Everyone seems to be talking about the poll put out last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. They found that 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe “the use of torture against suspected terrorists to gain important information” to be often or sometimes justified. Only 16 percent of this group -- a community that by self-definition is very, very serious about following you -- believes torture is never justified. That number was lower than any other group polled.
I think that what really got people’s attention with this poll, Lord, is that both evangelical identity and church attendance were positively correlated with support for torture. Thirteen percent more evangelicals said torture was often or sometimes justified than in the general population. In other words: The more often people go to church, the more they support torture. So those of your followers who go to church every week support torture at 54 percent, while those who seldom or never go support it at 42 percent...
But, Jesus, can it be that the problem is that the churches are already empty? Can it be that the institution that you founded to advance your mission in the world is already empty of any understanding of what it might really mean to follow you? Is it already empty of people who take your teachings and example so seriously that they might have the capacity to resist seductive and dangerous ideas floating around our culture -- like the idea that if torture “works” to “protect national security,” and thus is something that followers of Jesus Christ ought to support as good loyal Americans?
Is your church already empty of courageous leaders who are willing to lose their jobs in order to say a resounding NO to a heretical idea like that? Is it already empty of people who understand that if you are a Christian, you cannot serve two masters, like, for example, Jesus and National Security? Is it already empty of people who understand that because all human beings are made in your image, there are some things that we just can’t do to anyone, no matter who they are?
What is this thing called “Christianity” in this country, Lord Jesus? Does it have anything to do with you? It seems a strangely Americanized thing, a disastrously domesticated faith toward which people can nod their heads in loyalty as long as it doesn’t conflict with their full participation in whatever this country feels like it wants to do.
You founded an international, countercultural movement filled with followers who did everything you taught them to do to advance the peaceable and just reign of your Father in this rebellious world. We American Christians have turned it into a culture-religion that has nothing to say even about, say, waterboarding, slamming people repeatedly into walls, forced nudity, prolonged shackling, 11 days of sleep deprivation, psychological terror, sexual humiliation, religious desecration, and so much more! Or that even supports all of this to protect ... America!
O Jesus, what have you to do with a religion like this? “I spit you out of my mouth” -- these words of yours somehow come to mind (Rev. 3:16)!
But really you ought to go and read the whole thing.
I wonder what the result would be in this country, in the UK? Probably less support I think, both within and without the churches - but with the present government's human rights record sinking lower and lower (witness the policing of the G20 demonstrations) I wonder how long it will remain like that. Do read David's article, though, and think and pray it through for yourself. This is important. If we don't know what we as Christians think about things like this, how can we possibly know how to be the hands and feet, and voice, of Jesus in the election booth, or on the street? How can we pray, unless our hearts are broken for those who suffer such things?