Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Torture a problem for Evangelicals

From the AP
Among evangelical leaders, debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists has prompted introspection about faith, ethics, the Golden Rule, just wars, Jack Bauer and Jesus.

A number of evangelical leaders have made opposition to torture without exceptions a moral cause over the past three years, part of a broadening of the movement's agenda beyond traditional culture war issues. Others in the movement, including many Christian right leaders, have largely resisted or stayed silent.....

The poll data from a survey of 742 U.S. adults released April 29 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants said torture of a suspected terrorist could be often or sometimes justified to obtain important information. By contrast, 51 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, 46 percent of white mainline Protestants and 40 percent of the religiously unaffiliated held that position.....

"There is a version of Christianity in America that I think is not adequately committed to the Bible's teachings about the sacredness of every human life, including the lives of our enemies," Gushee [ a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta and president of Evangelicals for Human Rights] said. "It's also insufficiently committed to the peacemaking teachings of Jesus and the example of Jesus as one who did not resort to violence or cruelty to accomplish any of his goals and instead suffered violence instead of inflicting it."[emphasis mine]

Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate affiliated with several Christian right groups over the years, said the discussion should not come down to "Would Jesus torture?.... The more appropriate question is, 'What is a follower of Jesus permitted to do?'"

Bauer said the answer is "it depends" .
Words fail me. This is the greatest moral failing imaginable, and Bauer says "it depends."

16 comments:

Fred Preuss said...

No-torturing a child/raping a child would be worse.
But Bauer is still an idiot.
And religion is still declining as people wise up and decide to do something productive with their Sunday mornings.

Erp said...

I would also say murder is often worst (though torture many times leads to murder as happened to those who disappeared permanently in Argentina).

IT said...

There is something particularly revolting, though, about the deliberate viciousness of torture. They waterboarded one guy 183 times. Another guy, they beat his legs so badly that if they hadn't killed him both legs would have needed amputation. The thing is torture WAS murder in far too many cases.

But "it depends."

Fred Preuss said...

You can use mental torture-force them to listen to sermons for hours on end.
Hours of trying to talk to and listen someone who doesn't exist would drive anyone to say what he knows.

JCF said...

Yes, Fred, hearing you channel the non-existent being "The Uber-Intelligence of Fred Preuss", is rapidly becoming sheer torture.

***

While, on the one hand, I'm suitably dismayed by the Pro-Torture JeeZus-Worshippers, there is the Hypothetical-Situation Conundrum to consider.

I oppose torture, and would LIKE to think I would hold to that principle, under ALL circumstances...

...but I can't know that I would. Situations themselves may contain "breaking points", at which all our higher principles go out the window [Which CNN's then-anchor Bernard Shaw demonstrated so devastatingly, when he asked Dem Prez Nominee Mike Dukakis, "What if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered?" in relation to the death penalty. In his response, Dukakis held to his principle . . . but in a manner so detached from the context of the question, that it seemed sort of unreal (at best)].

Admittedly, we probably can't be our best selves, if we don't have a "best self" (i.e., those ConEvs who avowedly WOULD torture in a hypothesis, are likely to!).

But we who disagree should not assume a self-righteousness which may well be unwarranted (if just the right button in our personal mental/emotional make-up is pushed). It's that gap (between our Ideal Selves, and our Real Selves), which prompted St. Paul to cry out "Wretch that I am!" JMO.

Erp said...

I should point out to Fred that we unaffiliated didn't do too well either in the poll.

I also oppose torture and would like to think I would hold to that in all situations. However....

Elizabeth said...

I balked at the "what is a follower of Jesus PERMITTED to do?" So now we would legalistically say well maybe this.... or maybe that...but not that. That is not the spirit of "love thy neighbor as thyself" or any other of Jesus' commandments to love each other. We are expected to act out of love, not see how close to the wire we can come without violating the rule.

NancyP said...

It always amazes me that the same Christians who stare at the image of their incarnate God every week will go right ahead and endorse torture. Uh - what exactly are those two pieces of wood and handful of nails for?

Maybe the "we don't want it to look like church" sanctuary designs, so popular in conservative evangelical and non-denominational churchs, have helped enable teh Stupid among the pro-torture Christians. The (Roman, Anglo, etc) Catholics see the image of the crucified Jesus every week, and should have a better chance of connecting those two neurons "Jesus on cross" and "torture".

Cany said...

gary bauer is a shit bag neocon. recognize that for what it is.

he can harp all he wants about the travesty of roe v wade while opposing stem cell research and not opposing torture.

if anti-class had a face, it would be bauer.

read more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Bauer

and here:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/amazing-revival-gary-bauer

he's a political piece of crap.

Марко Фризия said...

