Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Danger of Supporting Torture

I saw an article today that disturbed me and made me angry, and yet at the same time did not surprise me in the least.

According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, Americans are more likely to think that torture  is acceptable if they go to church than if they don't. 

(Call it "enhanced interrogation" all you want, but the US defined these techniques as torture when they were used against our soldiers in WWII.)

This is a sad commentary on how much of mainstream Christianity has sold out to the political right. Because right wing figures like George W. Bush laced their speeches with enough Christian buzzwords and signed on to the Religious Right's two-pronged political agenda (opposition to abortion and gay marriage), many Christians supported him without looking further into his positions, policies, or actions. 

Because this particular political faction has passed the litmus test, many Christians have turned a willful bind eye to the abuses of said faction, and even after they are out of office, they go on defending said abuses.

The problem, of course, is that the abuses of the Bush administration fly in the face of the commandments of Jesus Christ- the man that George W. Bush claimed was his "favorite philosopher" during his run for the presidency.

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) would seem to preclude using torture against anyone, even people who may have engaged in direct attacks against our country. Jesus prayed for those who murdered him, even in the moment that they were engaging in practices that would be considered torture by any modern standard.

At the risk of proof-texting, I can't help but think of Matthew 7:21, where Jesus says, "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of God, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." 

We can give all the lip-service we want to the name of Jesus, but when we sanction the cruel treatment of God's children in the defense of the security of the nation-state, we are giving our first loyalty to something that is much less than God. The Bible has a word for that: idolatry. And the two major complaints of the Hebrew prophets were idolatry and injustice. We're clearly guilty on both counts.

My own denomination, the United Methodist Church (which is currently guilty of numerous injustices, by the way), has come out resolutely against torture. We have issued a number of emphatic statements condemning these practices.

I pray that we will, in time, repent of our idolatrous love for the nation-state and return to the kind of love for God that leads us to walk in the ways of peace, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Then we will truly be doing the will of God.


B Smith said...

We have lost our identity as "Christians." There are those who foolishly believe that being Christian and being a "great American" are somehow intertwined and that a prerequisite of both is a blind allegiance to the conservative Republican agenda. I have come to realize, especially in the face of this torture scandal, that the term conservative Christian is an oxymoron, at least when used politically.

I am praying with you Matt

Katie Z. said...

Thank you for this well thought out response! I responded over on my blog =)