Who Would Jesus Torture?

If you have been following the news at all recently, torture has been very much at the top of the front pages. While news of secret CIA prisons surfaces in the wake the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, we have a president who says, “We do not torture”. As he utters those words, his vice president is trying to exclude language from a bill that Senator John McCain is proposing to eliminate ALL U.S. torturing and inhumane treatment against prisoners of war. While this administration tell us that they do not torture, they fight to make it technically not against the law. This behavior from the White House does not surprise me in the least, but what does surprise me is the that of those of us who are actively seeking to live as Jesus lived (better known as “christians”) are not protesting this blatant two-sided dishonesty. For anyone who is a Christian to not be appalled by the fact that our christian president is trying to leave the door open for just a little bit of torture is beyond me. Imagine Jesus inflicting this on someone:

Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda’s toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

This is the CIA’s definition of “waterboarding” which is a practice widely used to torture prisoners in the custody of the United States. In case we may have forgotten, you and I are the United States. Our kids are the United States. I cannot stand by and not hold accountable those in our government that think this is “ok”. If christians truly value human life, then this is an issue we should be speaking out on. Regardless of who has done what or how much pain they have caused, we cannot agree to join in their behavior of terror. When faced with our human reality, we have to accept that we are just as capable of as much terror and destruction as any of those who are being tortured by the CIA.

As a Christian community, we should be propping up John McCain’s effort to eliminate torture as a accepted practice by the United States. This may put us at odds with the White House, but it would be nice to be on the front lines of ALL issues that have to do with peacemaking and loving all others born or unborn.

I’ll let McCain have the last word. This is a portion of his letter to President Bush regarding his proposed ammendment:

Mr. President, let there be no question about America�s character. In deciding these rules, each member of this body has a vital role. Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the Congress has the responsibility for making �rules concerning captures on land and water.� Not the executive branch, not the courts, but Congress. Our brave men and women in the field need clarity. America needs to show the world that the terrible photos and stories of prison abuse are a thing of the past. Let�s step up to this responsibility and speak clearly on this critical issue.

We should do it not because we wish to coddle terrorists. We should do it not because we view them as anything but evil and terrible. We should do it, Mr. President, because we are Americans, and because we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be. America stands for a moral mission, one of freedom and democracy and human rights at home and abroad. We are better than these terrorists, and we will we win. I have said it before but it bears repeating: The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don�t deserve our sympathy. But this isn�t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies, and we can never, never allow our enemies to take those values away.”


19 thoughts on “Who Would Jesus Torture?

  1. Awesome post. I’ve been following the ‘secret prisons’ in Europe and it’s maddening. Bush can preach all he wants about how much he prays, but we need to pray for him that he realizes his error on this. It may sound cliche, but you said it first :), what would Jesus do? I can’t see him standing over someone trying to get information out of them by inflicting pain. Regardless of the circumstances. This is John McCain’s contact page. http://mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=Contact.Home They do read these. This is a tough issue, a personal one for McCain. He needs all the support he can get on this. He or someone close to him will read these.

  2. Well Mr. Marcguyver, here’s another hypothetical for you since you’re in the mood.

    Let’s say you are someone who is a good person and does nothing but love others. One day, you know for certain a friend of yours, let’s call him Judas for now, has framed you and has identified you as “the enemy” to a group of people who would love nothing more than to torture you and strike you dead. Because you know this, you could easily apprehend your “friend” and “kick him in the nuts” as you put it, until he tells you when and where he will betray you and turn you in. what would you do?

  3. man… those are some sobering and disheartening thoughts for sure. But letting them be thoughts is not good enough. Doing something is what counts… Zach, you should think about preaching. 🙂

    McCain ’08 anyone? I mean, he is from Arizona, what more could you want?

  4. This is a great topic; definitely forces one to have to come to terms with where they stand on the issue

    Okay, hypothetical: I catch the guy who has kidnapped your wife and kids and they are ten minutes from drowning in a 500 gallon tank that is slowly filling with water.
    If this wretch tells me RIGHT NOW where they are I or others can save them.

    First, I talk and question, this don’t work.
    Then I start increasing my physical presence and demeanor, it don’t work.
    I try lying, “Look you dirty SOB if you don’t start talking I’m going to shoot your face off!” again, it don’t work.

    Should I maybe start smacking him with my baton, or give a little squirt of my O.C.? Maybe a swift kick to the nuts?
    Maybe this guy is a psycopath and he’s got a high tolerance for pain. Should I start manipulating his joints to start causing him some serious discomfort and pain?

