Evangelicals support torture?

So, have you heard the latest from CNN? I first read about it via God’s Politics, a blog by Jim Wallis and Sojourners. It was actually a guest post by Brian McClaren.

I was disturbed by the findings, namely, that 6 out of 10 evangelicals thought that torture is acceptable under the right circumstances.

Ouch…. right?

Well, not so fast.

Let’s read together (as my new blogging acquaintance Brittany Farmer suggested):

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture rallied on Capitol Hill in March 2008. 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.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The survey asked: “Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?” Roughly half of all respondents — 49 percent — said it is often or sometimes justified. A quarter said it never is.

The religious group most likely to say torture is never justified was Protestant denominations — such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians — categorized as “mainline” Protestants, in contrast to evangelicals. Just over three in 10 of them said torture is never justified. A quarter of the religiously unaffiliated said the same, compared with two in 10 white non-Hispanic Catholics and one in eight evangelicals.

Brittany rightly points out there are a whole lot of problems with this study.  First, they administered the poll after a week-long ‘debate’ about the topic. Good time, people. Second, this poll simply reinforces the notion that when it comes to politics, minorities don’t matter. Again, good job, people. Third, what about non-Christian religious people? Let’s at least be fair if we’re going to start comparing.

I agree with Brittany. Those are all big, big problems.

But there’s an even bigger problem staring us right in the face. It’s so obvious that you might miss it —  so I bolded and italicized it for you above.

Anyone who’s taken one course in statistics or any of the social sciences (which give you a crash course in studies like this) will know that the first thing to think about when it comes to surveys and/or polls is sample size. If you don’t have a big enough sample size, your results will inevitably be skewed.

So I ask you, CNN and Pew Research Center, do you think 742 white Evangelical men is a big enough sample size?

To put this in perspective, I attend a church called Riverview. They have roughly 3,000 in attendance each week. So let’s just say that one fifth of those attendees are adult male (which is a lowball, if anything). That means Riverview, which is one church in one city in one state, has 600 white adult Evangelical males in attendance each week. And we all know that not every member of a church attends each week, which means it’s more likely than not that more than 742 white adult Evangelical males attend Riverview regularly.

So, CNN is claiming that the religious group most likely to support torture is white adult Evangelical males, and they have concluded this by surveying 742 men, which is fewer than regularly attend my own church.

That, my friends, is the definition of irresponsible statistics and irresponsible journalism.

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49 thoughts on “Evangelicals support torture?

  1. Just a thought to add – you can do with it what you like. But what most people who do these polls and articles and such don’t realize is that church attendance does not a Christian make. Calling oneself “Christian” does not a Christian make. In the words of Christ Himself,true Christians “are all those who hear the message of God and obey it.” (Luke 8:21)

    There are actively many Christians who are being tortured daily around the world for their faith. I pray for these brothers and sisters on a regular basis – http://www.persecution.com/

    True followers of Jesus take His words to heart, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) We don’t believe in the torture of anyone.

    Just because some Conservative Republicans call themselves “Christians” they are not. The word “conservative Christian” is an oxymoron. We are taught to Love to extremes, including our enemies.

    1. Just because some Conservative Republicans call themselves “Christians” they are not.

      Great point. I am currently debating this issue on an atheist’s blog, however, and that distinction is largely irrelevant to him… and I tend to think he’s justified for saying so. What do you think?

      (www.unreasonablefaith.com)

  2. Ok, so here is the question. Is it wrong for anybody, not just evangelicals, to support torture? Apart from the irresponsible statistics, this is a real question that deserves a real answer. Now, please understand, I don’t think anybody in their right mind would support torture at all times. But what about times where it may be necessary to secure vital information that directly effects national security? Aren’t there times when we need to channel Jack Bauer? I would say yes.
    I say this with some caution because I can see the flip side of what may happen in the future. How long before true Christian leaders are seen as terrorists? I’m sure McClaren will be fine, but those who stand for absolute truth are gonna face some trouble!(sorry, little rant)

    Thoughts?

    1. Ok, so here is the question. Is it wrong for anybody, not just evangelicals, to support torture?

      I would say absolutely yes, for two reasons.

      1) It’s wrong because it defames the image of God in another person and ignores (and even destroys on some occasions) their humanness.

      2) From a pragmatic perspective, research shows that torture is one of the most ineffective methods of interrogation. In other words, people will say anything — truth or fiction — to stop being tortured.

      I say this with some caution because I can see the flip side of what may happen in the future. How long before true Christian leaders are seen as terrorists?,

      Maybe. But not in our lifetime, I don’t think. And not as long as people take the First Amendment seriously in the USA. But I know where you’re coming from.

  3. Nicely summed up, Mr. Gulker. I was going to get upset about the survey too, until I started reading a little further. Who knows, maybe the results do prove to be true, but I’d rather not jump to conclusions (not only because it’s unwise, but also because it’s depressing).

    To David: As a Christian, I would say that torture is never okay. Never. In the same breath, I would say that war is not okay for Christians. Never. Killing is not okay for Christians, bodily harm is not okay for Christians, brotherly hate is not okay for Christians. It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but I think that may be the point.

    At the same time, I do understand why you would say that sometimes torture is “needed.” And outside of the Christian conversation (as in the political conversation), I honestly don’t know. I would lean toward “no” and I would always vote “no”, if ever it came to that, but that is mostly for religious reasons, with a bit of “America should be better than that” sprinkled in.

