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Born again died again Christians

23 June 2009

What are the top five social and ethical issues facing us today? Matt Stone asked this on this blog recently.

One of the things mentioned was torture, and something about that that ought to concern Christians is that in a recent survey in the USA a higher-proportion of churchgoers than non-churchgoers thought that torture was morally and ethically justified.

If the church is a hospital for sinners, then we must expect to find sinners in our churches. We might find people who have tortured others, people who have robbed others, people who have abused others in various ways. We’re all sinners in one way or another.

The problem with the survey, though, is that it shows that people don’t even recognise the sinful act as sinful.

This was highlighted in another blog post I read recently, on the Quo Vadis blog, which deals with this issue, and provides some links to other blog posts on the topic.

As I listened to local radio pundits discuss the release of the torture memos by the administration, and debate the merits of prosecution, a listener called in and began his statement with the words “I’m a born again Christian, but that has nothing to do with my response to this question. Yes, I would torture.”

Born again?

As St Paul said, the dog returns to its vomit.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 June 2009 7:47 pm

    An excellent post, Steve.

    Do you think that, at least in part, the loss of the icon in the Protestant churches — which means that the awareness that every person is made in the image and after the likeness of God — might account for the apparent willingness of those who identify themselves as being “born again” to subject another person to torture?

    • 24 June 2009 6:06 am

      It is quite possible that iconoclasm contributed to this.

      Forty-five years ago I visited a Pentecostal church (Assemblies of God) and the preacher happened to be preaching on whether the church should oppose detention without trial (some church leaders had objected to a proposed law that would allow people to be detained for 90 days).

      His answer was that the church should not oppose it, and his text was “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

      And my response was: Consider a 90-day detainee. In whose image is he made? Caesar’s, or God’s?

  2. 24 June 2009 4:28 pm

    I came here via the BTG SynchroBlog, fyi…

    I am one of the Christians who is horrified by the idea that torture is tolerable to “church folk.” Anyone who says “I’m a
    Christian but I support actions which would make the ‘love thy neighbor’ guy weep” has proved rather the opposite, in my view.

    There is a huge gap between being “Christian” and “churchian.” I suspect 90% of the folks who call themselves the first are really the second – supporting the church, not the One in whose name the church was raised. As Max Lucado put it, the men who cast lots for Christ’s clothing at the crucifixion were indeed close to the cross, but quite far from loving and following Christ.

  3. 25 June 2009 10:09 am

    I think there are very anemic understandings of sin circulating around.

  4. 26 June 2009 12:48 pm

    Shocking. As far as I am concerned, the concept of sin should very much include things like torture, murder, rape and robbery (and Christians shouldn’t be so bothered about the nuances of sexual activity).

    @ Fr John McCuen: I don’t know about the lack of icons being the problem here; there was plenty of torture done by Roman Catholics, who had images too (I know they were often statues and not icons with divine perspective, but still). Also Unitarians don’t have icons, but we would unanimously condemn torture. Pagans have images, and we would also condemn torture.

  5. 29 June 2009 3:58 am

    I rather believe that its source is the disinterest evangelicals have in Jesus Christ. They don’t think they do, but the example of Jesus has simply faded from view as the measure of Christianity, having been replaced by loyalty to theological and cultural minutia.

    • 29 June 2009 6:03 am

      Yes, I think some of the self-styled “born again” Christians elevate the Bible above Jesus, and not even the Bible, but their own human construct of the Bible. It’s ironic that biblical inerrancy is exactly the kind of “tradition of men” that they so often fulminate against.

      • 1 July 2009 12:15 am

        Steve,
        Thanks for the link.

        I think you’re right on here–it’s amazing what a good cover inerrancy makes for our own erroneous interpretations of scripture.

