Psychologist Carl Jung once argued, “The healthy man does not torture others–generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”
After the National Association of Evangelicals recently endorsed a statement by Evangelicals for Human Rights that condemns torture, many conservative Christians attacked both the NAE and the statement.
In doing so, these Christians–including some Southern Baptist leaders–proved that Jung’s statement is true when it comes to theology. For it is not the theologically healthy that condone the torture of those created in God’s image, but those with tortured and perverted theology.
Daniel R. Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the anti-torture statement “a moral travesty managing not only to confuse but to harm genuine evangelical witness in the culture.” For as the Inquisition proved, nothing helps people discover the love of Jesus quite like torture!
Heimbach, who has been an ardent supporter of the Iraq war, offered a couple of reasons why he felt the statement was wrong. First, he claimed that its problem was that it does not define what torture is so that it would be clear what the “signers of the document claim so vehemently to reject.”
However, the document clearly points to the need to uphold the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other laws that address this concern.
Additionally, the desire for a definition of torture often seems to come from those who want to find loopholes that may have been missed in the list of condemned torture practices.
We already have a clear and simple biblical guide: treat others as you have them treat yourself. Anything less than that is wrong and clearly violates Christian ethics, which is what Heimbach is supposed to teach.
Another argument that Heimbach offered was that the anti-torture statement was divisive. He claimed, “The danger of the NAE’s diatribe … is that it threatens to undermine Christian moral witness in contemporary culture by dividing evangelicals into renouncers and justifiers of nebulous torture.”
The idea that Christians should never stand for an issue that might divide evangelicals is not only unbiblical but is not even consistent. Heimbach continues to support President George W. Bush’s Iraq war policy and has condemned embryonic stem cell research, even though there is a divide among evangelicals on these issues.
Additionally, if something is wrong Christians must use their prophetic role and speak out against it. With Heimbach’s logic, most of the biblical prophets could have been condemned for divided the religious community.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also has offered support for torture. He explained, “I would also argue that we cannot deny that there could exist circumstances in which such uses of torture might be made necessary.”
Mohler’s argument is essentially that the “ends justify the means,” which seems to throw out much of the biblical witness.
Torturing people is wrong no matter who they are or what information we think they may possess. Jesus did not tell us to love one another unless the other person is a suspected terrorist.
What happened to the belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture and that Mohler and other Southern Baptist leaders claimed they believed? Apparently, they have become casualties of the U.S.’s new foreign policy.
Heimbach, Mohler and other Southern Baptist leaders have previously offered support for torture. Unfortunately, they are continuing to speak out in favor of such inhuman and ungodly treatment despite the clear biblical mandate to love all of God’s people.
Perhaps the next edition of the SBC’s Holman Christian Standard Bible will offer a new take on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44: “Torture your enemies and kill those who persecute you.” Then the passage could finally be tortured enough to match their tortured theology.
Musician Derek Webb brilliantly critiqued this poor theology in his song, “My Enemies are Men like Me.”
He sings: “I would rather die than to take your life. … How can I kill the ones I’m supposed to love?” He adds, “Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication.”
Evangelicals must reject the perverted theology of these Baptist leaders and take a clear stand against torture. We must stand up and declare that all life is sacred! To add your name to the anti-torture statement, click here.
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
Click here to order Brian Kaylor’s book For God’s Sake Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent from Amazon.com.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.