Category Archives: Government

Christians and the Surveillance State

Since Edward Snowden’s revelations of domestic spying two years ago, I have given a lot of time to reflection on how a Christian should view such a government policy. This is an issue that doesn’t really divide across party lines — at least not any more — with most Republicans and Democrats being in support of a strong surveillance state ostensibly for our own protection, and it seems that most evangelical Christians are as usual eager to go along with the mainstream Republicans on this one. There are a few dissenters who point to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, who complain that our government’s surveillance of its own citizens is a violation of their right to privacy, and who point out that such surveillance has never actually stopped a single terrorist attack, but these dissenting viewpoints have definitely received the minority of attention in the media, possibly (but not necessarily) meaning that it is by far the less popular opinion. “After all,” it is always smugly claimed, “I have nothing fear because I have nothing to hide.” This may be true, at least today, but thought is seldom given to tomorrow or next year or next generation.

I’ll spare the reader the details of the debate as I’m sure s/he is well aware of the points given the recent to-do over the inappropriately-named USA FREEDOM Act. What I want to think about is how should Christians react to all this? It’s true, Christians have nothing to hide — we’re not murderers or drug dealers or terrorists. But will we have something to hide tomorrow? Jesus warned that we will be hated by the world because of the very fact that we are Christians, and indeed we have recently seen a sharp turn in popular sentiment against us. More and more frequently the traditional Christian stance is vilified, we are often accused of hate speech, we are sued for refusing to participate in celebrations of sinful lifestyles, etc. Evangelical Christians and Catholics are already classified by the military as “religious extremists” right alongside al-Qaeda, the KKK, and Hamas! Sure, supposedly the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion in America, but is it really so hard to believe that one day it will go the way of the Second and Fourth Amendments and be diminished to the point of mere powerless words on a page in favor of safety or that ever-nebulous “common good”? We have the right to bear arms, but our government has severely restricted that in the name of keeping the public safe from mass shooters. We have the right to privacy, but our government has severely restricted that in the name of keeping the public safe from terrorists. We have the right to free speech, but the government has severely restricted that in the name of keeping the public safe from slander, defamation, and pandemonium (e.g. if someone yells “Fire!” in a crowded auditorium). Is it that far-fetched to suspect that the government, bowing to popular sentiment, might someday soon severely restrict our right to practice our faith in the name of keeping the public safe from evangelism and hurt feelings?

And when this happens, how long before they start using their widely-accepted domestic spying programs to enforce it? Right now, they claim to just be using it against terrorism suspects. How long before they use it against gun owners, possible drug users, those with discrepancies on tax returns, criticizers of government officials, or believers in banned religious viewpoints? It seems to me that, of all people, Christians should be the least supportive of domestic spying programs, not the most supportive as they sometimes appear to be.

Now, I have heard it said, to my surprise, that when that time comes, it will simply be doing the Lord’s work to be oppressed in that manner and to stand firm regardless, but I find that shockingly short-sighted and ignorant — how can it possibly be “the Lord’s work” to hamstring our ability to share the gospel by allowing and even encouraging our faith to become a banned and spied-upon practice, lumped into the same category as terrorism?! No, it seems far more prudent to preserve our liberty, not out of fear for the future, but because that way we preserve our right to openly evangelize and minister to the lost. How many more souls will we be able to win while we’re free to worship and reach them openly than if we have to do everything in secret, not even discussing it in email or on the phone lest the NSA find out what we are?

This does leave us with the uncomfortable prospect of terrorists plotting out there somewhere undiscovered, but I am confident that we can find some other way to stop them that honors both liberty and our faith. This is the subject for another conversation, but it might behoove us to figure out what really causes terrorism (as opposed to just accepting to what is spoon-fed to us by the media and power-hungry politicians) and see if there’s a way to fix that, rather than just accepting that terrorism is going to happen and implementing reactionary programs in an effort to keep it under control.

