Category: Torture

Torture as baptism? Palin, the NRA, and Christianity

I am wondering if there are any fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–who embrace the teachings of our Lord, who called us to bear witness to the truth, to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them in the name of our Holy God, who Created all men and women in His glorious image, and told us to love our enemies and persecutors–who will continue to support Sarah Palin and what she says.

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The drone attacks must stop

Since I wrote the post on remembering the fallen children back ages ago on Christmas Eve 2012, wherein drone attacks on Pakistan were at 303, we’ve now reached 306. And tack on several more in Yemen.

This needs to stop. These drone attacks dehumanize war. They dehumanize the “enemy.” It all serves to justify the killing of them and those over there; you know, those terrorists.

We Christians need to stand up, band together, and tell the President and his administration to stop this madness, this murder, this evil.

But why aren’t Christians doing so? Why aren’t servants of the Prince of Peace calling for the end of the drone attacks? Because they support the attacks? Because they support the dehumanization of those in Pakistan and Yemen?

Why are so many Christians so intensely and intentionally silent when it comes to torture, war crimes, massive “collateral damage”? And if they are not silent, they are overtly outraged when objectors raise their protests.

No, I don’t want to generalize, but where is the outcry? If there are truly so many Christians in this country, where are the massive protests and calls for the end of it all? The only option I see as viable is the Christian community is being sinful in either acceptance or promotion of these attacks, or in their silence. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he called the US government the greatest doer of evil in the world. And today there has been no change. He also considered silence on evil a sinful act. Silence when injustice is being done is no different than committing the evil act yourself.

Dr. King was influential. But there are very influential Christian pastors and leaders around the country, with large congregations and listeners and supporters. But King spoke out. King walked in protest. King went to prison. Then King was shot down. (And I think many folks just pigeon-hole Dr. King as the leader of blacks; but, remember why he was in Memphis in the first place.) Who among our Christian leadership in this country is willing to set such an example? Who is willing to place love for God’s special creation–humans–above their own lives, their own political agendas?

But I recognize the realities here. Of the very few people who will read these words, not one of them will be a Christian who supports the drone attacks and openly defend it. The silence will continue. The sin will continue. The Church will keep blood on our hands. And we can’t just wash it away. There’s only One who can, and it takes repentance on our part.

We can never repent if we never cease to do the evil that we do.

Dick Cheney and Gitmo cartoon

Now this takes me back. Of course, it still hasn’t been dealt with, and there are Christians that still either support torture or redefine torture…but it still takes me back.

Keeping the death chamber windows open

This letter from Sister Helen Prejean is positively stellar. Writing to the California Department of Corrections on a recent proposal, she made wonderfully and graphically clear how depraved we can be as humans. She urged California to

KEEP THE WINDOW OPEN during the administration of the poisonous chemicals and as the person is dying as well as after the person has been killed, as the medical professional verifies the death and as the corpse is put into a body bag and removed. Do not conceal any part of the killing process, and do not hide the identity of the personnel who carry out the killing, including the medical personnel. If we feel no need to protect the identity of legislators who have enacted death as punishment on the statute books or district attorneys who seek and secure death sentences, or juries who sentence people to die or judges who pronounce sentence, why do we hide the identity of those who carry out the killing, including those who concoct and administer the lethal chemicals and the medical personnel who supervise the proceedings?

As I said, this is stellar. Take a read of the letter. It will only take a few minutes to complete, and will cause (hopefully) a lot more time of contemplation and action. Here’s the link to her letter.

Thanks to Mike for the link.

Christians: take a stand! Torture must stop!

Mohammed Jawad was captured in Kabul and given over to the US forces in 2003. At the time he was around 14 years young. And this is what the US has done to him:

What is not in dispute is that he was no older than an adolescent, and that since his capture he has been tortured and otherwise put through hell. The evidence against him has been discredited. He has tried to commit suicide. But the U.S. won’t let him go.

