It doesn’t take much to incite the wrath of an Evangelical Christian. Just criticize government mass-murder (a.k.a. war) or torture (a.k.a. enhanced interrogation techniques), and you’ll manage to turn your typical happy-go-lucky Ned Flanders into something much like the Wolf Man.
Over the past few years, I’ve managed to turn a few Evangelicals into Wolf Men. The most recent transformation occurred two weeks ago, shortly after I published my article, “Blessed are the…waterboarders?” After coming across my article, an Evangelical reader, whom I’ll simply refer to as Wolfie, sent me a short, vitriolic, and grammatically atrocious email. (Funny how anger manages to bring out the split infinitive in the best of us.)
Wolfie accused me of lying. His basic argument was that neither Christians nor the Bush administration nor anyone he knows supports torture. Then, after committing a particularly egregious comma splice, he accused me of being sympathetic with the terrorists and asked why I didn’t just pack up my bags and move to Iran or somewhere like that. A couple more comma splices later, he ended his email, giving me good fodder for the present article.
So, first of all, do Evangelical Christians support torture? The answer is undoubtedly yes, most do. As Laurence Vance recently reported, two polls bear out this conclusion. The first poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, revealed that white Evangelicals are more likely than the general population to believe that torture can “often be justified” (18% to 15%) and that torture can “sometimes be justified” (44% to 34%). A second poll, conducted by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, revealed that 57% of white Southern Evangelicals believe torture is justified.
So much for Wolfie’s first claim.
Of course, I imagine Wolfie genuinely believes what he’s saying. And to understand why, we need to examine his second claim, which is that that the Bush administration never supported torture.
Now it’s true that Bush officials continue denying that they authorized torture. As Bush himself famously stated in 2007: “This government does not torture people.” That was a lie, of course. Under the Bush gang’s authorization, several individuals were tortured. That’s what I’d call it anyway.
What would you call waterboarding one detainee 183 times in a month’s time and another detainee 83 times? What would you call forcing someone to take off all his clothes and then stand in the same position for two to three days in a row, all while his hands are shackled to a bar above his head? What would you call putting a collar around someone’s neck and repeatedly slamming him against a wall? What would you call depriving someone of sleep for seven consecutive days? What would you call threatening to infect someone with the HIV virus or threatening to injure his family?
I would call such treatment torture. And, as far as I can tell, my view is corroborated by the Eighth Amendment, as well as the Third Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture, both of which have been ratified by the U.S. government. Yet not only did the CIA use such techniques against detainees, but it received authorization to do so from the Bush administration.
So given all this, why do Wolfie and his fellow Wolf People claim that the Bush administration never supported torture? Easy. You see, Bush, controlled by Darth Cheney and his cadre of OLC lawyers, tried to redefine torture. While the above techniques obviously qualify as torture, the Bush gang claimed that an action could only be considered physical torture if its intensity equaled “the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” and that an action could only be considered psychological torture if it lasted “months or even years.”
While such tortured logic doesn’t fool most of us, I’m afraid that Wolfie and the rest of his pack are just too brainwashed to see through it. So instead of taking Jesus’ words seriously and standing up for things like human rights, they spend their free time sending nasty emails to guys like me.
But at least I got another article out of it.