Advertisements

Memorial Day Reflections

Before the memories of this weekend’s celebrations completely fade as we get back into the routine of work, I have some questions about Memorial Day that I think we all need to answer. Every year we hear the same catchphrases thrown around, like “freedom ain’t free” or “they died protecting our freedoms” or “thank our heroes in uniform” or “support the troops” or “thank you for your service” and so on, but there are assumptions underlying these that are seldom questioned. If they ever are questioned, they are always shouted down (usually by Christian conservatives, whose un-Christlike pro-war bent always surprises me) as being unpatriotic, un-American, treasonous, etc., just as I’m sure I’ll likely get shouted down for the remainder of this post. Please don’t get me wrong — I’m no Jane Fonda and do not support misdirecting anger over a corrupt government’s unjust war by spitting on or jeering at soldiers returning home. That sort of behavior is abhorrent, but it is a far cry from questioning the motivation for war or the validity of such slogans as those above.

So what I want to know is exactly which of my freedoms have our heroes in uniform died to protect recently? Did Afghanistan or Iraq invade Texas and try to conquer portions of American territory or enslave the Americans who lived there? In what way did Serbia or North Vietnam threaten our ability to speak or worship or assemble freely, to keep and bear arms, or to have privacy in our own homes and personal communications? If we had refrained from meddling in these foreign conflicts, would we really be less free than we are now?

For that matter, exactly how free are we, really? I am not free to get gay-married or eat pot brownies or own a fully-automatic machine gun, even though not one of these is inherently harmful to others. I have no privacy whatsoever from a snoopy NSA, and Christian conservatives of all people should know that we can’t say anything we want or worship however we want in deference to the doctrine of tolerance (which has morphed into more of a doctrine of acceptance and approbation than plain tolerance). No one can get married or start a business or buy a car or carry a pistol for self-defense without being forced to wait in long lines to buy permission from the government to do these things — permission that necessarily implies the government’s authority to refuse that permission for any reason it sees fit. Every moment of every one of our days is burdened with books upon books of regulations and numerous taxes severely curbing our economic freedom. We incarcerate by far a larger percentage of our population than any other country in the world — even “Communist China” or “Terrorist Iran” — and our police officers are generally permitted to kill us with impunity during a routine traffic stop (with some recent exceptions thanks to the proliferation of cell phone videos).

Does any of this sound like freedom worth dying for or worth losing our loved ones for? It is hard to accept that one’s son or husband or brother died a meaningless death defending freedoms that don’t exist from threats that don’t exist. It is easier to justify his death with some flippant platitude like “freedom isn’t free” and to label him a hero for “dying for his country”, but dying for one’s country isn’t the same as dying for freedom. More likely it means dying for the politician who made the decision to start the war, which in turn means dying to benefit the special interests who paid to get that politician elected. After all, if “making the world safe for democracy” is so important, why haven’t we invaded and obliterated North Korea? Surely Kim Jong-Un is no match for the largest military force in the world. Why are nation-building and instituting democracy and freeing oppressed peoples only important to do for oil-producing nations? Is it really a coincidence that 4,491 of our children were killed “freeing” a nation with some of the largest untapped oil reserves in a war started by a President who just happened to have significant connections to the oil industry, particularly in oil exploration?

Yes, it is hard to accept that our loved ones died pointless deaths solely for the financial benefit of oil tycoons, but until we accept it, we cannot change it. Our boys will continue to die by the thousands for equally meaningless causes as long as we praise them as heroes fighting for freedom and never question what freedoms they’ve actually preserved for us. Painful as it may be, if we want to save future American children from the same fate, we must acknowledge that our boys who have gone before them are not heroes and have not fought for noble causes — some of them may have truly believed they were fighting and dying for justice, and that perhaps is commendable, but in reality they are at best pawns manipulated by villainous politicians and special interests for financial gain, just as we are pawns when we unquestioningly weep and salute and cheer at the sight of a soldier on Memorial Day.

