Tossing Out a Grenade

We here at The Cleft of the Rock, Inc. steer away from hot-button topics. Mainly because Queen of the Rock doesn't do confrontation well (and avoids it if at all possible). I want all of my readers to be happy, happy, happy. This post may stir up some exuberant debate. I only ask that you remember you are replying to actual humans -- mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, someone's child-- when you write your reply/ answer.

Last week I turned in this article to the local paper about security in churches, based on the horrible story out of California where a young girl was kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered. The woman who did it turned out to be a local Sunday School teacher. That was a tough article to dig into and write about.

So this week I was assigned an article about this study that shows Christian's response to using torture politically during times of war, etc. So from child abuse(rs) to torture -- I have requested a bake sale next.

First, about the study, let me say: it is a ridiculously small, skewed sample size and has only served to stir up a fire storm. An example: it shows that 'white protestant males' are twice as likely to support torture 'sometimes or often' as those who are not affiliated with any church -- but they interviewed twice as many white protestant males as unaffiliated. I'm not saying the results are inaccurate, but I, personally, don't put a lot of weight into ANY poll of less than 1,000 people and even 1,000 is too small to fire up all the finger-pointing this study has.

CNN has, of course, featured it because it makes Christians appear to be two-faced and mean-spirited.

So, I have been asked to join in the firestorm and find out what local folks say around here (feel free to call me if you have an opinion! -- I can't use anyone with my same last name as a source, though!)

Let me say, too -- this is a topic I steer completely away from. I haven't thought through it enough to come down on either side, mainly because I know I wouldn't come down on the same side of the people I am closest to. I was very blessed by the first person I interviewed who expressed her thoughts kindly and articulately and with a scriptural reference to support her thoughts. Blessed my socks off. Oh -- she wasn't who I called to talk to. She was his wife, but I had to not use him so I could use her! You'll have to look at it on Friday to hear about it.

She mentioned the study, "Oh, yeah, that guy wrote about it in the paper yesterday." So I had to go dig through the paper to see what had already been said in the same paper that I was going to write an article for.

Man, oh man, I am glad I did. I ended up reading Leonard Pitts' column about Christians silence or tolerance of the issue. The thing that struck me the most was his invoking the memories of several other times in recent history when Christians SHOULD have been outspoken for the right and weren't: Germany in the late 1930's and early 1940's, the Southern States in the late 50's and early 60's, the early 80's through the AIDS threat.

I REALLY encourage you to read his article. And I'm always happy to hear what you think, as long as you remember to keep it kind.


Tim Archer said...


I wrote some about this on my blog recently and had several Christians speak out in support of "enhanced interrogation." For many, it comes down to pragmatism: does it work or doesn't it. Over the years, Christians have changed their minds numerous times as to what is right and wrong concerning war. Rarely if ever were those changes due to Bible study.

Looking forward to your bake sale article. :-)

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

Warren Baldwin said...

This is a brave post, Sarah. My compliments to you.

I am against "intensified interogration" or any form of torture. I have a Christian friend who wears a shirt that says, "I'd rather be waterboarding," meaning, he'd rather be torturing Iraqis that what he is doing at the present. One time he wore it during worship. Dwell on the irony of that.

If we Christians upheld the dignity of mankind the way Jesus did, we might not have some of the wars we do. If we didn't give the Iraqis the WMDs in the '80s to fight the Iranians, we might not have to have a war today, and torture people, to find out where they are (if any are left).

I think the current events are a challenge for us to decide which camp we are going to pitch our tent in, that of Jesus or Babylon.

Note: I liked Tim's comments here, linked to his site, and left a message there if you'd like to read it.


Roxanne said...

BUT, is it morally right to use torture on END OF THE YEAR 8TH GRADERS??? (Pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes. . .)(That torture, of course, being me not let them say whatever sarcastic comment pops into their brains at the moment.)

Nathaniel said...


I don't envy you this topic as there is no way to make everyone agree. That being said, I'll throw in my 2 cents worth.

Keep in mind a few points about water-boarding. First, it has worked. Second, they (the US) used strict guidelines so as not to put the persons life at risk. Third, it is one of many things that are done to our special-forces troops to prepare them.

