Monday, May 11, 2009

For It Does Not Bear the Sword For Nothing

Torture is in the airwaves and on the lips of pundits everywhere. To put into context my initial thoughts on the matter, I think we can find some illumination in the Book of Romans;

"Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they
who have opposed will recieve condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are
not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have
no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the
same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is
evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a
minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices
evil." - Romans 13:2-4

God expects governments to punish the wicked for their evil deeds. A government that refuses to do that has missed its primary function of maintaining order.

However, we still have, in these detainees at Gitmo, imagio deo set before us and we cannot easily dismiss the discomfort we must feel at the prospect of using coercive methods upon prisoners in our care.

I will explore this more fully later, but I wanted to get something put down in writing to kickstart my research and discussion on the issue.


  1. You are the one who highlighted it!

    Let me just say that one problem that the so-called debate is so difficult is that in modern western culture (especially the US), we have very little concept of separation of powers and authority. We don't understand that there are realms and spheres of authority which are delegated only to certain entities. Governments are not allowed to do many things the individual is allowed to do, and vice versa. And the government has been given the authority and obligation to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior (ie, keep the peace, promote national security). If the government needs to torture someone (bear the sword) in order to stop a terrorist plot (punish evil) to kill innocent civilians (reward good behavior), then it has every right to do so. And in that case, the individual person who is inflicting the torture is not acting as an individual, but rather on behalf of the government, and individual moral questions and culpability simply do not apply (you can leave your work at work). All this within reason, of course, which begs some serious questions in an age of unreason. But is it not true that there is an army of islamic fundamentalists who not only want to kill Americans, but would wipe us all and our nation off the globe if they could? Now, if the government has every right (as given by God and clearly laid out in Scripture) to put to death those who do evil, would it not stand to reason that we can do less (ie, waterboard, sleep deprive, break fingers, insult, etc.)? There is plenty our government can do in the way of torture and still stay many degrees away from our enemies morally.


  2. That is the question. I believe that Scripture allows for this as you say. But there is an undeniable "ick" factor to any flavor of "abuse". I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. The big argument on the other side is the Habeus Corpus argument, and then we get into definitions of a persons status as a "person", "citizen", etc. Are the natural rights granted by our Creator only for "citizens" of the U.S.? Or are they for all of God's creatures? I think we know the answer, but our debate is twisted around the problem of a government that lacks the political will to tackle difficult problems. Troubling. - DZD