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Joined: 2006/9/13
Posts: 3165

 Torture debate prompts evangelical soul-searching

[b]Torture debate prompts evangelical soul-searching[/b]
[i]by ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer[/i]

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.

A number of evangelical leaders have made opposition to torture without exceptions a moral cause over the past three years, part of a broadening of the movement's agenda beyond traditional culture war issues. Others in the movement, including many Christian right leaders, have largely resisted or stayed silent.

Now, President Barack Obama's release of Bush administration memos justifying harsh interrogation techniques and a new poll showing white evangelicals more sympathetic to torture have leaders taking stock of whether evangelical opinion has shifted on the topic.

"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."

The poll data from a survey of 742 U.S. adults released April 29 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants said torture of a suspected terrorist could be often or sometimes justified to obtain important information.

By contrast, 51 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, 46 percent of white mainline Protestants and 40 percent of the religiously unaffiliated held that position.

Those who attend religious services at least once a week were more likely than those who rarely or never attend to say torture is sometimes or often justified in that scenario — 54 percent to 42 percent.

The findings immediately prompted questions for evangelicals: How exactly did poll participants define torture, since the survey did not? Did evangelicals reach their conclusions because of their religious beliefs, or their politics or ideological leanings? How do you untangle those factors from each other?

Pew officials later updated the analysis to emphasize that religion "is only one of many factors" — and that political party and ideology are much better predictors of opinions on torture than religion and most other demographic factors. At the same time, the report noted, religion itself can play a strong role in shaping partisanship and ideology.

"My experience is that people who are comfortable supporting torture support it because they think it's going to produce information our country needs," said the Rev. Richard Killmer, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister and executive director of the interfaith National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which formed in 2006. "I don't think they would shy away from use of the word 'torture.'"

"During the last eight years, people have been concerned about this ticking time bomb thing and Jack Bauer and '24' and all that," said Killmer, referring to the TV drama in which the protagonist takes a by-any-means-necessary approach to extracting information from terror suspects.

Among evangelicals, Gushee has been a leading anti-torture advocate. He led the effort to draft, in 2006, "An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror." The document, which has 250 signatures, renounced torture and "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees."

Last fall, a poll commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University found that 44 percent of white Southern evangelicals rely on life experience and common sense to form opinions on torture. By contrast, 28 percent said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.

Even so, Gushee said he senses a "deep moral, spiritual and theological problem" in evangelical support for torture.

"There is a version of Christianity in America that I think is not adequately committed to the Bible's teachings about the sacredness of every human life, including the lives of our enemies," Gushee said. "It's also insufficiently committed to the peacemaking teachings of Jesus and the example of Jesus as one who did not resort to violence or cruelty to accomplish any of his goals and instead suffered violence instead of inflicting it."

Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate affiliated with several Christian right groups over the years, said the discussion should not come down to "Would Jesus torture?"

"There are a lot of things Jesus wouldn't do because he's the son of God," he said. "I can't imagine Jesus being a Marine or a policeman or a bank president, for that matter. The more appropriate question is, 'What is a follower of Jesus permitted to do?'"

Bauer said the answer is "it depends" — but the moral equation changes when the suspect is not a soldier captured on a battlefield but a terrorist who may have knowledge of an impending attack. He said he does not consider water-boarding — a form of interrogation that simulates drowning — to be torture.

"I think if we believe the person we have can give us information to stop thousands of Americans from being killed, it would be morally suspect to not use harsh tactics to get that information," Bauer said.

Under Christianity's just-war tradition, recognized political authorities have the responsibility to protect the innocent from grave harm, said Keith Pavlischek, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, evangelical scholar and retired Marine colonel.

That means not just lives that would be lost in an attack, but the justice, order and peace of the broader international community at risk from terrorism, said Pavlischek, a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative denomination.

If authorities believe a detainee has information about an imminent attack, it's morally acceptable to use coercion, inflict pain, cause discomfort and use force in an attempt to prevent the attack, he said.

