Yesterday, I brought up the issue of torturing prisoners of war. The United States has faced repeated accusations that the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay are facing torture. I asked, “How should Christians feel about these repeated accusations?” and “Is this a violation of human rights?” If these are violations of human rights, why do Christians in the U.S. seem to ignore the problem rather than trying to put and end to the abuse?
There is an article today that states that Barack Obama is ready to put an end to some of the interrogation methods that are currently used by the CIA. You can read the article by clicking below.
I want to re-ask a couple of questions that I posed yesterday, but in a new way:
- While it is wrong to take the life of a human being, few would argue that there is not a time when war, which results in large numbers of casualties, is necessary. It is argued that war is often justified because it preserves the greater good. The loss of life is unfortunate, but a necessary price to protect the masses and allow good to triumph over evil.
- If this is true (that war and the taking of human life is sometimes justified), can it be argued that the torture of prisoners of war can be justified as well? Can we argue that torturing prisoners of war is necessary to preserve the greater good? Surely these methods result in intelligence that help good conquer over evil, right?
- Who decides what the greater good is and when it is OK to use extreme measures to protect it?
I am still trying to get a handle on this topic, so please lend me your thoughts.
I don’t know that I have an answer to your questions, but I do have a few observations…
War is a result of the fall…. Torture is a part of the fall… How do we define what is and is not torture? (For example, is a parent who is spanking their child torturing the child?)
Upon what basis or foundation do you determine what is “the greater good”?
You pose very good questions. These are questions that I am wrestling with as well. It seems that whenever we begin examining the consequences of the fall things get messy in a hurry.
It’s interesting that you bring up these topics, because I was recently in some very interesting class discussions about the very same topics. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about issues of just peace-making. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. I think there are a lot more people out there that we realize who believe that war is never justified. Many of my professors take Jesus very literally when he says to turn the other cheek, and so they believe that violence of any kind, including war, is never sanctioned by God. While I’m not sure if I agree, I do believe that we rarely follow the established principles of just war, because we rarely exhaust all diplomatic, nonviolent options before turning to war. Because of this, and also because of unwarrented high numbers of civilian casualties, I’m not sure our wars are just or justified. Therefore, we cannot say we are fighting for the “greater good”.
2. This is hard to believe, but it’s true: There is not one single example in history of torture working to gain valuable intellegence. In fact, we still use some of the same methods (like waterboarding) that they used on “witches” during the witch hunts. We all know that produced confessions, but obviously, they were false. It works the same way today. Torture is never worth it.
3. The “greater good” is subjective; Muslim extremists believe they are fighting for the greater good just as much as we believe we are. We have judged the greater good to mean different things at different times in history. Because of the subjective nature of this principle, we are in no position to use torture to defend such a nebulous idea.
I think I agree with you on your 2nd and 3rd points, however I have to disagree with your professors when it comes to whether or not war is ever justified. Many times countries are forced into war in self-defense. Out of no choice of their own, another country invades with the intent to take over. Should the invaded country simply allow this to happen? I look at WWII as a prime example of just war. Nazi Germany was invading countries and practicing genocide. I believe the U.S. and others were justified in their actions to fight them. Also, it seems that God does sanction war at times in the Old Testament.
I do agree that most times we fail to exhaust all of the other options we have before going to war.
1. While it is wrong to take the life of a human being, few would argue that there is not a time when war, which results in large numbers of casualties, is necessary. It is argued that war is often justified because it preserves the greater good. The loss of life is unfortunate, but a necessary price to protect the masses and allow good to triumph over evil.
This is the purpose of Government. To protect, and to keep the peace.
Romans 13: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
2. If this is true (that war and the taking of human life is sometimes justified), can it be argued that the torture of prisoners of war can be justified as well? Can we argue that torturing prisoners of war is necessary to preserve the greater good? Surely these methods result in intelligence that help good conquer over evil, right?
America has always fought as humane a war as is possible. We are the standard bearers to the world. True Christianity and civility have always been linked in the eyes of the world, in contrast to neo-peganism and tyrrany. Where the Christian civilization is absent all manner of terrors have been unleashed. When Christian restraints are removed we see a very cruel world.
3. Who decides what the greater good is and when it is OK to use extreme measures to protect it?
Divine Providence says, “Praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and laws. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, …that is the time to be careful. Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, …never think that it was your own strength and energy that made you wealthy. Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich, and he does it to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors. Deut. 8:11-18
Extreme measures should be taken daily to diligently seek to fulfill our divine mandates to be salt and light in the world. If we don’t have love we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (Cor. 13:1)