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Professor challenges torture poll of evangelicals

October 31, 2008

George Fox professor, Mark David Hall, wrote a well-received guest opinion article in The Sunday Oregonian about faulty logic used on evangelicals views on torture.  Here is a sample of that article.

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Manipulation of the latter serves as the basis of Tom Krattenmaker’s smear of evangelicals published in The Sunday Oregonian (“Torture and evangelicals: Faith takes back seat to power and politics,” Oct. 19).  Krattenmaker breathlessly compares one poll reporting that 57 percent of white Southern evangelicals think torture can “often” or “sometimes” be justified, with another showing that 48 percent of the general public has identical views.

He does not mention that the same polls reveal that 68 percent of the nation believes torture may be justified in at least some circumstances, as compared to 73 percent of white Southern evangelicals — a difference well within the polls’ margins of error.

Nor does he consider the possibility that factors such as region may have impacted the findings. As a transplanted Southerner (I received my Ph.D. from the University of Virginia), I can testify that Southerners are a pugnacious people.

The South’s militaristic streak predates evangelicalism’s grip on the region — witness its many successes on the battlefield against steep odds in the Civil War. More to the point, Southerners today are significantly more likely than residents of other regions to think they would do “better than average in a fistfight” (according to Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”) and to enlist in the military (according to a 2006 Heritage Foundation study).
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