A Christian Look at Torture

December 15, 2005

Senator McCain and George Bush have come to an agreement on the wording of a draft resolution on the issue of torture. This comes after several months of haggling over this issue where the President has indicated numerous times that he would not support any resolutions that tie the hands of our military investigators.

So what changed his mind? Apparently, it was the sentiment of the vast majority of Americans that do not want us to be seen on the world stage as being implementers of torture on anyone. Because of this, members of Congress look poised to overturn any Presidential Veto of a Torture bill. Because the President’s ratings are climbing again, he can ill afford to let Congress seem to be the leaders of the country.

One article from AP said,

McCain’s amendment would prohibit “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” of anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. It also would require that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogations of prisoners in Defense Department facilities.

In discussions with the White House, a provision was added modeled after the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That says that military personnel accused of violating interrogation rules can defend themselves if a “reasonable” person could have concluded they were following a lawful order. The addition extends those rights to CIA interrogators, and McCain said from the Oval Office that they were “legitimate concerns.”

Lately, I have read several Christian commentators and bloggers who argue for a limited use of torture. Their argument is hardly a spiritual one. Their pragmatic approach is to give credence to the fear-filled idea that there will ever come a day when all that might separate us all from annihilation is the torture of a prisoner. If we have been placed in a position that the safety of our bodies depends upon causing pain to another, then the Sermon on the Mount is useless (ie. Turn the other cheek), the admonitions of Paul should be silent (ie. Be anxious for nothing) and the testimony of Revelation is a hoax (ie. They overcame him by the word of their testimony and by the Blood of the Lamb). I cannot foresee any situation that is so grim that God could not help us more than torture could.

I think we have developed this “Fail-Safe” scenario in our minds in response to television shows like “24” or “Alias” or “Mission Impossible” where the world’s safety does hinge upon one person torturing another for the “good of all mankind”, where Jack Bauer does divert nuclear disaster by cutting off the fingers of a terrorist. It is as if we echo the words of Rip Torn in “Men in Black” who says, “the Universe is always about to be exploded, torn apart or held for ransom. You get used to it”.

The Muslim world views us (albeit wrongly) as a Christian nation. They look at our military as a typical group of Christians invading their part of the world. They look intently at the Army to see if they will act any differently than their own police forces. Read this in the Recliner Commentaries and see the core values of the Muslim world when it comes to Christians. If we are against this in our hearts…and I certainly hope we all are…then we cannot condone our own military doing the same thing over there or here.

UPDATE: Although I don’t share his opinions necessarily, I find it fascinating to read an American Muslim’s response to the U. S. Military’s use of torture. Read about it here at his blog.



  1. While I understand your point and I wish that on the basis of trust I could agree… I have a hard time rolling over at the threat of terrorism. This is the way a christian should look at terrorism at certainly the way Christ looked at his own torture.. but, if someone was directly threatening the safety of my kids and family, I’d take the jerk’s finger.

  2. ok…my question is: What if you didn’t have kids? What if you were the parent of a kid that is suspected of being a terrorist? Any time we depart from an absolute principle in order to become “expedient”, then the principle becomes meaningless and unapplyable.

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