First off I agree 100% with everything John had to say in this excerpt. In the name of “reproductive rights” and “freedom” we have slaughtered millions of innocent children in the United States since Roe v. Wade was decided. However, I find it concerning that there isn’t as much concern being raised by Evangelical’s regarding issues like the use of torture or the death penalty as there is about abortion. It seems to me that these practices (especially torture) are just as degrading and destructive of Imago Dei as abortion is and despite this recent polls show that (in contrast to people who don’t believe in Christ at all) Evangelicals are more likely to support torture then any other group in America. To me this is just further evidence of the Evangelical Church entangling itself so far into the politics of one political party that we can no longer provide an independent, prophetic voice against the ills of our time. We need to be speaking to the vast array of moral issues facing our society, not just abortion and homosexuality (though these need to be spoken against despite what some in the “Emergent Church” may say).
There are Christians devoted to those other things. Abortion is fought against more passionately because of the sheer number involved.
Millions are affected by abortion. Those who are destroyed in the womb, the mothers who choose that destruction, and the doctors who perform it.
The effects of the death penalty and supposed torture, which are not as clearly wrong as abortion, pale in comparison to the effects on America that abortion produces.
Justification for the death penalty and supposed torture can arguably be found in 1 Peter 2:13-16. One of government’s divinely ordained functions is to punish evil and ensure justice. Abortion does not further that cause, so it is opposed more vehemently.
You are correct that Peter lays out broad authority for sovereigns to enact law, but I’m sure you would agree that this power is not absolute, nor is the Christian mandate to obey. For instance if (as in the case of the early church) the government ordered you to worship the President as a god I’m sure you, like Daniel, would not.
I recently finished up my last semester of law school and one of the last classes I took was a class on jurisprudence. One of the fundamental questions the class sought to answer was “what is law?” The Western mindset in the last 2 centuries has been to take a “positivist” approach to the law in which the law is simply whatever the sovereign says it is. However, the oldest tradition of jurisprudence, which finds it’s roots in the likes of some Jewish thinkers, Aristotle, Cicero and Aquinas, is what is called Natural Law. In this tradition a law which does not conform to higher standards of morality and justice, or, as Aquinas would say, God’s Eternal Law, is not a law at all.
To argue that the government has a right to torture people at all is a stretch, but to say that the government can torture people who have never been found guilty of a crime is even more absurd. Now honestly I expect governments to behave in this manner. They are, after all, fallen human institutions. My problem is that my fellow Evangelicals are actually SUPPORTING these actions. I know it’s cliche, but do we take seriously the commandments of Jesus to “love your enemies”, “turn the other cheek”, and “bless those who persecute you”. The church needs to be an independent voice that speaks out against all the ills of society, not just the ones that the party we support (and I support) champions.
Greg and Michael,
First we forget what it is that causes someone to seek an abortion and that is their hearts are not right before God.
The thing is there have always been abortions. I am in no way implying that is is ok in my post response. What I am saying is this, abortions done in back alleys and grimy rooms have been replaced by the sanitized, clean room making it seem a little more appealing. The only thing Roe Vs. Wade did was make it more easier to get an abortion. What Roe Vs. Wade did not do was interject a moral statement into an immoral law. But even if the law has always been there does not give people justification to seek abortions. Because that has already entered into their hearts before they even went to the clinic.
We need to stop blaming authority for the decisions we make ourselves. Contrary to popular opinion we are not mindless drones as they would have the rest of the world to believe. The best way to stop abortions is to make a fundamental change in the person who believes it is ok. And in many instances there have been young girls who have been forced into by their parents and in many cases those girls were in church.
But after the abortions, there are young women who are so traumatized the rest of their lives. It is to those young women we must minister to gracefully and lovingly. We live in a society of pleasure of the flesh and are gratified by seeking it at whatever cost and if there are victims, then get rid of the victim or make the victim take the blame.
To get rid of abortion, make a fundamental change in the heart of society.