The treatment of the young captive was so egregious that the decorated U.S. Army officer assigned to prosecute him — a man gung-ho to secure a conviction against a defendant he believed had committed a serious crime against the American military — ended up removing himself from the case and declaring that he could no longer “in good conscience” participate in the military commissions set up to try accused terrorists.

It turned out, as a military judge would later rule, that Jawad’s Afghan captors had obtained his confession by torturing him. Then the boy was taken by U.S. authorities to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, where he was held before eventually being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld said, “This abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad’s head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad’s having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled.”

Jawad also complained about being mistreated at Guantanamo, saying he had been moved with absurd frequency from cell to cell — the idea being to deprive him of sleep. A check of the official prison logs showed that Jawad had in fact been moved 112 times, without explanation, from one cell to another in a two-week period — an average of eight moves a day for 14 days.

On Dec. 25, 2003, Jawad tried to kill himself by repeatedly banging his head against a wall of his cell.

There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.

There may be some Christians—who support the wars, or who support torture; who are strong Republicans, or absolute Bush backers—who will take that statement about “the Obama administration” not feeling that Jawad “has suffered enough,” and interject, “See! It’s Obama’s fault. He’s the one torturing this boy.”

That’s not where the responsibility lies. This boy—as well as all others tortured, killed, humiliated, wrongly imprisoned, falsely held, etc. during this disgusting, reprehensible and absolutely anti-Jesus1 crusade—was placed in that situation by the guidance and direction of the George Bush administration, with the unabashed support of the larger Christian community in this country.

I am a pacifist. I believe it would be hypocritical of me to force anyone to think the way I do, or believe what I believe, practice what I practice. I can’t force it. I take a nonviolent approach to even that. But I’m not talking about becoming a nonviolent follower of Jesus here. I’m denouncing the way so many Christians in this country have laid down there cross, taken up the sword, and have clearly hated their neighbors and their enemies. When that happens we must stand up and take a stand.

So many of those same Christians supported the capture, and even the execution, of Saddam Hussein because the man was evil. What the Bush administration has done, what the wars have done, is evil.

I urge you to read the entire article: How Long Is Long Enough? I agree with Michael Westmoreland-White, and thank him for the tip off.

1 Not only without Jesus, or outside the teachings and commands of our Lord and communion with Jesus and his Church, but truly anti-Jesus or against our God.

Taking notice of torture…again

doonsburyontorture1

Clever. But, more importantly, will Christians who currently support either terror or harsh interrogation, especially those who do not consider something like waterboarding torture, take a minute and reflect?

Thanks to Michael Westmoreland-White for the original posting of this cartoon.

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 Bakersfield.com, 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.

Amen.

A Simple Word on Torture

On 10 May, Tim Vivian, a former professor of mine (Christian Mysticism), a man who also tutored me in Greek for a stint (short but insanely effective), an Episcopal priest, and author/editor of a good number of books on early Christian monastics, wrote an opinion piece for our local paper entitled “Should a ‘Christian nation’ renounce torture? Of course.” I have not been able to find the transcript of that yet. However, he recently wrote a quick word about it that I found impressive:

My opinion piece in The Californian (“Should a ‘Christian nation’ renounce torture? Of course,” May 10) has generated much discussion. That’s good.

I confess now that I could have written the piece with one sentence: What would Jesus do?

Christians who support war, the death penalty and torture do so without Jesus. Christians without Christ. They wrest out-of-context passages from the Old Testament and distort passages from the New Testament, as Donald Rumsfeld did (e.g., Ephesians 6:11).

What would Jesus do? Who would Jesus torture?

Amen, brother Vivian. Christians in support of war, death penalty and torture are “Christians without Christ.” Exactly. Precisely the problem.

Tim Vivian is an amazing man, and I am privelaged to have met and worked under his tutelage. His wife, a leading professor at the local Cal State University, is a top notch educator in ancient Mediterranean history as well. I still have the texts from her early Christian history course. Good stuff indeed.

**Update: I was able to find the original posting by Tim Vivian and wrote about it here.

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