Christianity and “Torture” – Part 3

In the prior two posts we looked at whether or not there is a “Christian” position on war and how that impacts our ideas on torture. We concluded that while the believer in the Prince of Peace should never long for or relish war, some wars are necessary and good if they are a means of last resort to prevent greater suffering.

That leaves us with the big question that my friend asked – theories are fine but how should an individual Christian trying to live a life centered on Jesus respond when these reports of Americans torturing detainees come out? I offer the following thoughts which I hope are helpful despite being incomplete.

Consider how Proverbs 18 instructs us. Verses 13, 15 and 17 are very important when considering this topic. To summarize them, the Christian should be very slow to make judgments based on one side of the story regardless of who is telling it. In the political world that is especially true – whether you are someone who leans left or right does not matter. Politicians, by and large, are interested in promoting their political agenda and narrative even when it does not match the truth. In the case of the torture report that came out recently, it was nothing more than a brazen attempt by the party losing power in the US Senate to get their point of view out before losing their bully pulpit.

The facts here revealed a much different story than was presented by the report and generally by the media. Enhanced interrogations were used on a tiny fraction (less than 1%) of detainees in the war on terror. There was a formal process used to determine whether enhanced interrogation would be permitted and there must have been a greater good to be gained. Social and medical scientists did a significant amount of research to ensure that methods did not create any lasting harm. These are the facts.

It is possible to say that using these methods on seven of the more than 2000 possible subjects is still too many, but it is not possible to say that somehow this was a widespread problem led by an out of control spy force seeking to abuse terrorists or find revenge.

Personal response is different than national response. Think about your personal responsibility to love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you. Even though the government does have the freedom and even responsibility to use the sword to stop greater suffering, individual Christians should always pursue mercy where we can because we were pursued with mercy.

Remember that things could be worse than we’d like to believe. It’s important in our love for country to not pretend that no American could cross a line when dealing with terrorists. It is possible that sinners in a sinful world sinned against terrorists they were questioning. It is possible that those guilty of these actions would try to deceive investigators to prevent the real truth from getting out. The facts we currently know don’t support this narrative, but Christians who know that each one of us is so bad it took the death of the King of Glory to save us from our sin should know this is possible.

Read and apply Romans 5:5 – 10. Pray for terrorists, especially those who warrant this kind of enhanced interrogation. The reality is that before God we are all Osama bin Laden. We are vile, evil rebels with no thought of His kingdom except as a place we want to destroy. We must adopt the posture of Jesus who left home and holiness to engage angry rebels with a message of hope and reconciliation. We are much more like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who planned the 9/11 attacks than we are like God, and God’s grace is sufficient to save even the most horrible terrorist.


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