While I don’t mean to derail the thread too much, I think the discussion on torture is plagued with inadequate definitions, and the poll you used for your information on evangelicals and torture, to my knowledge, also failed to adequately define torture, or did so so broadly as to render it meaningless.
There is still debate as to whether techniques like water boarding and sleep deprivation are actually torture. Given the current political climate, the rhetoric from the prevailing party has insisted that it is torture, but it is hard for me to believe they do it for honorable reasons, and not just to spite those who held power previously.
I think the state has the God-given power to extract information from enemies of said state in a non-lethal manner, and that is what has taken place. We as the church must necessarily support our divinely created government, even when it is against us. Most of all, we must let it do its job. That job is to protect its citizens.
A human government set up on the principles of Christian non-violence cannot function at all. Following this to its logical conclusion, defensive warfare is out of the question and so is local law enforcement. Do you oppose the police using violence and force against people who have not been convicted of a crime? Are they to turn the other cheek, etc?
How do you draw the line between what violence is permissible from the state and what isn’t?
Actually “torture” is not an imprecise term at all. The Geneva Conventions define it well enough. Furthermore, how one can say that making someone physically and mentally believe they are drowning (waterboarding) in order to extract information isn’t torture is beyond me.
I think your point about government protecting us is a good one. However there is a difference between government justly using law enforcement to actively prevent crimes in progress and government using torture to obtain information about what might happen. In torture a human being becomes a mere means to an end. Ultimately it is utilitarian decision. The idea is that by putting this one person through hell we can get information that will increase the safety/pleasure/security of many more. This is a philosophy I can’t support for if we are to merely look to what gives the greatest pleasure for the greatest number there can be no true justice.
As just a quick example many (including myself) would say that it is better for many guilty men to go free then for the innocent to be convicted as it is a greater travesty of justice for one to be punished for something they didn’t do then for someone to get away with a crime. The utilitarian doesn’t care. If society is happier and feels that justice has been served by declaring an innocent man guilty then so be it. Or in a more relevant case. If we are safer by putting all the Arabs into concentration camps like the Japanese then so be it. Hardly anyone would support torturing domestic criminals by the way even if they were Timothy Mcveigh style terrorists. I find it odd that we can treat someone so different simply because they are from a different country. There is this “them”, “us” analysis going on which has no justification if we believe all to be created in the image of God.
Finally as to governments being set up on ideals of Christian non-violence. Your absolutely right such a government would fail. This is why there is no such thing as a “Christian” government. Yet as Christians the kingdom we belong to and we serve is not of this world. We must recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human being even if governments don’t. I don’t expect government to behave in a Christian manner, but I expect Christians to. We are to pray for our leaders and understand the role they have in God’s plan, but to say we are to support everything they do simply isn’t what Peter is saying.
“The Geneva Conventions define it well enough. Furthermore, how one can say that making someone physically and mentally believe they are drowning (waterboarding) in order to extract information isn’t torture is beyond me. ”
Several comments. They may be off topic, but you started this.
1) You make it sound like the government is waterboarding every Tom, Dick, and Harry terrorist they capture. It has been a matter of public record (thanks to numerous leaks to the press) that the method has been used very sparringly.
2) Why do you believe the Geneva Convention rules (written many decades ago; intended for how nations at war are to conduct themselves with regards to POWs; which couldn’t have possibly conceived of the scenarios we deal with today) apply to terrorists who are not the agents of any nation?
3) If one of our men or women in uniform were captured by the enemy and we KNEW for a fact that the WORST thing that would be done to them is that they would be waterboarded or deprived of sleep, I think we all could live with that. But given we know that they would be subjected to all methods that are without question torture, before being beheaded on camera of course, sadly we are not afforded such comfort.