But it is not black and white in determining when interrogation tactics cross the line to unjust torture, Pavlischek said. He said while evidence exists that water-boarding might be out of line, "it's a hard call." Similarly, sleep deprivation can also be used to extremes and cross the line, but not always.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical church body, revealed this month that he believes water-boarding is torture and never justified. He said part of his conclusion is based on his belief that it's "very likely to cause permanent psychological damage."

"It seems to me once you accept the 'end justifies the means' argument, then you have taken a step onto a very steep and slippery slope to dark and dangerous place," Land said.

He emphasized that Christian tenets that guide the debate — including the Golden Rule, or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" — can be applied differently. He said that while terrorists should not be "mistreated," neither do they deserve protections afforded prisoners of war by the Geneva Convention.

Land said some harsh interrogation techniques — such as slapping with an open hand — can be morally permissible.

David Neff, editor of Christianity Today magazine and chairman of the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, which endorsed the evangelical declaration against torture, said torture is not a subject preached at most evangelical churches. So white evangelical support for torture is more likely rooted in their strong allegiance the Republican Party.

"There is a sense of, 'We trust this administration that was leading us through this difficult time post-911, and if they say we have to do this, chances are that sometimes it's necessary,'" Neff said.

He added: "It think it is extremely important for the U.S. government, for our own security, to operate as ethically as possible, because what we sow, we reap."


 2009/5/13 12:46Profile

 Re: Torture debate prompts evangelical soul-searching

I don't want to reply to this but I feel if I don't I'll break my own heart all the more.

THIS is the only hot-button that I have.

I am Grieved on MUCH - such as abortion, liars, etc. etc. just as all of us are but this ONE TOPIC puts me through the roof since DAY ONE.
The blood rushes to my face in fury to be completely honest with you.

They are JUST [b]NOW[/b] considering that this practice is WRONG?

When they made public for the first time that WE were doing this to anyone and then showing weekly programs that I heard about on TV - such as 24 etc. that show and endorse the use of TORTURE FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA I got more enraged than I've ever been in my lifetime - and please understand that I'm a peaceful person and soft spoken and even during Sunday School, don't raise my hand to speak as we're supposed to. I have maybe twice since being there - but my face turns red on this topic.

Yes, I admit it is called fury. I'm sick of it. It's become a SPORT and that is the truth and we've been DESENSITIZED on it since it began to go public. It was around before 9/11 so I don't want to hear much nonsense on this. Even from Police practicing this and not just the CIA or FBI or other Agencies.

There is NO excuse for this - NONE.

I heard a high ranking Military Officer who was an expert in this teaching how confessions can be gotten [b]without[/b] torture better than with it. He explained both ways and how false confessions come from the people not being able to withstand the torture.

If "christians" are JUST NOW seeing what is wrong with this practice when there have been a few of us preaching against it from day one - they're blowing hot air and at the least - THEY'RE TOO LATE BY MANY MANY MANY YEARS for countless millions of souls.

If we have done it to them and some were actually Innocent - then they "those who WE call uncivilized" will justifiably-now, do it to our soldiers, women, children and that's a bottomline.

I don't know if we can be forgiven for looking the other way on this ALL of these years and not only did the church look the other way but MOST CHEERED IT ON.

Fast and pray for the church and for this world to FINALLY see what "Christian" means.

They haven't yet.

In tears, with fasting & prayer and brokeness.

 2009/5/13 13:48

 Re: Torture debate prompts evangelical soul-searching

thank you dear sister, makes me want to go lay on my face for a while, that and a whole host of other issues, including personal issues.

