This is Torture

So apparently, the Federal Government of the United States of America, while engaged in war against an organization without boundaries and not a state has…are you ready for this? Tortured some prisoners of war. For some reason people are surprised and outraged by this news. I don’t know what they thought we were doing to them. I certainly don’t know how they thought we’d get intelligence out of them. This isn’t like your normal prisoner who can plea bargain for a shorter term. There is no state to negotiate their release, only people at home who may kill their loved ones if they talk.

A few observations I’d like to make:

The democrats have been criticizing this action, pointing out the low rate of success on meaningful intelligence we have gathered through torture. While not the same thing, I couldn’t help but think about the same democrats who have defended the NSA data gathering because of the so called “success” the government has had in protecting our national interests.

Then of course, there is the treatment of Pfc. Bradley/Chelsea Manning. Manning is the source of much of wikileaks information. He considered himself a whistlebl0wer–the type the president promised in his campaign to protect. Whistleblowers are people who according to the president, provide “…the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.” So, people like Edward Snowden. Or Bradley Manning who was arrested and then put in solitary confinement where he had his clothes forcefully removed and spends his time in the nude.

Solitary confinement in the nude? Daily inspections by others–while being in the nude? Hmmm…this sounds quite a bit like some of the treatment the democrats are classifying as torture. Why is no one outraged about such treatment of a US citizen?

It reminds me of a poster I saw years ago:

protest poster

But wait–there’s more. Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the torture “news” is that the two psychiatrists who designed the program didn’t have experience in counter-terrorism! And that’s just…well, wait, why does that matter? Is their job to help our Department of State craft foreign policy with failed states? Is their job to direct the Department of Defense on counter-terrorism measures? Or is their job to come up with ways to mess with the minds of prisoners to extract information from them? ‘Cause if it is the latter, then I’m pretty sure a psychologist would be what you want for that and not a policy wonk.

But, there is another layer that no one, especially those on the Right are addressing: should torture ever be an appropriate recourse to pursue to extract information?

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.38-47) Jesus taught us:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

In a similar teaching, (Luke 6.27-36)) Jesus taught us:

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

I don’t think torture passes this test.

All in all, this is an issue where many on the right seem to have missed the boat. They pander to the evangelical voter but pursue policies that in many ways are contrary to the biblical witness. If you push back on them, you may just discover the religion they espouse is no more than a veneer for political gain. John Kasich discovered this when he pushed to expand medicare coverage in Ohio last year. Obviously, expanding coverage (and thus government) kind of goes against the ethos of his party so when people wanted to know why he did what he did, Kasich said this:

“I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, ‘I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you’re a person of faith.  Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’  ”

The result? Well, different conservatives mocked him. You can read about it here. 

Therein lies the problem: the gospel of Jesus Christ is not the platform of the Grand Old Party. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not the platform of the Democrats either. The gospel is too narrow for either party–and the implications of the gospel are too wide for either party. It doesn’t fit into a box, or a platform. Todd Friel puts this in a humorous way after the recent November elections.

If we are to be true to our faith it might mean we have to do things like….expand medicare coverage to help the poor or speak against torture. But then again, if you do that you just might lose people’s favor and lose the next election.

I think Jesus said something about that too.

Mark 8.36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Matthew 5.11-12: ““Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Luke 12.8-9: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”





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