When I first started the Downfall series, I had in mind writing a segment on the religious right's endorsement of the Bush Administration's use of torture on those it identified as enemy combatants. At the time, though, I mostly had anecdotal evidence to work with; I wasn't certain how many evangelicals really thought torture was a legitimate use of government power.
Now, however, we do know. Via Joe.My.God and others, a new Pew Research Center survey found that 54% of regular churchgoers - and more than 60% of white evangelicals - believe that the use of torture against suspected terrorists is often or sometimes justified. It's worth noting that the survey's sample size was relatively small, but it's nonetheless unlikely that Pew would have found so many pro-torture evangelicals if their numbers weren't considerable.
Only a decade ago, the idea that the President of the United States would authorize interrogation methods that the entire civilized world denounced when they were used against American POW's in past wars was all but unthinkable. Had the Clinton administration been the first to employ waterboarding, there is little question that conservative evangelicals would have been up in arms and shouting for Clinton's impeachment. But since it was initiated by their man in the White House, in the wake of an attack on American civilians by Muslim extremists, it suddenly became acceptable based on the hypothetical possibility that it might eventually save American lives.
And so the church, having abandoned its spiritual mandate in pursuit of a political agenda, has become further tainted by the very power system it thought it could wield in God's name. The same believers who would most adamantly insist that God's high standards preclude a gay person from ever being a genuine Christian no longer see anything wrong with treating suspected enemies with ruthless brutality.
I make an effort to avoid speaking on God's behalf on my blog (or anywhere else), but "Jesus wept" (which CNN tagged onto the end of the url for its article) seems pretty likely to have been his response to this survey.