Torture, America, and Jesus

I’m interrupting my slow-as-molasses multipart series to bring you a very short thought — a couple of questions for you to consider, if you will. I’m presenting this here in the hope to learn more, and to inspire a civil discourse in which we can learn from each other. Note the bold and underline of “civil”. You have been warned.

Before we proceed further, you need to all take note of Exhibit A: the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA Torture.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past week, well, you should click that link and read up on it. We done some bad torture, and people all be shouting about it. I’m not sure what that accent is.

After you’ve digested that and come up to speed … I have not one but two questions:

  1. If you are a follower of Jesus — under what circumstances do you find the torture of “enemies” to be justified and acceptable?
  2. If you are not a follower of Jesus, but you are an American — under what circumstances do you find the torturing of “enemies” to be justified and acceptable?

Think about these carefully. I will submit some cursory answers of my own to get the conversation started. But before you scroll down, you should try to form your own opinion. Or, just plough full speed ahead, if you like.

My off-the-cuff answers:

1) As a follower of Jesus, I find torture to be unacceptable. I lean toward interpreting “turn the other cheek” (and other parables of non-resistance) as outright pacifism. If we serve and are loved by a God who has inscribed his very image into every human soul, and He tells us ultimately that He will be the judge of all men and all nations, then what right can we claim? I concede, this is a radical and probably impractical sort of foreign policy for any state to try to implement in the modern world. Fine. The powers-that-were in Jesus’s time also found Him to be fairly “impractical” if you will.

2) If I try to answer the question as a simple American citizen, and attempt to remove my personal convictions from the matter, I still find a veritable minefield. Much of our sense of peace with our own foreign policy is based on the meta-narrative we tell ourselves, that we are the good guys and we do not desire to actually build an empire of aggression, unlike the other great powers of history.

That’s a fine little story. But what happens if and when all signs start to suggest that America is not in fact the “good guys”? What if under the cover of night, we’ve begun using the same methods and tactics of every other woeful empire of history, and have now allowed ourselves to be lured into a place of xenophobic fear for our own security?

This has happened already, in my view, particularly in light of the latest report. If I try to play “the average American”, I feel we have two choices:

A) We either get okay with NOT thinking of ourselves as the good guys anymore, and then continue using whatever methods we feel are justifiable to ensure our security, or
B) We move toward a national humility, seek reconciliation abroad, confess our sins (as it were), and remove all trace of foul play from our intelligence and armed services.

If we choose option A, we’d better throw out any remaining traces of the old American Exceptionalism. If we choose option B, we’d better get used to the idea of living in a little more fear, rather than total and omnipotent security, to which we are accustomed.


Warning: all of the above was quickly thrown together, and has not been reviewed or edited (as of 8:30pm CST on Tuesday 12/16/14). Apologies for grammar, lack of coherence, specious reasoning, and so on.

Let’s attempt to work all this out in the comments below. Please proceed. Teach me something if you like, I’d love to hear.

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *