A couple of friends have posted this story on Facebook. CNN reports:
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.
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.
I find these results disheartening. Is it really true that the more people are supposedly exposed to the story of an incarnated and crucified God, the more likely they are to support torturing others? (The outliers seem to be the mainline denominations who do not support torture as much as their evangelical and Catholic family.) I cannot think of any real Christian justification for torture. Over on First Things—a journal no one would consider a bastion of liberal Christianity—Russell E. Saltzman roots his rejection of torture in a human being bearing God’s image:
I’ve been trying, like many Americas, to think this thing through. There is the altogether practical question: Did torture help us? Did it make America safer? Was the information really good, helpful, in thwarting terrorists? Did it actually in fact spoil pending plots? Frankly, the evidence is mixed.
But I really don’t care. Whether torture “worked” or not as an interrogative tactic is far from the main question. I’m a pastor. I think as a pastor, which is to say as a parish theologian. I don’t care if these guys shrieked like little girls on the playground and blubbered out plots for everything from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to knocking over Bagdad candy stores as juvenile delinquents. Torture is morally wrong. It is morally wrong, theologically speaking, because it is an attack upon the imago Dei, upon the image of God inherent to every human life.
One could just as easily rooted a rejection of torture in the words and actions of Jesus. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Lk 6.27) How in the world can we worship a savior who endured the torture of lashings, a crown of thorns, nails in his hands, and crucifixion and think that it is morally acceptable to torture someone else? For those who have ever asked, “What would Jesus do?” can you really imagine that Jesus would strap a person to a board and subject him or her to “controlled drowning”? In mounting a Christian defense against torture, one could have used Paul and Peter as well: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Rom 12.17) “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3.9) I am outraged. I am outraged that my country would torture others and I am outraged that my sisters and brothers in the faith are more likely to support torture than the general public.
My Christian family’s support of torture is a terrible witness to the watching world.