    1. I’d add to Brittany’s comment what I said to David: research shows that torture is ineffective relative to other interrogation techniques — because it produces so many fictitious answers.

      So, even if one could accept torture morally (which I can’t), one would have to explain why we should endorse interrogation practices that don’t work.

      But you’re right, I think the question, “Who would Jesus waterboard?” just about ends the discussion for Christians.

    2. Who knows, maybe the results do prove to be true, but I’d rather not jump to conclusions

      It’s possible, but unfortunately, there’s just no way to know with the small sample size. Sure, I could interview 10 random evangelicals, and 6 of them might say that torture is sometimes acceptable. And that might actually be an accurate representation of all Evangelicals.

      But it’s irresponsible of me to extrapolate from a sample size of 10, when there are millions of Evangelicals in the US alone.

      And when you’re comparing 10 to millions or 742 to millions, there isn’t much different in terms of margin of error. That’s my problem with the study.

  4. Surveys can have a lot of errors dependending on the sample population of the respondents. 742 is a very small sample for the US population and thus this research has a very wide range of “margin of error” in statistical terms. The problem is the media likes to sensationalize researches on religion especially when it is so negative without really checking the possible validity and reliability of the research. Another research should cross-validate the data on the news with a bigger population sample from different parts of the US. As for me and most statisticians this recent kind of research is most likely unreliable, invalid, and has a very wide range of “margin of error” aside from other variables that could have affected the outcome of this research. Most likely the one who did this research has a hidden agenda/motive against religious people.

  5. Channel Jack Bauer!??…How ’bout we channel reality…

    but I digress…here’s my plug

    Fact is, church pews are filled with those who ‘need’ the threat of “hell fire and brimstone” and the promise of some…fantastical reward (Everlasting Life) to make them behave like decent human beings and treat ‘others’ with kindness instead of contempt. Then there are those of us who simply acquired the trait via the course of our genetic evolution from highly social primates. Happy 200th Darwin.

    1. Thanks for your perspective, Kevin. I do think it’s interesting that on this survey (flawed as it is) that nonreligious people ranked the lowest in terms of torture approval.

  6. Wow, some clearly written and clearly flawed arguments. Brittany,
    ” I would say that torture is never okay. Never. In the same breath, I would say that war is not okay for Christians. Never. Killing is not okay for Christians, bodily harm is not okay for Christians, brotherly hate is not okay for Christians. It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but I think that may be the point.” Never??? I think you’d have a hard time with some of the Godly men of the Bible. War is at times necessary. Defending your country is right. What if somebody is trying to harm your children? Is it ok to kill them and save your children? When and why did common sense go out the window in favor of hippy pacifism? How far would you go to defend your country and family?

    Kevin, the reality is that I am a Christian not because “church pews are filled with those who ‘need’ the threat of “hell fire and brimstone” and the promise of some…fantastical reward (Everlasting Life) to make them behave like decent human beings and treat ‘others’ with kindness instead of contempt.” I am a christian because of my relationship with Christ.
    To be honest, it seems you have more faith than I do. To believe that we came from nothing takes more faith than believing there was an intelligent and divine designer. Good for you.

    Ben, the waterboarding argument could last forever. I don’t think it’s torture, you do. We differ and that’s ok. But I would ask you the same question as Brittany. What is acceptable? How far would you go to defend your family?

    Oh yea, The Jack Bauer thing was a joke, but I think the point was made.

    1. David,

      Thanks for your honest response. I would push you in a few places, however.

      Never??? I think you’d have a hard time with some of the Godly men of the Bible. War is at times necessary.

      Do you think Jesus redefines the way we should interpret the OT? Specifically, do Jesus’ commands to love our enemies and turn the other cheek change the way we think about war? Jesus’ teachings there are more personal in nature, and not explicitly about society, but do you think they could be extrapolated from the personal to the societal?

      War is at times necessary. Defending your country is right. What if somebody is trying to harm your children? Is it ok to kill them and save your children? When and why did common sense go out the window in favor of hippy pacifism? How far would you go to defend your country and family?

      About defending one’s family: If someone broke into my house to rape my wife and rob us, I would do whatever I could to protect them. But even so, the debate is probably just theoretical, because that’s very unlikely.

      But defending one’s family is just that, defense. If someone breaks into your house, they’re playing offense, you’re playing defense. That’s an entirely different scenario than torture.

      Almost exclusively, people who have been tortured by the US over the past few years were prisoners of war. They were helpless captives. They weren’t on the offensive. And to make it worse, we don’t have enough evidence to prosecute them. And to make it even worse than that, most of them are innocent and don’t know anything. Yet, we still tortured them.

      About defending my country: What makes you think it’s ‘right’ to defend your country — specifically from a Christian perspective? And I would challenge you to think about that from the perspective of Jesus, as I’m anticipating you will again point to the OT. Not that pointing to the OT is bad, I’m just trying to speak in keeping with my above comment.

      Personally, I think it might be possible to have a just war, but it would have to be 1) truly defensive, not offensive as our most recent wars have all been and 2) it would have to protect innocent, civilian life. And, it would have to be the last option — and unfortunately in our history, it’s rarely been the last option.

      That said, there’s a reason I haven’t signed up for the military…

      About pacifism: I think it’s awfully offensive to speak of pacifism as hippy, especially for a follower of Jesus. I don’t know if Jesus was a total pacifist, because I don’t think we have a complete enough biography to know beyond quetsion. But what we do have suggests that Jesus opposed violence, and it seems like he did so at all costs — even the cost of his own life.

