Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Do I Have To Be the Liberal? I Am Tormented By This Thought

You can blame Joe Carter for this post. Not that I can even begin to imitate him, but he said what he thought on torture and so will I.

Hat Tip: Parableman

I'm amused by the fact that when I was in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, I was a ultra-conservative in their ranks. Now that I have made my church home in the Presbyterian Church in America, I find myself often leading the more liberal side of a debate. It sort of makes me wonder at times, "Am I really just contrary"? I don't think so, but I might be wrong on that.

I work with two guys who are from different ends of the political spectrum, one active in the Democratic party and the other gets most of his best political discussion material from Rush Limbaugh. They both have a love for the entrepreneurial spirit of America and both are hawks. We often get into political discussions. It seems that both are basically in favor of torture of Al Qaida war prisoners in U.S. custody. I think one of them a least sees the torture of Al Qaida war prisoners as justifiable because it is what they would do to our soldiers if captured. On the topic of torture, I just have to say it is always wrong. Many people base their moral theories on such ideas as I would not want it done to me, therefore, I don't want to do it. When the enemy feels no inclination to reciprocate, they give up on the idea. The golden rule does not have to be simplistic; certainly should not be ultimately self-centered. Because morality is more than the pragmatism of how to achieve the most comfort for the most people (namely me).

As a moral issue, torture is not addressed directly in the 10 Commandments. I see these 10 Commandments as the bases of morality, rules for those with a developing (or immature) a moral compass and virtues for those who are progressing in their moral development. Jesus points out the virtues implied in the 10 Commandments when he said that if a man divorces his wife, he causes her to commit adultery. Even more so when Jesus says that the fulfillment of the Law is loving God and loving your fellow man.

(By the way, I will not attempt to define torture here. That is an important debate. Things like sleep deprivation I would not count as torture in my thinking. Putting someone in solitary confinement is not torture in my humble opinion. There are a range of other things that definitely would be. Defining torture takes the debate out of the sense of virtue and puts it in the realm of rules. Remember, rules are for the developing or immature in moral development.)

By the way, most people say they think that the 10 Commandments are a good moral set of Laws, they usually mean the last six. The first four are just not something most Americans are willing to deal with. So we will start with the last six of the 10 Commandments.


"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

This commandment has an implication for those in authority. The implication is directly to fathers and mothers not to exasperate their children but indirectly the implication is for all leaders to not exasperate those under their control. Torture is done in secret often but it does not stay that way. It is humiliating and brutal. The word often gets out. Authorities are not to be brutal, but be worthy of honor.

"You shall not murder."

Beatings and other forms of brutality are tantamount to murder threats. These of course can not be condoned.

"You shall not commit adultery."

Rape and sexual assault has long been used as a means of humiliation and torture. For those who do such thing they clearly are breaking this commandment to keep sex inside the bounds of marriage. Making sex a means of torture degrades the gift of marriage that God has given the human race.

"You shall not steal."

Personal property is a basic human right. While it applies to objects such as a car or a laptop computer; it also applies to intangibles such as intellectual property, privacy, use of a person's name and dignity as a person. Torture does take a person's dignity without a juries verdict that the person is guilty of a crime.

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."

When a person gives information under duress, there is always a lingering doubt about its veracity. Did the person say what he thought would stop the torture or did he tell the truth? In a sense the person torturing the subject puts an undue pressure on the person where they are being forced to say things not in accordance with the truth but in accordance with what will end the pain.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Even a terrorist has some things that we should not want to take, namely the power of coercion. Coveting the same power that they have will not make us a great nation.

And now the first four commandments....

"You shall have no other gods before me."

There is a great danger that the person exercising this brutal authority will set himself as God. Power does not always corrupt but often this type of power does.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments."

Of course when we treat man as less than man, we degrade the image of God which is intangible. If we do not respect our enemy as made in the image of God, how can we respect the true God who is invisible.

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

A part of this commandment is being faithful to our oaths and promises. If one promises to obey the laws of the land and then breaks this promise, he is not letting his yes be yes. This applies to all service members who swore to uphold the laws of the U.S.

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

There is some sense in this commandment that those in authority are under a greater authority. When a master is not to impose work on a servant or an animal, this points to the fact that God is indeed the true master. Any authority we have is derived from him. When a person or a nation does not recognize that there are indeed limitations to their authority, they break this commandment. More explicitly, when someone does not recognize that God is the only one that has true authority over every soul, that person is breaking this commandment.

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