I agree with James that the evangelical community has been too quiet regarding the torture issue. This is certainly an area where we should feel free to be critical of the current administration. They have consistently weaseled around on the torture issue. Even if they aren’t really authorizing terrible things, they certainly make it look like they must be. I think this has had a huge negative impact on the way the rest of the world sees the United States, and has eroded our positive image in the world. I can’t claim the same ignorance toward torture as James (after all I live on the California coast, where everyone seems certain that Bush is the antichrist), but I also can’t claim to have done, said, or even thought much about it. While the most compelling reasons for opposing torture are plain within scripture, I will expand on the notion that there are compelling pragmatic reasons to avoid torture.
Last fall I heard a fascinating interview on Fresh Air of a military interrogator and intelligence expert Col. Stuart Herrington, who currently teaches interrogation for the army. He explains that a “professional” interrogator would never use brute force techniques such as torture. This, he says, is simply not the way one gets information out of people. It is interesting to see his take on what has been going on in military interrogations of the last few years (of which he led a classified review). The whole segment deals with portrayal of torture on TV and is also interesting. The interview of Col. Herrington starts around minute 10, if you would like to hear just it. I will also warn the sensitive reader that the first portion of the interview (before 10 minutes) contains a short audio segment of a torture scene from a TV show.
Finally, I want to address one of John’s comments to James’ post. John says this:
First of all, be careful of what and who you read. Just doing a little bit of ‘Googleing’ on the internet I found out that David Gushee is part of the ‘Baptist World Alliance’ group that the Southern Baptist Convention decided to not become a part of in 2004. See this article: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=17748
I found it a little surprising that John says to “be careful of what and who we read.” It seems to me much more important to think critically about whatever we read and judge it on its own merits, rather than only reading people with whom we think we will agree. I doubt John really meant it in this way, but I thought it was worth clarifying. Of course it also can be useful to know a writer’s background and motives (perhaps this is what John meant). Regarding David Gushee I might mention that he is a Southern Baptist. Perhaps John is worried that Gushee’s theology is out of whack simply because other people associated with the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) have troubling views. However, the BWA has a wide variety of members (I think that’s the point). If one wanted to get a good idea of why Gushee might feel led to take part in a group such as the BWA I would suggest reading this article (which actually doesn’t mention the BWA, but does help one to understand where Gushee is coming from). Finally, I’ll mention that of all of the material I read for our Politics and Religion Series, Gushee’s book was the most carefully reasoned and scripturally sound viewpoint I saw. John, I would encourage you to read his book. Since you’ve thought a lot more about politics than James and I have, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on it.
-Matt, the elder brother