I continue to be baffled by the arguments in favor of torture, and the justifications that are made for America’s use of torture. Darth Cheney claims that it “kept us safe” by providing actionable intelligence allowing the U.S. to subvert terrorists plots. We know this to be untrue…in some cases, it had just the opposite effect.
Newt Gingrich is claiming it was all OK because Nancy Pelosi was briefed on it. Well, there is no provision in the Constitution that says a law can be circumvented by briefing someone in Congress.
The subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law should be troubling to every American, but I think I am most disturbed by our behavior from my moral and Christian perspective.
When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry…. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek. –Former Vice President Dick Cheney, February 4, 2009
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. –Jesus, Luke 6:27-31.
These two opposing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Jesus Christ bring into sharp focus the contradictions of being a country that simultaneously lays claim to Judeo Christian values while going to any lengths to protect and preserve the American empire – including torture. What does the practice of torture by our government say about those of us who are American Christians?
The great biblical evangelists Paul and Steven were tortured, but continued to profess what they believe. They never used violence or coercion to spread the faith; rather people came to Jesus in part because of the non-violent Christian witness of the early members.
And lest we forget, it was Jesus who was himself tortured and killed. Early Christians espoused love in the face of hate, generosity in the face of theft, blessings for curses, and turning the cheek in the face of violence. They did this not out of weakness, but out of strength.
George Bush and other professing Christians succumbed to the temptation of perceived expediency to employ torture in order to try to create the non-existent link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Dick Cheney says “these are evil people” as a way to justify torture. But Christians have dealt with evil people before and Jesus taught us explicitly that evil is never overcome by evil; it is over come by Good. Plus, Jesus’ words in Luke 6 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – have a chilling resonance when it comes to torture.
A recent Pew Center survey indicates that the more a person attends church, the more supportive they tend to be of torture as practiced by the U.S. Government.1 This raises a very serious crisis of faith within my soul, and it makes me fear for the very soul of my country. I fear what is to become of us and our Republic.
Over two years ago I spent time begging the Methodist Episcopacy to condemn American torture. Only five Bishops cared enough to call on Bush to halt the practice of torture.2345 The more one attends church, the greater should be the outrage when one reads comments like Cheney’s. Loyalty to a political cause should not triumph belief in human rights.
Sadly the new century seems to have changed our belief that we should be that “shining city on a hill” Regean talked about. We now consider the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions to be quaint and outdated. Defending the abuses by party leaders like Bush, Cheney and their henchmen have become more important that defending the basic human rights we claim to live by. And the media’s lack of calling people out for their hypocrisy has made the situation even worse.
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 29, 2009: More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. ↩
John Masters, “Resolutions By The United Methodist Council of Bishops,” Deep Sand, May 13, 2005 ↩
John Masters, “Once Again A Call to Methodist Bishops to Denounce Torture,” Deep Sand, Sept. 28, 2005. ↩