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Thursday, July 27, 2006

why christians should support torture

In a recent article Mark Tooley, head of the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), questions Christian support for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT).

Tooley's main beef seems to be that the NRCAT is not focusing on torture in other countries, but is pushing the United States government to promise not to use torture. But what does Tooley expect of a national campaign? Any U.S. organization is going to have a better chance persuading its own government than persuading despotic thugs half a world away.

And if we want to have any moral authority to speak out against torturers elsewhere, we need to make it clear that we don't condone the use of it by our own nation. After the revelations from Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and secret CIA prisons around the world, the United States has lost that moral authority. Earlier this year Congress overwhelmingly approved the McCain Amendment, banning the use of torture. George W. Bush had threatened to veto the bill, but he backed down after it was approved by a wide enough margin to override the veto. Instead, Bush issued a signing statement explaining that the ban does not apply in all cases.

Because of Bush's moral ambiguity about torture, American Christians need to speak up, to make it clear that we do not blindly support all our government's policies. That's why the NRCAT was formed.

So why does Mark Tooley have a problem with the NRCAT? The answer, it seems to me, is in the nature of Tooley's organization, the IRD. The IRD claims to be a church renewal group. However, in this and other public statements, the IRD appears to be actively attempting to squelch the voice of the church whenever it speaks out against U.S. policy. The IRD wants a lap dog church that lacks a prophetic voice.

For the church to adopt Tooley's agenda, it would have to abandon Christ's agenda.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

With those words, Jesus inaugurated a challenge, not just to the rulers of his day, but to all those who would try to maintain power by keeping others down. The kingdom of God does not work that way. The kingdom of God turns all our expectations upside down. To be great, one must become a servant, a child.

As Mary sang while Jesus was still in the womb:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Jesus didn't come to earth to teach his followers to be jingoistic supporters of their government's morally dubious policies. The Mark Tooleys of the world can complain all they want, but the church must remain true to its prophetic mission. And that means never to align itself with any earthly kingdom, but to stand with the Prince of Peace in calling political leaders to account.

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At 7/31/2006 9:04 PM, Blogger Questing Parson said...

Amen and Amen!!!

Well said.


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