I’ve been following the “torture debate” for some time. In many ways the most interesting insight, and this first came out about two weeks back, is the extent to which people how describe themselves as Christians are in favor of torture. A snip . . .
Kuykendall says the New Testament (Romans 13:1-7) teaches Christians that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
“The NT [New Testament] is clear that God grants the right of the ‘sword’ to the state to be used against wrongdoers,” Kuykendall says. “Just as I believe I don’t have a right to vengeance personally, I do believe that I can seek justice through the state and call the police on a robber, or a gunman threatening my life.”
Chuck Colson, the evangelical pastor who once served as an aide to President Nixon, answered the same question in an on-line discussion conducted by the Washington Post “On Faith” Web site.
Colson said that Christians are supposed to obey the law, but there may be times when there is a higher obligation, such as ignoring a “no trespassing” sign to rescue a drowning man.
“So it is with torture,” Colson wrote. “If a competent authority honestly believes that this was the only way to get information that might save the lives of thousands, I believe he would be justified.”
I have a King James Bible right in front of me. I hope that Kuykendall has been quoted out of context because Romans 13:1 – 7 has absolutely nothing to do with his assertion that the New Testament grants the state the right of the Sword. Quite the opposite. During the period in history in which the events of the NT occurred, the state was Rome, and from Jesus on down, the whole lot of them were virulently apocalyptic with the specific understanding that the state and the sword would be eliminated, to be replaced by heaven on earth.
As to Colson’s comments, again, point to me a single passage in the Gospels that supports his point of view. I would challenge him or anyone to find that meaning in the New Testament. Just keep reading Romans 13:8. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” That hardly sounds like a rationale for torture (though it would be a good justification for trespassing to save a drowning person, a particularly lame analogy).
To Colson’s point about “a competent authority” . . . again, what Biblical authority does he have in mind to support this assertion? Where in either Testament do we find an example where tossing the law, by which was always meant God’s Law, in favor of a “competent authority” was the recommended way to go? Quite the opposite, I recall a story about some guy getting thrown into a pit with a bunch of Lions because he thought that idea daft (just to pick one of many stories).
I can think of lots of reasons why people might find “enhanced interrogation” techniques acceptable, but I think the idea does violence to any fair reading of the Gospels or even a passing understanding of what Jesus taught. How you get from “Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” to “God granting the right of the sword to the State” or “a competent authority” is creating meaning where it isn’t. So I find it interesting that so many people who describe themselves as Evangelical Christians, presumably the most Christian among us, find torturing anyone such an easy leap.