Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why are we not appalled?

I was appalled to read this article in our local paper this morning. I'd like to say that I can't believe that Christians would be so willing to support torture, but the reality is that I've heard comments to that effect among various people I know. One blog I read went so far as to say that the methods the US government has used aren't really torture anyway. They are just "uncomfortable things." Would we call them that if they were being used to convince believers in other countries to renounce their faith? Or would it be torture in those cases? I don't think we can have it both ways.

We can apply the ever-popular WWJD to this issue. I don't think it's hard to reach an answer. I cannot imagine that Jesus would ever condone the abuse of another human being. I understand the desire to protect ourselves and our loved ones. But that does not justify tormenting other humans to extract potentially useful information. Our safety and security is not the highest priority. Living Christlike lives before the nations is. I think many in the American church have misplaced their priorities. We value our lives and our way of life more than our God. Could God say of us what is said to John of the brothers and sisters who have gone before us, that "they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death"? (Rev. 12:11) I would rather go to the death than to stain the name of Christ by condoning immoral, unjust behavior including torture.

Some might say, "But if we do not oppose evil it will overcome us and there will be no opportunity to be God's witnesses." I'm not saying we should not oppose evil. I am saying that we cannot use evil to oppose evil because then we can no longer offer a better example. We lose the moral high ground the minute we adopt immoral methods. Notice what precedes the words I just cited from Revelation 12:11. It says: "They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." They didn't do it through force of arms. They didn't do it by resorting to the evil methods of their enemies. They did it through their testimony to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It's pretty hard to communicate the message of Christ's love when you're torturing someone, isn't it?

I think that the Christians in the United States should be the first ones calling on our government to renounce torture. We should be setting the example and leading the charge, and not the charge to put suspects to the rack in order that we might feel safe and secure. As the article I mentioned earlier reminds us, we've dropped the ball too many times in the past. Let's not drop it again this time.


  1. I'm not sure if you mean my blog, but I did use the phrase "uncomfortable things" when I linked to a Charles Krauthammer article on torture. And if you do mean my blog, I'd like to clarify what I was saying. The uncomfortable things I was referring to were the things quoted in the article -- "face slap, sleep interruption, a caterpillar in a small space" -- that many are calling torture. Like Krauthammer, I take issue with using the word torture for those behaviors.

    In any argument it's important to first define the terms. What do you mean by torture? Do you consider those behaviors -- "face slap, sleep interruption, a caterpillar in a small space" -- torture? I don't.

    To me equating the "uncomfortable things" with torture is like saying Walmart not wishing me a Merry Christmas is persecution because of my faith.

  2. Anne,

    I was referring to your blog in my post and should have been straightforward about that. I apologize for what was a well-intentioned choice to not cast aspersion on you directly. I also must admit that I had not made the time to read Krauthammer's article personally until I received your response. I should have done that also, though my post was prompted more by the op-ed piece in our local paper today and only secondarily by your post.

    Having said that, I appreciate your emphasis on clarifying terms. I agree that this is important. I believe this has been done internationally through various treaties to which the United States is signatory. I cannot claim to be familiar with the details of these treaties, though it would be worth investigating exactly what they define as torture.

    I would still argue one of my basic points though. If these "uncomfortable things" were being done to Americans held in other countries, I believe we would loudly decry them as torture and call them inappropriate and immoral. We don't allow them in our own legal system. But we want to hold a double standard and allow them when it benefits us. I don't think we can have it both ways.

    Thank you for your response. I find your blog thought-provoking and insightful and I tend to agree with you more often than not. But on this issue I must disagree, politely and respectfully I hope.