"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Sacredness of Human Dignity

Jesus Speaks to the Weeping Women

See the complete set of paintings at Church's "Anti-War" Paintings Draw Fire

"We need to name torture for what it is -- sin," said Glen Stassen, professor of Christian ethics at the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary. "It is the sin of usurping authority and making yourself the replacement for God, the sin of dominating the powerless, the sin of violating God's creation." National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), Jan 13 - 15, Princeton, N.J.

For the first time in modern history, a government has demanded the right to openly and legally commit torture against those whom it deems terrorists. That government is the United States of America and its supposed "right to torture" must be opposed by everyone who considers him or herself a Christian. The following article in Christianity Today summarizes some of the main points: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/002/23.32.html

1) Torture violates the dignity of the human being. I would argue more strongly than the author of this piece that human dignity requires an absolute ban on torture, that no interrogatory torture can ever be justified. Any intentional infliction of pain on another human being must be considered anathema to a Christian, the opposite of the Gospel.
2) Torture mistreats the vulnerable and violates the demands of justice.
3) Authorizing torture trusts government too much. The author is correct that we should not trust the government (or anyone else) with the right to torture, but I would go farther. The author seems to imply that some ideal agency may be trusted to torture, but that as fallen creatures, we cannot be permitted such dominion over other human beings. I would argue that no agency can ever be permitted to torture - that the act of doing is intrinsically corrupting and therefore impermissable.
4) Torture dehumanizes the torturer. Once again, the author portrays this as a matter of trust. In fact, if torture is inherently degrading, principally to the torturer, then the ban must be absolute.
5) Torture erodes the character of the nation that tortures. I certainly don't know that we are "better than our enemies" in the words of John McCain. The evidence seems rather strongly in the opposite direction. Yet, clearly, torture not only degrades the torturer, but the nation of "Christians" whose silence countenances it.

In sum, these arguments seem pragmatic rather than fundamental and based on derivative principles. But perhaps they can serve as the starting point for a more penetrating discussion.

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