Wednesday, May 13, 2009


“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail

I’m afraid we as the church have all too few times through the years been a thermometer rather than a thermostat. And the church, we must remember, is made up of individuals. Me.

Our President recently released memos from the previous administration, not only condoning but promoting torture on suspected terrorists (euphemistically referred to as “enhanced interrogation tactics”). These memos even gave detailed instructions as to how far one can go in “interrogation.” For releasing the memos, he was condemned by members of that administration as well as radio talking heads for potentially endangering Americans.

The Pew Research Center took a poll on the issue and found that:
• 40% of atheists, agnostics and unaffiliated felt torture is “often” or “sometimes” justified.
• 54% of weekly church goers felt the same.
• 62% of white evangelicals believe torture can be justified – more than mainline Protestants or Roman Catholics.

Even if the figures are skewed a bit – or a lot – we have a moral problem here. Why should those who claim the name of Christ ever advocate torture? We may argue about whether or not lives have been saved by the information gathered (and all the facts aren’t in yet), but isn’t that simply claiming that the end justifies the means? Should we bring back the Inquisition?

I suppose many of those good church folks are the same ones who would raise their voices against embryonic stem-cell research, even though its advocates claim that it will save lives. But aren’t both sides using the same “ethical” arguments?

Both the right and the left take stands on moral/ethical issues, and I fear that our concepts of what’s right and what’s wrong are often formed by our political views, when it should be the other way around. And all too often we, who claim to be followers of Christ, fall into this trap. It would be quite easy to come up with two different lists of rights and wrongs, based on whether one is right or left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat.

There are issues in both lists that need our attention. We need to look at the issues, not from a liberal or conservative worldview, but from a biblical worldview. What does the Scripture say? What would Jesus do? If we do this we will undoubtedly find ourselves in agreement with those on the right or on the left on various issues. But, if we place ourselves in either camp, or place those who disagree with us in either, we compromise our witness to the truth of the Scripture and to the gospel of Christ.

“Stop being conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so as to test and approve what God’s will is – the good and acceptable and perfect’ (Romans 12:2)

Bill Ball


Sherry said...

it sure makes it hard to vote when each party has some things right and some things wrong

so I place the things on a hierarchy and vote accordingly

don't know if it's the best way to do things - it sure puts me on a different side than most of those around me

Bill Ball said...

I agree that it makes it hard to vote. We have to think through the issues. I believe that's why so many simply choose to let the talking heads do their thinking for them.

marie said...

Bill, this is the first time I've come across your blog, and I learned from what you had to say. Thank you. Matt and I are born again believers in Jesus Christ, and know you from Conversation Cafe. I wanted to ask you about Joshua 10:14. I believe in prayer, and know God answered Moses' prayers for the people over and over. So what does this mean to you: "There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!" ? God had listened to Moses, and others. What does this mean to you? Thank you. Marie

Bill Ball said...

Marie: I'm out of town for the weekend. I'll give this one some thought and try to get on this later.

Mike said...

I think that the "torture" issue is more of a conservative/liberal thing rather than an atheist/church-goer/evangelical thing. Conservatives, however, can often be on the wrong side of an argument, at least from a truly Biblical perspective. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment " . . . our concepts of what’s right and what’s wrong are often formed by our political views, when it should be the other way around." Another example: most evangelicals are very big proponents of capital punishment. However, that is violating the concept of "sanctity of life" no matter what kind of spin we would put on it. I have had to rethink my position on capital punishment over the years, and I've come to the conclusion that if we err, we should err on the side of life. This is a difficult issue for me because "law and order" conservatism has capital punishment as a main tenet.

To be honest, I think that the Catholics tend to get more of these issues right than the evangelicals do. Maybe it is because they are not so weighed down by doctrinaire conservatism.

Sherry said...

I think torture falls under a lot of issues the Bible addresses such as the commands to love, show mercy, be kind, be at peace with all men, turn the other cheek, be a good neighbor, etc.

Not to mention the good ol' golden rule which is in every religion in some form or other, including ours in the sermon on the mount. This one even makes sense politically regarding this issue.