November 3, 2011

My rant and the continuing conversation about torture

I have been pondering the responses to my fall funk, and have received several through email and phone. I appreciate that very much. I hope that those inside the "cult" understand that my post was not a criticism of them, but also understand that if I were one of those invited in, I would probably defend it. I am not sure how else I would respond. Leighton's comment about it being ok to not make it in my profession is a good one. I think the difficult thing is that all of the people close to me who have made it are very qualified, and probably smarter than me, the difficulty is that I have known people who made it despite being less than impressive. Perhaps we file that under the "life isn't fair" category, but it is a reality. Like I said, CIL, and Ubub have both made it into the inner circle, and their intelligence and work ethic is beyond reproach. But there have been others who make not making it all that much more difficult. On that note, btw, I have an appointment for next week with my therapist, and will see how that goes. Perhaps I can gain some clarity on this funk. On the other note, however, let me say that I have had a recent exchange with a FB friend about torture and evangelical ethics that made me blanche. This is a guy who served as somewhat of a mentor to me during my late high school and early college years. I framed the torture question to him, and he said this:
As far as torture and killing there will always be innocents that become victims. If you look at the old testament accounts of God's people going into battle for the sake of His future kingdom, and at His command there were thousands killed then. I'm not saying Bush was God and should have done those things but the precept being that the future in both cases justifies the means. So maybe that doesn't ring true with other conservatives but that's me.
Again, Leighton's comment about religious justification comes to mind, but this one was more chilling than any of the others. Most of the evangelicals I have talked to about torture have hemmed and hawed about it, but ultimately agree that it is evil. The only one who has just denounced it as evil and wrong was Tony. Every other conservative evangelical has tried to find some way to explain it. This guy, however, just said openly that it was ultimately tolerable because we are on God's side. That depresses me deeply. As I noted back to him, if that is how evangelicals respond to torture, then there really is no such thing as a Christian ethic. After all, we are all pretty good at treating our friends relatively well. This is not an attack on Christianity (though my FB friend assumed as much--which says a lot about assumptions of Christianity equalling conservatism, and any criticism of conservative policy was ergo an attack on Christianity). I cling to my faith, though not easily. But it is an attack on the assumption that Christians can somehow magically understand moral issues absent some broader dialogue. I have no idea what God says to people, but it obviously not very clear to most conservative evangelicals that their "conservative" approach is not the same as their supposed "Christian" one. After all, if those conservatives can't figure out that torture is evil, I have little faith that they can make sense of less obvious moral questions. And that makes me sad.


leighton said...

Yep, it's frustrating. I know way too many people who treat everyone they know kindly and lovingly, yet won't condemn torture because they "don't know what's in [the torturers'] hearts." The same simplistic way of viewing the world that makes them a joy to be around makes it impossible for them to call evil things evil. It's hard when it's tempting to emulate their behavior, but you couldn't disagree more with their reasons for behaving the way they do.

steves said...

Even setting aside the religious argument against torture, it is clearly a violation of federal law an several treaties. I have a hard time understanding people that are ok with ignoring this. Some of them would say "what about the ticking time bomb scenario?". I suppose they could torture the suspect and then be arrested. If they turned out to be right, then I a jury would likely let them off.

Smitty said...

Saw this and immediately wanted to pass it on to you for the ongoing conversation on this blog.

Monk-in-Training said...

Torture is an intrinsic moral evil. It always has been, and in Christian Moral Theology, it is a Mortal Sin.

It is impossible for a Christian to argue in the affirmative for Torture without committing a grave offense against the Imageo Dei that makes each person unique, bearing the Image of God.

To advocate Torture also requires a Torturer, and to imperil another's soul with this ghastly stain is not a Christian, ethical thing to do.

It is a sad fact that most of the Church in our region would join with your friend. :(

PS I met 'anewanglican' for the first time today outside of a blog. Nice fella.

leighton said...

Here's another article that seems on topic. The author is a Christian himself and thus has grounds to opine on what should matter to Christians:

But one day it occurred to me that the parts of the world where people actually had cut dramatically back on their carbon emissions, actually did live voluntarily in smaller homes and take public transit, were the same countries where people were giving aid to the poor and making sure everyone had health care—countries like Norway and Sweden, where religion was relatively unimportant. How could that be? For Christians there should be something at least a little scary in the notion that, absent the magical answers of religion, people might just get around to solving their problems and strengthening their communities in more straightforward ways.

I would love it if adult believers got together and actually made the cultural meaning of "faith" something different than comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. I'm skeptical that this will actually happen, for a variety of reasons (not least of which is that the corporate media adores bibliolaters); but I can at least not discourage the people who are trying.

Tony said...

I haven't been on the blogs much lately and am glad to know I still have a slight influence on this blog. :)

I've had some incredulous conversations about torture as well and it seems there is always some sort of justification. "Scripture doesn't say anything about it." So? There aren't other principles that can be applied to guide a reasonable response other than "Well, they're evil." Anyway.