So what in the world is an atheist to think when he sees the widespread Christian support for torture? Yes, torture. But don’t Christians claim to follow the ethics of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament? Aren’t Christians commanded to put off anger, wrath, and malice (Colossians 3:8), “be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1), and “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18)? Yes, Christians.
What is really tragic is that most Christians who of late have weighed in on the subject of torture are not arguing whether or not waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” constitute torture – they readily admit that they do – but that torture is justified in the name of fighting terrorism, national security, defending our freedoms, keeping us safe, or protecting our children and grandchildren.
In my recent article “Waterboard an A-rab for Jesus,” I mentioned two polls which showed that a great percentage of evangelicals supported the use of torture against suspected terrorists. Now come two additional surveys that are even more shocking. When an Allen Hunt Show poll asked for views on torture, 50 percent of the participants indicated their preference for the position: “Am A Christian – And I Support Torture.” Hunt himself, thank God, is opposed to the practice. And in a story on OneNewsNow (a division of the American Family New Network) about Southern Baptist leader Richard Land saying that the use of waterboarding is unethical, a poll asked simply: “Do you agree with Dr. Land? Is waterboarding ‘unethical’?” The results: less than 10 percent agreed with Land. What is interesting about Land is that he fully supports Bush’s war on terror, minus the torture, of course.
These are unbelievable poll results. Christian torture advocates should be ashamed of themselves for being so ignorant of New Testament ethics. This is FrontPage Magazine Christianity. This is National Review Christianity. This isimperial Christianity at its worse. I lay a great deal of the blame on pastors for being servants of the state instead of servants of Christ. It is pastors who ought to be teaching and warning their congregations about what is wrong with the U.S. empire, the U.S. military, the CIA, U.S. wars, and U.S. foreign policy. Instead, we have pastors that lead their congregations to pledge to the flag, sing praise to the state on every national holiday, and honor the U.S. war machine on special military appreciation days.
It is one thing for Christians to think that the Republican Party is the lesser of two evils, that we should be fighting a global war on terror, that U.S. troops are defending our freedoms by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we are protecting Israel by fighting against terrorism, that it is “liberal” to be opposed to war, that we should fight them “over there” lest we have to fight them “over here,” or that Iraq attacked us on 9/11 (all completely bogus ideas) – but this in no way justifies torture.
We didn’t torture Nazi war criminals to reveal the names of others similarly guilty. Although we sentenced some of them to death, and some of them to prison terms, we never tortured them even though they were guilty of genocide. We don’t torture serial killers to get them to reveal where all the bodies of their victims are buried. Even when we call them monsters and sentence them to death, we still don’t torture them. We don’t allow police to torture suspects until they confess to committing a crime, and neither do we allow confessions obtained by torture to be used in court. Heck, we didn’t even torture Saddam Hussein when we captured and imprisoned him.
We associate torture with Japan (American WWII POWs), North Korea (American Korean War POWs), China (recently deceased Air Force Colonel Harold E. Fischer), and Vietnam (just ask John McCain).
We associate torture with third-world prisons, the KGB, the Stasi, and other secret police organizations, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Reign of Terror, mass murderers, massacres, and genocides.
We associate torture with the Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Mao, Germany under Hitler, Korea under Kim Il-sung, Cuba under Castro, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and Uganda under Idi Amin.
We associate torture with everything that is evil, vile, and inhuman.
What have we come to in the United States when people who name the name of Christ support torture? How dare Christians criticize Muslims for saying that Islam is a religion of peace and then advocate the torturing of suspected terrorists? By their support for torture, Christians have given “great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14).
May 14, 2009
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. His newest book is The Revolution that Wasn’t. Visit his website.