« Miss California Becomes Spokeswoman for Ad Campaign | Main | Former VP Candidate Jack Kemp Dies »

May 1, 2009

Torture vs. Abortion & Same-Sex Unions


A new study suggests that evangelicals are the most likely religious group to justify torture. Around 60 percent of evangelicals said use of torture against suspected terrorists can often or sometimes be justified, compared to 50 percent of Catholics 46 percent of white mainline Protestants who said the same thing, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. David Neff takes a look at the survey over at CT's liveblog.

Meanwhile, the latest national survey suggest that overall support for legal abortion is down 8 percent from last August. Just 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants now favor legal abortion, down from 33 percent in August and mid-October and 28 percent in late October.

Also, a new Quinnipiac poll suggests that while Catholics support same-sex civil unions 68 -27percent, evangelicals oppose the unions 61-34 percent. Catholics support gay adoption 61-33 percent, while evangelical Christians oppose gay adoption 64-30 percent.

I received an e-mail from reader John Mills, who express his frustration with how evangelicals deal with torture:

Should we be standing against abortion & gay marriage? Certainly, but we should do the one and not neglect the other. This is an issue with terrible moral implications. If we can boycott Disney for it’s pro-gay agenda and deny communion to Joe Biden for being pro-abortion, why are our churches silent about torture? Why are we not denying entrance to our churches of Bush, Cheney, and the authors of these memos?

The real issue for the church is why are we not talking about this? Why have we not been talking about this? Were are the Christians that work for the CIA and the military that have refused to participate and resigned or been court-martialed rather than participate in a patently immoral activity?

If the church can’t hold a moral line on this issue, which is easy to be against, then we really have lost everything. The church is dead.

Do you agree with Mills?


I kept coming to this site looking for some sort of comment on what was/is the raging torture debate. I am so relieved to FINALLY see this topic even brought up. A pro-life position should not just mean anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research.

I think that if one asks the question, "What would Jesus do?" in regard to torture, the answer is clear.

I also happen have a person in our family who actually has been tortured and has worked for the US gov't for over 40 years. He is proud member of the GOP (different from me!) yet is very firm in his belief that participating in torture is an awful, horrible and ineffective path.

Wake up, church!

YES! Where are all of those republicans that talk about the rule of law. These are clear violations of international and US law.

Even if they were not violation they are still inappropriate. There are a lot of principles at work. Some of the moral, some practical. None support the real world use of torture.

We need to repent of our love of 24 and the fantasy world and get back to reality.

I completely agree with the emailers intent; I am pro-life, pro-traditional marraige and I am anti-torture. I completely disagree with his definition of torture. We prosecuted the unchecked, inappropriate behavior that happened at Abu Ghraib--I am not defending that. I am defending the enhanced interrogation techniques such as "water-boarding" as less than torture.

Many claim that since it this method causes the enemy to panic and think he is going to die, that it is torture. How many of our soldiers who go over to Iraq or Afghanistan think they are going to die? How many of our defenders engaged in gun battles think they are going to die? The enemy's life is not in danger on the water board--his resitance and his cause are. Fear of death in a situation is not torture. Ask John McCain why he cannot lift his hands above his shoulders. There is a difference between what we have done in our national defense and torture.

As a Christian, I desire to approach others with the grace that God has given me in Christ. As a combatant I'm also an instrument of judgment for our nation. Causing the death of the enemy and protecting the lives of fellow service-members is a task we all take seriously. I appreciate the efforts we go through as a nation to protect the lives of enemy also. Again, the nature of the interrogations does not threaten the life of these enemy combatants.

Do not forget, fellow Christians, God's plans for the unbeliever. They will desire death and it will flee from them. What will Jesus do? Read Revelation. He came first as Redeemer, Messiah, and Savior. He will come again (while retaining the previous qualities) as King, Warrior, and Judge. These men on the "water-board" are rebellious men of violence who live by the sword. The information they have is more valuable to us as a nation than the temporary panic of these individuals.

I am pro-life, pro-traditional marraige, and anti-torture as God desires. The actions of our nation is not torture.

"I am pro-life, pro-traditional marraige, and anti-torture as God desires. The actions of our nation is not torture."

