June 8, 2011

Why won't evangelicals address torture?

Because I am off for a bit, perhaps, and trying to keep Gracie from eating stuff she shouldn't (remote control--saved, checkbook cover--chewed, leash for Abbie--chewed, toilet paper roll--shredded) I have been thinking about my evangelical past. That, and I have been working with our electric company to get our service line buried and have found their customer service to, well, suck.

So over the last few years, I have reconnected with a few people from my evangelical past--all through the glories of Facebook. Man, what a ride. From reconnecting to a former girlfriend, only to find out that she thought torture was ok, because of the "torture that the families of lost service men and women experience," or mad about healthcare because she honestly thought it meant her paying for the healthcare of the person next door who bought a 300,000 dollar house instead of healthcare. Or the guy from my church league basketball team who turned out to be one of the bigger assholes I had ever met--complete with bashing any government spending and regulation all while living in a suburb of Dallas built with government dollars.

Those were the negative ones. The others have been mostly benign. But when some of them have challenged my liberalism, or made snide comments on my wall, I have emailed them questions. Nicely, mind you, but I have asked them questions about why the people who helped me form my moral world view seem to have little to no problem with torture? Or why they believe that God created the world in 7 literal days, but have no problem with humans trying to destroy that creation? Or why, as people called to help the poor, they vote for policies that clearly help the rich, and demonize the poor.

All of these questions I have asked, in addition to asking anyone to give me an example of Sarah Palin acting in a manner other than a vindictive bitch.

Nothing. Well, not nothing. From one, I got a grudging acknowledgement that torture was mostly wrong. But the terrorists are worse, he said.

The rest? Empty echo chamber. People who routinely post Bible verses can't answer a simple question of why they voted for torture enablers and why they have no problem voting for people who still defend torture. Or a simple question of what the poor and elderly are supposed to do when Paul Ryan's budget is put into law.

Evangelical Christians--if you want me to even come close to respecting a group of Christians who have been miserably wrong on race and torture and gender equality--then you better actually figure out a way to make a cogent argument. And you better figure out that might include atoning for supporting torture. Or segregation.

Otherwise, spare me.

39 comments:

Andy said...

I have read enough of your stuff to know that you only respect people who agree with you. Christians would have to reject many of their beliefs in order to agree with you and get your respect. Better to agree with God and be at peace with him than reject God in order to be at peace with Streak.

Streak said...

Oh really. Then you haven't read that much. And if you are really saying that torture is compatible with Christianity, then you, sir, are demented.

Smitty said...

Better to agree with God and be at peace with him than reject God in order to be at peace with Streak.

Sure. I mean, I like Streak and all, but he lacks the long wavy hair and sandals required of saviors.

But your point misses the broader point of torture. I don't think urging torture is compatible with God's peace. Do you? If you agree it isn't, then your statement "Christians would have to reject many of their beliefs in order to agree with you" is moot. In that, you would agree with Streak. And gain his respect. But in (and I'm not saying YOU, Andy, as you haven't made clear your thoughts on torture) one's sympathy towards torture AND insistence on being a "good Christian"...isn't that person ultimately doing what you suggest: rejecting their beliefs?

steves said...

Streak, as usual, you raise some excellent points about torture. It is depressing when people accept it as being ok. I will also give you credit for consistently bringing this topic. I will admit being disappointed that this topic has dropped off the radar of many of the critics when the administration changed.

I have no reason to believe that we are still practicing torture, but we are still outsourcing it, in the form of rendition. While not the same as doing it ourselves, it is still pretty damn close c

Streak said...

Thanks, Smitty. I hope I have made it clear that I still respect a lot of people with whom I disagree on issues like abortion and homosexuality. I find it much harder to respect those who defend torture, I will say.

And thank you, Steve. At times I have felt a bit redundant on the issue of torture, but still think this is one of those bellwether issues that tells us more than we would like to know about our culture.

I am disappointed with Obama on this issue. I think he has stopped the more obvious torture, but am not convinced that it has stopped in all the secret rooms. And I agree with you that the rendition program is just torture by another name.

Monk-in-Training said...

Holy Mother Church teaches that torture is an intrinsically moral evil. This is established, Christian doctrine.