Romans 13, part 4

So we’ve looked at Romans 13:1-2, but I’d also like to consider the next two verses, for they, when coupled with the cavalier insertion of “governing” in the first verse where it never was to begin with, are perhaps the most horribly misused verses by present-day American evangelicals:

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

This thought is also paralleled in 1 Peter 2:14. Here we see the first indication that Paul may be speaking of governments, for he does use the word ἄρχων (“ruler”) here. Obviously, though, this passage is flatly untrue when not viewed in the context of the rest of the Bible. If “rulers are not a terror to good works”, why then was Stephen martyred, Paul imprisoned repeatedly, John exiled, and even Christ Himself crucified for doing the good works God had prepared for them to do? We must keep in mind the previous points that a) we must follow Christ over our governments when their agenda opposes Him, and b) Paul is not necessarily even talking about governments — this “ruler” may in fact be a church leader.

Assuming, though, as everyone does, that Paul is talking specifically about governments in these two verses, it does make sense to think of government as God’s minister to us to execute wrath upon evil doers — I can’t think of any governments off the top of my head which don’t have some sort of penalties associated with murder and theft, and God working through those systems is certainly a viable alternative to using lightning bolts to punish murderers and thieves. We must be extremely careful, however, not to read too much into these verses. They in no way say that government is good; they say only that God uses it for good in the same way that He used for good Joseph’s being sold into slavery by his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Government may in fact be a bad thing in general (and indeed it obviously is bad in many specific situations like Nazi Germany or current North Korea), but “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”. Natural and personal disasters are certainly not good in and of themselves, but surely every evangelical Christian has seen how God ordained them in order that He might work them toward a greater ultimate good; in this same way, government need not be good in and of itself (and I would contend in another discussion that it is quite the opposite) in order for God to have ordained it for greater good.

Assuming for the time being, however, that government is not evil in and of itself, as most people do, we must also be extremely careful not to read into these verses that all of the statutes and practices of our government are good — this is where American evangelicals have made one of their largest blunders as the majority of them seem to believe this, provided that Republicans are in charge (Christian Democrats seem to have a similar belief as well). To go back to my example a few posts ago of the Janet and Craig Parshall’s open praise of CIA torture, they seemed quite eager in that radio segment to blur every act of government, at least those initiated or supported by elected Republicans, into a huge grey area where they can say that those acts — including torture — being the method by which our governing authority chose to punish evil doers, are therefore good acts — acts of God — and must therefore be supported by Christians. This is in no way what these verses have said! God may be working the evil of torture for good, but torture is still evil, and I would like to remind my fellow evangelicals, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”.

I’ve already said American Christians are in a unique position to influence the actions of government. Instead of praising the government for its use of evil in this case (which certainly has the potential to backfire, as I pointed out last time), would it not be more prudent to find a better punishment, perhaps one that is not “cruel and unusual” and that is only inflicted after conviction in a court of law by a public trial by a jury of their peers, and elect lawmakers who will institute that instead? Opposing torture would not make us weak or unwilling to punish evil; we would simply be affirming that such methods of punishing evil are becoming of neither a Christian nation nor a free nation. It would also make it no less true that he who practices evil should have fear of the authority; it would only change the form of vengeance to be feared into one which may potentially be a minister of good even to that practicer of evil. After all, is it not preferable (Luke 15:7) that even Islamic terrorists be punished in such a way as to lead them to repentance and salvation, rather than in such a way as to further invigorate their hatred of America and the Christianity that supports her?