Ah, well, that's all we need to know.
If the USA does it, it's not torture.
Thanks for clearing that up for us there, soldier.

I really hope the rest of our military is not as mentally and morally challenged as you are.

Why would anyone be surprised. All those issues are about authoritarian control of the "other," a nasty habit "white" evangelicals picked up in Jim Crow days...and just substituted religion for race, as an article in the latest Harper's magazine puts it.

In any case, America tortured Black people for mere centuries, as someone on Travis Smiley pointed out the other night. Conservative "white" evangelical haven't changed their ways all that much...just found up new scapegoats to control. No wonder they're so comfortable with the torture of people of other religions.

I am a God fearing christian women. That being said I just happen to not believe in torture, or the death penalty,abortion, etc. I do however believe that we are not here to judge anyone who does believe in these things. Why are we comsumed with what others do? We should be looking at ourselves!! If we looked at ourselves what would we see? Our hatred for others? The hate we have for those that are different than us, the hate we have for those that are a different color than us? If all these things are so wrong and shouldn't be done and it's okay for you to judge, why can't you be judged for your wrong doings oh yee hateful hypocritical souls!!!

to slewf16 above.

Waterboarding is torture. It is not an "enhanced interegation technique". The US has prosecuted its own soldier and the soldiers of other countries to doing in the past. People were sentanced to death for doing it. There have been no laws making it legal since then. In fact the International Treaty on Torture signed into law by Reagan in 1988 defines torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."

Virtually all of our "enhanced" techniques violate that definition.

For a complete list of the laws of the US that deal with torture look at this blog post. There are specific details about waterboarding in the comments section.


to Kay above. If there is a violation law then yes we (as the state) have a responsibility to prosecute. If the state does not prosecute violations of law then they cease to be a state. Violations of law by the highest members of government need to be taken seriously because those people are the ones that are charged with carrying out our laws.

This isn't a matter of "look at your own sin first". These are serious violations of law. There have been over 100 deaths of US prisoners held internationally since 2001. Some of these have been killed by US soldiers that were torturing them. Some of the deaths have been investigated, but most have not.

Unfortunately, we have accepted the Left's definition of "torture" and then proceeded to debate "torture." The same is true with so-called anthroprogenic global warming. We accept their premise and then debate ways to prevent it. No wonder these posts are filled with secular humanist worldviews. We've already lost the argument by accepting their errant premises.

Adam S...I appreciate your input. I admit I have not fully researched all there is to know about torture. I however know many service men and women who serve with good hearts and intent and I defend their actions as honorable. I can't say that I would do the same for every individual, but as a collective whole I believe in them. I certainly don't think we should torture, and if the definition you give above is in fact the legal definition of torture then the argument will continue because "severe pain and suffering" is the core of the debate. Thanks for you input.

beatrice 81...I must admit your comments about me hurt a little. I don't believe you would make them if we shared a table at IHOP and you got to meet me and my family. The host of this forum is Christianity Today. My hope is that we, brothers and sisters in Christ, can openly share our opinions and beliefs about the current political events of our country with humility and a desire for growth. In John 13:34-35 Christ says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." We should not forget this when we write on these "faceless" forums. There are real people, valued by God--because they are His, on the other end. We may not agree on this issue--we don't have to--but we do have to respect one another.

To mondoboy:

This isn't a left or right definition of torture. This is THE legal definition of torture according to US law. There is not debate as to the words that are in the law. Read over what I have put above. That is the law. There are several other definitions of torture as well that are in US law. Taken together we can't violate any of them. That is the way that US law works.

To slewf16:
I have four cousins that are currently serving or recently out of the US military. I believe all of them are good people. I know they are all Christians. The point isn't whether most people are good people or not, the question is whether someone in the chain of command ordered someone else to torture someone. I am not really in favor of a bunch of individual prosecutions. I don't think prosecuting a bunch of CIA low level staff or military personnel will do much. What I do think needs to happen is a full investigation of what really happened and how it happened. Yes it will detract from other activities. But we don't stop the investigation of murder in the US because it might take time for the prosecutor or because it would inconvenience the one being investigated.

