When I have gone over this with Sunday School students in the past, it is initially pretty clear. Kids get this. They know what killing is and they could never imagine themselves in a situation where they would commit such an act. When we talk about it in the context of the new testament, however, it takes on greater meaning. It means that we cherish others. We not only cherish their life, but their happiness and well being. So we agree not to kill their joy, or their trust, or their reputation, or their friendship.
There isn’t a lot of wiggle room in this sort of discussion and I suspect that all of us at one point or another have been guilty of treating others in an unkind way. The real question is what you do about it.
My sense is that when it is a private matter, you seek forgiveness. When it is a public matter, you express your opinion and try to change those policies which put our government at odds with our values.
I had posted something earlier about the confirmation hearings of Judge Mukasey suggesting that perhaps we were going to see a change regarding this administrations use of torture. Turns out that I spoke too soon. Mr. Mukasey seems to have fallen victim to the same semantic manipulations that we’ve seen from everyone else in the Bush administration from the President on down.
This particular case, though, has Mr. Mukasey being unwilling to admit that waterboarding is torture because, he claims, that he hasn’t had sufficient time to study the technique. So I figured I would take a moment to help out Mr. Mukasey based on data in wikipedia.
Waterboarding is a technique of simulated drowning where the victim is forced to inhale water while attempting to breathe. This elicits a gag response which is very frightening and very painful. Those who have undergone the technique have said that it only takes a few seconds of breathing water for the victim to stop resisting and cooperate. After that, just the threat of repeating that experience is usually sufficient to again return the victim to a “cooperative” state. The reason that waterboarding breaks a person’s will to resist interrogation is because people are afraid that they are going to die by suffocation. What they say in order to avoid a repeat of that experience, however, is widely believed to be unreliable.
On July 20, 2007 the President signed an executive order banning torture and including in the definition techniques which result in “the threat of imminent death”. The US is also a signatory in 1994 with virtually every other country in the world to the UN Convention Against Torture which specifically states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Here’s a little history of this technique.
It was originally invented during the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) when torture was raised to an art form. The Dutch East India company used the technique in the 1600’s during a conflict with the British over the spice trade in Indonesia. The public outcry that followed caused a four year war between the Dutch and British. The Japanese and Germans used the technique during WWII. The US used it during the Viet Nam war. The Khmer Rouge used the techique in Cambodia during their reign of terror from 1975-1979.
It is embarrassing and disappointing for our country, which claims to be based on moral principles. to be included in this list. But Vietnam was a dark period for our collective soul. Unfortunately, we began using this technique again as a result of a 2002 authorization coming from the executive branch, specifically VP Cheney’s office according to ABC News and PBS reports.
In a 2006 interview with Scott Hennen of WDAY, VP Cheney appeared to endorse this technique when he agreed with the Hennen statement that it made sense to “dunk” a terrorist if it saved lives.
That is really the bottom line.
It is something that every thoughtful person in general and Christians in particular have to sort out based on their own understanding of the scriptures, thou shalt not kill, love your enemy, and love your neighbor as yourself.
As soon as you start to second guess God and accept circumstances where these instructions don’t apply, you are also saying that God somehow didn’t understand this particular situation and as a result these rules don’t apply. You are saying that I am so fearful of the outcome, that I’m going to make an exception because I don’t trust that God will protect those who put their trust in Him. You are saying, as it appears this administration has said, that we are above the law, are not bound by past agreememts, and can justify any action based on our own view of the value of the outcome.
Fortunately all of us will be held accountable for our actions by our Creator.
Those who support the practice of torture either directly or indirectly will have an opportunity to explain to someone who knows, why God’s laws didn’t apply to them.