I APOLOGIZE for talking so much about social issues lately. But doggone if it’s not all over the news.
Like egg on Wolf Blitzer’s face, it’s just too hard to ignore.
Torture is the headline of the moment. It captured the world’s attention with yesterday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture. Allegedly, the CIA went a little overboard with their Whitehouse-approved aggressive interrogation techniques.
As in, “Try to breathe while swallowing five gallons of water.”
I’m thinking about this as a Christian who lives in a predominately secular nation that still likes to call itself Christian – at least in our values, though certainly not in our worship practices, since 4 out of 5 don’t go to church.
I remember the debate after 9/11 about whether or not to torture. And I remember the shock I felt later when President George W. Bush admitted on air that he had approved the “enhanced interrogation methods.”
I wasn’t shocked because of his involvement in this. I figured that much, since he was the boss. I was shocked because it seemed to me he was admitting that he was just another war criminal, but one who figured he could get away with it because he was the leader of the most weaponized nation on the planet.
As in, “Go ahead. Make my day.”
All these years I’ve been wondering when or if anyone would be held accountable to the Geneva Convention rules of war that forbid torturing prisoners. Breaking those rules can guarantee accused war criminals a front-row seat at the International Criminal Court.
As I listened yesterday to talking heads and as I read the quotes of people on both sides of that argument, I find myself disappointed with both sides.
On the side of the CIA and the Bush Whitehouse, people argue that everyone was scared after the terror attacks on 9/11. Folks feared more attacks were coming. So it seemed justifiable to use all means necessary to get intel on the imminent attacks.
Throw some water on a few foreigners to save a few thousand Americans.
Other talking heads took the flip side of that argument. But here’s how I keep hearing them say it:
“We shouldn’t be torturing people. More importantly, it doesn’t work.”
Heck with that phrasing. It’s butt backwards.
Here’s how they should say it, I think, if they want to stay true not only to America’s perceived sense of values, but to the Christian way of life:
“It doesn’t work. More importantly, we shouldn’t be torturing people.”
Atheists along with Christians who advocate torture both have one thing in common. They can find Bible passages to condone hurting people.
- “A severe beating can knock all of the evil out of you!” Proverbs 20:30
- “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.” Proverbs 26:3
The longer I live on the planet, the more I admire Jesus:
- the calming words he spoke
- the quiet way he lived
- the peaceful way he wanted his followers to live
- and the warning he gives to those who don’t.
“Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Matthew 26:52
Isn’t it interesting that when we fess up to our crimes of violence, we have to put our military on alert to protect us from being destroyed?
Jesus knew the cycle. Hurt someone, and you get hurt back.
If we tortured prisoners of war, as the Senate report says we did, there’s a price to pay – in respect and reputation, at the least.
Some talking heads, I’ve noticed, are using this opportunity to brag about how big we are – big enough to admit our mistakes.
Instead of feeling pride, I’m feeling something else.
A Jewish writer in Bible times captured my feelings nicely:
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
Get me on my feet again….
build me up again by your Word.
There’s a time for every season under heaven.
A time to be proud,
A time to be humble.
And, perhaps, a time to know the difference.