Is the Christian Question “What is torture?” or “What is Love?”

I’ve read the recently released “Study of CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” report. [1] It surely cannot but make any Christian who accepts that these deeds are done in their name look at themselves and say “Who are we?” Are we truly as committed to “the means justifies the end” as we thought or does the image we see in the mirror that is produced by this formula shock us into reconsideration?

If we take some seriously we almost get the idea the most important question the image in the mirror raises is “What is torture?” This question neatly preserves “the means justifies the end”. But if we take Jesus seriously the question for the Christian is not “What is torture?” but “What is Love?” “What is Love?”, taken seriously, does not neatly preserve our previous ways of being.

Eric Metaxas, in a Breakpoint article [2], puts his finger on the right question by asking “Who are we?” but does not go so far as to ask “What is Love?”. I find it interesting that he quotes as the authority on why torture is wrong: Pope John Paul II and his encyclical “The Splendor of Truth”. I couldn’t agree with Metaxas (& Pope John Paul II) more that torture is “intrinsically evil” A question though is why do we look to Pope John Paul II, Rick Warren & others for input on how we should treat our enemies, but not Jesus Himself?

Jesus, in His best “selling” Sermon (which has incidentally been on the world “times” top 10 list for about 2000 years) said: “…I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” [3] Jesus goes on to say “What you do to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me” [4] Are “the least of these my brethren” only starving children in other lands?

Why do we need to invoke 2nd party authorities to tell us “The use of physical and psychological violence to extract information ‘is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity'”?

I get the distinct idea Jesus is not only clearly against torture, but goes much further. Why do we need to invoke 2nd party authorities to tell us “The use of physical and psychological violence to extract information ‘is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity'”? Why can the Christian not rest firmly on the Ethic of Christ Himself? Would it require a too radical break with systems that depend on what Christ forbids?

Is it perhaps because Christ demands too much? Is Christ’s great Love going just a little too far? In asking us not only to not torture but to Love, to bless, to do good and pray…is Jesus’ Love asking too much? Is it because if we would take Jesus’ ethics seriously the ramifications are too radical? Is it because our current and ongoing ethics would fall under condemnation and “be slain” when clearly exposed to “the Sword proceeding out of His mouth”?

The questions are eternally valid: “Who are we?” “What is Love?”
[1] Study of CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf
[2] http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/26559
[3] Matthew 5:34-48: http://biblehub.com/matthew/5-44.htm
[4] Matthew 24:40 http://biblehub.com/matthew/25-40.htm

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