      Ben, the waterboarding argument could last forever. I don’t think it’s torture, you do. We differ and that’s ok. But I would ask you the same question as Brittany. What is acceptable? How far would you go to defend your family?

      For the sake of discussion, let’s agree to disagree about waterboarding and talk about torture in general. You’re free to your opinion, and I respect your freedom to that opinion; but fortunately, it now is officially classified as torture, and we won’t be doing that to anyone ever again (legally, anyway). I would be curious how you would justify waterboarding, but if it gets us off track, we can just agree to disagree. I’m fine with that.

      I’ve said that I think torture is unacceptable from a Christian perspective for two reasons:

      1) It defames the image of God that is present in all of us, even our political enemies. When you torture someone, you are treating them as something less than human, which is in my view, directly contrary to what Christianity says about the dignity of human life.

      2) It’s not effective with respect to other interrogation methods (even non-invasive methods). Torture produces inaccurate results, because people will say anything — truth or fiction — to stop being tortured. So, even if I’m completely wrong about the theology of it, supporters of torture have to justify why we would use it even though we know it’s not effective.

      I’m curious to know how you respond to those two objections.

  7. Ben,

    I’m going to address your questions one by one. Does Jesus redefine the way we should interpret the OT? Specifically, do Jesus’ commands to love our enemies and turn the other cheek change the way we think about war? Jesus’ teachings there are more personal in nature, and not explicitly about society, but do you think they could be extrapolated from the personal to the societal?

    I see the OT just as full of love, mercy and grace as the NT, Jesus spoke of war as if it was just another natural occurrence (Luke 14:31) Love your enemies and turning your cheek had nothing to do with war. Only rarely is it even acceptable to NOT go to war. And that would only be if that war goes against God. Even Paul speaks of a ruler as “a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4). This would include going to war.

    Now, I would agree that our nation’s motives are not always pure in going to war (Iraq), but good work is still being done and a massively sick dictator has been removed and destroyed.

    The comment about pacifism was not intended to offend you, but it is indicative of the movement surrounding pacifism. Jesus was not a hippy liberal that just wanted everybody to feel good. Read about the marketplace. When injustice was happening, Christ took care of business. Look into Revelation. The future is going to be pretty bloody and guess who is the One who is going to shed that blood? Christ will SLAUGHTER the enemies of God. Your reasons for not joining the military are personal and I can appreciate that those are your views. But on this we will have to agree to disagree.

    For your original two

    Torture defames the image of God that is present in all of us, even our political enemies. When you torture someone, you are treating them as something less than human, which is in my view, directly contrary to what Christianity says about the dignity of human life.

    I think this comes down to a definition of torture. I don’t believe that all torture is right. To physically mutilate somebody would be wrong. That is a line that I believe should not be crossed. But waterboarding is psychological, not physical.
    I would also point you to some of the things God commanded in the OT. Keeping in mind that He’s the same yesterday, today and forever, read Judges. Samson, Ehud, Shamgar. These guys were commanded by God to destroy the enemy. I’m pretty sure the deaths were not instantaneous. They suffered physically But God still commanded it.

    I can concede that at times torture will produce false statements. In some cases. Maybe in a lot of cases torture is not necessary in order to get truthful answers. But for some cases it is the only way to get to the truth. I would say you can’t blanket it by saying that it’s NEVER effective. Sometimes it is. I guess it’s up to the discretion of the official to decide if it could be effective.

    I know we can agree to disagree if needed, and I appreciate that. God Bless

    1. I think this comes down to a definition of torture. I don’t believe that all torture is right. To physically mutilate somebody would be wrong. That is a line that I believe should not be crossed. But waterboarding is psychological, not physical.

      It seems like you are saying that the “image of God in all of us” is primarily a physical resemblance we have rather than something internal. If it is something internal, then psychological mutilation is much more serious than physical mutilation.

      I would also argue that the primary long-term pain associated with physical mutilation would be of a psychological nature. If I was physically beaten or scarred, I don’t think that physical marks of that event would be what bothered me years down the road. It would be the memories of mistreatment.

  8. Sometimes I miss the Old Testament….bunch of fence sitters…come on, pick a side

    Genesis 9:6
    Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
    (this is usually interpreted as being against murder, but could also be interpreted as against other forms of violence)

    Exodus 21:20-21
    If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.
    (some beating is allowed as long as it does not lead to death)

    Deuteronomy 25:2
    If the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make him lie down and have him flogged in his presence with the number of lashes his crime deserves,
    (some beatings are even deserved)

    Joshua 23:13
    then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.
    (God may send people to beat you for your sins)

    2 Chronicles 10:14
    he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”
    (better to be scourged with whips then scorpions)

    Nehemiah 13:25
    I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.”
    (Nehemiah is usually held as an example of a very just and good leader and here he beats some of his people)

    Psalm 89:32
    I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging;
    (God uses rods and flogging)

    Proverbs 18:6
    A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.
    (the first of many proverbs about beating fools)

    Proverbs 19:29
    Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools
    (see above)

    Proverbs 20:30
    Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.
    (beatings can improve you)

    Proverbs 26:3
    A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!
    (see above)

    Isaiah 10:26
    The Lord Almighty will lash them with a whip, as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb; and he will raise his staff over the waters, as he did in Egypt.
    (The Lord will use a whip)

