Thursday, May 21, 2009

Waterboarding- Why are Christians Silent?

I'm apalled to hear that Dick Cheney is continuing to justify the practice of waterboarding. It is more painful to witness the silence and the absence of outrage on the part of Christians on this subject. Our leaders have become wary of the Left when making any statement that distances ourselves from the Right. Isn't this sad?

In 2005 Albert Mohler wrote an article unquivocally stating that no torture should be acceptable to us. William Land recently mentioned that torture should never be supported by Christians, no matter what.

An excerpt from Mohler's article nuances his stance by sympathizing with those may find their thoughts drifting in the direction of waterboarding:

As Augustine argued, the Christian soldier may kill enemy combatants as a matter of true necessity, but he can never assume that in doing so he has not sinned. Augustine's "melancholy soldier" knows that the use of deadly force against another human being is, generally speaking, sin. Yet, he also knows that a failure or refusal to kill can at times be a sin worse in both intention and effect than a decision to kill in order to save lives. In a very real sense, that soldier cannot privilege his desire to be free from the sin of killing another human being to supersede his responsibility to save the lives of innocents. As philosopher Michael Walzer argues, this is the perennial problem of "dirty hands." The honest soldier knows this problem all too well – as does the interrogator.

Nevertheless, Mohler goes on to rule out creating any rules that would actually legitimize even some forms of torture:

First, the use of torture should be prohibited as a matter of state policy – period. No set of qualifications and exceptions can do anything but diminish the moral credibility of this policy.

Then he goes on to give a little room:

At the same time, rare exceptions under extreme circumstances can be considered under those circumstances by legitimate state agents, knowing that a full accounting of these decisions must be made to the public, through appropriate means and mechanisms.

Second, a thorough and legitimate review must be conducted subsequent to the use of any such techniques, with the agents who authorized or conducted such use of torture fully accountable, even to the point of maximum legal prosecution if their use of extreme coercion is seen to have been unjustified (not simply because the interrogation did not produce the desired information, but because the grounds of justification were invalid).

I wish I could really follow this line of reasoning. Mohler has my sympathy because it is difficult to put it into words. All I can understand by reading between the lines is that we Christians are trying our best to cut some slack for those whose job it is to protect us. Yes, it is true enough that often we do things that are never right but may take the place of a greater sin and therefore unavoidable. In the current discussion on torture is this a factor? Was waterboarding practised at Guantanamo Bay only with extreme moral consciousness and a sense of deep humility?

Who are we kidding? When no law exists to hold the torturers accountable and no law exists to keep the public fully aware of these proceedings (as Mohler suggests we must do), how can we be silent over this moral outrage that has happened in our day and age? Perhaps our sin lies not so much in the fact that we are nuanced in our condemnation of such torture as a legal practice as in the fact we are silent here and now, when WE have broken the rules, we are guilty of indecency. Why is our desire to protect our soldiers' reputation and the image of a fair and just nation larger than our desire for righteousness and justice? Will this somehow make our enemies stronger and more spiteful of us? How disgusting of us to pretend that our image is more important than our morality!

If we can be so bold to criticize nations such as India for human rights abuses when fighting terror or failing to protect Hindu nationalists from murdering evangelical Christians on the pretext of coersive conversion or covert CIA operations, why can we not hold our own country accountable? We seem to have taken the idea of the "New Jerusalem" so literally and so much to heart!

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