But may I comment using secular military intelligence issues? (though I am a civilian, and have no involvement in this issue, other from what I've read and heard from guys I know)

First, the way I see it, the word "terrorist" is inadequate to describe the adversaries we face, its too simplistic in a world full of nuance. (I think Denny Green will "amen" that, as his ministry was mis-labeled in the recent DHS 'white paper' that was withdrawn)

a better word is "asymetrical combatant", it's a new kind of war, what is called "4th Generation Warfare" (here's a description [url=]"4GW"[/url] )

In this war, you can seperate asymetrical combatants into three classes, "A Team"-leadership/and high value operatives, "B-Team"-technicians/adminstrative, they are the bomb makers, or ones who disburse money, convey orders, etc, and "C-Teams"-these are the ones who plant bombs, or ARE bombs, or caught in a combat area with Ak's or RPG's, mostly uneducated, but they know the Koran.

We use third party intel services to interrogate C-team types, like the Egyptian's or Jordanians, who have no qualms about getting nasty down and dirty about interrogations, what actionable intelligence this yields is of little value.

From everything I've heard and read, the truly elite interrogators of our intel services, rarely use violent techniques, they dont have to.....because you never want to get an A-team, or B-team prisoner into a "say anything" mode, because these prisoners have been trained, thats why they ARE A and B teamers. (the 9/11 group were all A-teamers)and when a trained operative is being violently tortured, and get into a "say anything" mode, you'll get into a blind alley of disinfo flowing out of them.

Instead, the elite interrogator has a vast array of techniques. Conversant in Pashtun or Farsi, (believe me, if you can speak read and write an obscure language, use this language around native speakers and it just blows their minds) the interrogator also has a deep thorough knowledge of the Koran, as much as anybody has of say, the Bible, and Christian theology on this forum, and the elite interrogator also has a wide array of pharmecuticals at his disposal.

Imagine this, you have an A team combatant in custody. For one month, every 4 hours, he recieves an injection of morphine, then on the 31st day, no morphine for five days.

What will this A teamer feel on day 4? then day five?...and on day six, the elite interrogator shows up with a doctor, bearing a dose of morphine, two Korans, both in Pashtun, and a plate of stewed lamb over rice. The injection is given, the doctor leaves, one of the Korans is placed in front of the subject, along with the lamb and rice, and the interrogator says in flawless Pashtun, "I'm so sorry my brother that you had to suffer in such a way, please eat, and allow me to give you a holy koran for your edification"...sits...and then says, "do you know what my favorite passage is in 'qu'ran'?

That that point...will NOT know whether he is coming or going, THAT's when the real interrogation starts, because it's an interrogation, veiled as a "relationship". Everytime, the interrogator comes thru that door, the subject will welcome the face and voice of the interrogator, much as a baby, needing "milk" welcomes the face of a mother.

Thats how the best of them operate.

I'm just giving you a hypothetical situation in a secular explanation, thats all.

some people are great at their job, some are bad at their jobs. The best of them wield a steel hand in a silk glove.

That's why things aren't going so well in this war yet, we're 3rd generation warfighting in a 4th generation war, but if you've been watching, Secty of Defense Gates is picking up on this.


 2009/5/13 14:08

 to "Jesus-is-God"

I hope and pray my secular explanation of interrogation does not anger you. I fully concur with your heart on this matter of torture, violent torture. I believe that we as Americans, should be noble, and that we dont do torture, its not us, but I also think the last great President was Ike, he was a good of my heroes.

Please dont be cross with me.


 2009/5/13 14:14

 Re: to "Jesus-is-God"

"Please dont be cross with me."

Will Never happen Neil. I don't "choose" who to love and don't choose to not love anyone I disagree with. Love is a choice, but we can't choose who we won't love.

Thank you for using your 1st Amendment "right", as it's called. I give credit to anyone who is willing to post what they believe, whether I agree with them or not.

It's the ones who stop posting because they feel better than the rest of us that worry me. That's not Love.

Pray one for another - Love one another.
Can't seem to shake those two partial verses for anything.