4) It really doesn’t matter if you believe waterboarding to be torture. It is a useful tool that should be kept on the table. It is a method that leaves no permanent scarring yet scares the he!! out of the terrorist. Yet no one who is waterboarded will ever have a permanent limp because of it. No one will have missing fingers because of it. No one will have permanent impairments like being unable to lift their arms above their shoulders (ala John McCain). In fact, I would wager that even though McCain was publicly against waterboarding, if given the choice to endure Hanoi Hilton with current American interrogation methods or what he had to endure in Viet Nam, my guess is he would opt for the American method.
5) If your child were abucted, and you have in your custody the scum who took your child but your child is still missing. Your baby could be dead, alive but suffering, at deaths door, only this person knows. Just how far would you personally go to get the information to potentially save your baby? If you say you would do nothing, then I say you are a coward of a father. You have a responsibilty to protect your family. If you say you would do whatever it takes to potentially save your baby, then you admit that the government is equally justified in what they do. For every soul in this country, every soul the government is charged to protect, every soul is someones son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother.
There is evil out there, and I am not talking about the general depravity we all share. No, this is the evil that seeks to kill as many of us as possible by any means possible. It must be dealt with. Are you able to stare pure evil in the eye and deal with it?
1. So? If the government was summarily executing just one person it would still be wrong. Number doesn’t matter.
2. This argument was made by the law professor who oversaw my upper level writing project. He was special counsel to the Justice Department at the time he wrote a memo to President Bush regarding this (his name is Robert J. Delahunty). It was rejected by the Supreme Court.
3. It would still violate the International Laws of War and get anyone who took part in it a war crimes tribunal before the Hague.
4. Shooting the children of a suspected terrorist one by one in front him is also an effective way to get him to talk. Should this be on the table? It should be noted that Geneva forbids mental as well as physical torture. The fact something doesn’t leave any physical marks does not exclude it from being torture.
5. I don’t know how I would react, but I know how Christ would. I would hope that I had the ability to react to these acts of evil in a Christlike manner, but I am also human and may fail. That wouldn’t stop my actions against the kidnapper from being sinful. The teaching of Scripture is that we are to not return violence with more violence. You may call this cowardice, but then you are calling the entire Early Church cowards who exercised non-violence even when their families were being executed for holding to Christianity.
“You may call this cowardice, but then you are calling the entire Early Church cowards who exercised non-violence even when their families were being executed for holding to Christianity.”
Frankly, it is cowardice. And I am certianly not calling the early church cowards. That is not AT ALL relevant to my scenario. As you admint, they were martyrs for the faith. My example has nothing to do with the kidnapper demanding we worship him as god.
“The teaching of Scripture is that we are to not return violence with more violence.”
Read Genesis chapter 14. There, Abram slaughters a small army of men to rescue a distant relative, Lot. Immediately following in chapter 15, God makes His covenant with Abram. You would think that if Abram slaughtering all those men to rescue family was wrong, God would have said so don’t you think?
Frankly, the Bible is chock full of all sorts of violence, much of which is directly ordered by God himself. You know what that means don’t you? That Jesus himself sanctioned all that bloodshed. I personally don’t have a problem with Jesus dealing with evil men in a very harsh manner. I can’t wait for Him to come again and deal with the evil in this world personally. But until He does, we are charged to deal with it ourselves. The only question is what method do we use to deal with it.
I get it that you are against waterboarding. Fine. I beg you, just what DO you think is an acceptable interrogation method to get intelligence that will save lives?
The examples you give of God-sanctioned violence in the Old Testament simply don’t apply to Christians. To be sure the issue of violence in the OT is a extremely complex one which theologians have wrestled with for thousands of years. I don’t have time to go into the various views taken, however I find 1 Chronicles 22:7-10 particularly telling where David is forbidden to build God’s temple because he had shed too much blood and fought too many battles. However, it is not relevant presently because America is not God’s chosen nation, nor do we as a nation or individually have any divine command ordering us to commit violence.
