Evangelicals and Torture

Evangelicals and Torture December 12, 2014

Just in case you didn’t click through on the Patton Dodd link on Brian Zahnd’s post today, here is the opening to Patton’s post:

In 2009, the Pew Research Center released a headline-grabbing survey showing that 6 in 10 white evangelical Protestants supported the use of torture against suspected terrorists. White evangelicals were the only religious group with a majority of respondents who believed torture was often (18%) or sometimes (44%) justified in defense of United States interests. The study’s sample size was too small to include some sizable other U.S. religious groups, such as Hispanic Catholics, but still, the data — and the headlines — remained: A clear majority of white evangelicals were in favor of the U.S. torture regime.

As the American public weighs what we now know about details about that regime — including its severe brutality and its ineffectiveness — it will be instructive to watch how conservative evangelical views on the issue develop and change. Will attitudes shift? If early media noise is any indication — tonight, has no mention of the torture report at all “above the fold” on its homepage — there may be no shift at all.

Today, the Messiah College historian John Fea happened to tweet that in 1960, the priority list for “evangelical social action,” according to the National Association of Evangelicals at the time, included communism, “the Roman Catholic Situation,” and serving alcohol on airplanes. There was no mention of, say, structural racism, even though by 1960 the Civil Rights Movement was well under way. Likewise today, and in all the years since September 11, 2001, you would be hard pressed to find torture on any list of evangelical social concern, either. It’s not even on the radar. Evangelicals don’t get out there and argue for it; they just don’t appear to think about it. Evangelical “support” for torture is not about the morality or practice of torture at all so much as it is a feature and function of the movement’s alignment with the Republican Party and politically conservative media.

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