Saturday, May 16, 2009

A faithful meditation on torture

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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I think Obama is wrong on this one

It isn't that I want our troops to be in greater danger... obviously. That said these pictures are of actions committed in the past, thus I believe owning up to this past will in fact create less danger for our troops in the present. Transparency about our wrong actions is a strong Mia Colpa that could indicate to people in Afghanistan and Iraq that we take our mistakes seriously and we intend to do the right thing...
Lets look at it from the angle of a potential insurgent. You've been taken over, you've not had consistent electricity for a long time, the toppling of the dictator didn't make things utopians. These westerner soldiers have been controlling your country for too long now. You've seen some torture pictures from Abu Girab (sp), you've heard about people flushing the word of God down toilets like its poop.
Then those who occupy your country elect a new guy, one who claims to not want to continue occupying your country. You pause and reflect waiting to see if this is for real.
He begins to open up about the use of torture. That seems good to you, maybe his other claim, that he really IS trying to get our of your country, is true. Then all of a sudden he decides not to show these pictures of torture... he reverses himself! Then you start to think, perhaps he will reverse himself on this whole occupation thing too...
I don't know, I guess I should give the president the benefit of the doubt, but to me it seems like a flip-flop and an indication to the world that we're maybe not as confident in rule of law and the idea that the truth will set us free as we should be and often claim to be.

The church I'll be doing my internship now has a working website!

So here, in all its glory, is St. John's on Pimlico Road!