Romans 13, part 3

Let us keep digging into Romans 13. Although there is some discrepancy among common translations of verse 1, there is little disagreement among the translations of the second verse: “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” We should be mindful, however, not to be clouded by what may be a poor translation of a word in verse 1 and to instead read this in the context of the entire Bible. Taken out of context, this implies that we must obey every single thing that every authority over us commands, even if this command includes torture and murder of innocent people. I noted before that this mindset allowed many German Christians to openly support and serve in the Nazi party and even to turn in their Jewish neighbors to be sent off to concentration camps for extermination. Surely this is not what Paul had in mind when he penned Romans 13:2! Were not the apostles forbidden by the governing authorities from preaching about Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 4:18, and did they not resist that authority and preach anyway? How many of them were imprisoned, exiled, and executed by their governments for spreading the Gospel? How many Christians throughout all of history have been martyred for resisting their governments by simply being a Christian? Does God really want us to obey our governments even to the point of renouncing Him and His Son? Of course not! 1 Peter 2 makes similar statements about obedience, but verse 19 adds that it “is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.” There must therefore be some qualification to this verse based on the context of the entire Bible — as servants of two kings, both Christ and the American President, we will sometimes be forced to choose between the will of the two, and we must always choose Christ. Where our governments are in opposition to the will of God or the commands of Christ, we must resist and follow Him instead.

We must be careful at this point not go around disobeying everything the government legislates simply because some or even most of its actions are evil. For example, one might be tempted to refuse to pay taxes because those taxes will be used to support war or abortion or any number of other things a Christian ought to find abhorrent, but scripture is pretty clear that we should continue to pay taxes. Note that by paying taxes, even to an evil government, we are not siding with or condoning the actions of that government because taxes are not a donation or a membership fee — taxes are money the government takes from you by force (a practice also known as theft when anyone else does it). By surrendering your money to them in exchange for not being imprisoned or killed by them, you are simply not resisting an evil-doer (Matthew 5:39), as you would not resist the mugger who robs you at gunpoint. Where disobedience becomes more imperative is when your government commands you to personally carry out the evil. “Thou shalt not kill,” even if your government has sent you around the globe to kill faceless persons who are interfering with the oil production of your government’s corporate sponsors. “Thou shalt not steal,” even if your government has ordered you to freeze the bank account and seize the assets of someone it suspects of failure to pay taxes. Similarly, a Christian should not torture a terrorism suspect because ordered to do so by their government.

In any case, obedience does not necessitate adulation. Romans 13:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:13 may require obedience to the government, and subsequent verses (to be discussed next time) may indicate that God uses governments to punish evil, but it does not necessarily follow that all actions of all governments should be praised as acts of God Himself. If Christians use this logic to praise torture of civilians not yet proven guilty in a public court of law, they have no justification for not also praising government support of the killing of unborn babies.

As American Christians, we should also note that civil disobedience isn’t entirely necessary in order to avoid being accomplices in our government’s evil practices. As I said in an earlier post, we have the good fortune of being part of the law-making process ourselves and should therefore try with all our might to restrain any evil practices of our government with our vote, our freedom of speech, etc. We can even hold government jobs and run for office, if we have the constitution to resist the temptations those entail. A great many of us do indeed work within the system to improve it, but we should be cautious (and, sadly, seldom are) not to use methods which will backfire. This is a subject for another discussion, but any power we assign the government for good is power which can also be used for evil. I have numerous examples for when we reach that discussion, but for now I will leave the reader to consider what “good” powers we have given our government which it has subsequently used for evil and even turned against us.

Romans 13, part 2

I want to really get to know Romans 13. When I was a rebellious teen, my dad actually punished me one time by having me write the first seven verses over and over, so this passage is always on my mind, and I have reflected on it a lot. In my last post, I lamented how many evangelical Christians support the use of torture, so long as its committed by America upon terrorism suspects. What really makes me angry, though (in case it wasn’t obvious last time), is “teachers” who use their national podium to poison the minds of the evangelicals listening to them with notions like America’s use of torture being condoned and even mandated by Romans 13. I’m sure (at least, I’m hopeful) that they aren’t intentionally misleading their listeners, but rather have also been misled themselves by so many years of pro-government propaganda and indoctrination that they are unable to break out of their narrow paradigm and simply don’t know the truth anymore, at least where this subject is concerned. However, as teachers in whom their listeners have placed their unquestioning trust, they really do need to be more careful about throwing snippets of scripture around in support of their agenda, instead of tailoring their agenda to match the whole of scripture. [And should Janet and Craig Parshall ever read this, I would like to encourage them to go back and seriously study their political positions from a Biblical worldview — and to be careful not to study the Bible from their political worldview. This is something which I also must strive to do, and even more as my political views are radically different from those of the vast majority of other Christians and people in general (which I’ll admit makes me nervous at times); I do, however, feel it worth mentioning that my political views have changed to what they are now from views similar to those of the Parshalls because I started trying to look at what the Bible says with an unbiased eye.]

