Pew Survey: Give Them Hell…

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 54% of those who attend church regularly said that torture used against suspected terrorists is “often” or sometimes “justified.”  The survey only included white Evangelical, white non-Hispanic Catholics, and white mainline Protestants.  Those individuals who did not attend church regularly or were unaffiliated religiously were more likely to respond that torture was rarely or never justified. 

I find this curious as it contradicts the very basics of Christian teachings of Jesus.   Jesus, himself, was considered a terrorist of his day and received torture by his captors.   But Jesus never condoned torture in his teachings.  “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies” and “forgive each other not just 7 times but 70 x 70 times” and “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”  and other phrases appear over and over again through out the gospels of the Christian scriptures.  These are not the tenets of someone who sees torture as justified. 

What is it about 21st century Christianity that rejects the very premise of Jesus’ teachings?  Could it be that those who call themselves Christians have rejected the Jesus of the scriptures for an apocalyptic Christ?  An image of a  Christ that is full of vengeance and hatred against a world that rejects him? 

The popular Left Behind novel series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins proclaims an apocalyptic vision of the end times that is filled with terror for the unbelieving.  This is a Christ that prepares a Hell for those who refuse to accept Christ’s message.  It is geared towards using torture as a means to bring about salvation, albeit salvation under duress.  Not the ‘love your enemies’ Christ of the Christian scriptures but the wrathful twisted apocalyptic Christ of the 21st century.  The apocalyptic Christ accepts torture as a means for the victims of torture to then possibly receive Christ’s message of love.   It is a twisted and disturbed interpretation of the gospels.

Someone needs to proclaim the message regarding torture that is in alignment with the message of the world’s sages; Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and King.  

The National Religious Coalition Against Torture is proclaiming June as Torture Awareness Month.  The UUA’s Mid-South District  has received a grant to enable  MSD congregations to participate spreading the word that Torture is morally wrong and is never ever justified.  If your congregation would like to be part of the proclamation that Jesus meant it when he said “Love your enemies,”  contact the National Religious Coalition Against Torture for ideas and resources.  If your congregation is part of the UUA’s Mid South District contact the district for more information on the availability of  grant monies to assist you in proclaiming your prophetic voice. 

Let us  join with Rev. John Murray who said, “Give them not Hell, but hope and courage; preach the kindness and everlasting love of God. ”


Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church, Ellisville, MS

Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church, Ellisville, MS



  1. A nice quote from Arthur Herman’s column on Churchill and Torture,

    “Moral force,” Churchill once said, “is no substitute for armed force, but it is a very great reinforcement.” On this point, Churchill takes his stand firmly on the side of Vice President Dick Cheney and the Bush administration. Flinching from steps necessary to protect a nation’s citizens from barbarous violence doesn’t reinforce our moral values. It’s a way of running from them.

    Unfortunately, too many politicians are willing to take to their heels in that race.

    It’s easy to write like this from the comfort of your church. Go to Pakistan today to the Taliban run Swat Valley and give it a try… they mean to kill you and all you stand for… if waterboarding yields information that will protect you my guess is Jesus would approve. He had a perfect teaching moment on the cross to speak out against an Empire that protected it’s citizens from the Barbarians (as we approach the 2000th celebration of Arminus’s slaugher at the Tuetoburg Forest ( ) it’s worth noting Jesus never spoke out against Rome for trying to hold the barbarians at the gates. He seemed content with Rome’s Legions to keep the Parthians at bay.

    Also, please consider a Muslim Pacifist instead and I suggest the Pathan Abdul Ghaffer Khan King and Ghandi, a Christian and Hindu, represent traditions with far less appeal to Muslims I think. They have a proud tradition and we need to acknowledge we’re aware of it.

    Thanks Bill, I appreciate your points. I respectively disagree with them. I did include a Muslim in my list, Rumi is a Sufi Muslim. Rumi was well respected by his fellow Muslims, so while I did not know of the Muslim you mentioned, I did indeed acknowledge their tradition.

    I think you misunderstand Churchhill’s quote, The “It” in the sentence refers to moral force as the great reinforcement and not to armed force. Someone has to take the high road in how to deal with captives. It is fact that the greatest recruitment tool for Al Qaeda was the torturous events that happened at Abu Ghraib. Every high ranking general reports this as a result of Abu Ghraib. Torture did not aid us in gaining anything but more recruits for the terrorists.

    I find it hypocritical that America tried Japan for waterboarding American soldiers captured during WWII because it was torture and yet, we want carte blanche acceptance of it so we can do it to others. If it is torture when our enemies perform it on our soldiers then it is torture when we perform it on their soldiers. It is against the Geneva convention.

    Perhaps, you are right regarding where I sit… Perhaps, if I was living in Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Germany, I, too, would resort like he did, to playing a role in an asassination attempt of the leader of the country as a result of prayerful consideration of what Jesus would have me do. But from where I do sit, I believe such tactics dehumanizes us and separates us from who we are at the core of our being. I would rather be killed being true to myself than to torture another in the hopes that doing so would perhaps allow me to live crippled spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically–which is the result of such tactics on humans. Blessings, Fred

  2. What in the world is your evidence for saying waterboarding was the greatest recruitment for AQ?

    These are tough guys with deep conviction (they hate us and Liberalism). They can take repeated waterboarding as the CIA memo’s showed us how tough they are…

    …it’s crazy to think that prompted further recruitment. It’s more like evidence to them how weak we are if anything.

    Oh, Please!…. Bill first of all if you are going to put words in my mouth then use the words I wrote… I said the torturous events of Abu Ghraib was the greatest recruitment aid to Al Qaeda… not waterboarding. Shall I include pictures of those victims??? It is fact, Al Qaeda used these photos to increase their recruitment of terrorists. It is fact, that Al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq until after we invaded that country. These are well established, well documented events.

  3. …if anything, the real incitment to Muslims are these references to Ghandi all the time. It just raises all these issues of partition and the huge slaughter that occurred. Water boarding really pales in comparison..

    Bill, again refer to what I actually said–Abu Ghraib… In regards to Gandhi inciting Muslims… Really???

    PS– Gandhi was not for partition because he was aware of the potential of civil war. He was also for payment to Pakistan for reparations, his government was against it. Gandhi was accused of being Pro-Muslim and of giving too much away. When talks dissolved, and tensions erupted into violence, Gandhi entered into his last fast stating he would not stop his fast until all violence had ended and that reparations to Pakistan was paid. I find it hard to imagine that a Gandhi reference would incite Muslims to violence today, when Gandhi fought for their cause. His grandson, however, is another story.

  4. All the time meaning you and UUSC where Alex went and purged the King and Ghandi references on the War in AFPAK…Christian and Hindu really threw gas on that fire.

    sorry for triple posts…


  5. June is National Torture Awareness Month. As a recently published survey by the PEW FORUM [] shows, there many people of faith who believe torture is justifiable. Let us all demonstrate our Principle of “The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person.” Let us also remember, not just in June but every day that the best moral compass is The Golden Rule!

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