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Friday, May 8, 2009

Jesus Is Not Jack Bauer

Another hat tip to DakotaWomen*, who brought to our attention Wednesday this disturbing survey. Among other things, the Pew Forum found that the folks most likely to say torture of suspected terrorists is "sometimes" or "often" justified were white evangelical Protestants. "Unaffiliated" respondents and infrequent chruchgoers expressed the greatest resistance to justifying such torture.

I offered the ladies this comment:

What would Jesus do? Weep. These numbers suggest that too many Christians have conflated Jesus with Jack Bauer or some such archetype. Jesus was not a manly man. He was not a warrior or a champion. He did not build the kingdom by smiting the Romans. And he sure as heck didn't say, "Torture thine enemies."

But what do I know? I'm just one of those soft secular humanists who believes some fundamental dignity is everyone's right [CAH, comment to Kelsey, "Torture Sucks. Why Is That So Hard to Grasp?" DakotaWomen, 2009.05.06].

Indeed, what's a godless commie like me know? Let's ask Jonathan L. Walton, a much more Jesusly dude than I and an assistant professor of religious studies at U. California-Riverside:

Muscular Christianity in America has minimized the vice of torture and extolled the virtue of the Heroic One who endures for a greater cause. The crucified body of Jesus is held up as a paragon of strength, virtue and virility....

Is it a wonder why, then, on Sunday morning it is often hard to tell the difference between Jesus and Jack Bauer on Fox’s megahit “24?” Like a long list of American messianic masculine archetypes (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Mel Gibson), Jesus is situated in this tradition of bulletproof heroes who mock the machinations of torture.

What is more, like Jack Bauer, anyone who is willing to endure torture for others is that much more justified in dishing it out. And, unfortunately, since muscular evangelicals so identify with the mutilated body of Jesus who “suffered for the sins of the world,” it is only right that they, too, would condone the suffering of others in order to purge our world of “evil” [Jonathan L. Walton, "Evangelical Church of Torture and Jack Bauer," Religion Dispatches, 2009.05.06].

It's not Sunday, but I've got comps this weekend, so I'll say it now. Read the Bible. Read Ben Hur. You'll see. Jesus is not Jack Bauer.

(Matthew Glass, where are you when we need you?

*And a belated hat tip to Tim Gebhart, who blogged on this torture survey at A Progressive on the Prairie last weekend. Indeed, I need to pay more attention to my fellows!


  1. Cory, you have identified one of the greatest inconsistencies in the Republican platform. This dilemma splits my left and right Republican brains like a cleaver.

    Abortion is another example, at least for moderate Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and me. The death penalty is yet another example.

    Certain acts are evil on their face. I can't imagine how Jesus could do anything but weep when He sees an act of torture, an abortion, or an execution.

  2. Cory, you ain't been reading my blog. I mentioned and linked to the survey on May 2.

  3. Thanks, Tim! My apologies for not catching your commentary sooner. You are now duly noted above.

  4. You're the best hat-tipper out there, Cory -- a true gentleman in the blogosphere!

    Sorry I missed your post, as well, Tim.


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