he is black. “Are they going to make it the Black House?” Ray McCormick asked, to embarrassed hushing from a half dozen others gathered around the rectory kitchen. (Five of the six, all lifelong Democrats who supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, said they now lean toward Mr. McCain.)

From the NY Times, hat-tip, Episcopal Cafe

Lord have mercy!