Always, and every time, there is NO justification, ever. It is a profound and gravely immoral attack against the Imageo Dei, the Image of God that is in EVERY human being.

A State that orders it's soldiers to commit this, causes a horrific stain on the conciousness of each person who commits it, and puts their souls in peril.

Even the Southern Baptists agree, stating that there is no circumstance in which torture should be permissible in interrogations by U.S. officials, even if the authorities believe a prisoner has information that might involve national security.

So, saying all that, Andy what Christian belief would Streak be rejecting?

Tony said...

I will commend Streak on this issue as well. He has certainly been a voice crying in the wilderness. I have been disappointed with our President on torture as well, because THE Christian president not only authorized it but was its foremost cheerleader.

I'm not convinced it doesn't happen anymore and won't be convinced until a formal declaration comes from the White House.

And Monk, its so very interesting that you quote Richard Land...though I would agree with the ethics leader of my denomination, the principle has yet to be preached, taught, lived, or demonstrated publicly in any true fashion; only embraced and encouraged. "They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

Monk-in-Training said...

Good morning Tony,

The reason I mentioned that quote from Dr. Land was to point out that even the largest Conservative Evangelical group officially opposes this ghastly practice.

Andy appears to suggest that Streak was rejecting Christian beliefs, and I was making the point that from one side of the Faith to the other, THIS is not a question, it is always and everywhere WRONG.

Perhaps many people mix their nationalism up with their Faith, to the detriment of the Gospel.

Hm, saying that, maybe Andy has a point, though. Many American Christians would have to give up a lot of their beliefs to follow Christ as radically as He calls us to in His Gospels.

It is a simple choice, is Jesus Lord, or is Caesar?

Be careful how you answer, you can end up Lion food! :)

Smitty said...

Wait...if I answer "Ceasar, I'm ok, but if I say Jesus, I'm lion food, right? Or do I have that backwards? I forget.

Jack N Jill said...

More lions.

Andy said...

Monk,

There are probably more, but just to name two things: Streak rejects the Genesis account of creation in favor of evolution, and I'm pretty sure he also is accepting of homosexuality as being moral, or perhaps morally neutral. Evolution and homosexuality are both incompatible with Christianity.

Streak said...

Monk, I love how belief in evolution has become a litmus test of me not being a Christian. I understand the homosexuality part (don't agree, but understand), but find it fascinating that accepting the facts of evolution makes me an unbeliever.

And further, I would note that Andy still has yet to address torture. Which was the point of this whole fucking post.

Andy said...

Streak,

About torture: It is always wrong for wicked men to torture others, because the intentions of wicked men would be wicked. For instance, if Iran were to torture anyone, it would be wrong.

Now, since a lot of people consider the US to be "the good guys", would it ever be morally right for the US Government to torture anyone, (in order to get information, not just to make someone suffer)? Well, is the US Government good or evil? I say evil, based on considerable observation. So, I would conclude that the US Government should not torture anyone. I understand that, if lives are at stake, others might differ with me.

Now you might say that it is wrong for good men to torture someone, even if it might save lives. I can see that point of view. I'm not sure whether I would agree or not. It would probably depend on who the "good men" were, and on who they were going to torture, and for what purpose. Generally speaking, torture is a bad idea.

Andy said...

Streak,

The Bible says that God created the universe, and life, in six days. Evolution says that is not correct. If the Genesis account is not historically accurate, then none of the remainder of the Bible has any credibility, and is destroyed.

I know that there are people who claim that you can be a Christian while denying the historicity of the Bible, and not just Genesis, but other parts also, but I don't believe that is possible. Jesus Christ confirmed the Genesis account, and if he was wrong, then there goes his credibility too.

Streak said...

Andy, there is an odd selective morality about your view of torture--that if the people torturing are good and moral people, then it might be ok in certain situations. I find that odd from someone who asserts moral absolutes in other settings. I would further suggest that it is a contradiction in terms for a good man to torture someone.

The issue of evolution is interesting, as is the literal stories from the Bible. I think Monk will back me up in saying that people through time--and these are the church leaders and thinkers, have not always seen the Genesis story as absolutely literal. Many have seen it as literature. After Darwin published his theory of evolution, most Protestant churches didn't react at all, and most thought that evolution was compatible with the Bible.

