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What Are Christians Really Like?

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

I recently came across some survey results which were very confusing. Christians regularly point to their alleged more noble characteristics, especially when evangelizing. Christianity makes them better people they tell us. They point to their selfless concern for others, their compassion, tolerance, and unerring sense of fairness and justice. You know, that attitude of love thine enemies and treat others as you would have them treat you. In Luke 6:27, for example, Jesus admonishes his followers to, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you…” In light of this, I find those survey results seem to suggest a disconnect between how Christians describe themselves and what their opinions say about them.

The survey, by Washington Post/ABC News found that Christians were, by wide margins, more supportive than the non-religious of the CIAs recently revealed treatment of terrorism suspects.

Among the non-religious, 72% said the treatment amounted to torture, while just 39% of white evangelicals thought it was torture. And, while 41% of the non-religious thought the CIA treatment of prisoners was justified, more than two out of three white evangelicals thought it was justified.

According to an article by Sarah Posner for ReligionDispatches.org at the Univ. of Southern California, “Majorities in all three of these Christian groups believed the torture ‘produced important information that could not have been obtained any other way," even though the Senate report debunked that claim. (The three Christian groups were white evangelicals, white non-evangelical Protestants, and Catholics.)

Christians were, by large margins, more supportive than the non-religious of the CIAs recently revealed treatment of terrorism suspects.So, compared to the non-religious, Christians were much more likely to support the CIAs treatment of suspects, were far less likely to call that treatment torture, and most thought that treatment got important intelligence despite the Senate investigators’ findings to the contrary. Hey, wait, where’s that famous Christian tolerance, compassion, and sense of justice I spoke of in the first paragraph? Aren’t these survey results the reverse of what we should expect from enlightened Christians?

Then again, these numbers do suggest a basic paranoia among Christians that we have come to expect; an “us against them” mentality. And, they do lend weight to the theory that Christianity is declining rapidly in Europe mainly because people have less to fear there because of much better social safety nets than we have here in the U.S.

I am reminded of the former Vice President Dick Cheney’s statement on the Guantanamo detainees, that he wasn’t interested in the courts trying them (which would be the fair way of dealing with suspects), he just wanted to keep them off the streets. When Christians feel threatened, all that niceness gets swiped off the table. It’s like Cheney couldn’t imagine himself being in those prisoners’ shoes – accused, with no opportunity to defend himself - because god is on his side.

It seems that if we want to know what Christians are really like, the last people we should ask are Christians themselves.

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