“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)