Further, we should note that you are addressing the literal creation, while evolution is a process that is both ongoing and documented. The flu virus evolves every year resulting in a different vaccination. That has nothing to do with the origins of life, and in fact, I am not sure that evolution explains where life began--only how species evolve. How that contradicts the Bible is beyond me.

Monk-in-Training said...

Andy,
I fear you are mistaken if you think a belief in a literal Genesis is THE mark of a Christian. That I believe is salvic faith in Christ, not the Bible.

St. Augustine who is just one of many fathers of our mutual Faith lived in the late 4th, early 5th centuries was like Origen, Cyprian, Justin Martyr, and Clement of Alexandria among others not a believer in the literal 6 days of creation - what we know today as the Young Earth Theory.

You might want to take the time to peruse the following quote from Chapter 19 of St. Augustine's "The Literal Meaning of Genesis" (De Genesi ad Litteram) written somewhere between 401 to 415 Anno Domini or so.


Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.

For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Andy said...

Monk,

Genesis is history, not allegory. None of the believers in the Bible considered Genesis to be allegory, including Jesus, and all of the writers of the Bible. They all considered Genesis to be historical. The conflicts with evolution are obvious.

Just today, I was reading an article written by an evolutionist that stated that Adam and Eve were fictional. But in Luke Chapter 3 we find the geneology of Christ, on his mother's side, going all the way back to Adam. According to the Bible, it was through Adam that the human race fell into sin. Not possible if evolution is true.

Andy said...

Monk,

Genesis is history, not allegory. None of the believers in the Bible considered Genesis to be allegory, including Jesus, and all of the writers of the Bible. They all considered Genesis to be historical. The conflicts with evolution are obvious.

Just today, I was reading an article written by an evolutionist that stated that Adam and Eve were fictional. But in Luke Chapter 3 we find the geneology of Christ, on his mother's side, going all the way back to Adam. According to the Bible, it was through Adam that the human race fell into sin. Not possible if evolution is true.

Andy said...

Streak,

If my family were held hostage under threat of death, and I thought I could get information needed for their rescue by torturing someone, of course I would do it.

Streak said...

If my family were held hostage under threat of death, and I thought I could get information needed for their rescue by torturing someone, of course I would do it.

So sin or evil is ok, as long as it serves your purpose. Why is it wrong when other people do it? Why stop at torture? Why not rape? Murder?

Please don't lecture me on the absolute truth of the Bible when you are so willing to commit evil if it serves your needs. If you can justify that in the life of Christ, then do so. Otherwise, perhaps some humility might be more useful.

Andy said...

Where is torture addressed in the Bible?

I love my family far more than I love anyone else. If I can prevent their harm, I would not only torture, I would kill.

I cannot think of a situation in which rape would be moral.

You don't see the difference between killing in self defense and say, killing to cover up a crime you've committed?

Streak said...

Of course, I understand the difference between self-defense and murder.

But I think you have been pulled into this '24 world where torture occurs to save someone's life or to stop a bomb going off. We know that is not how torture has been used, nor am I convinced that torture is even allowed, or is a good thing to do then. My point about rape is that if you define right or moral by the outcome. If the outcome justifies drowning someone, then why not cutting off a finger? Why not raping or killing someone close to the person you are trying to torture?

I don't know that torture is addressed directly in the Bible. Neither is abortion, after all, and neither is the theory of evolution. But can you really tell me that the same Jesus who advocated turning the other cheek and loving your enemy would advocate hooking up electrodes to someone, or drowning them to get the answer you wanted?

Tony said...

Torture isn't addressed in the Bible? Hmmm...some often fall into that literalist/fundamentalist trap that if something isn't directly addressed then some form of it must be morally permissible. Of course there is no "thou shalt not" where torture is concerned, but are there not principles found therein that we can make theologically correct inferences?

I mean, Christ Himself was tortured after all, as was the Apostle Paul on numerous occasions, Silas, and other apostles. The prophet Jeremiah was left in a miry pit to starve, put in stocks, slapped and his beard pulled out. Similar occurrences are recorded in the lives of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

But, torture isn't expressly forbidden so therefore must be ok. Shall we next justify domestic violence, beastiality, and rape? Those are neither directly addressed in the New Testament. Moral absolutists can find themselves on slippery slopes just as easily as liberals.

