Saturday, July 24, 2004

We're mostly against torture

I'm a bit reeling from news reports that a "majority" of Americans oppose torture.

The results come from the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). The AP story reported on Yahoo! News stated,
A majority, 55 percent, said this country should never use mental torture — such as making someone think that they or their family will be killed, according to the poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

Of course, my political sensibilities are deeply offended that the number is not 100%. The PIPA report does show greater reluctance to suport other forms of torture:
These include methods formally approved by the Department of Defense including using threatening dogs (rejected by 58%) and forcing detainees to go naked (75% rejected). Other forms rejected by even larger majorities included sexual humiliation (89%) and holding a detainee’s head under water (81%).

Rush Limbaugh is widely reported to have called the Abu Ghraib prison abuses "brilliant"; I read a speech from Chuck Colson where he stated his disgust at the sexual turn of events at Abu Ghraib, and said that as a fine young officer he in his youth would have found nonsexual ways to abuse prisoners. It sounded like he was reaching into the list of techniques above.

I've heard it said that using abuse in interrogation is not helpful because the abused will say anything to get the abuse to stop. In all seriousness, it endangers us not only because of unreliable information but because it ticks off the family members of those abused.

I am convinced that the God of the Bible is appalled at these things. We are no better than beasts. As one who believes in original sin and an actual hell, it's times like these that these doctrines perhaps become too believable for comfort. And yes I know that as I point my finger at the speck in my neighbor's eye I must look for the plank in my own and confess with the Good Thief on the Cross that "I justly deserve Thy temporal and eternal punishment."

But where is the church in all this? I can think of about four different responses:
  1. Rush is right. Prisoner abuse is brilliant. I've also seen other conservatives say what happened at that prison was not torture. 
    My response: To the former, I think there's a quote in Out of the Silent Planet where the angel in charge of Mars says to one of the villians from Earth, "Were you of my world, I would simply 'undo' you, because everything human in you is already gone." To the latter, perhaps this is some kind of forgivable hysteria to deal with such unbelievable news. In any case, if some Christian denominations are breaking up over some wanting to be silent about sexual sins, I say I'd be the first to throw a brick over this issue.

  2. The Gospel and our eternal status is the focus of the Church. As the regenerate will be empowered to do good works by the Spirit, therefore we must simply preach even more boldly the doctrine of forgiveness of sins on account of Christ's sake.
    My response, this may be the case, but why then wouldn't this formula apply also to other sins, like abortion or sexual ones: 'Hush up on controversial specifics, just preach Jesus'? I do not mean to mock anyone's commitment to seek legislation against abortion. Your theology of politically incorrect sins (like torture) however should match your theology on the sanctity of life.

  3. This is a national emergency crying out for incisive Law and Gospel preaching. My response: so like how? How do you tell people to be simple decent human beings without rightly being accused of partisanship, etc? How do you articulate this to be stricly a message from God-- yeah there's the idea of "Remember those abused as if you yourself were abused," but does that law make people human again?

  4. If these justifications for prisoner abuse were to represent a valid option within orthodox Christianity, I can just imagine what is going on in the mind of nontheists: Whereas, Christians are supportive, indifferent, silent, or divided on whether to round up residents of a country they've invaded and start torturing people at random. Therefore be it resolved Christianity is complete bunk.

    My response: This is my greatest fear-- that those in these countries fearing for their lives, or those nontheists seeking some kind of moral framework to live out their lives, and run into the Chuck Colosn speech. Or they'll hear about Rush's quote and knowing that Rush likes Republican candidates, and remember that the devout church going population of this country is overwhelmingly Republican. So they'll very naturally conclude that either there's something wrong with the actual God out there or the bible these Republicans are reading or with Christianity as something that this planet can afford any longer. This is my greatest fear.

And that's what's got me even more appalled.

Pray for the church. Pray for those we are endangering. Pray for me.

No comments: