White Evangelicals: ‘Christian’ In Name Only?

Torture debate prompts evangelical soul-searching

Among evangelical leaders, debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists has prompted introspection about faith, ethics, the Golden Rule, just wars, Jack Bauer and Jesus…

“I have said before that torture is like a bone caught in our throat — we can’t swallow it and we can’t spit it out,” said David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta and president of Evangelicals for Human Rights. “I think we’re still there.”


White evangelicals are more likely to approve of the torture of prisoners, a poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently found.

On the opposite end of the approval spectrum are people who are ‘unaffiliated’ with any church. The poll also seems to indicate a disturbing trend: the more you go to church, the more likely you are to approve of torturing prisoners.

This is not surprising at all, at least if you’ve ever noted Americans’ different attitudes towards the invasion of Iraq. Then, too, the more you went to church and the more you likely self-identified as an evangelical, the more likely you were to cheer the invasion.

One powerful group went so far as to write an open letter to President Bush stating that starting a war in Iraq was just, was good. It was from Richard Land, so it’s (now) known as the ‘Land Letter’. It spelled out seven justifications for the invasion, and this was the very first one, right off the top:

First, [Mr. President,] your stated policy concerning using military force if necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction is a just cause. In just war theory only defensive war is defensible; and if military force is used against Saddam Hussein it will be because he has attacked his neighbors, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, and harbored terrorists from the Al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked our nation so viciously and violently on September 11, 2001…

Disarming and neutralizing Saddam Hussein is to defend freedom and freedom-loving people from state-sponsored terror and death.

Without the WMDs, the letter’s whole justification for ‘just war’ completely falls apart. The additional mistake of asserting the Al Qaeda link makes it clear how shallowly they undertook what should have been a serious debate. Has Richard Land ever apologized for steering the ‘Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention’, and all the good people that listened to him, wrong? Has he ever admitted that invading and taking over Iraq ended up killing thousands of children and women? Has he ever publicly wondered how the hell his large group of devout Christians got into a position where they’d actually be championing monstrous evil?

You know the answers to those questions. Why are the most proudly, most publicly Christian people often the least ‘Christian’?

Christian, adj.

1. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
2. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus’s teachings.
3. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
4. Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
5. Showing a loving concern for others; humane.

It’s a huge mystery to me, really perplexing.

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