    Matthew 8:29
    “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
    (The demons expect Jesus to torture them eventually)

    Matthew 18:34
    In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
    (proverb about torture)

    Matthew 22:13
    “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
    (The king, who in this parable represents God, binds people and makes them suffer)

    Matthew 24:51
    He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
    (again, but this time with cutting)

    Mark 5:7
    He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”
    (once again a demon expects to be tortured by Jesus)

    Luke 8:28
    When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”
    (see above)

    Luke 12:45-48
    But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
    (bad servant beats other servants and is then himself beaten by the master as punishment)

    2 Corinthians 11:25
    Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
    (Paul and other early Christians were beaten)

    Revelation 9:4-6
    They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
    (Not marked by God: get tortured)

    Revelation 18:6-8
    Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
    (torture as punishment for evil torture)

    1. So Chris, is your conclusion that God endorses torture? And consequently, Christians should as well?

      1. In a word, Yup. I know God endorses torture. I can argue this is a few ways, so this might come off as scatter shot.
        1. This life, that we are living is a basic form of torture.
        pain, suffering, knowing God is close, but physically walking and talking to Him like in the garden, the distance caused by the great schism…that is a form of discipline. Discipline is a form of torture. from mild to extreme, the bible is LOADED with various forms of torture, all aimed at getting to the truth and subverting lies.

        When ungodly men do ungodly things, its sometimes necessary to use Godly methods to reach the truth.

        Whips and Rods baby. Bible is loaded with ’em.

        What is Hell? is that not torture?

        if we have to waterboard a few zealots to save enough people,so they have the time to hear the message of God and be saved from the torture of Hell, is that not worth it? .

        … more later, back to work

        1. Thanks for your honesty, Chris.

          I would post two questions to push you a bit, though:

          1) Most of the passages you cited don’t reference God/YHWH at all, much less a command from God or even a description of God endorsing torture (a couple describe punishment, not torture).

          Moreover, and this would be my biggest objection, most of the passages you cite are descriptions of punishment and/or judgment. So, two points.

          First, a description of an event (and these are past and future) is different from a prescription or command. Yes, YHWH commands war in the OT. However, those commands were culturally-bound and time-bound (past-tense); in other words, the conquest of Joshua is not a command for America to invade Country X. Moreover, as I said to David, I think Jesus’ commands to love our neighbors and turn the other cheek say something to how we read these OT passages.

          In short, doesn’t the fact that Jesus resists violence when given the opportunity and the fact that nowhere in the NT is this kind of behavior reiterated change how we read these OT stories?

          Second, the passages you describe are not at all related to torture but rather punishment and/or judgment. And in all of those passages, God is passing judgment, not humans. When humans are the agent or medium for that punishment, the acts of punishment are directly preceded by a divine judgment.

          So I would ask you, what bridge connects punishment and torture in your argument? Is it merely the violence that each has in common?

          And second, would you argue that God has given a divine command for America to torture people as a method of interrogation of people, the majority of whom are innocent?

          Third, how do any of you who advocate for torture overcome the fact that torture has been shown to be very ineffective with respect to other less-intrusive methods of interrogation?

  9. (So I would ask you, what bridge connects punishment and torture in your argument? Is it merely the violence that each has in common?)

    Torture is nothing more than an extreme form of punishment meant to extract truth. when you are a kid and you lie or withhold information that can harm others, you get spanked. Torture is the adult version of this. this is very simple. when people withhold information detrimental to the safety and security of a greater number, they are in fact being dishonest in the name of harm. the Rod of correction shall set them straight.

    (And second, would you argue that God has given a divine command for America to torture people as a method of interrogation of people, the majority of whom are innocent?)

    you are assuming the majority are innocent. what happens when you assume? 🙂 I would not argue God has given a divine command to the US to torture. America is a secular Nation that is moving further from God on a daily basis, especially after the socialist was elected.

    (Third, how do any of you who advocate for torture overcome the fact that torture has been shown to be very ineffective with respect to other less-intrusive methods of interrogation?)

    I have seen the research on this, but in reality, it only needs to work one time to make a difference. If the US tortures 100 people, and 99% of the time they get false results… get better torturers… no really, you get the real truth from a few and save a few thousand lives? great results! pay off the the other 80 people with an apology and some cash. they were not actually in “mortal” danger to begin with.

    1. Torture is nothing more than an extreme form of punishment meant to extract truth. when you are a kid and you lie or withhold information that can harm others, you get spanked. Torture is the adult version of this. this is very simple. when people withhold information detrimental to the safety and security of a greater number, they are in fact being dishonest in the name of harm. the Rod of correction shall set them straight.

      Punishment assumes guilt. So, if torture is a form of punishment, then the person being tortured must be guilty. What do you call torturing the innocent? What name do you give it that justifies it? How can you justify it?

      you are assuming the majority are innocent. what happens when you assume? 🙂 I would not argue God has given a divine command to the US to torture. America is a secular Nation that is moving further from God on a daily basis, especially after the socialist was elected.

      Let’s take Guantanamo for an example. The vast majority of those prisoners cannot legally be detained because there is insufficent evidence to indict them. And last time I checked, the default posture of the USA when it comes to guilt vs. innocence is innocence. Innocent until proven guilty, right? So, almost by de facto, the majority of torture happens to innocent people who have not had their day in court. Even though assumptions can make asses, I think this assumption holds.