Streak said...

Slavery is never expressly banned either, right, Tony?

Monk-in-Training said...

Andy,

Leaving the Genesis discussion for the point of this thread, you said :

If my family were held hostage under threat of death, and I thought I could get information needed for their rescue by torturing someone, of course I would do it.

Naturally that is a very human reaction. Our fleshly selves calls us to defend our family above all. However it is my belief that Christ calls us to a more spiritual and heavenly standard.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew He says 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; In our walk of Faith, we all come to the point when He asks us for whatever the thing is, we just can't give Him (think rich young man in Mark). He wants us to radically follow Him.

Generations of Christians watched their loved ones tortured and murdered by Rome, and the Church grew and grew. How would it have done so if the early Christians had fought back and been exterminated by the military might of Rome? It was a spiritual battle, not one of flesh.

St Paul suffered terribly and describes those in ways that I would call torture in 2 Corinthians 11:23b ...far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning.

I would hope an pray that I was strong enough to endure such a hardship as we are called to in the Gospel of St. Mark 4:17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

The persecutions that the early Christians suffered most certainly was torture, but St. Paul comforted the faithful with 2 Corinthians 4:11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh

I certainly am a weak, sinful man, but even I can recognize the faith it takes to make it is my prayer that I would always be faithful to Christ in any such situation, and with St Nicolai of Zica I could pray:

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Andy said...

I've already said that I doubt the US Government can justify torturing people. However, if the government knew, for instance, that there was a nuclear bomb set to go off, I would have no problem with them trying to get its location from a prisoner by torture, if that was necessary. Now, as far as I know, such an event has not happened. But, faced with such a situation, you have to make a choice about whether you would be willing to let a lot of people die, or whether you would resort to torture trying to prevent it.

Jesus was tortured, as were many believers in the Bible, and more since the Bible was written. But their torture was not justified. They were tortured by evil men for evil reasons.

Streak said...

Nice response, Monk.

Andy, I think we are all responding to the idea that you can justify torture, and your sense that you decide that certain actions are ok if done by moral and Godly people, but those same actions are immoral in the hands of evil people. The morality of the actions themselves, then, are dependent on the user.

That is, I think, a troubling idea--that somehow Christians could do evil acts and justify them as ok because God is on their side. That is not a consistent moral philosophy, and as we are noting here, is inconsistent with your absolutism on other sins. The mindset of the homosexual, for example in your world view, is irrelevant to whether or not the act is moral or not. The same can be said of murder, or abuse, or any of the issues that we agree are sin and bad.

Monk-in-Training said...

Andy,

Responding to Streak's point.
certain actions are ok if done by moral and Godly people, but those same actions are immoral in the hands of evil people. The morality of the actions themselves, then, are dependent on the user.

That is the idea when I say that torture for instance is an intrinsic moral evil. It doesn't matter who or why. The deed is wrong in and of itself.

You say (and I believe you) that you are a Christian, well rightly so. I have given many verses of Scripture to substantiate my points, but it appears to me that you only give the same response, not taken from God's Sacred Word.

I point this out because it is you who accused Streak of lack of familiarity with Christian beliefs, yet have not responded with any specifically Christian understanding of how to deal with understanding torture and our response to it.

Please, join with me as we seek our hearts and God's Word, be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. Don't fall for the ways of Caesar and the Empire, but follow our Lord in His radical giving of Himself.

† Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis accende.
† Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love

Andy said...

Streak,

I don't believe a good reason can be found to engage in homosexuality, or adultery, or fornication, or bestiality, or any other sin that involves sex. Because you want to do it, or because it makes you feel good, are not good reasons, and I find no evidence that God would accept such.

Refusing to engage in torture because you think it is always wrong is a point of view that has some validity. But in the right circumstance, you might have choose to let people die rather than torture. If that is your choice, then you will have to live with the outcome, if you can.

Andy said...

Monk,

I don't believe that non-violence, at all costs, in all circumstances, is a Bible doctrine. I don't believe that Jesus taught that. I am taught, in the New Testament, to live in peace with everyone, if I can. Sometimes, the evil actions of others make that impossible.

