Sunday, November 11, 2007

Faith and Torture

The Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" blog was devoted to the issue of whether torture is justified. The responses are a mixed bag.

On the sad side, Chuck Colson apparantly asks "What would Jesus do" and comes to the theologically bizarre conclusion that Jesus would waterboard--or worse. I am kidding of course. Actaully, his analysis makes even less sense--apparantly there is a prudence exception to the teachings of the Gospel:

Centuries of Christian ethical reflection would lead to the answer "no." Inflicting bodily or psychological harm on a helpless captive would be inconsistent with the Christian understanding of human dignity. But as with all moral obligations, there may be circumstances for exception.

It is well understood in Christian tradition that while we are supposed to obey the law, there may be times when there is a higher obligation (see Aquinas, Augustine, and Martin Luther King). To rescue a drowning person, a Christian would be justified in disobeying a "no trespassing" sign.

So it is with torture; if a competent authority honestly believed that this was the only way to get information that might save the lives of thousands, I believe he would be justified. That is not moral relativism. It is making a difficult decision when human life and dignity will be affected either way. The Greeks called it prudence.



Read it here.

All of the others, such as Martin Marty, of course, get it right:

Can the use of torture ever by justified?

Yes, by anti-human beasts.

No, by those with humane, humanitarian, humanist impules.

Never, by Jew and Christians and other religious people who believe that the "human is made in the image of God."

You don't torture someone "made in the image of God," no matter how despicable he or she has become.



Read it here.

Read all of the comments here.

What do you think?

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