what would Jesus do in regards to torture?

abughraibWould Jesus torture? Or would Jesus authorize the use of torture under any circumstances? To ask the question settles it in the minds of many who are only vaguely familiar with the Bible and church doctrine. But the answer is not so simple. 

First, would Jesus kill, or want his followers to kill? I believe that the answer is definitively yes. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God…and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Some deduce from his “second commandment” that Jesus therefore would never, under any circumstances, kill anyone, or want his followers to kill anyone.  However, that is a simplistic view of “love your neighbor.” Are you “loving your neighbor” if you allow terrorists to break into their house and kill them? Are you loving your own family if you allow that to happen to them? Sure, killing somebody in those circumstances is not exhibiting love towards the evil doer, but it sure is a godsend to the victims.  So yes, absolutely, I say that Jesus would kill or authorize killing under the proper circumstances.   

From that premise it is but a small leap for me to conclude that he would torture or authorize his followers to torture, under certain circumstances.  Certainly, if a life-and-death emergency existed (such as a “ticking time bomb” scenario) and lives could be saved by torture and nothing else.  If Jesus would authorize killing a human to save a life, certainly he would authorize torture–a lessor punishment than death–in the same circumstances. 

Certainly some might argue that torture is worse than death, and I grant that position as having merit, but it does not convince me that he would authorize killing but not torture. First, killing somebody is not exactly a walk in the park. And second, the person who put you in the position where you have to torture them should have thought about the fact that torture is hell before they acted. And thirdly, the one being tortured is the one causing the torture. Give the information sought and the torture ceases.

I believe that Jesus would also authorize torture to save lives even if it was not a life-and-death emergency. Say, for instance, that a terrorist was caught who was a part of a group that had a nuclear weapon but no immediate plans to use it.  Whether to torture such a person or not in such circumstances is an easy question in my mind.  Hell yes, do it asap, do whatever it takes.    Millions of victims could be saved.

Of course, many pitfalls await us once we travel down the road towards torture. And there are many legitimate questions about torture itself. Is it effective? Does the person to be tortured really have any valuable information? Will the torturer go too far, such as not stop once all valuable information is gleaned?  But those are questions about degree that do not address the issue that I am raising, and are for another article at another time.  

We are killing terrorists on the battlefield. Sometimes our attempts at killing them cause horrendous suffering, not just agonizing deaths but when they live, agonizing burns and debilitating permanent wounds. War is hell.  We did not ask for this fight. Our cause is just.

And incidentally, I do not buy the argument that torture makes us “just like our enemies.” If any person is unable to ascertain the difference between torturing terrorists to save lives and terrorists cutting off our troops heads or dragging them through the streets just for the fun of it, then you have serious problems with your capacity to reason.  I understand the Geneva Convention was signed by us, but that treaty involved a quid pro quo: each signator gave up the right to torture but in return received the assurance that the other signatory nations would likewise not torture its troops.  Terrorists are not members of armies of signatory nations. Under the Geneva Convention in wars past such out-of-uniform combatants were summarily shot as spies.  And they certainly do not refrain from torturing our troops. By giving up the right to torture, under the proper circumstances and with the proper safeguards in place, we are needlessly tying our hands behind our backs in the middle of a fistfight.  Sure, the romantic John McCain does not want captives to be treated with torture as he was.  But our troops are currently being treated worse than he was.  What one person “wants” is not how we run this country. Hell, I want world peace.  But I also want to love my neighbors by protecting them from terrorists.  

This article was inspired by the commentor at The Other McCain who called himself “Who would Jesus Torture” in the comments section of the R. S. McCain’s article about torture. I highly recommend the article and the comments following it.  I would appreciate any feed back from all, including my liberal brethren. But please, spare me the sanctimonious speeches. Give me reasons, not rhetoric.

3 responses to “what would Jesus do in regards to torture?

  1. Remember, you never expect the Spanish Inquisitition…..

  2. Yeah, well you never expect a lot of things. Just because mistakes were made in the past, and will be made in the future, that does not excuse you from thinking and doing the right thing now.

  3. Isn’t this the same thing many Americans hate Islam for? They have this notion that their religion tells them to kill. Now you are doing just that.

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