Jesus Convinces Some Evangelicals to Reject Torture

By Jimmy McCarty 9-12-2008

Based on some responses to my last post, and a new poll by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, it seems there are many evangelicals who believe that there are in fact times when torture is necessary and proper. I am assuming these people also believe it is at times necessary and proper for Christians to do the torturing?

According to the poll, 57% of white evangelicals in the South believe that torture is often or sometimes justified. Another 16% believe that it can be justified in rare occasions. Only 22% believe that it is never justified. This is surprising because only 48% of the general population believe that torture can be justified. How can this be?

Well, it seems it is because those Christians polled have forgotten or ignored the teachings of Jesus. The poll found that 44% of those asked relied on personal experience and "common sense" more than on Christian teaching when making their decision. Only 28% of the people polled initially were found to base their decision on Christian teaching. When these same people were reminded of the "Golden Rule," many changed their answer. When taking into account Jesus' teaching that those who follow him should, "Do to others what you want them to do to you," opinions changed by 14%. After the reminder, 52% of white evangelical Christians polled replied that the U.S. government should not do to others what they do not want done to their soldiers. This is a 14% jump from the initial 38% who claimed that torture is never or rarely justified.

When we lose sight of the life and teachings of Jesus, we tend to stray away from the path he paved for us to walk. How do those who respond to the call of Jesus to "follow me" end up supporting the torture of children of God? By forgetting what he taught and lived. If we take the words of Jesus seriously to "do unto others...", it becomes much clearer that torture is out of the picture for Christians to support or engage in. There are no known sayings of Jesus that can remotely hint that torture is ever justified, but there are many that point to the fact it is never justified. "Do unto others" is just one of those teachings. Jesus does not call us to "common sense" but to radical discipleship and love. He calls us to the type of discipleship and love that is more likely to get you tortured than approve of the torture of others.

Jimmy McCartyJimmy McCarty is a student at Claremont School of Theology studying Christian ethics, a minister serving cross-racially at a church in inner-city Los Angeles, and a servant at a homeless shelter five days a week. He blogs at

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