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Vivian’s Opinion on Torture

As I recently mentioned, Tim Vivian wrote a short follow up to an opinion piece he wrote on 10 May. The reason I had a hard time finding the original piece was because, as it turns out, the title was not properly input. The title should be “Should a ‘Christian nation’ renounce torture? Of course.” If you search for it at, it’s listed by the subtitle, “… But Not All Americans Feel That Way About It.

Give it a read; it’s very good. I did want to point out some highlights, though.

When we hate, we turn those hated into “the other.” The religious “other” even more so. This gives us permission — we think — to declare “war” on “them.” Some of our political leaders have encouraged us to demonize “the other” and thus give us unholy permission — we think –to act inhumanely, and even inhumanly.

. . .

[President Obama], once again, missed the main moral point, as have most politicians, commentators and pundits. When the president said that there were better ways to get information, I cringed; my soul shrank back. No, Mr. President, that’s not the point. Here is the moral point: Torture is wrong. Torture is immoral. Torture is a sin.

Why? Because the person tortured, like you and me, like Saddam Hussein, like Osama bin Laden, is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). We don’t need vast theological tomes to understand that.

Please, Mr. President, don’t talk about tactics, don’t give us platitudes about “American values.” Say it: Torture is wrong. Torture is immoral.

How can a Christian, any Christian, sanctify torture? Sadly, when fear or nationalism or vengeance, or all of them together, along with blind obedience to authority — political or ecclesiastical — overwrite, erase, obliterate, annihilate the gospel message of love.

I don’t say this to condemn anyone — those who authorized and those who performed torture need repentance, absolution and forgiveness. As a priest of the Church, as a human being, I call them to repent. I also ask those who support torture to repent.


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