DALLAS (Reuters) – A major U.S. association of evangelical Christians has condemned torture by the U.S. military and reaffirmed its commitment to environmental activism, positions that highlight broader splits in a movement associated with conservative causes.
“United States law and military doctrine has banned the resort to torture or cruel and degrading treatment. Tragically, documented cases of torture and inhumane and cruel behavior have occurred at various sites in the war on terror,” the National Association of Evangelicals said in a statement.
“Current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue,” said the statement endorsed by the association’s board of directors at its annual meeting in Eden, Minnesota, over the weekend. It was the first big NAE meeting since its former president Ted Haggard stepped down in November over a gay-sex scandal.
Evangelical Christians have been among the staunchest supporters of the U.S. war in Iraq and the broader war on terror and many rankle at criticism of the American military which they see as unpatriotic and even un-Christian.
But divisions have emerged among the 60 million U.S. evangelicals as prominent figures publicly embrace causes such as global warming that are usually associated with the left of America’s political divide.
Evangelicals have tended to be more vocal on hot-button culture issues such as abortion and gay marriage — issues which President George W. Bush’s Republican Party has used to get its supporters to the ballot box.
The NAE, with 30 million members, is also socially conservative but it sees room on its Christian agenda for activism in other areas.
“This new document is a Biblical reflection on the unjustified use of torture … It is part of the international agenda that evangelicals have adopted,” Richard Cizik, the NAE’s vice president for governmental affairs, told Reuters.
The board also reaffirmed its 2003 document “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Public Engagement.”
This has the partial backing of other conservative Christians as it stresses the sanctity of life (anti-abortion) and the need to strengthen the family.
But its commitment to “protect God’s creation” which in recent years has included an emphasis on joining the fight against human-induced global warming has met outright hostility from some conservative Christian quarters.
Prominent televangelist and Republican Party stalwart Jerry Falwell has publicly questioned the science of global warming.
Dr. James Dobson, chairman of the influential evangelical advocacy group “Focus on the Family,” regards climate change as a distraction from issues such as abortion.
“We also agree that God’s creation needs to be protected, but we disagree over whether global warming is man-caused and can be man-corrected,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, which is based in Colorado Springs.