The Pew Forum offers a very disturbing view of regular church attendees with their latest report on torture opinions. If this is the best we can do, we might all be better off staying home on Sunday mornings.
When asked to respond to the statement, “Torture to gain important information from terrorists is justified.” here’s how weekly church-goers answered:
16 percent said torture is justified “often;”
38 percent said torture is justified “sometimes;”
19 percent said torture is justified “rarely;” and finally,
25 percent said torture is justified “never.”
Let me repeat this finding: 54 percent of weekly church attendees said that the use of torture is OK when used to gain important information from terrorists. This position, of course, would be a violation of international law, the law of the United States of America and the U.S. Military Field Manual, not to mention the law of love — love God and love your neighbor.
But it only gets worse. Only 42 percent of those who “seldom” or “never” attend church believe that torture is justified “often” or “sometimes.” In other words, the non-church folks have a better, more humane ethic than church-goers.
I’m reminded of the legendary story of Vince Lombardi who, after his team lost a game, came into the locker room and announced that they were going back to the basics. With that, Lombardi reportedly held up a pigskin and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Maybe we need to do the same on Sunday mornings. Maybe we need to hold up the New Testament and say, “This is the New Testament. It contains the story of Jesus Christ, whose name we have taken. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying ‘Turn the other cheek. Do not repay evil for evil. Go the second mile. Love your enemies.’ ”
Of course, the response we would hear is one I have heard, “But in the real world, that’s not possible.” And that, my friends, is what the incarnation of Christ is all about. To show that this Kingdom of God stuff does indeed work in the real world. May God have mercy on our souls for not being clear that we are following the Lord of love, the Creator of the universe, and not expedient political policy.
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.