Torture is a problem for everyone, a legal, theological, ethical, and spiritual issue. I am a follower of Jesus and so it is my own problem. The Letter to the Hebrews calls us to a level of profound solidarity with victims of torture, seeing and understanding ourselves as though we were victims of torture (Greek from Hebrews 13:3 lit. "in the body with"). "Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured." I served in the U.S. Army. I had the right and a moral and legal obligation to refuse unlawful orders. Our Army Field Manuals pertaining to interrogations and the laws of land warfare prohibit torture (and specifically prohibit waterboarding). We were permitted to employee an approach known as "Fear Up Harsh" (raising one's voice to a detainee, having an unfriendly demeanor). But this approach did not involve any physical contact with a detainee. It is a crime federally and internationally to abuse or maltreat a detainee or anyone who is "hors de combat." Because the USA has prosecuted people (and punished our own soldiers in Vietnam) who used waterboarding, there is a solid legal precedent for waterboarding to be understood as torture. Torture is prohibited by the U.S. Code and is a capital crime if torture results in the death of a detainee. (See: USC Title 18, Part I, Ch 113C § 2340). I have been having seizures and I am back in the USA for the time being for care in the VA Hospital system. I had a very bad head injury in the Army which causes the seizures. I wish, on a local level, there could be more dicsussion about this issue in parishes, a clarification of our own values at the grassroots level. I recommend "Torture and Eucharist" by William Kavanaugh as a resource. There is an English translation of Jürgen Moltmann's "Wer ist Christus für uns heute?" I think it is called "Who Is Jesus Christ For Us Today." This poignant book is probably the best choice for group study (it addresses torture and other social problems). I carried a copy of this book in the right cargo leg pocket of my military uniform for years. Moltmann observes that we serve Jesus, who was tortured to death. WWJD? Jesus was tortured to death and I can't imagine that our Lord wants his followers to torture other people created in God's image for any reason. I feel a great deal of personal anguish that some Christians, my country's gov't, some of my colleagues in the miltary (and in the federal govnerment) have enaged in and/or promote torture. The Evangelical Christian approach to polity rejects a central teaching magisterium. But many American Evangelicals seems to passively and unquestioningly accept the moral and political leadership of folks like Mr. Bauer, investing these leaders with the de factor aura of an infallibility: "Mr. Bauer is very smart, knows the Bible very well, so he must be correct about this torture issue." Some of the same people have ideas about American exceptionalism: "If my country and her leaders do it, it cannot be wrong." I am so grateful for Evangelical voices condemning torture in unambiguous terms. If people reject the religious and moral argument go for the pragmatic, it is U.S. military doctrine (again I refer you to our Field Manuals) that torture does not work and does not produce actionable intelligence. Evidence obtained by torture cannot be used to prosecute anyone. Torture also provides propaganda to our nation's foes and endangers our troops. Peace be with all of you.

IT said...

marko, I'm so sorry to hear of your health issues. Good thoughts going your way...

As for the torture issue, you rightly point out that those who torture side with the Romans, against Christ.

But let us also reflect on what it does to the people committing it. It's not just the sadists. It's the corruption of "normal" people, the release of their baser instincts which as JCF and erp note, we all have, that is deeply wrong here.

Once we have told a soldier that torture is okay, what have we done to his/her psyche, when we send them home again and the rules change?

It's deeply injuring at so many levels.

AND IT'S JUST PLAIN WRONG.

Марко Фризия said...

IT, Thanks for your solidarity with me as I recover! I agree with you about the torturers. In regards to torture and other violent acts, Pope Paul VI wrote ("Guadium et Spes" 1965) that these acts, "poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury." We must love and be ministers of reconciliation to the victims and their torturers. Jesus, as he was being tortured to death, prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

PseudoPiskie said...

Torture is revenge put upon someone regardless of whether the person is guilty. Didn't Jesus have something to say about that?

Fred Preuss said...

I don't know Piskie-but why use rhetorical questions? Can't you just say what you mean?

The young fogey said...

We're singing from the same hymnal on this one. A blessed Eastertide.

Марко Фризия said...

Around 2000 of the detainee abuse photos are being leaked out. I have seen some of them. I looked at these pics today and got out my Army Field Manual for Interrogations to review some things. There is no ambiguity in that manual about what is right and wrong. Smearing feces on a naked man and threatening to sodomize him with a broom handle is not going to produce actionable intelligence or make the USA any safer from terrorism. I feel shame that some of my colleagues did these things. It actually may have an adverse impact on us that these things happened. I do think we need to enforce our laws in this matter and I don't care what political party a person is a member of if they did these things. Wanting justice does not mean I hate the perpetrators or want revenge. This abuse and torture of detainees only hurts our country. And the Army doctrine on this matter is very specific about what is acceptable an unacceptable. And the Field Manual indicates that unlawful orders cannot and must not be followed. And the Field Manual makes it mandatory to report thess crimes. Jesus said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." I felt agitated and upset today. So I walked a great deal today, carrying my "броеница" (prayer beads) praying the Jesus Prayer. At a certain point I realized I was praying "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on US" (as opposed to "me.")