Torture and The Follower of Jesus  

Posted by Phil in , ,

Cross Posted from my blog

Obviously, the big talk for the last couple of weeks is the release of the torture memos by the Obama administration, as well as the waffling that the President and his administration have done about the prosecution of individuals who either participated in the practice of "enhanced interrogation techniques" or the people who wrote legal opinions justifying it.

I'm not going to talk about the dissembling and fracturing of language participated in by the Bush administration because of these legal opinions ("these documents say that what we're doing isn't torture so I can go in front of America and say we don't torture.") or the waffling by the Obama administration ("No, we won't prosecute the people who did this. Um... when I said 'we,' I meant the White House. Anyone else can do what they want.")

What I will say this. If we claim to follow a Jesus who told us not only to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), but also to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45), if we claim to have the same attitude of Jesus and put others needs ahead of our own (Philippians 2:5-11), if we claim to follow a Savior who was tortured to death by the most powerful empire at the time, then as those followers we cannot condone or support this activity.

I honestly don't care what having committed torture says about America. I'm much more concerned that there are people who would view America's use of torture as a tantamount approval by Christians that torture is acceptable.

It's not.

Can torture gain information about potential terror attacks to prevent the loss of innocent life? Maybe. But the truth is that if we resort to tactics that those we consider evil use, then we are saying the (good) ends justifies the (evil) means. Here's the clue though. Almost everyone that we would consider evil, considers themselves good. A dictator typically thinks that he or she is doing what is best for their people and the means to accomplish that are unimportant.

If we claim to follow Jesus, we cannot be people who support torture. We simply cannot.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 24, 2009 at Friday, April 24, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Thank you for this. I agree. Our praxis has to reflect a total commitment to the Gospel. Nothing one is called to do in defense of one's country that violates the greatest commands can be sanctioned by us as believers.

April 24, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Christians' marriage to the empire lies just under the skin and is difficult to expose because it functions like a cataract (see Lee Camp's Mere Discipleship) however, in extreme cases as with torture, it can become more noticeable. Too few Christians have given critical thought to their relationship to the empire, war, prisons, etc. I found this quote helpful, in reference to torture, from my readings this week:

"The innocent person is placed in a far worse situation than the criminal, since if both of them are tortured, all circumstances are against the former: for either he confesses to the crime and is condemned, or he is found innocent after having suffered a punishment he did not deserve. The criminal, on the other hand, is in an inherently favorable situation: that is, if he firmly withstands the torture, he is acquitted; he has exchanged a greater punishment for a lesser one. Thus, the innocent cannot but lose, and the guilty can only gain."

Italian mathematician Cesare Beccaaria 1764

April 27, 2009 at 12:50 PM

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