In a recent column, Eric Margolis labeled the Republicans as “America’s champion of war and torture.” Those are some harsh words — harsh but true.
The recent release of the Bush torture memos and the revelation that the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times before Bush claimed that we don’t torture has elicited a predictable response from conservative Christians who think the Republican Party is the party of God: silence.
It is also no surprise that a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that of four major religious traditions in the United States (white evangelical Protestant, white non-Hispanic Catholic, white mainline Protestant, and unaffiliated), white evangelical Protestants are more likely to believe that the use of torture against suspected terrorists can often or sometimes be justified. In fact, the more often people attended church, the more likely they were to justify torture.
A similar poll commissioned last year by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University reported that almost 60 percent of Southern evangelicals believed that torture was often or sometimes justified.
When the Spanish did it, it was torture. When the Japanese did it, it was torture. When the Germans did it, it was torture. When the Khmer Rouge did it, it was torture. But when waterboarding was done by Americans under a Republican administration, it suddenly became an “enhanced interrogation technique.”
Such has not always been the case. Waterboarding-like techniques used by American soldiers during the Philippine Insurrection and the Vietnam War were condemned. But that was before the “war on terror” where anything goes in the name of “national security.”
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not waterboarded 183 times,” says a Republican hack at Fox News. That number is “highly misleading” and a “vast inflation” because “the much-cited figure represents the number of times water was poured onto Mohammed’s face — not the number of times the CIA applied the simulated-drowning technique on the terror suspect.”
Okay, so how many “pours” does take to be waterboarded? If a prisoner is removed from his cell, taken to an interrogation room, forced to endure one “pour,” and then taken back to his cell — can we not say he was waterboarded because he only suffered one “pour”?
And what about Abu Zubaydah? In addition to being waterboarded, he had a collar wrapped around his neck, was smashed against a wall, was forced to stay in a pitch-dark box for hours, was stripped naked, was suspended from hooks in the ceiling, and was deprived of sleep. Is it not torture if these things only happened one time?
The strict constitutionalist at Fox, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who actually read the 175 pages of torture memos, sees things differently from the defenders of the Bush regime at his network: “This is not rocket science and it is not art. Everyone knows torture when they see it; and no amount of twisted logic can detract from its illegal horror, its moral antipathy, and its attack at core American values.”
Who are these CIA operatives that engage in waterboarding and other forms of torture? What kind of a man does such a thing? The FBI does profiles of serial killers. How about a profile of a CIA agent who tortures prisoners, in the interest of national security, of course?
Are these men Christians? I suppose they are. The majority of Americans claim to be a Christian of some sort. Can a Christian waterboard an A-rab for Jesus?
For the Christian, there is no other way to do it. The Bible says: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). It also says that whatsoever we do, we should “do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). We should do everything “to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Can a Christian smash someone against a wall in the name of the Lord Jesus? Can a Christian heartily lock someone in a dark box for hours at a time? Can a Christian deprive someone of sleep to the glory of God? Can a Christian give thanks to God while he hangs someone from the ceiling?
Sure he can, but not without violating the whole tenor of the New Testament.
Christians are told to put off anger, wrath, and malice (Colossians 3:8), to not render evil for evil (1 Thessalonians 5:15), to not give offense (1 Corinthians 10:30), to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), to not be a brawler (Titus 3:2), and to abhor that which is evil (Romans 12:9). I think this rules out waterboarding.
Okay, but suppose the perpetrators of torture in the CIA do not claim to be Christians and don’t care what the New Testament says? Well, does that mean it is okay if Christians cheer them on? If not, then what should Christians do? Should they just be indifferent?
John the Baptist told Herod “It is not lawful for thee to have her” when he married his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:4). He also told Roman soldiers to “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14). Why aren’t Christians doing likewise?
Why aren’t Christians letting the CIA and the military know that waterboarding is torture and that torture is wrong? Could it be that these institutions are filled with Christians? Could it be that Christians respect these institutions? Could it be that Christians trust these institutions? I think all of the above are true.
Where is the outrage from the evangelical community over these torture memos? I’ll tell you where. It is in the same place as the outrage over the invasion of Iraq, the thousands upon thousands of dead Iraqis, the over four thousand American soldiers who died for a lie, the bloodbath that Iraq has become, the Guantanamo prison camp, the CIA secret prisons, the destruction of liberty in America due to the war on terror, and America’s evil foreign policy.
Christians should be leaving the Republican Party in droves. Christians should be crawling on broken glass as penance for blindly supporting the Republican Party. Christians should be repenting in sackcloth and ashes for thinking the Republican Party was the party of God.
Instead, even as more and more crimes of the Bush administration come to light, I fear that Christians who are outraged, and rightly so, at the crimes of the Obama administration and the Democrats will look in the next election to the Republicans as their savior instead of the champions of war and torture.
America needs more Christians like John the Baptist instead of John Hagee.