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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Torture and Christianity

I previously posted on the subject of torture, expressing surprise that evangelical bloggers had said so little about it, when we have expressed a lot of moral outrage over other issues. (I don't read every such blog, of course!).

Joe Carter and Justin Taylor have gone a long way toward remedying this, hosting an on-line symposium on torture. I recommend that anyone seriously interested in the subject read these articles. I found that Augustine had considered this issue, and that Kenneth Magnuson, a Southern Baptist, no less, was the writer who brought it up in his contribution to the symposium. Albert Mohler (also a Southern Baptist, if it matters) wrote a good essay, paying careful attention to moral distinctions and reality. Robert Vischer takes the White House's John Yoo to task. Here, he says, is part of what Yoo wrote, followed immediately by Vischer's response:
Clearly, any harm that might occur during an interrogation would pale to insignificance compared to the harm avoided by preventing such an attack, which could take hundreds or thousands of lives.

And in that single statement, we have the essence of why Christians cannot condone torture, no matter the justifications offered. An ethic grounded in human dignity can never hold that the purposeful infliction of pain on a person is insignificant, nor that its significance can be minimized as though concerns over human life and dignity are mere variables in a cost-benefit analysis.

Richard John Neuhaus had this to say:
Establishing a principle is not “merely for show.” Recognizing, clearly but sotto voce, that there will sometimes be exceptions to the principle is not hypocrisy.

There were a couple of other articles, just as deserving of your time. This is a serious issue, indeed, and I am grateful to the symposium's hosts.

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Cleaned up a little, without changing anything substantial, on Dec 29, 2005. All but one change (his to Vischer's) was in the formatting.

2 comments:

Adam said...

You're right: the ends cannot justify those means.

I can't believe that our leaders would engage in such a violation of both ethics AND international law, while still claiming to support human rights and freedom.

It boggles the mind, though maybe it should come as no surprise.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks again, Adam.