Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Passion and Torture

We have been talking about torture, in part because of a survey suggesting that religious people seem to condone it more than non-religious people. This seems, to me, to run contrary to Christian faith. In part, because Jesus called us to love our enemies (something we all find difficult to accomplish -- loving our neighbor who isn't an enemy is difficult enough), but also because Jesus was and is the tortured one.

I have suggested two possible reasons why some Christians have supported the use of torture -- penal substitutionary atonement and belief in hell. If God is seen as a perpetrator of torture, then surely it is permissible for us. Now, not everyone who embraces either of these doctrines, supports torture. But, one could see how such a belief system could influence political/government positions. There are, of course, other reasons for such decisions, but we need to at least acknowledge the possibility.

With this in mind, I want to introduce another dimension to the conversation. Having already turned to Jurgen Moltmann, a theologian who came to faith while in a prisoner-of-war camp as a teenager at the end of WWII, I'd like to return to him. Moltmann is well-known for his teachings that God suffers in Christ as the Crucified God. With regard to the Passion and Torture, he writes:

Through his passion and his death on the cross, Christ put himself on the side of the victims and became their brother. But he did more. he also became the one who atones for the guilty. "Thou who bearest the sins of the world, have mercy upon us." It is this prayer which brings us together with the evildoers and within the divine compassion. Compassion is love that overcomes its own hurt, love that bears the suffering which guilt has caused, and yet holds fast to the beloved. (Jurgen Moltmann, Jesus for Today's World, Fortress, 1994, p. 68).


You may say, well the victims here are guilty themselves. You maybe correct, and the victims Moltmann has in mind are the victims of Auschwitz and the victims of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships (which we supported). The detainees in Gitmo, surely they are of a different order. But are they? Are they not human beings, created in the image of God? Thus, whatever the perceived justice of our cause, are we not liable for judgment? And if so, what is the nature of that judgment -- is it to be tortured by God? Or are we able to receive forgiveness from the one who was tortured, and who from the cross offered forgiveness?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need to hear from those ordered to torture. One couldn't bring herself to do it, so she killed herself first.

Listen to them-

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104378628

David Mc