Most mornings, not even my beloved coffee wakes me up very fast. So you can imagine my surprise when I was knocked flat on my back, reeling and wide awake, after reading an article online at 8:30 last Friday morning. Entitled "Torturing the Least of These" and written by Jimmy McCarty, I experienced a powerful wake up jolt, an unexpected reminder, and a call to discipleship.
McCarty begins with this doubletake of an opening line: "Christians are people who follow a tortured and murdered God." He continues, "This fact speaks clearly to what our values should be. One of those values should be a rejection of torture, violence in the name of 'law' and the common good, and murder."
Wow. It is always good to hear the word of God anew, the gospel as potentially bad news before it is good news. I read and write and think so much in the world of theology that I can become numb to truthful expressions of the heart of the gospel, but thank God for Christians like Jimmy McCarty who remind us both who we are and who we follow.
He goes on to say that "[i]n torturing those imprisoned for crimes they have not yet been found guilty of, we torture, again, our Lord and Savior." He concludes: "For those of us shaped by what occurred to a political prisoner 2,000 years ago on a hill called Golgotha, what happens at Guantanamo Bay should pierce our souls."
Amen! is all I can add to that.
However, upon reading the various reader comments on his article, McCarty posted another in response, called "Jesus Convinces Some Evangelicals to Reject Torture." (This guy knows how to push buttons.) Much of the body of this second post is his reaction to said comments, as well as exploration of polling data questioning American Evangelicals' stance(s) on torture.
The general gist is that a majority of white southern Evangelicals believe that torture is justified at times, but (a) strange discrepancies appear so that the respondents don't seem to be consistent, and (b) when questioned about their reasoning and how Christian (namely Jesus') teachings influence their view, a solid chunk change their minds about torture ever being justified.
McCarty writes: "How do those who respond to the call of Jesus to 'follow me' end up supporting the torture of children of God? By forgetting what he taught and lived." He again concludes with reminder, call, challenge, and (if we can hear it) good news: "Jesus does not call us to 'common sense' but to radical discipleship and love. He calls us to the type of discipleship and love that is more likely to get you tortured than approve of the torture of others."
And all the church said? Amen.