Though we totally disagree except on where you mentioned being against violent torture, where I'm against all torture - I do pray you'll still love me as well - Amen!
The thing of it is - it will come back on us - we are already beginning to be called the terrorists because of our beliefs - even if you are just speaking against the UN - and even since Janet Reno's interview with, I believe it was Newsweek back in the 90's, or was it another magazine like that? - where she talked about Fundamental Bible believers and those who believe in the Second Coming & the Apocalyptic stuff. Reckon that's why Warren and McClaren and 'the most' are getting away from 'that' book by John. Seems to be a cloud spreading through since her days in office when that other guy was officially the president and now his wife is busy with Israel - as well.

The LORD GOD Bless us with Himself - Amen?

 2009/5/13 15:05

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7497

 Re: My post deleted

Post deleted by poster.


Sandra Miller

 2009/5/17 9:22Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7497


I cannot for the life of me understand why any godly person would condone inflicting atrocities upon another human being as Neil outline in the above post.

Do the scriptures (1 Corinthians 5:10-11; 6:10) not mean anything? It clearly says that extortionists will NOT inherit the kingdom of God. How can a Believer justify it? In any case, I am appalled that there are churches that would defend its use... Jesus teaches us one should love your enemy and extortion violates the value of the individual.

I am left shaking my head in dismay....


Sandra Miller

 2009/5/17 22:05Profile

Joined: 2008/6/19
Posts: 1257


I was just wondering for those who don’t believe that those in higher authority should use torture to try and get information in trying to protect the innocent.

What do you think of Romans 13:1-4 (KJV) 1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Also what do you think about Luke 16:23-26 (KJV) 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Are you also against God sending people to be tormented eternally in hell?

 2009/5/17 22:52Profile

Joined: 2007/9/13
Posts: 1752


Luke 3:7-9

Luke 6:43-45

1 Corinthians 16:14

Luke 6:27-36


 2009/5/17 23:38Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7497


Quote from rbanks:
I was just wondering for those who don’t believe that those in higher authority should use torture to try and get information in trying to protect the innocent.

If you will read Neil's post he said a person does not have to use extortion to get info from a person.

QUOTE from Neil’s post:
From everything I've heard and read, the truly elite interrogators of our intel services, rarely use violent techniques, they don't have to.....because you never want to get an A-team, or B-team prisoner into a "say anything" mode, because these prisoners have been trained, that's why they ARE A and B teamers. (the 9/11 group were all A-teamers)and when a trained operative is being violently tortured, and get into a "say anything" mode, you'll get into a blind alley of disinfo flowing out of them.

Romans 13:1-4: we all know this is subjective to God's commands, meaning God's law of life will over rule any commands set forth by men. Peter said - as quoted in Acts 5:29 - that men should obey God rather then men.

QUOTE: Are you also against God sending people to be tormented eternally in hell?

No. Frankly, I do not see the connection between this question and the issue of whether it is acceptable to use torture/extortion on an 'enemy'.

God is God and no man is to play God. If he thinks he is God, then by no means is it necessary to use extortion to gain info. On the other hand if he knows he is NOT God but is subject to him, he will abide by the standard of life set forth in the WORD as to the use of extortion.

I am just appalled that Christians would condone the use of torture to gain info. Hey! this fellow is also made in the image of God! Did you forget that? "To save the life of an innocent" is the excuse. But does it really work? Even if it would work fine, it can never be condoned because you are using sin to prevent another sin.

Back to the issue of submitting to authority: Yes, indeed one is to submit to the civil authorities. The last I checked our local authorities were humans like anyone else. And in carrying out their responsibilities they do not have to resort to such atrocities. Police have come under fire for exercising brutality against innocent victims. The rule is that one is innocent until proven guilty but they do not always demonstrate this in how they handle the civilians. Granted some will resist arrest and force will have to be used. Now I am getting off on a rabbit trail.....will stop here..

This is as I understand this issue...hope it makes sense...


Sandra Miller

 2009/5/19 9:40Profile

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