Adam S. The way I understand it is that the Attorney General, Congress, and all with a "need to know" were in the loop. They all gave tacit approval if not direct approval. The debate, it seems to me, is that some feel "severe pain and suffering" applies to the techniques used and others do not. Again, I only have a limited knowledge of all that is at stake in the debate. I know a little bit about interrogations and resitance. The information at stake (from the enemy combatants) and its impact on National Security is more valuable, in my mind--especially at that time, than the merits of the debate. I fully believe in the rule of law. At that time, the law makers, law interpreters, and law enforcers all agreed on the definition of torture, and that is why I hold the view I do. Thanks again for "brotherly" debate. God Bless.

The problem is the legal advice. The memos that were advising the President failed to mention any of the previous prosecutions by the US of waterboarding even though they were specifically considering waterboarding as a method of interegation. No first year lawyer would ever prepare a brief that failed to mention a single piece of relevant case law.

I have not seen any evidence that any one from the courts were allowed to review. And the Supreme Court has already ruled four times in cases about the rights of the detainees and in every case the executive branch was seen to have stepped beyond their authority. Court has yet to rule on any of the torture issues because the executive branch has not brought anyone that was potentially tortured to court.

I agree that congressional leadership on both sides were briefed and that is another reason I think there needs to be a non-partisan investigation. Because everyone agrees does not mean it is legal. The FBI for instance refused to participate because their lawyers all agreed that it was illegal. Colin Powell has said he was not briefed, even though he has extensive military background and was a very upper level offcial because he has been very public previously about not torturing.

Bush, in 2003, was publicly condeming China for using almost the same techniques that we were using at the time.

If you would like to know some more about this history of what has happened here are two timelines. The dailykos is a liberal leaning blog and the Foriegn Policy blog is a right leaning blog.



There is obviously much more to this debate than I know...

The statistics mentioned in this article really show how closely affiliated the evangelical church is to conservative politics. On the issues of gay marriage and abortion, evangelicals are following hand in hand with the Republican party, and now with a significant Democratic majority in Washington the evangelical church is holding to these policies even more stubbornly - note the steep decrease of approval of abortion in white evangelical males from 33% to 23% since August.

What is so direly unfortunately is that this affiliation with the GOP is rapidly replacing the authority we as evangelicals give to the Bible. In the Scriptures, we are told plainly to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. However, as evangelicals we seem all too ready to drop these texts when a Republican party leader or Fox News tells us that it's okay to purposefully inflict harm on prisoners to get information, just so long as the procedures aren't intended to kill the prisoner.

These statistics MUST serve as a wake-up call to American Evangelicals. We need to seriously examine what the final source of authority is for us: the Republican Party or the Bible; George Bush or Jesus.


I couldn't have said it better myself!

What on earth has Christianity come to here in America? We have prostituted ourself to a political party. This is so disheartening and distressing.

May God help his church here in America

If you are against torture and you attend a very conservative church, you would be best off not allowing anyone to know your views. I was labeled as unpatriotic, the scourge of our country, and told I was unwelcome at my church because I said that torture was wrong. I asked who would Jesus torture and you would have thought I had committed the unpardonable sin.

The more we talk of torture the less there is to direct our attention to abortion. Are we now choosing to select the "lesser of two evils" in which to engage dialogue and action? So long as oppressive governments direct or drive its constituents to "debate" issues of its choosing, the more freedom we lose to select issues to debate. Wake up, people of faith!

And the legal definition of "torture" is what? What a US president says it is -- after the fact? Or . . . ?

Wouldn't a lot depend upon the definition of what exactly constitutes "torture"? High decibel rock music pounding the walls of Manuel Noriega's house was enough psychological pressure to cause him to crack-----as it would me.
What if it were YOUR son or daughter or grandchild whose life would be saved because of information derived from some so-called "torture"?
Friends, we are at war. War. Do we fight to win or fight to be nice and hope for the best?
Jesus is no wimp. He is coming back with fire in His eyes and a two edged sword in His mouth. That's pretty fierce, IMHO.
Sometimes I think that we 21st century Christians are nicer than God.

Noreen, what if your child were being held prisoner. Would you want his or her captors to abide by international law and the Geneva Convention and refrain from torture, or would you want their captors to have a free range of "enhanced interrogation techniques?"

