Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christians and Torture

I will never forget the way I felt while watching a Fox News snippet of Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on the Christian Broadcast Network's The 700 Club. "We have the ability to take [Chavez] out," Robertson told his nearly ancient viewership with a scowling contortion. "And I think the time has come that we exercise that ability." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I mean, I'm not the President of the Hugo Chavez Fan Club or anything, but I'm not calling for a navy seal to put a bullet in his head either.

I couldn't understand why one of the most vocal Christians in America would call for the United States to breach international law to murder an international head of state. Not only is it a crystal clear violation of Romans 13, it flies in the face of compassion, love, self-control, gentleness, meekness and other peaceful principles replete in scripture.

Fortunately, most Christians I know think Robertson was completely off his rocker. (What else is new?) Yet, I have also heard many self-professing Christians make comments about terrorists that express similar attributes. They comment that if we catch someone with known terrorist ties, we should "use any means necessary to get the information out of them," which is a nice way to say, "Let's torture them."

Somehow, I find being pro-torture difficult to reconcile with the teachings of scripture, much less the ministry of Jesus Christ. Think about it. Jesus came to earth during a time when his part of the world was under the thumb of a notorious terrorist: Herod. Just like Bin Laden has injured all of us, Jesus had been severely affected by the terrorism of King Herod. It was likely Herod (or a member of his immediate family) who personally ordered the death of unknown numbers of children in an effort to kill the Christ-child. If that wasn't enough, Herod ordered the execution of Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist. Yet, there is no record of Jesus ever speaking any malice whatsoever about this terrorist or any other. He wouldn't even open his mouth to save His own life and send the murderer Barabbas to a deserved crucifixion. I think this is significant, and simply adds to the many reasons that Christians must maintain a strong anti-torture position.

The actions that have taken place in the dark recesses of Gitmo and elsewhere are repulsive and should have every American who bears the name of Christ incensed. I certainly can't imagine "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" supporting cutting a terror suspect with scissors, much less urinating on them, trampling them, or throwing them into a bucket of excrement. Certainly this is not what justice looks like. Yet, these atrocities and more have occurred under American watch, if not order, and are delineated in detail in a recent Commonweal Magazine article,"The Secret Weapon: Religious Abuse in 'The War on Terror.'"

Where are the Christian voices on this? Where is the outcry? I encourage you to read this article and give it some serious reflection. When it comes to assassinations and torture, I don't care what Pat Robertson or any other "Christian" commentator thinks; I am certain Jesus is appalled.

What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

The only thing I will say in response to this is that, as a Christian, I am against intentionally killing or harming another human in any way. No matter who the victim is - there is never any necessary reason to ever harm or kill anyone - be it a terrorist, a dictator, an intruder in your home, or an unborn baby. There is never a reasonable or necessary time to do so in any instance.

Anthony said...

I think this area is a tadbit more gray than we like to admit. What is the cost of saving lives? Is there any such thing as a necessary evil? I don't know if assassinating rulers is the best idea, but if discovering information from terrorists will stop a building from being blown up, what is the greater good? A thousand people in a building, a single terrorist. Personally, I don't want to an answer that question, but it is lingering out there.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Anthony. To address your question:

I am fairly certain that there is no scriptural reference that would subject the judgement for the results of another's action on one-self...however, what we do ourselves - we will be held accountable for.

What I mean to say is - if I were in a position where, through torture, I could "save" lives - I do not believe that there is anything in scripture that would suggest I should do so (or even imply). For even if I would "save" those lives, I would be held accountable for the treatment of that one individual whom God loves just as He loves me.

The phrase "the greater good" is the same as "the lesser evil". In God’s sight – there is neither. (these are unBiblical ideologies)

I would chose to not torture on my own account (even if knowing full well that there might be lives lost)...because, there is nothing scriptural suggesting to me that what another may do will be my burden in accountability before the Lord.

The cost of saving lives? Quite simply and profoundly, is death. However, that price can not be paid unwillingly.

210 Leadership Blog said...

Nice post brother. very well thought out. this is such a sensitive issue - because it demands us to be humble about the whole issue.

well played Jon.

210 Leadership:
Latest Post: “GOD PLEASE RID ME OF MY UNBELIEF” : The Confession of an Unbelieving Christian . . ."

Katie Corbett said...

The part of this article that spoke to my spirit was not whether torture was right or wrong...that can be debated and tackeled from so many different perspectives. What really spoke to me was the fact that the Koran was used as a main source of torture. I had to ask myself, if I was put into a prison as a detainee, would they use the Bible as a weapon against me? Would my faith in Jesus be the "secret weapon" they use against me? Do I live out my faith everyday, and is it evident enough that they would no doubt want to use it against me? I would like to hope so, but I fear that often times I am careless with the precious gift of God's word. Yes, I have Jesus in my heart, alive and active in my life, BUT at the same time, the Bible, a book that I so often take for granted, by setting it on the ground or leaving it in the car for a day or two are the sacred words of God, given to me. How often do I forget that? Am I careless because I am an American who has practically everything she could want, or because I do not truly understand the gift that I have in my hands. I'm not sure, but I love how this article made me examine my heart and motives.

Tim J. said...

The tension for me is one of love.
Can I knowingly allow even one person to die, if I have the means of stopping it? I'm reminded of one of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who attempted to assassinate Hitler, because Bonhoeffer believed that it was better to murder one man, than allow millions of our brothers and sisters to be killed. This from a guy who wrote an entire Ethics book.
I find it unloving to knowingly allow mass-murder, just as I find it unloving to torture someone.
Good post.