Saturday, January 28, 2017

On Board with Waterboarding?

With the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, the issue of government sanctioned torture has been revived. From 2002-2006, military and intelligence interrogators made use of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, in their "enhanced interrogations." Since then, torture has been banned by both executive orders and federal legislation. President Trump, however, campaigned on the reinstitution of torture and recently asserted that "torture absolutely works."

The government endorsement of torture should be seen as a watershed in our society, marking our descent into a barbarism previously unthinkable. I was raised in an Army family and well remember the revulsion against torture that permeated the American military culture. As a young officer in the 1980's, it was made clear that we were never to permit torture by our soldiers. Teaching an ethics class at West Point in the 1990's, our curriculum was uniformly opposed to torture. Well do I remember my grandfather, a World War II tank general, insisting that how America wins her wars is just as important that she wins her wars. "If we become like our enemies in order to win a war, we have in fact lost the war," he insisted. Such noble and humane sentiments seem no longer to have a place in our increasingly barbarized society.

Most alarming to me has been the support of waterboarding and other forms of torture among evangelical Christians. To my surprise and indignation, instead of applying the obvious implications of the Sixth Commandment, Christian leaders have lined up in support of waterboarding. Is this blind political loyalty, without a biblical conscience? In the 1950's and 60's, it was the liberal churches - those who denied the Bible - who took the moral high ground in the Civil Rights Movement, while Bible-believers supported racism. What a tragedy it will be if a similar situation occurs over the endorsement of waterboarding by evangelicals. Against this possibility, let me offer three arguments for the Christian rejection of waterboarding and other forms of torture.... Read More

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