Alex Blaze

Would Jesus torture? What if He was really, really scared?

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 13, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media, Politics
Tags: Christian beliefs, evangelical Christian, Jesus, Jesus Christ, pew foundation, sarah posner, torture

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.

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Years ago, I found the Catholic faith people mor accepting of differing views than the more evangelical Christian groups. I surmised that the reason Catholics were this was was because they, for the most part, had grown up in the religion and were more secure in their religion.

When a person is not secure in their religion, they tend to be more afraid of thoughts that test them, and use zealotry in defending their religion to replace the missing security of knowing their religion.

My favorite joy with Christian religions is that I have been physically thrown out of a bible study for having a different opinion about something in the Bible.


Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 13, 2009 7:46 PM

Although many take issue with the Catholic Church's stand that life begins at conception, leading to the conclusion that abortion at any stage is murder, at least there is a greater consistency within Catholic moral thinking on human life and respect issues than can be found among "evangelical Christians". From what I've seen, for example, the Church pretty well adheres to the idea that "a good end can never justify a bad means", and hence the idea that torture is immoral follows. That doesn't mean, of course, that all of those who call themselves "Catholic" agree with that teaching.

Would Jesus condone torture? I haven't the slightest idea. Neither Mark, nor Luke nor Mathew nor John recorded what he said behind closed doors when a reporter for the Jerusalem, disciple asked him about the ticking time bomb scenario.

I agree. Even mainline Protestants seem to be able to think critically about their own religion more than the evangelical kind.

"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?"
In general, and note there are many exceptions... No. There are genuine Christians, but as for the organised 'Christianity' in the USA, no, it doesn't, nothing at all.

May I just add my own conclusion? I think Christianity (the various Protestant groups, Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox and the other Orthodox churches....) and all its various adherents truly range from total idiots to incredible intellects and every type in between, and from truly nasty people to the genuinely kind and good-hearted.

Rick Elliott | May 14, 2009 3:33 AM

I'm not surprised that revivalist Christians ( I don't allow them that more inclusive word--Evangelical and ultra-right wing folks find themselves in the same camp. Both are seeking authority sources without scrutinizing the authority. They are like the Pharisees of Jesus day: the people re for the Law and not the Law for the benefit of people. After World War 1 Germany was decimated and were frantic to find anyone who would get them out of the situation they were in. They wanted an authority--and got one in Hitler. It's fitting that the swastika is used by ultra-right wing groups.
A subtle form of the seeking authority at any cost is the mindset of much of government--the procedures are more important than the people. Like the Pharisees of Jesus day, they've taken some inherently good-- following the10 commandments--and perverted it into a monster. The Commandments were given to benefit the people and got twisted into something wrong. Revivalists have done the same thing. And our nation is on the verge of doing it again--hacking down the Constitution in the name of security from terrorism.
Remember Nixon trying to use national security to hide his illegal activities?

It's a club, Alex, and as such, Christianity has no more to do with Jesus than does The Lions Club have to do with lions, or the Elks Club with elks, or the Rotary Club with traffic circles.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 14, 2009 9:06 AM

Agree, Father Tony, except perhaps for the Rotary Club. I've been to several of their meetings over the years and their members often run in circles. Some clockwise, some counterclockwise. Sort of like the Republican party these days.

Are you saying rotarians go both ways, Don?

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 14, 2009 4:19 PM

Alex: o far as I know I have not had occasion to observe the erotic proclivities of rotarians (with either a little or capital "r"). I remember making calls on rotary phones, though.

I just can't accept that as an apt comparison. I've certainly known "Christians" who tried to make their Christianity, for better or for worse, as much about Jesus as they could. The "title" thing (like the Elks Club) might apply in some cases, but.....(I doubt anybody prayed to Elks when they were in Nazi concentration camps)

As worried as the right wing is that queers will go on a rampage and vandalize churches, don't I remember a Bible story about Christ going into the temple and throwing stuff around, breaking stuff, and generally calling them out for religious hypocrisy? Hmmmm.