      I have seen the research on this, but in reality, it only needs to work one time to make a difference. If the US tortures 100 people, and 99% of the time they get false results… get better torturers… no really, you get the real truth from a few and save a few thousand lives? great results! pay off the the other 80 people with an apology and some cash. they were not actually in “mortal” danger to begin with.

      I’ll echo my thoughts above, to begin. If torture is punishment, then guilt must be established before torture could be justified.

      Furthermore, let me quote some Scripture from Proverbs as you did above:

      Proverbs 17 is insightful:

      vs. 15 reads

      Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the LORD detests them both.

      Both are detestable, right? But maybe these verses don’t relate to torture and/or punishment.

      Except that if we continue reading to vs. 26, we find:

      It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity.

      As I’ve said above, I think the just posture is to assume innocence, and that’s definitely the offical posture of our country. So, if that’s the posture of our country, and Scripture teaches that we are to avoid punishing the innocent, then I continue to ask: How is it just to torture innocent people?

  10. Oh yeah, one other thing….

    the bible does tell us to turn the other cheek, but there are no instruction on what to do after that….

    1. What did Jesus do — the one who gave that command? Maybe his actions and lifestyle offer some insight.

  11. Romans 13
    Submission to the Authorities
    1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

    1. I feel like there isn’t much more I can say that hasn’t been said already, but I have to ask with Ben, how is it just to torture innocent people?

      This passage you’ve provided, Chris, shows only that there is punishment for wrongdoings. This is why we have a legal system to try and to punish individuals who violate laws and shun authority. As you quoted, “3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” The scripture tells us those who are innocent have nothing to fear. Why, then, in the US, are innocent people being tortured for information they do not have? As Ben mentioned, “the default posture of the USA when it comes to guilt vs. innocence is innocence. Innocent until proven guilty, right?” Where is the safety and the security of the innocent man in all of this? How can I trust that my freedoms will be honored as both a US citizen and a human being if I know there are others who were equally as blameless being tortured? If you tell me that I should withstand torture as a good citizen of the world for the sake of the few that MIGHT be saved IF they find the right people to torture along with me, I’d say that violates every right we have in the US, not to mention reduces human beings to the role of pawns in a great big game of “Find The Bad Guy.” I won’t be a part of it. Also, doesn’t anyone realize how devasting psychological torture can be? An apology won’t give you your sanity back, nor will it make you feel safer going about your daily life post-waterboarding (or whichever other inhumane torture method is used that time).

      In reference to the passage saying, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer,” I say there IS punishment for violating laws, breaking rules, disregarding authority, etc. I would encourage you to look at the context of those few verses you quoted and look before and after those lines in the scriptures. Romans 12 has a few key scriptures that read (in part): “14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.; 16Live in harmony with one another; 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” I think this clearly tells us that we are to refrain from war in the offensive method (as mentioned by others before). We are instead to “live at peace with everyone.” The scriptures in Romans 13 do not prove that we, as Christians, should support violence, punishment, or torture, but that we should follow laws and guidelines set out by those in authority. The problem in all this is those in authority are now abusing their power by implementing extreme methods for determining guilt and innocence, which brings us roundabout to our earlier question, should Christians support torture? I still say no. And how do we justify the abuse and punishment of innocent humans? There is still no proof for me that these methods are acceptable, justifiable or righteous in any way.

      I can see how this position can be frustrating – my brother fought in Iraq for the Marines, and though I support him and he did good things there, I do not support the war as it was fought. I somehow feel as though I’m turning my back on him or being unpatriotic if I don’t support war or torture as we’ve experienced for the last decade. Still, I think it’s fair to argue that Jesus’ actions in the NT change the way the OT should be read by us today. This is why I’ve never supported the death penalty even though the OT would say otherwise. A bit off-topic, but just another debate point that shows there are major differences sometimes in the OT and NT.

      1. Stina, Thanks for bringing up the entire chapter of Romans 13. I always neglect to mention that … it’s almost too obvious. The validation of the power of the civil government is immediately qualified by Paul’s command to live in harmony. That says something, I think.

    2. Again, Chris, that says nothing about torture.

      What exactly “the sword” means from culture to culture and age to age has been the topic of debate for two millenia. Generally, I think it has to do with enforcing the law and justice in any given society. But, it’s certainly not a blank check, as it were, to the government.

      Luther’s treatise On Secular Authority has some good insight as to how the power to wield the sword is balanced, tempered, and qualified by the teaching of Jesus.

  12. Lets take a step back here for just a moment.

    in no particular order:

    what exactly “the sword” means? really? how is that a debate? I have done my due diligence in the area of field and military weapons, and there is no doubt…i dont even have the energy to finish that sentence….sounds like clinton double speak… it depends on what the definition of “is” is….

    as far as luther is concerned, i haven’t read it , so i cant comment on it.

    but to back up even further, lets define torture. whos rules rules are you playing by? (the UN, the US etc…)
    we as a country have said “we dont torture” if the question is the degree of “pressure” we put on a subject withholding information, i would say waterboarding (this is the real topic of debate, i mean we are not actually talking about medieval practices like the rack, the spiked pear or donald trumps new TV show are we?) for the US, would the most extreme form of “pressure” we use on non-US citizens. The other tactics that we use (beard shaving, chemical enhancements, humiliation) i dont think even rank in this discussion. so, long story short, this is really about waterboarding. Do i think its torture? yup. do i think its necessary? yup, i do.