Let’s look at what Romans 13 actually says, and more importantly, what it doesn’t say. Verse 13:1a in the NKJV that I quoted last time says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” NASB translates it “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities”, NIV translates it “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities”, and ESV translates it “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities”, but for some reason the original English translation, the KJV, translated it “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers” (emphasis added). Why didn’t the KJV also use the idea of “government” in translating this passage? Is it simply that the KJV was translated hundreds of years ago by people who didn’t know what they were doing? Should we just go with what the majority of translations say? But if “government” is what was actually meant, why didn’t King James, who is one of the prime originators of the “divine right of kings” theory, make sure that this passage was translated clearly into English?

Well, it is interesting to note that the Greek word ἐξουσίᾳ, which is translated “governing authorities” or “higher powers”, simply means “power” or “authority”, particularly in a moral sense — that is, it more usually refers to the authority of a priest or pastor than that of a king or a congress or a central intelligence agency. Yes, it is used in a governmental sense elsewhere in the New Testament, as in the case of the centurion under authority or in the case where Satan tempted Jesus with power over all the kingdoms of the earth, but more often it refers to the authority of Jesus to teach moral truths or to the authority of Him and His disciples to cast out unclean spirits. This is not to say necessarily that Romans 13 isn’t speaking of government at all, but rather to say that by so casually inserting the word “governing” where that word never existed in what Paul originally wrote, we have lost a substantial part of the meaning of the text (and possibly encouraged some serious misunderstanding). If Paul had actually meant only “Let everyone be subject to governments”, he could have used the more apt word ἄρχων, which means “ruler” or “prince” or “governor” or “leader”.

Using the words that Paul actually wrote, we see that this passage has wider applications than simply to governments — every soul should be subject to any authority under which they find themselves, whether that be the government, church leaders, employers, parents, schoolteachers, committee chairpersons, private arbiters, etc. This does not imply, however, that one must always find oneself under any one or more kinds of authority. If you are employed or in school, you must submit to your boss or teacher, and if you have parents, you must submit to them, but if you are a retiree, with parents long deceased, you have no need to submit to them or to any CEOs or Algebra teachers, because your circumstances are such that you are not under their authority. By extension, if you should for some strange reason find yourself in a situation where there is no government (say, stranded on a deserted tropical island), you are under no obligation to submit to the government, because you are not under the authority of any government — one hasn’t been ordained for your time and place — neither are you obligated by this verse to form a government, as this passage only obligates you to submit to those authorities which already exist.

The rest of the verse says, “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God,” and this portion has no disagreement among the above translations. But notice carefully what it does not say — if the authorities that exist were appointed by God, what of those that do not exist? They are excluded — even in the case of governments, we are under no obligation to establish one where none exists. If God wants a government or other such authority, He is perfectly able to establish one himself, possibly by using those who mistakenly believe that all humans are obligated to serve one government or another, but it does not necessarily follow from this text that God has ordained a human government for every time and place in all of creation and that we are obligated to form that government for Him when we encounter a time and place that doesn’t yet have one.

