In light of the release of information about interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists discussion of torture has re-emerged in the public sphere. I believe the voice of religious faith deserves to be heard regarding this issue. I can speak only as a young Lutheran seminarian, but let me speak.
One of the cries of Martin Luther, my faith’s namesake, was “Sola Scriptura” by word alone. The word from Christian scripture that continually comes up for me regarding torture, and the current construction of a “clash of civilizations,” are the words of Jesus, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
Another concept dear to us Lutherans is “vocation,” that is an understanding that what we do, what our work is, is sacred—a pastor’s vocation of word and sacrament should be as spirit filled as the vocation of a prison interrogator. Determining the sacredness of one’s calling is not a simple task. We must ask what the effects of our actions and the effects of the absence of our actions would be. If a “dirty bomb” is stopped from going off in Sydney Australia because an interrogator water boarded someone is that holy? After all preservation of life is highly laudable.
As far as my own personal piety I turn my eyes to the cross, which the man who I believe to be the incarnation of God died upon. We tortured Jesus and the approved Roman means of torture, and ultimately, execution killed him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a theologian who attempted to kill Hitler, an act the rightness of which is still debated and could likely shed light upon acts of violence done for a greater good—said after Kristallnacht that only those churches who wept for the Jews deserved God’s grace. Echoing this I believe if I was not horrified by torture and did not see a glimmer of Jesus in the eyes of a Muslim man put in a stress position I could not call myself faithful.