Perhaps this is why John McCain is against torture, having been in that position himself, including waterboarding (which as several have pointed out has always been considered torture by the US to the point where we have prosecuted it as war crime when done by other nations.)

No one wins when we as Christians fight simply "to win." War is evil; if we must go to war we should treat others -- esp. our enemies, as Jesus asks -- as decently as possible.

As is stated above, there are very clear definitions of torture. The International Convention against Torture (which was ratified in the US giving it constitutional level authority) is listed above. There are many other definitions of torture in US law. What has been done meets pretty much all of them. It was torture according to legal definitions.

40 years of propagande has 'done a job' on evangelical America. While anti abortion and anti-gay has been used to keep evangelicals in lock step and voting for whomever can satisfy those to questions (never mind their preparedness to govern) we have neglected actual thoughtful teaching on moral issues. What it really mean to be pro-life, etc. Poor, poor us. Is it to late to start over?


You said: "If you are against torture and you attend a very conservative church, you would be best off not allowing anyone to know your views. I was labeled as unpatriotic, the scourge of our country, and told I was unwelcome at my church because I said that torture was wrong. I asked who would Jesus torture and you would have thought I had committed the unpardonable sin."


I think your final sentence is the most interesting. Why? Because according to many of these churches the only unpardonable sin is homosexuality, or at least it seems that way.

On another note:
What I find absolutely amazing is that a murderer on death row literally on his way to the chair receives his last rights, "accepts" Jesus and all is well, he will be "welcomed" into heaven, but gays no matter what are hell bound despite whether or not they have been good, productive, Christian citizens their entire lives.

This is the problem that many of today's younger generation - myself included - have a problem with labeling ourselves as "evangelicals". The God that I know doesn't make mistakes. The God that I know loves all of us. The Jesus that I know has compassion for all. The Jesus that I know was not vengeful and neither is the God that I know.

I learned MANY years ago, that the undoing of the church will be brought about by organized religion. Until organized religion starts focusing more on the GOOD that can be done such as feeding, clothing, and sheltering the poor, as opposed to focusing on culture wars (ie. same-sex marriage) then religion is doomed for failure.

Pam wrote: "What if your child were being held prisoner. Would you want his or her captors to abide by international law and the Geneva Convention and refrain from torture..."

Two words on how these captors DO treat their captives:
Daniel Pearl

The racists of my childhood, and college days in the Bible Belt, thought that heaven would be segregated because, while Black people could do good works, they just couldn't be good people. That was because of the taint of their alleged ancestor's sin...so terrible, whatever it was that took place in that tent, that even Ham's descendant's couldn't be washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore, Black people wouldn't go to "white" heaven, no matter what good works they did. Salvation was by faith alone...and only 'white' people were capable of having the proper faith for true salvation.

Of course, that was morally and intellectually bankrupt, transparently greedy and evil to everyone except...to the majority of 'white' people in many areas or our country.

But, as evil as it was, it's been brought back for a new scapegoat...the dreaded "homosexual." The dreaded "homosexual" is incapable of salvation by faith alone, because God hates that, for ridiculous reasons that demean God and make no sense to mere humans such as myself.

Of course, there is one difference...your children can discover themselves to be "homosexual"...and not just accidentally find out from some old papers in a trunk in the attic, that he or she is a 'one drop' Gay.

I stand with slewf16. Many of the agreements we developed in the past (such as the Geneva Convention) were developed in the context of ordinary warfare. Ordinary soldiers rarely have much in the way of helpful intelligence, and countries can agree to the rules beforehand and honor those rules for the other to the extent that the other honors those rules for them. But in a world of WMD's, suitcase nukes and airliners in skyscrapers, it doesn't make much sense to say that we can only ask for name, rank and serial number if we capture an unlawful enemy combatant who does not play by the rules and has not signed on to any treaty.

The reason evangelicals responded as they did in this poll is because they know what the poll is trying to accomplish, and the poll comes out in the context of debates about waterboarding and other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' employed by the Bush administration with the approval of the leaders of both parties. I suspect the results of the poll reflect more about political than religious affiliations.

