Sunday, May 10, 2009

Regular Churchgoers Support Torture the Most. This is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

The Pew Forum found that half of regular churchgoers think that torture is often or sometimes justified. 60% of evangelicals agree.

Torture expert Darius Rejali found that people who are likely to support or commit torture are loyal to institutions. If the leaders of the institution say torture is necessary, the institutional loyalists are likely to accept that.

Much of my own research has shown that the core of most churches are institutional loyalists. They are the people most likely to be regular churchgoers.

Therefore, the leaders of the church, especially the evangelical church, need to say loud and clear that torture is wrong, un-Christian, un-American, and good loyal church goers should not torture.


JMott said...

If we were torturing other Christians, I'm guessing the sentiment would change. As Ghandi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." (Disclaimer, I realize that I could add to this 'some Christian sects' rather than using the quote to generalize all Christians, but I'm okay with it as it is...even as a Christian myself).

Amazing that the line between human race and Christian race is so distinct with some, and how the rules change when that line is crossed.

Heather Ann said...

I quoted you in my "torture poll" blog. Hope you don't mind. I think your point about loyalty is very important. Thanks!

Gruntled said...

Happy to oblige, ma'am.

Michael Kruse said...

Or another alternative is that the left is overly drawn to idealistic absolutism (i.e., waterboarding never justified) and the right’s pragmatism (i.e., waterborading may be justified whenever it gets results.) Also, think Lakoff’s nurturing mother versus authoritarian father as well.

Bonhoeffer was a pacifist who found it justifiable to murder Hitler. We know killing is wrong but most of us also make careful exceptions in case of just wars and in self-defense. Most would consider torture less egregious than murder, though still horrible. Yet there is never any exceptions on torture?

My guess is that all but the most deeply partisan on the right oppose torture in all but the most extreme and unusual circumstances. (The cases in the news are highly specific cases that required special approval to be carried out under rare specific circumstances.) Those on the left in their heart of hearts know the world is not so neat and tidy to accommodate their absolutism.

What this really is about is the culture war. Your position on torture has become an identity signifier. Those on the left now say “no torture ever” to show their lefty loyalty and the right support torture as an option to show their colors. I’m not clear that the poll is truly about people’s reflective decisions on torture.

Anonymous said...

Even though many say they are "against torture" in all circumstances, I believe that most people, if push came to shove, would support torture, or even do it themselves, if a loved one's life was at stake. As a mom, and a Christian, I cannot be sure how principled I would be if I thought I could save my child's life.

It's all well and good to stand on principle when the situation is hypothetical, but quite another when it's life and death.

Bonhoeffer found that out.

Marty said...

I'm intrigued by this poll, and more than a little bit suspicious of it.

Evangelical churchgoers are consostently found to give more of their money to charitable causes, supporting the poor etc, and volunteer more of their time to help the less fortunate. How can the demographic that is undeniably the most "compassionate" also be the one that most supports torture?

I'm not saying it's not true -- just that if it IS true, there's a lot more to the story. I wonder if anyone will go to the trouble to find it.

spinner said...

New poll just out!Should Nancy Pelosi waterboard Keith Oberman? Yes or no? Choose wisely.

JMott said...

For those of you who are justifying your take on torture with Hitler and murder references, watch Taxi to the Dark Side and ask yourself two questions:

1) Are most of the people who were tortured closer to Hitler or to your next door neighbor?

2) Is torture acctually accomplishing anything aside from making terrorists out of civilians?


Just remember, we don't live in a "24" world....that's fiction, the rest of us live in the land of reason and morality.

Michael D. Bush said...

Gruntled, you title is not really fair in light of the results you quote in the body. Thinking torture is sometimes justified is one thing, and supporting torture is another. I'm guessing you'd have a hard time finding people ready to stand to it that they "support torture".

Jim fake republican said...

Does anyone really think that Bonhoeffer would think torture justified under these circumstances with these particular people?

I suppose we can assume that some of the Christians who think torture to be justified under some circumstances also believe abortion is never justified, even under compelling circumstances such as the life of the mother, rape, incest etc.?

I think there are indeed other factors entering into the reasoning of these Christians. Mainly, I think they determine their political and social beliefs first, and then look for a denomination which will affirm what they already believe. I doubt that they had the same moral struggle that Bonhoeffer had in reaching his decision regarding Hitler.

tt said...

jim fake republican, why don't progressives like you take people at their word? Ridicule doesn't become you.

Anonymous said...

tt, did I strike a nerve? There is no doubt in my mind that many Christians are looking for their church to merely affirm what they already believe. It's human nature. If a preacher says something they disagree with from the pulpit, they think the preacher is being political. Part of the journey is learning to allow your political and social beliefs to conform to your growing understanding of Christianity. Some people never get that far down the path, unfortunately.

Gruntled said...

I think the Milgram experiment showed the sad fact that it was the decent, normal, institution-loyal people who will torture if authority says it is for a good cause. The same understanding that makes religious conservatives compassionate people because that is what decent church loyalists do would also support torture if that is what decent nation-state loyalists do.

tt said...

"tt, did I strike a nerve?"

I guess I haven't gotten as far along on my journey as you have. Maybe some day I'll know as much about what many christians really think as you do. Until then I'll try to take people at their word.