Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Torture and Evangelicals

All of the Republican candidates, with the exception of John McCain and Ron Paul, seem to have taken the pro-torture position, using the euphemism of "enhanced interrogation" or some such. Presumably this is designed to appeal to the Republican "base," which includes a lot of Evangelical Christians.

There's something about this that I just don't get. Now, I am an atheist, and I don't want to mischaracterize other people's beliefs. Maybe I've been wrong all these years, but, as I understand it, when Christians read about the crucifixion, they're supposed to identify with Jesus Christ, and not the Romans, right? There's a bit in the movie A Clockwork Orange where Alex (played by Malcom McDowell in his finest role) is being indoctrinated in religion, and we see him imagining himself as one of the Roman soldiers whipping Jesus. That's supposed to be funny (in a dark way) because it's clear to the audience that Alex just doesn't get the point. Right? When Christians saw Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, they were supposed to feel empathy and compassion for the guy being tortured, not get off on it. Right?

Evangelical Christians consider Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior, somebody with whom they have a personal relationship with. And their Lord and Savior was tortured to death by the Roman state. They think this was capital-E Evil.

For Evangelical Christians, shouldn't this translate into a moral imperative to avoid torture? Or even something close to torture? Shouldn't they be particularly offended by the notion of their own country engaging in torture? Why is it that "appealing to the base" seems to require candidates to be if not pro-torture, in favor of coming as close to the "torture" line as possible? It seems to me that Evangelicals, of all people, ought to be absolutely outraged by "Enhanced Interrogation." And they, of all people, should be the least amenable to the sort of pragmatic "we've got to catch bad guys" arguments used to justify such practices. After all, I'm pretty sure the Romans could have come up with a reason why crucifying dissidents was necessary to national security.

Now, I will grant you that Christianity has previously been used to justify torture. There was that little interlude called The Inquisition, after all. "Get medieval on your ass" has meaning for a reason. So it's clear that ostensibly-Christian people can dig the whole torture scene.

But I thought they were supposed to be beyond that.

I guess not.


Another point of view said...

A somewhat tortured reading, don't you think ...

It isn't pandering to some evangelical thirst for inflicting pain or watching pain inflicted; it's pandering to fear and an incorrect knee jerk feeling among the fearful that such "enhanced interrogation" nets valid results in terms of making them safer. Torture is wrong, not only because it's not particularly likely to net valid results but because it reduces the humanity of the people doing the interrogating. But scared people seeing doomsday scenarios overlook alot.

cheerful iconoclast said...

Is it?

Tortured, that is. I don't know --I used to think that no administration, Republican or Demcratic, would embrace torture. But I was wrong.

societygirl said...

No, no,'ve got Christianity all wrong. I thought you were a fan of Christopher Hitchens' The Missionary Position. Hitchens makes the point that Mother Teresa did not provide real medical care in her "hospitals" becuase she believed suffering brings people closer to God. So, applying this rule, torturing muslims could ....???? ...sorry, LMAO, just can't actually finish this sentence.