Friday, May 1, 2009

Relationship Between Church Attendence and Views on Torture

One would think that the more a person goes to church, the more likely the are to find torture reprehensible, an assault and violation of the image of God. According to a new survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, however, the opposite is indeed the case. Pew asked, "The use of torture against terrorists ..." and respondents could respond with "can often be justified," "can sometimes be justified," "can rarely be justified," or "can never be justified." According to the results, there is a correlation between average church attendance and views on torture: people who attend church frequently are more likely to condone the use of torture.

54% of respondents who attended church at least weekly felt that torture was justified at least sometimes (16% often, 38% sometimes). Compared that to the 51% who attend church monthly or several times a year (18% often, 33% sometimes), and the 42% of thhose who seldom or never attend church (12% often, 30% sometimes). Broken down into denominations, the white evangelical Protestants were the most likely (62%) to condone torture (18% often, 44% sometimes), and the unaffiliated (40%) were least likely (15% often, 25% sometimes).

This survey perplexes me, given my theological education. I'm sure we could have squabbles over what constitutes torture, waterboarding and whatnot, but the survey did not define the term, leaving it open to the respondent's interpretation. I cannot believe, or would like not to believe, that any church leader, conservative or otherwise, would preach from the pulpit any sermon condoning torture. With these points in mind, these results, to me, then reflect the interrelationship between religion and politics. Many polls reflect the fact that there is a positive relationship between church attendance and conservatism, and there is a relationship between conservatism and Republicanism. Given that, in general, the use of torture was contemplated within Republican circles, then there is an increased likelihood that those who attend church more frequently are those who believe that torture is acceptable, sparingly or otherwise.

Taking off our political hats, there can be no denying that the life and ministry of Jesus - in orthodoxical terms, our Lord and Savior - would have been against this practice, unequivocally and unambiguously. Its a shame that those who attend church most are the most likely to miss this fact.


Anonymous said...

Good analysis Drew!!

matt said...

taking off the political hat, there are many things that Jesus would not approve of. if you are going to apply that metric to one political issue, apply it to all and see what happens.

A Faithful Reader said...

The Washington Post, in its "On Faith", ran an article by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite on May 1 that speculated that the reason that church going Christians may embrace torture has to do with the torture and abuse of Christ during the Passion. Professor Thistletwaite also attributes the trend to White Protestants who support Republican agendas.

Money Quote:
I think it is impossible, yes, impossible, if you read the Gospels, to make the case that God wanted Jesus tortured for the sins of humanity. But that is an interpretation that has sometimes been made in the history of Christianity and the social and political fallout has been, and is today, that torture is OK, maybe even more than OK. This Pew finding may just be another in a long line of horrible historical examples of that.