For instance, if someone is trying to kill my wife, or my five year old son, I would certainly resort to violence to prevent it, and I have no doubt whatsoever that God would approve of my actions.

Monk-in-Training said...

Andy,

I know how you feel, I once had a beautiful wife, who died in my arms far too young. I have two sons and a daughter now grown, who are my greatest earthly love. So I know.

But I ask you, what does Jesus mean in the Gospel of St. Matthew when He says 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me?

How many brothers and sisters of our common Faith have laid down their lives an that of their children for the Kingdom. Do you think their sacrifice in vain?

Monk-in-Training said...

Well this has been a fascinating conversation, but I must leave. I have been working in the garden this morning, and now I must say my Noonday prayers put on my habit, and head to the jail to visit some friends.

Andy, I thank you for your responses and if you want to continue them, just email me. Also if you are in the Tulsa area, lets have coffee.

Br. James Patrick

Andy said...

Monk,

Sorry about your wife.

If some robber breaks into your house and tries to harm you, or your family, you are not serving the Kingdom of God to let him do it. That's a perversion of what the Kingdom of God means.

Even it were the government, I would do everything I could to protect my family and myself.

In Matthew 10: 32-39 Jesus is talking about choosing between God and the things of this world, including your family, if it comes to that. If your family objects to your faith, then you must choose God even if others don't like it. However, that does not mean that you allow someone to harm your family. And it does not mean that you abandon your wife and children. If you have children that are still at home, they are your responsibility to take care of. As is your wife. You would not be serving God to allow their harm.

Streak said...

There is still a lot here that sounds like Andy has completely mastered the art of loving friends and hating enemies. Not sure that is compatible with the Gospel either.

But what I do know is that this is still a rather selective literalism that focusses absolutism on sexual sins, and allows for great latitude for others. I don't find that terribly impressive either. Nor, might I add, do I find the thinking that always posits this kind of moral question in the framework of Andy (Good) opposing someone else (evil). I think the one real takeaway from the Bible that many miss is the sense of our own evil, or our own propensity for evil.

Andy, you could do much worse than engage in this conversation with Monk. He is a very thoughtful and compassionate person. I am not sure there is much more to be covered here, though.

Andy said...

I've already said more than I really wanted to say about torture. I don't see it as an absolute wrong. God does not say that it is, whereas those sexual sins are absolute because there can never be any justification for them.

Streak said...

If you seriously think that God thinks that torture is ok when you think it is ok, then you have created a God in your own likeness. Reminds me of the Anne Lamott quote about your God hating the same people you do. If you can put Jesus in the room drowning the person to get the information you want, then you worship a different god than we do.

And by the way, your obsession with sexual sins is something you might want to talk to a therapist about. That is fucked up.

But let me ask one question. Why do you read and comment here with people you have decided aren't Christians?

Andy said...

Streak,

It is YOU who has decided that torture is always wrong. God has not said so. I asked you where I could read in the Bible about God's view on torture and you couldn't even tell me if it is addressed.

It is obvious that you would prefer to let people die than to torture anyone. Fine. But you have no reason to be intolerant of an alternative view, since your views are not supported by Scripture. But you don't care about that anyway.

Sexual sins are epidemic in America and the world. One would have to be blind and deaf to not notice the plague. Sexual perverts are demanding to be considered moral and insist on changing God's definition of marriage. I think I would be a lot less "obsessed" about it if people would keep their sex private and stop parading it in the streets.

Streak said...

Seriously. Seek help. Your sexuality issues might be assisted with a capable therapist.

But I love your selective absolutism. When the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, that is absolute. When it says "don't kill" that is a suggestion. Hell, when Jesus himself said to turn the other cheek, you still think that leaves torture in the mix. Turning the other cheek, or loving your enemy, or giving your coat and tunic both, or that being wealthy is bad, or charging interest is bad--those are all suggestions. Only the sexual ones are absolute.

If you were even marginally consistent, I would find you interesting. As it is, I picture a very clenched, and angry person, fearful that people are going to take what is yours (not God's but yours) and that somewhere, someone is doing something sexual that scares you.

So I ask again. Why are you here? Why do you talk to people that you, and you alone, have decided are not Christians? Why do you get to play God?

Tony said...

Streak,

Slavery is never expressly banned either, right, Tony?

No, it isn't!