  6. 2 July 2009 3:47 pm

    From an American perspective: a book called Oath Betrayed was published in 2007 by Steven Miles, MD, a researcher with the University of Minnesota Medical Center. It gives the results of Miles’ study of some 60,000 pages of official documents, released by the U.S. government (the lag for declassification is on the order of two years), on the involvement of medical personnel in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. His focus was solely on those cases where doctors and other medical professionals were directly complicit in instances of beatings, asphyxiation, sodomy, abuse of children, the pouring and igniting of lighter fluid on the backs of prisoners’ hands and other forms of torture. Miles said, in a recent Minnesota magazine article:

    “This is easily the saddest and most disappointing academic project I’ve ever done. Not just because docs were involved, but also because this is not a U.S. military that I recognize and it’s also not U.S. intelligence services that I recognize. I’ve had experience with both, and this is just outside of our history.

    “[I don’t see] the type of pressure that is brought to bear against health professionals who have protested torture in countries like Chile or Uruguay or the Soviet Union or Turkey, and risk being disappeared or tortured or killed or having their family members killed for that resistance. The pressure that was brought to bear was peer pressure, in some cases the threat of a transfer. But when I look at my colleagues in other torturing countries, I see them taking absolutely heroic and in some cases suicidal risks to protest torture. So I don’t accept — I simply do not accept — the notion that the pressure was of a degree that should have caused them to be silent or complicit.

    “An interviewer asked the question, ‘Is torture ever justified if it could save lives?’ Dr. Miles, who has obviously wrestled with this question for years in the course of his research, said: ‘Every time a nation has decided that torture can be justified, it’s wound up misusing it. They’ve taken a singular case and they’ve gone to a general practice. So I don’t think that the technology of torture works. It doesn’t produce reliable information. And we don’t have a way of using that information in real time. And so I’d answer the question no.’

    “…since the end of World War II, the United States led the way on constructing and then piece by piece adding to international law designed to prevent the mistreatment of prisoners. First it was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was written by Eleanor Roosevelt. Then it was the Geneva Conventions. Then it was the Convention Against Torture. Then it was the U.S. War Crimes Act. Then it was the Torture Victims Relief Act…We have to figure out as a nation how to fix this new wound to civil society which we’ve inflicted by going down this path.

    “…the real problem here is that torture is used generally by countries to suppress the emergence of civil society…[W]hen we say that a chief executive can appeal to national emergency and national sovereignty to justify torture, we’ve essentially given a green light for the suppression of civil societies around the world.”

    Add to this the fact that most, if not all, of the doctors mentioned would probably be (at least nominal) Christians. Add to that the “law of love”….God have mercy on us all.

  7. Livingstone Besweri permalink
    29 March 2010 12:24 pm

    RE: MEMBERSHIP.

    We hereby ask to become member church in your ministry.

    We are in Thailand Asia and we are looking for more friends in Christ.
    And we will be very happy to be one family in all as Christ Jesus is the head of your

    ministry and us in Thailand Asia.

    Today our prayer to you is that let God be number one in your ministries and in all the family.

    Thank you in advance hope to hearing from you with good news.

    We really ask to be under your ministry.

    God keep you all.

    Yours in Christ,

    Livingstone Besweri Kitoogo.

    Email: bklivingstone@gmail.com

    Tel: +66(0) 877617974

    Ratchaburi Thailand

    • 30 March 2010 1:28 am

      The following information, from Wikipedia, may help you. I suggest you approach those mentioned here:

      Orthodoxy in Thailand is presented by the Representative Office of Russian Orthodox Church, including the Orthodox parish of Saint Nicolas in Bangkok.

      The mission is headed by Father Oleg Cherepanin (by 2008 information) and serves not only Russian tourists and residents in Thailand, but also local believers of Thai origin.

      Besides Bangkok, there are small Russian Orthodox congregations in Phuket and Chonburi province. The Russian Orthodox Church has translated into the Thai language the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Orthodox Book of prayer and a book about the history of Russian Orthodox Church. In July, 2008, the representative office of Russian Orthodox Church was officially registered by Thailand authorities as a foundation named the “Orthodox Christian Church in Thailand.”

      The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy and Great Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church also have plans to establish their parishes in Thailand. They have often organized Church services and Divine Liturgy for their members in Thailand with the help of the Embassy of Greece in Bangkok.

    • 30 March 2010 1:42 pm

      Here is a more accurate reply: you can find all the information you need at this Web site.

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