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. ”