If you want to know why I cannot bring myself to call the base of the Republican party Christians, and instead use the term Christianist, a new poll helps explain why:

A new poll released Thursday (Sept. 11) finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.

The poll, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57 percent of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.

Southern evangelicals are therefore the mainstay of the torture regime in this country. The only point at which they even balk at torturing people who haven't been subject to minimal due process is when they are reminded that this could come back to hurt Americans. The idea that torture is immoral in itself seems alien to a majority of the millions who lined up to see Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ. Since the South was built on torture-slavery, this is not that historically surprising. Many ancestors of today's Christianists tortured African-Americans routinely. But the extent of Southern evangelicals support for violating one of the core moral absolutes of Christianity is striking.

Southern evangelicals always cite Scripture when arguing that homosexuals should be jailed or sent to therapy or denied basic rights in their marriages. But on torture, they don't cite Scripture:

The new poll found that 44 percent of white Southern vangelicals rely on life experiences and common sense to determine their views about torture. A lower percentage, 28 percent, said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.

The one sliver of good news is that even the Christianist base knows that George W. Bush is a liar on torture:

Pollsters also found that 53 percent of white Southern evangelicals believe the government uses torture in its anti-terrorism campaign, despite claims by government officials to the contrary. About one-third, or 32 percent, said the government does not use torture as a matter of policy.

These people are not in denial. They know what their beloved president is doing - to other human beings and to American honor. And they love it. And guess what? 65 percent of them support the now pro-torture candidate, John McCain. They know what they're doing.

(You can buy a t-shirt with the WWJT logo here. Courtesy of Betty Bowers.)