Friday, May 1, 2009

Churchgoers and torture survey

Various news outlets were a-twitter yesterday with a new Pew Forum survey on The Religious Dimensions of Torture that suggested that the more often you went the church, the more likely you were to approve of torture.

This both was and was not accurate. The headlines could have also said that if you go to church at least once a week, you are as likely to think that torture can never be justified as the general population.

The thing that bothered me about this--well, a few things. First of all, it was that "churchgoer" does not mean one particular thing. And that "more often you go to church" magically and automatically equates with "religiously conservative." And "religious conservative" does not automatically equate with "approves of torture."

There was also the "tut tut, we secular types are more enlightened" nature of it when the NY Times is STILL not calling waterboarding torture.

There was the lack of critique of the survey itself which seemed, to my unpracticed eye, to use a very small sample size and to have a rather strange question; they asked, "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?" But isn't "rarely" also "sometimes"? I don't know that I completely trust these results.

It's still mighty depressing, though, that what seems to me a fairly basic Christian tenet (i.e. Would you like others to waterboard you? Then you shouldn't waterboard others) is completely missed.

It reminds me of a great story my college roommate told on herself. She went on a retreat and was having a lovely time learning about God's love and forgiveness and kindness, praying and fellowshipping and generally getting all warm and fuzzy, when along came a spider and sat down beside her, and she jumped up and said, "Forget this mercy crap! Just kill it!"

At least she had the sense to recognize the difference between what she was learning and what she was saying. Unlike this guy. This one depressed the hell out of me.

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