We, as a country, are attempting to make history without God. And although we’ve been flaunting the previous election as the triumph of “moral values,” in reality we have exchanged the biblical mandate for justice for a human mandate determined to secure the power and privilege of the world’s few at the expense of the world’s many.
To achieve this goal, we are willing to participate in immoral and unbiblical actions. The angel of darkness, which clothes itself in light, has seduced us into devouring and torturing those created in the image of God, all the while claiming that the blood we spill is the will of the Almighty and we are but God’s instruments.
It is bad enough that the abuses of Abu Ghraib have been swept under the rug. The shock expressed when the story made headline news has been conveniently forgotten, reducing justice to the scapegoating of a few low-level military personal, thus constructing a false reality that this was but an aberration instigated by a few “rotten apples.”
This present administration has continued to insist that the horrific photos we witnessed were but isolated incidents, and the atmosphere that contributed to these abuses has been rectified. Although we continue to publicly proclaim our respect for international law and the Geneva Convention, privately, we continue to participate in human rights violations.
Last Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a report charging that the prisoners held at Guantanamo are being subjected to abuses that are “tantamount to torture.”
The mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo resembles the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They have been exposed to sexual humiliation, prolonged isolation or prolonged “stress positions,” and beatings.
What is new in the torture chambers at Guantanamo is the use of medical personnel during the “interrogation” process, in complete violation of the Hippocratic Oath. The only progress (if you can call it that) reported by the 2004 report over the 2003 findings is that female interrogators have ceased, during the interrogation process, to expose their breasts, sexually touch prisoners or exhibit pornographic material.
What would happen if good American Christians took time to discuss our use of torture during their Sunday school classes?
How has this administration handled the Red Cross’s findings on prisoner torture? They simply ignored the report, stating, according to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s office, that this is simply the Red Cross’s “point of view” not shared by Bush.
Contempt for rules for civilized behavior can best be illustrated by the appointment of Alberto Gonzales to the cabinet post of Attorney General. Gonzales, while serving as the White House chief counsel, was responsible for formulating the policy for treating prisoners, successfully de-toothing the Geneva Convention to provide us with the right to engage in torturing prisoners to achieve our goals.
Can any other action better demonstrate how we as a nation are losing our soul, turning our back on the gospel mandate, and becoming like those whom we call enemies? How can we be the city on the hill when our actions “to the least of these” contradicts any allegiance to the God we call the Prince of Peace?
But we really shouldn’t be surprised that we torture prisoners. After all, we are simply imposing on the international arena what most people of color know about domestic policy.
Consider Amnesty International’s report accusing the U.S. of systematically violating the human rights of its citizens, specifically its citizens of color. These violations include mistreatment of prisoners, excessive use of police force, detention of asylum-seekers, execution of children (death penalty for minors) and providing of arms and training to repressive regimes.
Amnesty’s Secretary General SanÃ© concludes, “Human rights violations in the United States of America are persistent, widespread, and appear to disproportionately effect people of racial or ethnic minority backgrounds.”
Christians pride themselves in voting their values, but where is the righteous indignation over the sanctity of all life?
Jesus tells us what to do with a tree that bears bad fruit. And yet, some Christians support torture and injustices in the name of patriotism. They choose the easy road, and want this wide gate of power and privilege protected on the homefront as well as the world stage.
But we also know this wide gate leads to destruction. They will stand before the throne saying “Lord, Lord, did I not define my “moral values’ in you name?” But alas, for on that day, the prisoners of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo shall arise and bear witness against this perverse generation.
Who will instead take the road that is hard through the narrow gate that leads to life? So few who call themselves Christians traverse that road!
Miguel De La Torre, a Cuban American, is professor of theologies of liberation at Hope College in Holland, Mich. He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former Baptist pastor in Kentucky. His column also appears in the Holland Sentinel.
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.