Pop Quiz: You are a Christian who is also in the CIA. You have a suspect in custody. You know that his "group" is planning an attack in the next few hours. It will be targeted against a major American city. If you don't get the details about the plot, thousands will be injured and killed.

What do you do? Whose life is more important? Do you give up the lives of thousands to up-hold your ideas about "the dignity of mankind."

Is it right or righteous to give the lives of the innocent for the temporary anguish of the guilty? I don't beleive there is a simple answer to this question. I'm looking forward to reading your column.


Warren Baldwin said...

Thanks Nathaniel, for engaging in the discussion. I'll respond to each of your points, in order.

One, maybe it has worked a few times, even many times. I don't know if effectiveness is the best criteria for the morality of its use.

Two, you say they used strict guidelines so that a person's life was not at risk. Then why did some people die from the torture? No, maybe not waterboarding, but some of the other practices of "intense interogation" resulted in deaths. But, even if there were strict guidelines so that there weren't many deaths from the wider practice of torture, what about the shame we imposed on some of those people? Adult males were forced into degrading, dehumanizing positions and postures, fathers were degraded in front of their sons, etc. In most cases, the people so "interrogated" were farmers, blue collar workers, family men, not terrorists. What harm have we done to those people and their families? And for what?

3) It is done to our troops to prepare them. Not all the forms of torture are not.

I am proud of the U.S. that in at least a few cases, troops who got out of hand in applying torture were punished. But what about the ones who gave the orders?

About the pop quiz - I wouldn't be in the CIA for the very reasons you give here. The CIA itself has been guilty of numerous illegal activities, the Pearl Harbor banking scandal, one of their more minor offenses. Can we really trust them to uphold truth and honor?

One think about communication by technology is we can't read each other's nonverbal cues and tone of voice (since there isn't one). I'm just curious about how you mean this phrase: "Do you give up the lives of thousands to up-hold your ideas about 'the dignity of mankind.'" Really, I try to get "my ideas" about the dignity of man from Jesus. When prompted by the disciples to rain fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, he chose not to. That is not how the kingdom of heaven does business.

If we give up the dignity of mankind for Iraqis, who did not instigate this war, how long will it be before we give up on the dignity of life in our own country? Once that happens, we'll see our own government sponsoring abortions through organizations like Planned Parenthood.

I believe in a realm beyond this one (the kingdom of God), but I also believe this kingdom has ramifications for the way we live and make decisions today. If we give up our commitment to Christ-like living, who will uphold it?

Thanks for the exchange.


Darren said...

You have a challenging task. It is a tough topic to be sure, and I commend you for not being afraid to add to the discourse. First, let me give you a link to an article that may help you in your research: http://www.friendsjournal.org/torture-and-impunity There are links within the article as well.

For me, the bottom line invokes two well-worn (and therefore somewhat annoying) sayings: "The ends do not justify the means" and ultimately "WWJD." Maybe some people can picture Jesus as Jack Bauer, but I'm not one of them.

Good luck.

ste-pha-nie said...

I am amazed that anyone thinks it is "Christian" to waterboard or torture or use "enhanced interrogation."
Tell me where in the Bible these practices are condoned.

Joni said...

Bold, Sarah, bold! Yea for you:)

I always loved the WWJD bracelets, but, frankly, found the philosophy a bit difficult, because, well,..he was Jesus, and I'm not. "Would Jesus use waterboarding as an interrogation device?" Almost certainly not. Would he likely be in a situation where this would be a relevant question? Again, almost certainly not. I do think I hear him giving advice on how to deal with our earthly governments; it has something to do with a coin and paying taxes to the government when they are owed. Jesus did not seem to care much about nations or governments on earth. Early Christian writers do not spend much time on the subject, either, advising followers to be obedient and respectful to the government in charge. IMHO, we are free to use our brains to have opinions about these kinds of topics; but when our thoughts, words, prayers, and interactions focus on government and politics, I wonder if God doesn't sometimes mutter, "Not what I had in mind..."

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