As for waterboarding, I personally do not believe that it qualifies as torture. We do, after all, subject tens of thousands of our own soldiers to waterboarding at SERE training. It induces fear, to be sure, but properly conducted, under supervision, it leaves no damage. KSM and abu-Zubaydah are doing just fine, last I checked. Plus, this was apparently (no one has shown evidence otherwise) only done to three top al-Qaeda officials, and in this technique as in others we bent over backward to make sure that no one would be permanently injured.

I do believe that we need to have intelligent discussion about the issue, and hear the give and take without demonizing the other side. But I personally am grateful that these individuals were waterboarded. This is not because they deserve to suffer extremely for everything they've done--although they do. Rather it's because *only* under waterboarding, after everything else had been tried, did they provide the information that stopped significant "second wave" attacks.

Also, if you're wondering just how misleading and politicized the issue has become and its depiction in the media, consider the numbers recently bandied about: that these characters were waterboarded 187 times or etc. This was the number of times that water was poured over their faces, not the number of times they were given waterboarding sessions. Were you aware of that? Perhaps you did, but if not, you probably need to educate yourself a little more fully on the other side of the debate.

Tim: you are wrong. This is the number of times they were waterboarded according to official US memos. There are also many officials that say that there was no information obtained from the waterboarding. So without a full investigation we won't know what was really obtained. Permanently injured is not a requirement for torture.

Andrew Sullivan a blogger at the Daily Dish was asking what the difference between rape and waterboarding really is. According to the Presidential memos their rules were that "enhanced interigation could not permanently injure or harm internal organs. Both of those could be said to be true of rape. So could we have raped them 180 times without it being torture. Yes that is extreme but it does meet the requirements of the torture memos.

On your fist point. If we really believe that the International Convention on Torture and the Geneva Conventions are out of date then we need to formally withdraw from them. It is intellectually dishonest to think that our own soldiers should be exempt from them, but we expect others to follow them in they have our soldiers held.

i agree with this writer's frustration.

we are not shy on taking Biblical stances on the sanctity of unborn life or the blessedness of a marital relationship between a man and a woman, as per Genesis.

yet we are silent on or even condone torture. why? where in the Beatitudes does our Lord even give room for cruel or aggressive action taken against enemies?

we are told by God made man to forgive, love, pray, and overcome evil with good. torture has no place in God's kingdom.

I didn't realize that Jesus was a Neo-Con.

So Fleur , you are equating our decisions and judgements and knowledge with those of the Almighty?!

Ahhh I think I get it now! I now understand why some Christians in America are so condeming of others while ignoring the filth in their own back yard. After all, they apparently have godlike knowledge.

Jesus can afford to be like a roaring lion- he's got perfect knowledge. How silly of me not to know that some Christians apparently have this as well

Oh please, everybody we have ever been at war with never followed the rules. This country always ends up having to forget and forgive and even give taken land back. We are the only conqueror in history that fed its prisoners better than their own soldiers. Our kids living in poverty eat less than what these murderers are given. Their diet is even according to their religion. We have killed 5 million babies by sucking out their brains or by burning them to death with chemicals. Our kids are tortured with drugs and the courts pat the hands of the sellers. As for Abu Grey or whatever,one married woman pregnant by one of the guys in the incident with no permission to torture anyone figured they would have a night of it like street thugs. Lets get our priorities straight here and fight harder for the truly tortured than we do for these women haters and infidel killers.We have facts on the babies being tortured and our soldiers being tortured. Bitch about our men's heads being decapitated and our babies loosing their brains and their skin if you really want to stop torture. You can't condemn one form of torture without condemning another form of torture. There's an old saying. Take of your own first and than you can take care of others.

The Bush administration people who authorized torture should be taken to the Hague's International Criminal Court, and tried for crimes against humanity. They were dangerous criminals and should be treated as such.

Anna: one serious problem with your argument is that abortion is legal. But torture is not legal. If we hope to make abortion illegal at some point in time is to make sure that the legal system works. If we have officials that are violating law, then how can we insure that even if abortion is made illegal that it would be honored. Violations of law, especially by elected officials are important.

Another common feature is that they are both made palatable to the general public by making them initially, notionally, legally restricted to hard cases. Extraordinary scenarios are developed which befuddle the moral sense to the extent that an ethologist of note such as McMahan views the ‘ticking bomb torturers’ as hero criminals. What are you waiting for Obama, get them charged and then pardon them. It’s the American way.