Friday, August 21, 2009

Christians and Gitmo

A fascinating article was published today by RelevantMagazine.com entitled "Are Christians Wrong about Gitmo?" The article was authored by Natalie and Tyler Wigg-Stevenson and cites two fascinating polls. The first was conducted by Mercer University in 2008 and concludes that a majority of white Southern Evangelicals thought that it was "often" or "sometimes" justified to torture suspected terrorists and that their faith had little to do with how they reached that conclusion. The second was conducted by Pew Research Center and concludes that a majority of respondents who claim no religious affiliation opposed torture. (Looks like the compassion award goes to the non-Christians yet again.)

The Relevant article, however, pushes beyond the rich ironies of these polls to make some strong claims. "The fundamental problem with Guantanamo, from a Christian perspective, is that it is a place outside the law," Natalie and Tyler write, claiming that Gitmo is inconsistent with the Bible's teachings on justice, law, authority, and judgment.

The point is made eloquently, but what is the solution? It begins with a reaffirmation of the values we hold dearly. "We owe it to our country, our church, and most of all to our God to state with courage and conviction that morality and justice are not luxuries—they are essentials," they say. "We believe these things not because they are easy or even self-evident, but because we are among those for whom 'Christian teachings or beliefs' form the foundation of everything we think, say and do."

I have often stated my opposition to torture, and I have done so without reservation. I think Gitmo is a blemish on America, and should be closed. I am, however, open to other opinions. What do you think about Gitmo/torture/this article?

8 comments:

tmamone said...

I never understood why the Church would be so divided about the torture issue. As you may remember, I, too, once wrote an article for Relevant about torture, and it got a whole lot of different responses. Some said "Yeah, right on!" Others responded "Why are you distorting Scripture like that?" Well, I just figured when the Bible says not to repay evil with evil, torture was included.

I heard on NPR the other day that they're thinking about relocating the detainees to a Michigan prison.

Iam4Jesus said...

Torture...yes, it is wrong.

Close Guantanamo? I don't know about that - but maybe change the way it is run, established, and enforced....

We follow "guidelines" as established with Geneva (however possibly outdated and void since we ignore them already in other instances) when it comes to holding 'prisoners of war'. We do need to have something established in which we would hold these people - not becuase they are prisoners, but becuase they are people. If that be at a newly revisited Guantanamo - maybe.

I do think the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo has been wrong - but to close the place entirely maybe not the right decision - I would rather see the place made to comply with stricter international guidelines, maybe....(why is it there are only two sides to the argument it seems - close it, keep it open?)....

Placing the detainees in a national holding - I don't think is the best idea. According to present guidelines - they are not to be released into their own territories until "conflict" has been resolved. As well, they are not to be released into "common" facilities either - which would be a violation if we hold them in a US facility. These detainment camps were established for the detainee's best interest and well-being...

Lo said...

Guantanamo is, unfortunately, an issue with many layers. Because of that, it's easy for people from any political ideology to develop opinions or convictions without all of the facts. And while I'm talking about facts, it's important to note that "some" never means "all."

Social Justice advocates, likely without any military/legal/judicial/otherwise significant experience, will scream until they are blue in the face that what happens at Guantanamo is torture. But you will seldom meet someone who will follow those statements with an admission of at least partial ignorance to all of the facts with the same passion and vigor with which they make their opposing statements.

I'd be interested to know if the authors of that articles had law degrees, or any sort of education in international law. Calling Guantanamo Bay "a place outside the law" is a bold claim, and I would be interested to read how they substantiated it.

To be clear, I do not advocate torture. But I also don't determine what is and is not torture any more than I determine what makes someone a suspected terrorist. So it's not for lack of compassion that my faith has little to do with how I draw my conclusion. But if we really think we're ever going to get 100% honesty about the goings-on of Gitmo, I think we're setting ourselves up for disappointment.

bill07407 said...

I am confused about why you discuss torture in an article about Gitmo when there has been no torture at Gitmo. Doing that seems very dishonest to me.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Bill,

Depends how you define torture doesn't it. We don't know the extent of what has occurred at Gitmo, which clouds the issue. However, we do know that there was waterboarding going on. Now even Richard Land, uber-conservative head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, has said that is torture. Again, it depends how you define torture, but your stated position places you in the slim minority of ethicists--even conservative Christian ones.

Jm

bill07407 said...

Waterboarding is not torture. Unpleaant yes but there is no danger of injury. Why join the leftist on this? Mr. Land, whom I usually agree with, can be wrong also.

Jonathan Merritt said...

We'll have to disagree on that one, Bill. I also disagree that this is a leftist stance. As I have said, the SBC's Ethics head agrees and so does the NAE's. That means that the responsible heads denominationally representing over 75% of all evangelical Christians agree. Leftist? I think not.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Bill,

I would commend to you this article that ran in the New York Daily News entitled, "I Know Waterboarding is Torture--Because I Did It Myself":

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2007/10/31/2007-10-31_i_know_waterboarding_is_torture__because.html

Jonathan