Romans 13, part 1

Last time I mentioned my disgust about Christian support of torture, and I want to go into a little more detail about what their apparent Biblical justification is and why I think they’re completely off-base. A day or two after the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture was released, I was listening to “In the Market with Janet Parshall”, who of all evangelical Christians on God’s green Earth is perhaps the most unquestioningly loyal to the mainstream, warmongering, anti-freedom, pro-police-state, establishment wing of the Republican party. [Now, I don’t mind if people vote Republican (I have myself more often than not) or support the party, but I have always found it shocking that any Christian, least of all one supposedly so educated in God’s ways that she would have her own radio show on an evangelical network, would be an ardent supporter of that portion of the party which — as evidenced by its members’ actions, not their words — hate freedom and love war.] She and Craig (her husband, who might actually be even more unquestioningly loyal to the Republican war hawks) actually had the audacity to say that Romans 13:1-7 not only condones and authorizes the torture employed by the CIA but also requires it — that it is a direct command from God to the United States of America to use whatever means necessary, including the brutally inhuman treatment of our fellow men, to punish evildoers! What the what!? You can listen for yourself at https://www.moodyradio.org/radioplayer.aspx?episode=152718&hour=2 (starting just before the 13-minute mark). For those who don’t happen to have that part of Romans memorized, it says (in the NKJV):

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Read it carefully — there are no commandments here to governments, no admonishment to them to punish evildoers. It does say that God has ordained governments in order that evil be punished, but it does not tell governments to punish evil (it is not directed at governments at all), nor does it say that every law or punishment dreamed up by every government is just or good or to be eagerly supported, nor does it say that everyone punished by governments is evil. Bear in mind that the government during the time this was written was the Roman Empire, which heinously punished Christians simply for being Christians — that the Roman Empire was ordained by God is clear from scripture, but that their treatment of Christians was just and right and good is most certainly not. By the same logic that uses Romans 13 to justify CIA torture, justification can also be made (and indeed has been made) for the the Spanish Inquisition, the Rwandan Genocide, and even the Holocaust! Many in the WWII-era German church claimed this passage supported Hitler and the Nazis and commanded the people to do the same! Justification can be made for both sides in any war, because each side is itself a governing authority appointed by God! Romans 13 has even historically been used to support the divine right of kings, a theory in direct opposition to the liberty movement upon which our nation was founded! Does that mean that George Washington and his cronies brought judgment on themselves for resisting the authority God appointed over them in the form of King George and that we should all still be loyal subjects of the British Empire?

I say no, Romans 13 is no scripture upon which to build an argument for or against any government policy, because Romans 13 is not a statement on government policy. It is a statement on obedience, at most a command to Christians to obey the laws of their government (I am going to explore this in my next few posts). We are in a unique position, however, in that as citizens of a democratic republic (a type of government never actually mentioned in the Bible), we are the government — we get to make the laws that are to be obeyed. As Christians, should we not then be careful to create laws in keeping with who we are in Christ? Should we not honestly ask, “What would Jesus do?” Would it not be more careful to create laws that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, thereby ingratiating the lost souls around us rather than repelling them, being unto them a reflection of the love and mercy of Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to work and save them through us and our example, rather than despite us and our opposition to Him?

Or is our mindless allegiance to a flag or the agenda of a particular political party more important to us than following Christ?

Christians Support…Torture?

A few months ago now, the Senate Intelligence Committee finally released a report detailing their investigation into the “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA against terrorism suspects under the Bush administration. That a large segment of our nation’s leaders, media, and everyday people has to use such a blatant euphemism for what these techniques actually are (that is, torture, plain and simple) bespeaks a startling moral bankruptcy in the so-called “land of the free”, but more startling still are those who have come running to defend this use of torture. No, it is not the fascists or the communists, nor is it the atheists or the satanists (although perhaps some members of these groups do support it), but rather the most ardent supporters of the CIA’s use of torture are evangelical Christians — the what-would-Jesus-do crowd — and I couldn’t be more disgusted.

I am an evangelical Christian myself — a card-carrying member of various Southern Baptist churches for most of my adult life — but I am absolutely sick to my stomach that a substantial majority of my fellow redeemed, those whose filthy souls were rescued from the eternal punishment they deserve by the selfless love and torture-suffering of the perfect, pure, wonderful Christ, the very Son of Almighty God, would not only turn a blind eye to the torture of these men, but would in fact rally behind it, cheering it, applauding the CIA for trying to cover it up, and even vehemently chastising any who question it. I know of nowhere in the Bible — not one place — where Jesus ever even hinted that torture might be morally acceptable under certain circumstances.

