Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do Frequent Churchgoers Support Torture?

The Pew Research Center has presented some evidence that indicates that frequent churchgoers are more likely to justify the use of torture. And white evangelical Protestants as a sub-group are more likely to offer some support for the torture of suspected terrorists. See the graphic and discussion at the Boston Globe's Articles of Faith Blog by Michael Paulson.

How would your faith community respond to this issue?


Bill G said...

Hello John. First time writer - long time reader. I can't keep lurking without finally throwing my 2 cents in.

It seems that the criticism of Christians the survey is engendering is the real news. I think it might be inappropriate to try to make a reliable correlation between church going and support of torture. The folks using this as a chance to do some Christian bashing aren't looking at the survey close enough. (Some of the comments on the Boston Globe website are pretty brutal.) The correlation being made assumes the majority of people who go to church regularly actually take in what they hear and experience (at least about what it means to follow Jesus).

I'm not sure I can accept as fact that regular church going necessarily has a direct relationship to how people live their lives. Regular church goers who participate in the faith - that would be a more interesting survey for me. But then, who of us regular church goers are going to say we shouldn't be counted in the survey because we're slackers.

So, the survey may be right that white evangelical church goers favor torture more than others, but it doesn't say anything about regular church doers.

Judy H. said...

Another blog mentioned that a poll taken last September showed that "44 percent of white Southern evangelicals say they rely on life experiences and common sense to determine their views about torture, while only 28 percent say they rely on Christian teachings or beliefs". I don't quite understand how the folks who shout the loudest that JESUS IS LORD, can turn around and put such stock in their own "common sense". And I'm a white Southern evangelical (of sorts)! If the Kingdom of God, being lived out by the church, doesn't look any different (or even looks worse) than the rest of the world, then something is terribly amiss. Maybe if the church "goers" saw the church "doers" behaving in a more just and Christlike way, they would be more motivated to become doers. What do you think, Bill?

revJohn said...

Thanks, Bill, for breaking your vow of lurking. I look forward to future comments. Your distinction between goers and doers is a helpful distinction. It would be interesting if a population of doers could be determined and see how they would respond to the survey. My concern with many expressions of traditional Christianity is the focus on right doctrinal thinking instead of right acting--the world of ideas (justification, sanctification, atonement, etc.) over ethics.

revJohn said...

James 1:22 and Judith 1:5 (I think it's your 5th sentence, Judy H.)are great reminders of the need for doing and not just listening. Of course, the challenge is having a base for doing that is built on rock not sand. Thanks for continuing the dialog at revJohn.

Bill G said...

Judy, I'm not sure the problem I tried to describe will be fixed with more better doers. My assumption that church doers are actually living their faith probably doesn't hold up in all cases. Even the most faithful doer I suppose has a period every once and awhile where they are just goers. I think John is right (again) that our doing has to be based in a sensible and faithful theology.

I can see people protesting at Planned Parenthood and respect that their beliefs have moved them to action (while believing the action is not what I'm called to do), so it's not so much looking for an example in the pews (although I can see some of those good examples from time to time!) of doers as it is seeing people who aren't freeloading on the faith of others - others who they allow without question to tell them how to think and how to act.

My greater problem is with "doers" who are inconsistent in their doing. The list is familiar: All life is sacred so we must prevent abortion; All life is sacred but capital punishment is necessary; All life is sacred but we need to invade Iraq and Afganistan; All life is sacred but we'll maintain a federal contracting system that allows Haliburton et al. to electrocute solidiers and marines in the showers with shoddy unsupervised uncontrolled work; All life is sacred but we need to hold dear to our tax cuts and let people go without health care; All life is sacred but we shouldn't be freeer with food stamps. (I can go on but I've depressed myself with the partial list.)

So the end of a long answer is really in two parts:

(1) the doers I envision are doing because of their faith, which they work on and think about; and

(2) I wish I was more consistent in my own thoughts and actions and was a better doer.

Although John refers us to Scripture, I think that the Jedi master Yoda also put a finger on it when he said "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try." Doers are people who do. We do what Jesus calls us to do as we understand that special call.