    Guantanamo? i didnt even think this was a topic anymore, but here goes:The terrorists detained are not common criminals; they are enemy combatants.They had weapons as well as information that put the lives of American citizens in harms way. They are not entitled to all of the rights that someone arrested in this country gets. Just like we held German and Japanese prisoners of war during World War II, we have to confine enemy combatants so they stop killing Americans serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    the social contract as conceived by locke and rosseau as well as the other enlightened ones of the 18th century, is the implicit social and cultural agreement by which most people agree to treat each other with decency and civility, in exchange for similar treatment. Basically do unto others. ok? good.
    in contemporary contract law, we can invoke the terms of a contract so long as we have not breached them. once we breach the contract, we can no longer expect the benefit of said contract. when a member of Al qaeda takes up the practices of terrorism, they breach that contract, by committing deliberate, premeditated atrocities against the innocent , becoming outlaws. people outside the law. we, (the US) are not monsters, so we take them prisoner, and treat them better than the treatment they get in their own country. we allow them to practice the religion of their choice. we as a country buy them the koran, with taxpayer money. they get prayer breaks. (my kids get neither in the public school system) they have a healthier diet, and its not hot as hell in Cuba, like it is in Iraq.

    Now here’s the real question, do i think waterboarding is justified and/or moral?

    Justified?

    we waterboarded al Qaeda detainees Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.Former CIA agent John Kiriakou told ABC News and The Washington Post that the waterboarding of terrorist Abu Zubayda ” ..saved lives,” although Kiriakou did not participate in the waterboarding and does not support its use … Zayn Abiden Muhammed Hussein Abu Zubaydah was the first high-ranking al Qaeda member captured after 9/11 … Kiriakou said Abu Zubaydah cracked after 35 seconds of waterboarding and provided information that “… saved lives.”.
    Some have argued that such methods do not work and that there are other ways of obtaining information. But Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA contends that waterboarding, banging prisoners against a wall etc. have produced intelligence that saved lives, including prevention of a 9-11 style attack on Los Angeles. George Tenant, Clinton’s appointee to the CIA, agrees, as does Dennis Blain, Obama’s director of intelligence………….. justified Yes.

    Moral? Machiavelli would argue that there is a moral duty to do what it takes to obtain life-saving information. Post 9-11, it is not excessive to imagine that a prisoner may have information that could save thousands. In an age of nuclear weapons, that number might be millions. But the question is not Machiavelli, Its God.

    Well, God allowed his son, my savior, to be tortured, and saved the entire human population. was it justified? was it done for the right reasons? No. it was not deserved. But look at the outcome.

    what would God say about waterboarding as well as the other Techniques used By the US to obtain information from enemy combatants….

    There are many things that are the result of sin: death, dying, pain, suffering, killing, killing in self defense, etc. I put war in that category.

    We cannot simply call ourselves Christians, and citizens of a certain country, then sit back and do nothing to defend the country. We can no more refuse to protect our citizens through armed conflict than we can disarm our law enforcement, stop maintaining the roads, eliminate firefighters, etc. In my view, there is nothing inconsistent about being a Christian and being a member of society, including contributing to the well-being of society.

    It really isn’t possible to hide in our houses and ask God to defend us. IMO there is always an action requirement on our part. Reminds me of my favorite Homer Simpson prayer: “Lord, if you don’t want me to do this, please say absolutely nothing.”

    But never forget the terrorist who you do not want to waterboard today is the same guy who would behead the Christian in Revelation. Heck he even does it now. Don’t kid yourself. Satan loves it when mis-guided kindness is shown toward his workers.

    I will concede this much….Torture is not part of God’s plan for humanity. yet….

    1. what exactly “the sword” means? really? how is that a debate? I have done my due diligence in the area of field and military weapons, and there is no doubt…i dont even have the energy to finish that sentence….sounds like clinton double speak… it depends on what the definition of “is” is…

      “Sword” is clearly, undeniably being used symbolically here. The ‘sword’ symbolizes the authority that the human government has to enforce the law. Unfortunately, Paul does not provide a complete description of what he meant exactly; hence, the debate over 1) the limits of hte secular government and 2) the extent to which Christians should obey the government.

      Example, based only on these few verses, it would be possible to conclude that 1) the government has the right to kill Christians by the sword and 2) that Christians should simply submit to that.

      Obviously, we would reject that. The problem and debate is about how and why we do.

      Luther has some great ideas, and I’d recommend reading him here. All his works are freely available on the web and can be found with a simple search.

      Guantanamo?

      Detention isn’t a problem, because we’re not robbing them of their dignity and inflicting potentially irreparable physical and psychological harm. I agree, of course the government has the responsibility to retain criminals and terrorists.

      We cannot simply call ourselves Christians, and citizens of a certain country, then sit back and do nothing to defend the country. We can no more refuse to protect our citizens through armed conflict than we can disarm our law enforcement, stop maintaining the roads, eliminate firefighters, etc. In my view, there is nothing inconsistent about being a Christian and being a member of society, including contributing to the well-being of society.

      Let me problematize your claim. Let’s imagine that the USA goes to war with Canada and that there are Christians enlisted on both sides of the military. By your argument, those on both sides are morally bound to go to war for their country. Let’s imagine that these Christians who are on opposite sides end up on the same battlefield.

      By your argument, they are morally bound to shoot at and possibly kill each other.

