September 21, 2006


I just had a conversation with an SBC person about torture. He quoted scripture to suggest that the state has the right to, as I think he put it, "wield the sword" and then characterized torture as making inmates listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's right, this whole debate about torture not only emboldens the enemies, it is so ridiculous that it is the same thing that happens to parents throughout America when their kids discover loud rock music.

This is all a joke to them. As Zalm's great post noted, the idea of "turning the other cheek" or "loving our enemies" is so completely other-worldly that those words only appear in the mouths of people like Falwell saying something like, "we will love our enemies as we blow them away in the name of the lord." [rough quote from memory] Not only do they not even ask about the command to "love their enemies" they genuinely don't care about these people--many of whom are innocent people in the wrong place--and think that their mistreatment is no big deal. They have so completely internalized the President's logic that they think that as long as the inmate is still alive, no problem. Except, of course, we have killed many in the process of torture. And the issues of torture are horrifying--as intellectually honest people have acknowledged. True people of moral character are actually very distraught by this and trying to figure out how to address it. Others don't even bother and make jokes about it.

I said in this conversation that this lack of moral discernment was very disappointing to me--that if evangelicals can't stand up against torture, then why should anyone take their moral voice seriously? It still seems like a good question to me. And the fact is, they know it. If they have to twist the argument so it is playing music too loud, then they know that waterboarding and fake burials are affronts to our morality, our faith, and our very conscience. They know it, because otherwise, they wouldn't employ the Rush Limbaugh school of argument.

How am I supposed to address this? I mean that as an honest question--not snark. How do we address this moral issue in this context?


Wasp Jerky said...

It's really hard to know how to take these guys seriously sometimes. Their reliance on the Old Testament to justify opinions and prejudices they already have boggles the mind. It wouldn't be so bad if they would just be consistent about it. But the Old Testament also says that it's an abomination to charge interest. And the early Jews paid 23.3 percent annually in income tax, something I think many conservatives would have a big problem with. Add to that Exodus 21: 22-25, which seems to indicate that an unborn fetus is property, not life, and you've got a lot of major issues to conveniently ignore.

Tony said...


Once again I find that you and I agree on something. When I first heard about the RHCP as torture, stripping the guy down and slinging him in a frigidly cold room, I thought, well, that ain't really torture. But what if it was me? It would be roughly akin to making me listen to Trace Adkins or the Dixie Chicks in my skivvies with the heat cranked up to 110.

But, and I know you have thought this before, Falwell is atypical of most conservative Christians. He is visible, I'll give him that and his opinions get way too much press. Just once, I would like to see a reporter (except O'Reilly) come and say, "Here we are in Podunk, VA at this little rural church and we are here to get Pastor Barney's opinion on Pres. Bush and torture." Won't happen.

Nevertheless, I hope that you are holding out for a few SBC folks who do see difficulties with our president.

Streak said...

WJ, great point. That continues to bother me as well--something I discussed with a colleague from Germany last night. The selective use of OT and NT theology creates the Jesus Camp mentality, and allows people to essentially pursue their own interests while patting themselves on the back.

Tony, I appreciate your comments. I have not completely written off everyone in the SBC, and I appreciate your honesty in grappling with this issue. I was thinking about my SBC critic and his dismissal of torture the other day and thought about how awful waterboarding must be. SBC people should understand. Just take a pretty important and meaningful ritual of baptism by immersion, and, instead of bring them back up immediately, imagine holding them under for a little longer. Long enough for them to become frightened and start to struggle. Imagine keeping them under a little longer until their heart races and their lungs feel like bursting.

It is truly hard for any of us to even consider doing that to another person, yet Bush wants that to be legal. It stuns me.

I also agree with you regarding the media. It is still quite interesting that we are still tied in this knot about whether the media is liberal or conservative--when the issue is that they don't actually report on anything meaningful in a meaningful way. True reporters would recognize that you would be a better indicator of SBC thought than Falwell, but as you note, he is visible and always interesting. And for the media, it isn't accuracy, or ideology that sells, it is whatever entertains, titilates, or frightens people into watching.

Thanks for reading.