Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I've Finally Settled the Question...

...of whether the Lord still strikes people dead these days, like he did to Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about what they gave to the Lord, and he did to poor Uzzah during David's egomaniacal entry into Jerusalem. I'm now pretty sure he doesn't

The reason I know he doesn't is the absence of a great smoking hole where the Rev. Lou Sheldon and the board of the Traditional Values Coalition used to be when they issued this statement in support of torture.

The statement doesn't explicitly say they endorse torture. Rather, it echoes the President's call for "clarification" of the Geneva Conventions, which the Supreme Court recently reminded the President he has to obey. The reason the President wants this clarification is that we have been torturing people and he'd like to continue to do so. And he's more than a bit concerned that if his party loses power in the next election or perhaps regains its soul, there will be criminal prosecutions for those that tortured and those that ordered torture.

Look, I'm no longer surprised when allegedly Christian leaders parrot whatever the President and the Republicans want them to say. Proximity to power is extremely seductive, and Christian leaders have been co-opted by the state ever since the Roman government decided in the 4th century to use Christianity rather than exterminate it.

No, here's why I think, really think - no joking, that Lou Sheldon should be glad he's alive. The reason lies in the justification for why torture should be allowed:
"Our rules for interrogation need to catch-up with this awful new form of war that is being fought against all of us and the free world. The post -World War II standards do not apply to this new war.

"We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits."
Let's parse this a bit for the obvious points of ignorance and dishonesty. First, there is nothing new about this "new form of war". People have been brutal too each other and have targeted civilians (or not differentiated combatants from civilians) throughout most of human history. Second, if the level of threat is a key decider, Americans were under much greater threat during the Cold War and WWII than we are now. Third, with a bit of snark, we should note that the TVC should expect a call from Karl Rove because the Administration has been careful never to call these folks "criminals". Remember Rev. Sheldon, it is the appeasing unchristian Democrat Party who want to treat terrorists like criminals!

That aside, here's whats wrong: The Traditional Values Coalition, in the name of Christ, and the President have essentially argued that if your enemy is evil, you may, in fact must do evil to prevent him from doing evil, except that when you do it isn't evil because you are the good guys.

Just look at what they're saying! Christ is not our standard. Scripture is not our standard. Understanding that even the vilest person is still has dignity because he was created in the image of God is not our standard. Understanding human evil against the backdrop of our common sinfulness rather than a Manichaean division of the world into good and evil is not our standard. The TVC and the President are saying that the badness of our enemies, not Christ, is our standard.

I don't know how to say it any more clearly: this is blasphemy.

Edited on 9/22 at 10:07 am pdt for greater clarity and increased snark


Johan Maurer said...

Hello from Russia! As always, proud to be American and Christian.

Blasphemy is not too strong a word.

forrest said...

I'm proud to be a carbon-based life form, we're the best I know of!

Aside from that... I have long wrestled with how God's justice, as conceived in the Hebrew scriptures (and pretty much experienced in my personal life) fits with the long history of violence and lies perpetuated by our nation, with no apparent ill effects (except that our way of life keeps on getting tighter and uglier for most of us.)

I know, I'm just being impatient. If I'd been delegated the thunderbolts, this place might be looking a bit depopulated by now, and maybe the supply of psychopathic presidential candidates would have proved inexhaustible, the policies continuing to get crueler and stupider and more corrupt because "we" just don't know any better.

God continues to surprise me, not only with how bad people can make things, but also with how he can keep us going as well as he has.

Even striking whole cities dead doesn't seem to have made people any wiser. Maybe there's another educational process at work since the prophets; I'd just like to see some results of that before the shoreline is up to Denver!

Anonymous said...

Amen to everything you said Bob. Frankly I am outraged that our government is actually debating if and when torture can be used! To me this is a no-brainer! You don't torture anyone---period! End of story!
"But we need to get information from the terrorists!" the right-wingers whine. But what they don't get is that torture has been proven not to work. People will tell you anything you want to hear under torture. Heck, I'd confess to shooting Lincoln if someone were torturing me! People will say anything you want just to stop the pain. They will implicate innocent people, make false statements, etc.
Think back to the Salem Witch hunts. The town's elders were able to find witches everywhere! All they had to do was torture people and they confessed right up to being in league with Satan! It was a real "success" wasn't it! I am sure that all those women they killed, tortured, banished and imprisoned were guilty. >Sarcasm mode off<
If Congress actually does give Bush some leeway regarding giving him approval to torture people I will be completely disgusted with this country.

Timothy Travis said...

yes, oh yes, oh yes.

But on the other hand, I think we could make a strong Biblical case that God has, indeed, struck dead such as those of whom you write.

I think that in Isaiah--and, of course, the Gospels--we are told of such death.

Pray for such as these. And for ourselves as we struggle to make the practice of our lives witness to our self claimed place within the Remnant; to make sure that there is not some log around which we are looking to see the mote that cries out to us, so.

Bob Ramsey said...

Thanks all, for the comments.

Of course, I really have no certainty about how God works right now. He may have struck six people dead since yesterday for all I know, although if people like Wildman, and the one's who made the Pirates of the Caribean movies and the people who run Olive Garden are still around, the Lord is certainly doing so under very limited circumstances.

More seriously, this sorry turn of events is indeed another testament to the Lord's mercy and patience.

An interesting side note. As I was writing the first post, I had included a paragraph saying that while the Lord had given to sword to Israel during the time God's people were identified by their residence in the Land, in Christ's Kingdom, the Lord has clearly taken the sword back. I went on to say that while Just War advocates had created an entire anti-gospel approach to violence on the basis of one verse in Romans, even the Just War doctrine forbids torture. But here's the thing. When I was (admittedly quickly) look at several sites which covered Just War teaching, I noticed the doctrine calls for "proportionality" in warfare, but does not outright ban any specific approaches. This meshes well with what the Bush people have been saying, that yes torture is a bad thing, but it is the proportional response to terrorists.

This left me wondering.