Saturday, May 02, 2009

Torture and Faith: Go Figure

So, now come the results of the new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll about the relationship between faith/faith practice and one's attitude toward torture.

Facts about the research:

  • 742 American adults surveyed on use of torture against suspected terrorists

  • 54 percent of those who go to religious services at least weekly say it's often or sometimes acceptable

  • People unaffiliated with any religious group were least likely to back torture
    • The report:

      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.

      Reminds me of the attitudes and reactions I grew up hearing in my home church in regard to issues related to civil rights, racial prejudice, war and other opportunities for hate-speech and hatred.

      Read full article »

      Lots to think about here. Like to hear your reaction.



      Ken said...

      "Reminds me of the attitudes and reactions I grew up hearing in my home church in regard to issues related to civil rights, racial prejudice, war and other opportunities for hate-speech and hatred."So, Larry, are you suggesting that if the "suspected" terrorists were of white northern european descent those who attend church at least weekly would not support acts of torture?

      And regarding the description of tortured persons, are those who have been tortured those merely suspected of terrorism, or were they captured in the act of committing acts of terror, or have they confessed to terrorist planning that was used to actually commit harmful acts to innocent victims?

      What, in your opinion, is the reason those who attend church regularly are more favorable toward use of torture? Should we avoid church?

      Larry James said...

      Ken, no, I wasn't trying to make a direct, race-based connection to the current conversation about torture or terrorists. My main point was the failure of the church to speak truth into the world. My church growing up had nothing to say about racism and the struggle of our neighbors to achieve basic civil rights. If anything, the church's message was anti-civil rights. I could go on for a long time here, but I'll resist that temptation.

      My point is the churches attended by the people polled are not reflecting, at least in my view, the person, values or actions of Jesus. Those churches, or at least the messages, the take aways for members of these churches does not inform the questions of our day with the radical love and values of Jesus, the one they claim to follow. In my view the church doesn't exist to support any state, but to prepare and equip people who follow Jesus to embrace in all cases his values. I realize no one does that. That said, it is clear to me that in many churches people are finding justifications for horrible acts. Those who don't attend church may be closer to the values of Jesus than those who do.

      And no, I don't think you should avoid church, just churches who don't reflect the values of Jesus or who do not offer their members a regular, consistent presentation of those values.

      Larry James said...

      Earlier today I received the following email message relative to this post:

      Your blog did not have the “anonymous” option. I either post anonymously, or with my name at the end under the anonymous button.

      So I could not publish — but here is my comment:


      So much to say...

      Let me simply say this: sermons are preached every week in these churches. The people, often, have their thinking shaped by these sermons.

      What are these preachers preaching? - or -- What are these preachers not preaching?

      This is why some (maybe including me) have so much disdain for the church.

      Randy Mayeux

      Ken said...

      You mentioned the word "values" multiple times in your response to me. This sounds silly to ask, but I must. What are the values of Jesus?

      I take the Scripture very seriously and can think of many pleasant things Jesus did that are recorded in the Bible. Healing, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, teaching about and modeling love, forgiving sins, and encouraging people are typical of His offerings to people with whom He had contact. These acts may suggest His values.

      Should anyone assume that Jesus was/is against violence, as a matter of principle (His principle, not ours)?

      Differences between mere humans and Jesus may suggest that He was in a position to judge and hold people accountable in ways we can not. But we humans are not equipped to manage in the same way.

      So which is most violent - to act violently and harm one who can give information that will keep many more people from violence and harm, or to respect the one individual and allow the many to experience harm?

      Come to think of it, is this not what God the Father has done to Jesus, His Son, in order to make a way to spare us from harm and violence?

      Larry James said...

      The question here is what Jesus said and did. When Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus, Jesus said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Clearly, Jesus adopted a way of life that was radically different from what the dominant culture advised. The point here is about torture and churches, not torture and national policy. The fact that our churches seem to stand more in line with the values and the decisions of the dominant secular culture when it comes to how one responds to human beings who are considered enemies, rather than witness to the very different choices and values of Jesus, the one they all claim to follow is simply hard to understand and it should seem surprising.

      Chris said...

      Speaking of terrorists google this:

      "Muslim Demographics"

      It's a sobering thing.