From Sarah Posner:
Last month's Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll showed that the more religiously observant one is, the more likely one is to justify torture. In response to the finding, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) hosted a conference call for reporters, where representatives offered a mix of dismay and repentance, plus a pledge to better educate their flocks.
In the poll, religious observance and support for torture was most highly correlated among white evangelicals. That fact was particularly embarrassing for Evangelicals for Human Rights (EHR), NRCAT's closest partner. In reaction, EHR president David Gushee penned an anguished plea asking Jesus why 62 percent of his evangelical brethren believe torture is sometimes or always justified. "What is this thing called 'Christianity' in this country, Lord Jesus?" wrote Gushee in the Associated Baptist Press. "Does it have anything to do with you?"
The funny thing is how unsurprising these results are in contemporary American politics. Evangelical Christianity has become so closely associated with authoritarian power, brutal violence, and know-nothingism that one has to search really, really hard to find Jesus' teachings in it.
Now, I'm not someone who thinks that Christianity or the Bible itself changes the way people think about a specific political issue. People get out of the Bible or any religion what they want to, depending on where they're coming from. And Evangelical Christianity draws from populations of people who scare easily, have little confidence in themselves, and easily develop absolute trust in authority figures (in the case of torture, Bush and other Republicans' claims that it was necessary and moral and only used in a few cases, etc).
But at some point one has to wonder if these people have ever picked up a Bible. I'm not particularly Christian myself, but I've read the Evangelists and my general understanding of Jesus leads me to believe that he wouldn't be in favor of torture, no matter how scared a group of people is.
I'm guessing most haven't or that they don't have good enough reading comprehension skills to apply even the most basic Biblical principles to their own lives.
Either way, it's sure embarrassing to more ethical Christians who have to explain for their fellow followers. The problem is that people are leaving mainline Christianity in droves, leaving more of the extremists who stick around for cultural reasons. Evangelical Christians becoming more political, more out-of-touch, and meaner and sicker people than Americans in general means that their numbers are going to keep on reducing until they catch up with the times and present a real moral argument for their existence.
In the meantime, I'd take the Pew Foundation's results more as an indicator of the kind of person who's still willing to call herself an Evangelical than as a statement on the Bible itself. It's the only thing that'll keep me sane.