Would Jesus Christ Torture?

April 7, 2009 at 10:17 am | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Steven Waldman wonders why the only real Christian in Bush’s administration did not speak up against the use of torture of terrorist detainees.

But recently released documents show that senior Bush adminsitration officials authorized torture not only in principle but in repeated, specific instances. In the middle of interrogations, captors would turn back to officials in Washington for approval of particular steps. Mark Danner, author of a new book Torture and Truth, explains that CIA briefers regularly updated the National Security Council’s Principals committee which included Dick Cheney, Condelleezza Rice — and Ashcroft. “As the interrogations proceeded, so did the briefings, with George Tenet, the CIA director, bringing to senior officials almost daily reports of the techniques applied.” Many of the key memos justifying torture also went through Ashcroft.

I’m not saying this was an easy position for Ashcroft. As the chief law enforcement official, he felt an urgent personal responsibility to stop terrorist attacks. He likely made a morally utilitarian calculation that the ends in this case justified the means. Many people did.

But what Ashcroft never did, apparently, was ask: What Would Jesus Do?

There’s no record of him challenging the practices on either practical or moral grounds. We have no reports of him airing the Christian case against torture, which has even been embraced by moderate evangelicals and conservatives like Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. (To torture someone made in God’s image is, they argued, counter to the message of the Bible).

Ashcroft did reportedly question whether people at his level should be involved in the blow-by-blow decision making but his qualms seemed to be more about protecting the White House from blame than stopping the behavior. “Why are we talking about this in the White House?” he reportedly said. “History will not judge this kindly.”

I don’t know why Mr. Waldman, as a Christian, is really surprised at this. Catholics used torture quite a lot. In fact, if I am correct, waterboarding was begun during the Spanish Inquisition. Supposed followers of Christ have stooped to very very low lows in the justification of survival. When one feels so victimized and threatened all around with utter destruction, it is easy to use those as justifications and excuses to do “what you have to do” in order to survive. Whether it is real, the threat to your survival or not, that’s the main justification otherwise Christian people use to torture.

Sadly we had the wrong people in power in America when 9/11 occurred, and they ended up doing stupid things. See, they went under the belief that our entire nation was under threat of extermination (odd, seeing that our enemy lived in caves and didn’t run any country). They used this to justify “going dark” and still supposedly holding on to our Christian beliefs.

The thing is that this world is not actually as awful as the propaganda of those on the right, the ones who justify torture. Life still goes on. Even the “right” Christian world still survives even if someone else is in charge. It’s really odd, even within the Mormon community, to hear the justifications for torture. It’s as if they’ve forgotten that the Lord is on their side, and that these terrorists really aren’t more powerful than the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Is there any justification for torture for a follower of Christ? Would Jesus Christ torture? And we’re not talking about the “endless torment” for the wicked. We’re talking about the rationales used for the use of torture. Punishment for sins or crimes is not one of the rationales used. The rationale is information. Would Jesus Christ torture a detainee to get information?

Of course he wouldn’t. He doesn’t need to in order to get information. Where does Jesus go to get information he lacks? Anyone?

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