    In correlation with my hypothetical; take it to another level.
    I’m on patrol in Iraq and find a small band of ‘Terrorists’ and my interpreter tells me that they are talking in the back room about the Bomb that they have staged at a local theatre that is going to go off in about an hour and kill as many as 400-500 people.

    Again, I pose the same type of questions as earlier and ask if I should apply some of these techniques to these ‘Terrorists’?

  5. Zach, you post a great point. However, I think that we would probably agree that Jesus and his life on earth, were a bit different than anything that had happened up until that point and time. It also seems that His life was very purposed, He had to die, it was the whole reason He was sent here; He couldn’t fight back because than He would have never gone to the cross.
    I do hear the ‘jist’ of what you are saying though; and He did show an absolutely HUGE amount of restraint in response to arguably the most ‘unfair’ life that anyone has ever lived. (Spend your entire life helping and caring for others and get an immensely tortuous death).

    I just think, for now, that if I was patrolling through downtown Seattle and came across a ‘Terrorist’ who had just placed enough explosives to blow up the entire local Football Stadium during a sold out game; I’d do more than just ask him how to defuse the stuff….I feel that I would owe it to the rest of ‘humanity’ about to die by the thousands that I did everything I could to stop it from happening.

  6. Marc, be careful. Did Jesus allow his death and not fight back just because he “had to”? Or, was it his nature NOT to? I think if we read the Bible, and his words and take his life on Earth as a whole, it wasn’t just because he had to. You are questioning who he was and his nature to even think about saying this.

    So you told us what you’d owe humanity in your hypothetical but what do you owe Jesus in that spot? In what cases does humanity supercede Jesus? This is tough stuff, but we can’t think these things out the way folks have over the last couple of hundred years.

  7. Maguyver, I see the point you’re trying to make, but do you really think torture is going to get what we want from these people? Do you think if a person goes to the trouble of putting explosives all over Qwest Field that he will give it all up when he’s ‘kicked in the nuts’? Doubtful. Torture obviously isn’t working. Many would argue that it’s making the situation worse. There are other ways of getting information that can be used.

  8. 🙂 LOL, I like the ‘Chuck Norris’ thing Nash, that was funny!

    You know Rich, you raise a point I really didn’t think about, “I think if we read the Bible, and his words and take his life on Earth as a whole, it wasn’t just because he had to.”

    So, If I say that I agree that my response to evil should always be passive, then where does that leave me? I’m just thinking out loud here, say….having to watch someone assault my children? I think that I might be able to agree that that would be the ‘Jesus’ thing to do, but I’m not sure that my heart (and natural man) would follow through with it.

    I’ve been looking at David’s life here lately in my devotional time to try and come up with some resolution with this and have also been drumming through Psalm again to see God’s influence and involvment in this “warrior’s” life. I also appreciate your guy’s willingness to ‘debate’ this as most Christians just refuse to even discuss it; as I said, it’s important to me because of my work and I take my Christianity seriously….it’s definitely worth more than any employment or lifestyle.

    Here’s a couple chapters that I found and just some of the verses that jumped out at me:
    Psalm 9….”…You have destroyed the wicked…the very memory of them has perished…He has executed judgement. In the work of His own hands the wicked is snared…Arise O Lord, do not let man prevail; let eh nations be judged before You. Put them in fear, O Lord; let the nations knowo that they are but men.”

    Psalm 18…”The God who girds me with strength…He trains my hands for battle so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze…I pursued my enemies and overtook them and I did not turn back until they were consumed. I shattered them so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet. For you have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me….and I destroyed those who hated me. They cried for help, but there was none to save, even to the Lord, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them fine as the dust before the wind; I emptied them out as the mire of the streets.”

    Psalm 21…1 Samuel 18:7, 23:2-5, 30:1-17…”David slaughtered them from teh twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled.”

    Anyway, open to more discussion on this, and Mr. Nash…although Chuck Norris does claim to be a Christian, his movies are too ‘cheesy’ for me. 🙂 Just not enough reality in them you know?

  9. there are obviously many passages that talk about those who are serving God with violence and war. one of the most memorable stories from the bible as a child was david and goliath. david picking up the stone and slaying the giant goliath. i think these stories are important and should not be discounted but they need to be balanced somehow with other teachings in scripture. on one hand we have slaughtering, killing, and war. on the other hand we have Jesus teaching us to “love our enemy”, “turn the other cheek”, and also “live by the sword, die by the sword”.

    i’m not saying this is easy stuff to process and to have it all figured, but this i do know: if i had a gun to my head, literally, i’d follow Jesus’ calling before i’d follow in the footsteps of King David.