And let’s not pretend like we don’t know what is meant by “torture” or pretend that it can’t be all that bad if administered by good ol’ American boys. From the investigation report itself:

Beginning with the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, and continuing with numerous others, the CIA applied its enhanced interrogation techniques with significant repetition for days or weeks at a time. Interrogation techniques such as slaps and “wallings” (slamming detainees against a wall) were used in combination, frequently concurrent with sleep deprivation and nudity. Records do not support CIA representations that the CIA initially used an “an open, non-threatening approach,” or that interrogations began with the “least coercive technique possible” and escalated to more coercive techniques only as necessary.

The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting. Abu Zubaydah, for example, became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.” Internal CIA records describe the waterboarding of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad as evolving into a “series of near drownings.”

Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads. At least five detainees experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation and, in at least two of those cases, the CIA nonetheless continued the sleep deprivation.

Contrary to CIA representations to the Department of Justice, the CIA instructed personnel that the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah would take “precedence” over his medical care, resulting in the deterioration of a bullet wound Abu Zubaydah incurred during his capture. In at least two other cases, the CIA used its enhanced interrogation techniques despite warnings from CIA medical personnel that the techniques could exacerbate physical injuries. CIA medical personnel treated at least one detainee for swelling in order to allow the continued use of standing sleep deprivation.

At least five CIA detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. The CIA placed detainees in ice water “baths.” The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.” CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.”

Conditions at CIA detention sites were poor, and were especially bleak early in the program. CIA detainees at the COBALT detention facility were kept in complete darkness and constantly shackled in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste. Lack of heat at the facility likely contributed to the death of a detainee. The chief of interrogations described COBALT as a “dungeon.” Another senior CIA officer stated that COBALT was itself an enhanced interrogation technique.

At times, the detainees at COBALT were walked around naked or were shackled with their hands above their heads for extended periods of time. Other times, the detainees at COBALT were subjected to what was described as a “rough takedown,” in which approximately five CIA officers would scream at a detainee, drag him outside of his cell, cut his clothes off, and secure him with Mylar tape. The detainee would then be hooded and dragged up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched.

Even after the conditions of confinement improved with the construction of new detention facilities, detainees were held in total isolation except when being interrogated or debriefed by CIA personnel.

Throughout the program, multiple CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and extended isolation exhibited psychological and behavioral issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation. Multiple psychologists identified the lack of human contact experienced by detainees as a cause of psychiatric problems.

And the report goes on and on like this! If any one of those who euphemistically call this treatment “enhanced interrogation technique” were subjected to it, there would be no doubt in their mind that they were being tortured. Anyone to whom this doesn’t sound like torture is at the very least a disturbed individual in need of immediate therapy and at worst a dangerous and violent psychopath. How evil must be the minds of the men who dreamed up this torture! And how much more evil must be the Christians who, knowing the infinite depths of love and mercy shown to them by their Creator, still support it, calling it good, and condemn as evil any who would oppose it or even question it! “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil… Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them…”

I don’t dispute that these men — assuming they’re actually guilty of the heinous terrorist acts of which they are accused (which to my knowledge still has never been ascertained by due process in a court of law) — are deserving of everything they got, but isn’t every one of us a sinner deserving of far worse? Should those of us who have been shown such great mercy exhibit such a callous attitude toward these men? Shouldn’t those who have been forgiven much love much? Shouldn’t we at least ask that they get a fair trial, just like we would want before receiving similar treatment? Isn’t it a dangerous precedent to permit the government to indefinitely detain and torture civilians it has labelled as “terrorists”? What if someday evangelical Christians are labelled “terrorists” (remember this and this?) — wouldn’t we still want a trial?