Christianity and Torture

Reading this article recently strikes me as yet another reason why I question the validity, dare I say the morality of Christianity.  At least in the fashion that it’s practiced in America.  It’s not that Christianity and Catholicism for instance have the market cornered on hypocrisy.  But because of the utter self righteous way in which many Christians paint themselves, believing that everyone should think and live as they do, I don’t understand how they can reconcile the Jesus in the bible as a savior who loves them and their agenda so much.  And so it is with a survey showing that 62% of White evangelical support torture.

Let’s examine just some of the opinions in this article for instance.  My response to these will be in bold:

Rev. Ronald Kuykendall, an evangelical pastor in Gainesville, Florida, says that the question is difficult to answer because everyone has a different definition of torture. He says he would support the torture of a terrorist if “the techniques used are lawful, necessary” and the ultimate purpose is to save lives.

Kuykendall says the New Testament (Romans 13:1-7) teaches Christians that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

“The NT [New Testament] is clear that God grants the right of the ‘sword’ to the state to be used against wrongdoers,” Kuykendall says. “Just as I believe I don’t have a right to vengeance personally, I do believe that I can seek justice through the state and call the police on a robber, or a gunman threatening my life.”

Honestly I have no idea what he means or how this relates to torture.  But he really tried to get the scripture to endorse his support of it.  Is he saying that no matter what happens if it’s lawful then he supports it?  I would say that as a Christian he shouldn’t leave it to sinners to determine whether torture techniques are godly.  He doesn’t do that with abortion or gay rights.  Both have been lawful and yet people who share his beliefs are constantly on the fight to change the laws.  It’s as if he is complicit in support of torture but doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.  Let the “authorities” handle it.

Chuck Colson, the evangelical pastor who once served as an aide to President Nixon, answered the same question in an online discussion conducted by the Washington Post “On Faith” Web site.

Colson said that Christians are supposed to obey the law, but there may be times when there is a higher obligation, such as ignoring a “no trespassing” sign to rescue a drowning man.

“So it is with torture,” Colson wrote. “If a competent authority honestly believes that this was the only way to get information that might save the lives of thousands, I believe he would be justified.”

Again, does the comparison to saving a drowning man (saving a life) compare to torturing a man? And who defines competent?  Should it be a Christian who does the torturing?  And what if the beliefs the “authority” has are based in prejudice more than evidence?  He can “believe” the cow jumped over the moon but does that make it right?  Is this the foundation on which he is willing to stand in the face of Almighty God?


Charles Kammer, a religious studies professor, says he was not surprised to learn that a majority of evangelical Christians support the use of torture in certain circumstances.

Kammer says that despite Jesus’ own commitment to nonviolence, Christianity as a whole has never embraced nonviolence. He says some evangelicals also confuse patriotism with piety.

“What’s good for America has often been seen as God’s will,” says Kammer, who teaches at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.

“They think the torture of evil people is not bad, but may be morally required as a way of protecting the good people.”

Kammer said he is a Christian and does not support torture in any circumstances. He considers waterboarding torture.

This seems to make the most sense to me.  When I first thought to write on this topic, I thought to myself, “Since the days of Columbus and perhaps before, Christians have always killed, maimed, tortured, stole, and dominated people when it served their interest.  Why should 2009 be any different?  To say many confuse patriotism with piety is an understatement!  They believe, or at least say they believe that God is an American and that His focus is on preserving the American way of life that isolates and separates from everyone who do not share like beliefs. 

I talked to a co-worker of mine who told me that she didn’t believe that waterboarding was torture.  I asked her if she knew what waterboarding was and she said no.  I figured she had listened to Rush or Coulter.  (I swear Coulter is one of the most dangerous and sick thinkers I have ever heard.  She is definitely serial killer material.  Rush is a drug addict so I can’t take anything he says seriously.  But I digress)  Anyway, I gave her this link on waterboarding which show the lasting damage that it causes.  Read it for yourself and see.  Also, I said to her, “If it wasn’t so bad, why would the CIA bother doing it?  If one believes in torture, surely he wouldn’t do something that seems like a mere nuisance.”  She agreed, but admitted that she likes the feeling of feeling safe.  She liked the tough talk of Dick Cheney and felt that her protection was more secure with the mobster like approach.  In other words it’s better for your neighbors to fear you more than respect you.  

But she wanted my opinion as well.  So I explained to this person who has an  Assemblies of God background the virtues of neighbors this way:

You, your husband and children live in a home which resides in a neighborhood.  You have neighbors.  Perhaps you can get along ok if you held every one of your neighbors at bay with a gun.  Let’s say no one will bother you.  Everyone fears you and you feel safe. 

But let’s say you’re away from the house and someone is snooping around your property.  Well the neighbor to your right would perhaps alert you or the authorities, but they are mostly indifferent because you aren’t friendly neighbors and have no respect for one another. 

Let’s say you go out of town.  You can tell a good neighbor, “Look I’m going to be away for a couple weeks.  Please keep an eye out for my stuff.  Get my mail for me.”  Well a neighbor who likes and respects you will go the extra mile to secure your property and personal safety.  Which of these two neighbor situations make you feel safer? 

I said it’s the same with other nations.  When Bush and Cheney drew the line in the sand and said, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” (meaning if you don’t agree with everything we do the hell with you) it put us in a position of alienating nations/neighbors.  Perhaps that nation/neighbor wouldn’t be as excited to share information that they may have obtained about our nation’s safety that our own intelligence didn’t pick up.

I don’t want to give the appearance that war is not necessary at times.  Nor that I don’t believe a strong military is a vital part of national security.  But there are other areas that are important to.  And it takes wisdom to deliver balance and righteousness.  I simply can’t reconcile the beliefs of the Christian leadership to bear witness with my own spirit.  And this is one of the reason why it’s difficult to subscribe to believing and worshipping as they do.  Worst of all, (or not) it causes me to question and doubt the very foundations of their beliefs.