      So not only are Christians killing non-Christians, but Christians are killing other Christians.

      I would agree with you insofar as war is the result of sin, but I would part ways with you in your claim that we are morally bound to defend our country(ies). Can we be morally justified in the defense of one’s country? Yes. But that’s different from claiming that Christians are morally bound to defend their countries.

      And that all comes back to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which is in brief: We are Christians first and foremost, and we are secondarily citizens of a secular society. We should follow our secular governments insofar as they do not command us to do something that conflicts with our citizenship in God’s Kingdom.

      I am arguing that torture is out of bounds in the Kingdom of God and is therefore one area in which we should part ways with our government if they ever return to those practices.

      Well, God allowed his son, my savior, to be tortured, and saved the entire human population. was it justified? was it done for the right reasons? No. it was not deserved. But look at the outcome.

      First, being the victim of torture and being the torturer are two very different things. Jesus’ being the victim of torture cannot be used to justify Christians endorsing or participating in torturing another person. It’s apples and oranges.

      Furthermore, the utilitarian ethic often makes sense politically, but it’s hard theologically. Specifically because God loves and offers redemption to all, not just the majority.


      But never forget the terrorist who you do not want to waterboard today is the same guy who would behead the Christian in Revelation. Heck he even does it now. Don’t kid yourself. Satan loves it when mis-guided kindness is shown toward his workers

      First, I don’t see how kindness could ever be misguided.

      Second, Jesus was tortured and then executed by the same spirit you mentioned above. How did he respond? And does that response shed any light on how we should respond to those who threaten our own lives?

      1. First, I don’t see how kindness could ever be misguided.

        ummm… ever see a fat kid? save the whales?save the planet? the entire “green” movement? dont kill the deer thats mean… then they all starve to death due to overpopulation…a parent giving their kids drug money so they dont suffer from withdrawals? this world is all about “enabling” in the effort to ease suffering, but failing to see the long term consequences. terrorism is no different. lets not harm a soul with any nastiness like pressing anyone for info, then sit back and watch them kill hundreds, possibly thousands.

        Second, Jesus was tortured and then executed by the same spirit you mentioned above. How did he respond? And does that response shed any light on how we should respond to those who threaten our own lives?

        Jesus could have eased his suffering at anytime to stop his own torture, but the the long term effects would have been catastrophic.

        1. ummm… ever see a fat kid? save the whales?save the planet? the entire “green” movement? dont kill the deer thats mean… then they all starve to death due to overpopulation…a parent giving their kids drug money so they dont suffer from withdrawals? this world is all about “enabling” in the effort to ease suffering, but failing to see the long term consequences. terrorism is no different. lets not harm a soul with any nastiness like pressing anyone for info, then sit back and watch them kill hundreds, possibly thousands.

          We might be arguing semantics here, but I would argue that ‘enabling’ (which is a great word for what you’re describing) isn’t kindness at all, not even misguided kindness.

          For example, it’s not ‘kind’ for an irresponsible parent to enable an obese child. Kindness would be putting the kid on a diet and enrolling him in a workout plan.

          I suspect we pretty much agree, but our terminology isn’t clear, at least on that point.

          I would probably disagree with you about ‘saving the planet,’ and I would object based on the stewardship mandate in Genesis. But, let’s save that one for another day, because it could be a fun conversation.

      2. (“Sword” is clearly, undeniably being used symbolically here. The ’sword’ symbolizes the authority that the human government has to enforce the law. Unfortunately, Paul does not provide a complete description of what he meant exactly; hence, the debate over 1) the limits of hte secular government and 2) the extent to which Christians should obey the government.)

        I think Peter did more to describe to the meaning of sword when he cut off a mans ear with one…which brings up a few questions. why did he have a sword? I mean the guy is walking and talking and hanging out with Jesus, what would he need a sword for? the most powerful man on the planet needs protecting? This may have been the act of a man protecting his friend but if Jesus had been preaching peace, what was Peter doing carrying a sword? Jesus built his church on a man carrying a weapon? wheres the peace loving hippie? Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. why? is a sword not used to kill, to threaten, to “apply pressure”? a sword is not a defensive weapon, a shield is. a sword is used for exactly the opposite reason.

        (Let me problematize your claim. Let’s imagine that the USA goes to war with Canada and that there are Christians enlisted on both sides of the military. By your argument, those on both sides are morally bound to go to war for their country. Let’s imagine that these Christians who are on opposite sides end up on the same battlefield.

        By your argument, they are morally bound to shoot at and possibly kill each other.

        So not only are Christians killing non-Christians, but Christians are killing other Christians.)

        If i had to serve in the armed forces, i would do it in a non-combatant role. either a minister or medicine, treating the body and the soul.my argument was never to pick up a sword….it was to serve.

        (I would agree with you insofar as war is the result of sin, but I would part ways with you in your claim that we are morally bound to defend our country(ies). Can we be morally justified in the defense of one’s country? Yes. But that’s different from claiming that Christians are morally bound to defend their countries.

        And that all comes back to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which is in brief: We are Christians first and foremost, and we are secondarily citizens of a secular society. We should follow our secular governments insofar as they do not command us to do something that conflicts with our citizenship in God’s Kingdom.)

        I agree wholeheartedly. God Put this government in place for a time and a reason. Alexis de Tocqueville,jefferson and cassius stated that ,”the people get the government they deserve” there are reasons we are where we are.