  10. MG said:
    “So, If I say that I agree that my response to evil should always be passive, then where does that leave me? I’m just thinking out loud here, say….having to watch someone assault my children?”

    Marcguyver, most pacifists are not talking about “doing nothing” while someone assaults a child in front of you. As a pacifist, I would certainly get up and try to restrain the assailant (and have done so, nonviolently).

    What I would NOT do is drop a bomb over close to the assailant in hopes that it would stop him.

    One of the tenets of Just War Theory (and I’m a pacifist, not a JWT proponent, but I think that it is at least a starting place) is that Just War conduct should be governed by the principle of discrimination. That is, the acts of war should be directed towards the inflictors of the wrong, and not towards civilians caught in circumstances they did not create.

    One of the problems of modern war is that the principle of discrimination is difficult if not impossible to accomplish (and it’s one of the reasons that the current [conservative] Pope Benedictine questioned the justness of our Iraq Invasion).

    So yes, when necessary, go and stop an assailant from causing harm to someone. BUT don’t use means that kill innocents because then you’ve gone from being a hero to a villain, at least in the eyes of the families of those you’ve killed and wounded. Which, in turn, spins the cycle of violence around again and again and does not end the violence you hoped to stop.

    In short, we’re all in favor of stopping violence. What some of us are saying that violence in the service of stopping violence is liking fornication in the service of chastity.

  11. Okay, so suppose I agree that the police officer is justified in using deadly violence to stop deadly violence as a last resort. Would I also be correct in saying that the police dept does NOT advocate a police officer shooting in to a crowd in hopes of stopping deadly violence?

    And is THAT analogy not the correct one to use when we’re talking about modern warfare (or at least this Iraq invasion), since it is nearly impossible to target only the “bad guys”?

    I guess one thing I’m saying is that the personal violence problem is not a good analogy for how to handle war. We’d handle things differently on a small scale than we would on the larger.

    And another point that I want to be clear on is that non-violent resisters are NOT talking about doing nothing, which is usually how it is framed “so if you don’t want us to stop Saddam from killing then you’d just have us let him go on and on?” No. No one is advocating that.

  12. Man, you guys are great! This stuff is really getting me thinking.
    Zach, I completely see what you are saying….and I agree. There has to be a balance somewhere in the middle, definitely! I have to say that this is why I currently see both sides; sometimes it is proper to ‘turn the other cheek’ and other times I think it is proper to ‘put up a fight’ so to speak.

    Dan, I would agree, generally speaking, that war does in fact need to be justified. And I think that there are plenty of times throughout history that armies, and their leadership, could and should have avoided civilian or ‘non-combatant’ casualties but simply did not; usually because they were just plain evil. But I don’t think that alone would be justification for abstaining at all times from participating in conflict period.
    You say, “…violence in the service of stopping violence is liking fornication in the service of chastity.” I don’t know that I completely agree with that. If I shoot someone who is actively shooting a restaurant full of people then I’m indeed using violence, deadly force, to end the other act of violence; and I think it is completely justified and actually a good thing. Sometimes the only way to destroy a ‘beast’ is to use the same tactics or tools that the beast is using and to attack with just as much ferocity if not more.

    In line with this post, I guess I’m just not completely convinced that ALL forms of ‘torture’ or ‘coercive techniques’ are inappropriate and wrong; either morally, ethically, or spiritually. That being said, I’m still open to be convinced otherwise. Appreciate all the feedback and thoughts.

  13. Fairly safe. No torture should be the Rule. Given that, if someone were prepared to do something as vile as bomb a bunch of innocents, I don’t know that torture would result in true responses, at least that’s what the research says.

    Coercion? Well, placing someone in jail is a form of coercion, I’d say, so it might depend upon how you define coercion.

    Again, I think the WWJD standard is a pretty fine one to adhere to. We can think of all manner of hypothetical situations that might test our position (what if all the babies in the whole world were going to be fed to those critters in Star Wars that digests you painfully for 1000 years if you didn’t torture someone?), the Right answer remains Right.

  14. Well Dan, I find myself agreeing with you on some areas yet again 🙂

    You’re right that ‘Personal Defense’ is definitely on a different scale than ‘National Warfare’; they do share some certain base similarities or concepts, but definitely have to be dealt with differently. I am also glad to see that you’re not advocating a ‘Do Nothing’ response to someone like Saddam.

    So…..is it safe to say that you are however, plainly against all forms of torture or ‘coersion’ whatsoever?

  15. Well, thanks for the dialogue Dan, and everyone else; blessings to you all. And may God literally help us to make the right and righteous decisions we need to make as we encounter life and its struggles.

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