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.
Jesus wasn’t always the gentle sort we like to think he was. Ask the customer service reps in the Temple about that, although I’m not suggesting for a moment his firmness extended to anything resembling torture. Torture, if it is useful at all, has a very narrow and rare window of acceptance. I believe it is one of those things best left alone, as whatever is perceived gained by it is offset for at least a couple of generations because of the bad feelings and resentment it causes by those it is inflicted upon. It is interesting that thoughtful people in both the secular and spiritual worlds seem to agree on this. As for the U.S.A., how can we be the light to the rest of the world when we are brazen enough to admit publicly that we engage in “enhanced interrogation?” I believe all of us, from the President on down to Tommy Fowler in Overland Park, Kansas, need to take a good look in the mirror and THINK ABOUT what we do, both as a nation and as individuals. We never seem to learn anything from our transgressions, no matter how well-intentioned we may be. I suggest a dusty old idea, let us PRAY for guidance and discernment in all we do.
Stephen M. Miller
Well said, Brother Tommy. Thanks.
Have you seen them cutting off heads and destroying every Church they come to in the Middle East? I know, I know, only the “Nazis” would react in such a manner, we should not do what the enemy does. (You know that we as soldiers are put through some of the same things in training? First, you believe CNN and/or FOX? Wow that is sad.
Second, Sherman referred to war as Hell I think and while not actually it is a terrible thing regardless of the cause;, but you really sound naïve here like you think your hamburgers come from the “hamburger tree or something”. Bad things happen in a war Stephen, very bad things on all sides.
Am I against torture, yes. Should Christians be against torture, yes. But when it comes down to them or us that is not even a question. When you face a “Haman”, use a hammer.
Stephen M. Miller
I know war is hell. Dad fought with Patton’s army in the Battle of the Bulge. I know what happens to prisoners in the fray of battle. Executions on the spot happen when there’s no choice. Dad never could watch a war movie. It gave him nightmares.
But we’re talking about torture under controlled circumstances. Not a good thing. Not something a civilized and Jesus-loving people should endorse. We don’t want to be that kind of a nation.
Peace to you, Ranger.