It doesn’t get any simpler than this: torture is incompatible with Christian ethics. The faithful–those who believe that all human beings are created in the imago dei, who were bidden by their savior to pray for their enemies and to turn the other cheek, who believe in the possibility of redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and the ultimate role of the divine to judge the human soul–cannot act in ways that violate the fundamental dignity of another human being, even those who commit the most vile and evil acts, even those who sin in the most grievous ways.
This is a fundamental point. This doesn’t address the utility of torture as an interrogation technique (which is strongly suspect) or as a morbid outlet for individual or collective revenge for wrongs perpetrated. It doesn’t address the damage that occurs to our ostensible moral standing in the global dialog when we engage, permit, or (wink wink) tolerate immoral and inhumane behavior. It doesn’t speak to how it creates fissures in our pacts with other civil societies (even if those now being tortured in our present conflict aren’t part of such a pact) to not torture our men and women when they themselves are held captive, or our ability to voice outrage should such acts occur among our enemies, barbarian or civil.
As Christians, we see the dignity of life in all other human beings. Our governments must act to keep us safe, and we must honor their actions and support every one of their just and moral activities towards that end. But we must reject actions by our government, even those actions that one thinks are essential towards our safety, that are immoral and illegal, and if those in charge feel compelled to take those actions, they must be held to account for that activity.
All this is said in preamble to posts I want to note by Joshua Micah Marshall and Andrew Sullivan, both of whom point to (and rightly condemn) William Kristol’s piece in the Weekly Standard. Make no mistake about it: Bush’s legislation would permit “alternate” procedures by the CIA such as waterboarding, torture under any sane definition, and would protect those who torture (and those who condone it, including ostensibly the President himself) from prosecution. (Note also Sullivan’s interesting comparison to Bush’s use of the word torture and legalistic definitions thereof)
Christians need to stand up against this. This is not a political football, no matter what Kristol might think. There is no room for torture in a Christian world-view, no matter how strongly you support the President, the Global War on Terror, and a strong response such as been articulated by the Republican leadership. Torture of another human being is evil. It is a sin. And as citizens of this country, we are all somewhat responsible for the sin that our government commits. We need to start articulating that this is not acceptable. May God have mercy on our souls. I pray God might have mercy on Kristol’s and Bush’s, too..