        1. I think Peter did more to describe to the meaning of sword when he cut off a mans ear with one…which brings up a few questions. why did he have a sword? I mean the guy is walking and talking and hanging out with Jesus, what would he need a sword for? the most powerful man on the planet needs protecting? This may have been the act of a man protecting his friend but if Jesus had been preaching peace, what was Peter doing carrying a sword? Jesus built his church on a man carrying a weapon? wheres the peace loving hippie? Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. why? is a sword not used to kill, to threaten, to “apply pressure”? a sword is not a defensive weapon, a shield is. a sword is used for exactly the opposite reason.

          What did Jesus do after Peter cut off that bloke’s ear?

          Just a few verses down from the one you quoted:

          49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

          51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

          So, should we go on offense with our swords. Jesus says no.

          I confess I’ve never done exegesis on this passage, and I’m a bit confused as to why Jesus says to go buy a sword and then tells the disciples not to use it.

  13. this topic makes me wonder a few things.

    abortion?
    death penalty?
    pre-martial sex?
    pre,mid or post trib?
    baptism?
    homosexuality?
    paper or plastic?

    1. What do you wonder about those things? What my (or others’) stances are on the issue?

      Do you think that torture is related to these other issues? Or, is there a connection between worldviews that makes these issues connected?

  14. also:

    hoping for redemption

    broken words from a broken man waiting to be redeemed

    how about …

    You have been redeemed…. why hope for something that was settled 2ooo years ago? past tense.you have no need to wait for redemption.

    1. I’m using ‘hope’ to try to capture two things.

      1) My own brokenness. I’m fundamentally broken, as are my words.
      2) ‘Hope’ as akin to faith. Think in terms of “faith is the substance of things hoped for…” I’m hoping (believing, having faith) for redemption of both myself as a broken man and my words as broken words from a broken man.

      Yes, I have been redeemed, but it’s not complete yet. Hence, I hope for the day when that will happen.

      Hopefully, that makes sense.

    2. One more thing:

      “Past” tense isn’t actually accurate. In the NT, Christ’s death and resurrection is most often described in the “perfect” tense. In short, that means an event that happened in the past that has implications for the present and future. In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection and the effects of it (which would include the redemption of humanity and obviously myself and my words) are past, present, and future. So yes, I was saved. But I am also being saved. And I will be saved in the future. Hence, hope.

  15. Here’s an interesting article related directly to this topic, which casts doubt on the notion of the ‘ticking clock,’ as is so often depicted by characters like Jack Bauer.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103792752&ft=1&f=3

    And this article has this to say about your comment, Chris:

    we waterboarded al Qaeda detainees Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.Former CIA agent John Kiriakou told ABC News and The Washington Post that the waterboarding of terrorist Abu Zubayda ” ..saved lives,”

    Bruce Hoffmann via NPR says:

    Hoffman underscores the point: Despite waterboarding, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed didn’t give up key information that he must have known at the time of his questioning. Experts say he most likely knew about the planning of the 2005 train bombing in Madrid, but he didn’t talk. He had to be aware of al-Qaida sleeper cells in Britain and Europe, and he didn’t reveal anything about those, either.

    So again I ask you, in spite of it being ineffective, why would you continue to endorse torture?

    Obviously, I’m not going to convince you of the validity of my theological objections. And that’s okay. I’m happy to agree to disagree, and I always welcome a good debate.

    But I can’t seem to shake the pragmatic point — if it doesn’t work, and if it harms other people who may be innocent, then what’s the point?

    1. your source is NPR? that is the absolute last source i would ever use….save the national inquirer… might as well have quoted articles from Moveon.org or picked it off of george soros’ website. your playing the “what if?” game, and making statements that sound factual but are not…. “in spite of it being ineffective”….I endorse effective methods for extracting information in the time of a crises for subverting the greater evil. because i cant be there in person, i have to have some modicum of trust in our government to make the right decisions.

      if my daughter was being held, and i had the man with the answer in front of me, unwilling to give me the information on her, i would get absolutely mid-evil on his ass… evil people will be punished, and if i have to get the punishment started a little early, so be it.

      1. Chris,

        Did you read the article or write it off simply because it’s from NPR?

        I realize NPR can be biased, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing good in the article. It’s a pretty fair one, actually.

        The situation with your daughter, however, is a very different situation than what we’ve been discussing thus far. In the situation you’ve presented, you know beyond any doubt that the man is guilty of kidnapping your daughter. That’s a game changer for me. That man has already betrayed his own humanity and forfeited his freedom.

  16. One more idea for thought:

    Is the preservation of the state more valuable than the well-being of an individual (who may or may not be a member of that state)?

    1. That is a loaded Question…. 🙂

      Have you read Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg ? fascinating book, a must read. I have a copy if you are in town and would like to borrow it.

      1. Yeah, I realize it’s loaded. I’ve not read that book.

        The reason I asked is because the argument that is so often employed to justify torture is the utilitarian one — greatest good for greatest number — which inevitably implies that the individual is worth less than the state.

        I reject that as false on theological grounds, the dead horse I keep beating.

  17. Great debate, and some good points back and forth, I will reply when i am “off the clock”.
    And yes i was looking for your stances on said topics, in an OT (off topic) thread. one or two sentences, just out of clarification on overall belief.

      1. Yup, Due to the Economy, I had to sell my collection. The downside is i am losing my collection, the upside is the kids and wife are not so jumpy.

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