The New Testament does not allow Christians to use violence under any circumstance. Matthew 5:38-42 says “do not resist an evil man”, and “turn the other cheek”. Matt. 5:43-46 tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. Jesus rebuked Peter for his use of violence in Matt 26:50. Most of the statements in Matthew are repeated in Luke. In John 18 Jesus states that the reason his followers don’t fight is because his Kingdom is of another world. Romans 12 tells us to never pay back evil with evil because vengeance does not belong to us, but the Lord. Romans 12 then becomes even more radical telling us that we are supposed to feed and give drink to our enemies. Ephesians 2 addresses Jews and Gentiles (enemies) being united as a result of Christ’s work and preaching of peace. Ephesians 5 tells us to be imitators of Christ loving others as he loved us. Ephesians 6 tells us that our struggle as Christians is not against the physical realm, but that spiritual. And the list goes on. The Early Church knew these teachings and followed them. It was not until Christianity was usurped by Constantine for the gain of the Roman Empire and individuals like Augustine grafted the concept of “Just War” into Christianity that Christian’s began to take part in violence. From there we have case after case of people killing fellow human beings in the name of God whether it be the Crusades or some of our troops in Iraq today who emblazon Christian messages on their tanks and bombs.
The issue you have I think is that you are a pragmatist. It’s ok because I normally am to and understand perfectly where your coming from. However, Christianity is ultimately foolish and the Bible itself says so (1 Corinthians 1:18). We must realize how radically different the Christian outlook and life is supposed to be from the world around us. Our full allegiance must be to our heavenly Father, not to the kingdoms of the Earth.
None of those passages are prescriptions for governmental actions. I can quote scripture too.
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7)
And are you honestly saying that if some thug breaks into your house that you would just sit idly by whilst he rapes your wife because the New Testament says to “not resist an evil man”?
You never did answer my question as to what interrogation methods you would find acceptable.
Let me address the passage in Romans you mention. I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar or know Greek, however I have read a number of scholars who address this passage. The way it is addressed goes very similar to what I have posted below which is a response from Greg Boyd (yes I know his open theism is likely heretical and I disagree with him on that, but I find I agree with him here).
“People often cite Romans 13:1-6 to argue that God is involved in governments and Christians thus have a duty to support them — even serving in the military, if necessary. Two things need to be said about this.
First, Paul says God “establishes” governments. The Greek here can simply imply that God uses governments as he finds them. In this case, Paul says, he uses them to punish wrong doers. But this doesn’t mean God approves of them. Throughout the Bible, God uses governments he clearly doesn’t approve of (e.g. Assyria in Isa. 10).
Second, Romans 13:1-6 must be read in conjunction with the verses that immediately precede it (Rom. 12:17-21). In these passages Paul tells Kingdom people they are to love and serve their enemies and never exact vengeance on them. Rather, we are to leave all judgment to God. Then, beginning in Romans 13, Paul tells us one of the ways God exacts vengeance on people: he uses governments. So God uses governments, as he finds them, to do the very thing he has just forbidden Kingdom people to do. The passage thus shows not that Christians have a responsibility to participate in government, but that we have an obligation not to participate when it does things we as Kingdom people are forbidden to do (like using violence against wrongdoers).”
So in a sense you are right that governments have the power to bear the sword against evil doers. I have never argued that they do not. Police officer, the military, etc. sometimes have to use force. There may be an issue as to whether or not a Christian can personally participate in these acts, but there is not a issue as to whether or not the government may use force. However, this ability of a government to use force is not absolute. In other words it can’t do whatever it wants. As I stated in one of my earlier posts an unjust law is no law at all. A governments actions must conform to justice. The question here is the extent of the force which a Christian may support the government in using. I am arguing that torture crosses the line.
As to which torture methods I would support. Before the CIA took over Gitmo the FBI was conducting the interrogations typical to what is used by law enforcement in the United States and having considerable success at extracting actionable intelligence. The Army Field Manual 2 22.3 also provides excellent guidelines for how to conduct interrogations without resorting to torture including 19 different techniques.
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