Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Torture: Just Say No!

John McCain caved in and the Senate will allow a flawed compromise that, while it doesn’t redefine the Geneva Conventions, will still allow torture, secret prisons with the absence of habeas corpus (and, potentially, life imprisonment without ever being guilty of anything), and trial by military tribunals rigged to be able to ensure convictions–which is not a trial, but a “kangaroo court.” (What could have endorsed McCain to betray his fellow torture survivors and his own integrity? Did Bush promise an endorsement in ’08?)

Faith leaders in Connecticut are working to insist that their Representatives act on the belief that torture is always wrong. This is part of the wider National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which I urge all of you gentle readers to join. Without faith leadership, we cannot guarantee that our political leaders of either major party will put moral principle above expediency–especially if it means they look “tough on terror.” Evangelicals have been mostly silent on the torture issue (with some major exceptions), and at least some younger evangelicals are calling their elders on this appalling moral silence. As Rick Phillips puts it, “Are evangelical leaders really unable to see the moral issues involved, or is (as I think more likely) our political alliance with the Republican Party simply leading us astray on this issue? If the price of fighting for biblical morality in America means that we cannot always speak out for biblical morality, then perhaps we should rethink our tactics.” (My emphasis.)

Meanwhile, truth continues to break through the smokescreen of official propaganda. Bush closed the secret prisons (and admitted their existence) in part because CIA interrogators refused continued cooperation. But the fate of some CIA detainees is still unknown. The recently retired top CIA expert on Islamic extremists has slammed Bush admin. tactics for losing a generation of goodwill among young Muslims who could have become pro-Western if not for this admin.’s immoral and stupid policies. This echos the views of Colin Powell & many other retired generals, intelligence experts, and federal judges (whether Democratic or Republican appointed). And the treatment of Mahrer Arar, innocent Canadian civilian, sent by both Canadian and U.S. incompetence to Syria for torture, is a loud wake up call.

Contact your representative today and tell them that if they support this flawed torture bill, you will not remember them fondly in November. Then call the White House Comment Line (202-456-1111) and urge the President to quit trying to bend the rule of law and remember his loudly proclaimed Christian faith on this issue. Make this a church congregational campaign and keep mentioning your church’s name since Bush considers Christians his base. Then write an op-ed to your local paper.

If the U.S. church is silent on torture, future generations will look back in horror, the way we do now at the German church’s silence on Hitler, the cooperation with apartheid by most white churches in South Africa, and with segregation by most white churches in the U.S. South, and the justification of slavery by so much of American Christianity in the 19th C. These are legacies of shame–not examples to emulate. It’s time to step up and speak out.

Update: As related here, several human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have already denounced the “compromise” between McCain & Bush on detainee treatment. Add your voices to the protest.

September 22, 2006 - Posted by | human rights., torture


  1. Hello Michael and all,

    All three Faiths of Abraham spawn violence and hypocrisy

    Christians and Jews can smugly lecture and chastise Muslims about violence, because followers of Islam are poorer, more oppressed, and thereby forced to defend themselves in cruder fashion. On the other hand, the rich and powerful nations of the west can fund, train, and equip state of the art militaries and intelligence services to do their bidding, by proxy. Likewise, smooth-talking politicians expertly equivocate about acceptable collateral damage to the homes, and lives of poor people in other lands. With so many dollars spent, why don’t Muslims and others simply shut up and accept being exploited, oppressed, and massacred for such nobly expressed western ideals?

    Those in representative democracies tout their governments as extensions of the citizenry. Accordingly, so are the militaries, intelligence services, corporations and other proxies used to expand and maintain the Judeo-Christian Empire. By extension, the citizens of western nations are much more responsible for the actions of criminals, killers, and torturers paid for and authorized by democratic institutions than people who live in less democratic nations who have much less control over the actions of their leaders.

    It is undeniable that the Bush administration, its cohorts, and supporters are mostly Christian. Without the blind support of so many Judeo-Christians, the Bush administration would not now be embroiled in the current struggle to retroactively legalize torture, illegal domestic spying, and other crimes. By US law, hiring a proxy to murder or assault someone is still prosecuted as murder and assault. It is undeniable that the militaries and intelligence services of the west that kill and torture at the behest of democratic representatives are hired proxies of Judeo-Christian citizens.

    Regardless of attempts to shift blame, history clearly records the widespread crimes of Christianity. Whether we’re talking about the abominations of the Inquisition, Crusades, the greed and genocide of colonizers, slavery in the Americas, or the Bush administration’s recent deeds and results, Christianity has always spawned great evil.

    So, the next time any Christian, Jew, or Muslim, whether president, prime minister, religious leader or follower decides to chastise others for their failings, stop to consider that the logs in your own eyes have blinded you to the full truth about all three faiths of Abraham. Religion has utterly failed to solve humanity’s problems because it is a strong delusion that spawns error and evil instead. The sheep’s clothing of duplicitous ideals is an obvious deception used to hide the truth. Nonetheless, the veil is readily pierced by discerning the fruits of their deeds.

    Here is Wisdom…

    Comment by Seven Star Hand | September 22, 2006

  2. 7-Star, I think this comment better belongs in the post on interfaith dialogue.

    I don’t disagree much except to sy that there have been other periods when each of the Abrahamic faiths HAVE worked for justice, human rights, peace. For the 1st 3 1/2 centuries, almost every Christian was pacifist, for instance.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 22, 2006

  3. Regarding your post:
    Amen. This isn’t a partisan issue. This isn’t progressive Christians vs. the Religious Right. There is simply no way to debate this. Christian faith does not allow for torture.

    Comment by Bryan Peters | September 22, 2006

  4. Thanks, Bryan. You’ll notice that my post links to your previous one on this. I am hoping that voices like yours will spread throughout conservative evangelical circles.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 23, 2006

  5. Glad to hear it Bryan. I hope you’ll understand my consternation when I continually have to defend myself from attacks from the Religious Right for standing against torture and saying things like, “Killing innocent people is an evil.”

    This is not debatable.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 23, 2006

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: