The Mental Murder of Torture

For some time now I have been thinking about this torture thing that everyone is talking about. How does this effect all of us and should we be concerned about it. Yesterday I posted a poll for my daily radio show about waterboarding. The results were not surprising to me but a little disturbing none the less. A vast majority of the respondents believe that it is not torture to waterboard someone.

So I came across this article on the First Things Blog by Russell E. Saltzman and he has helped my clarify my thinking on this position. Right in the center of the article the author makes this statement:

I’ve been trying, like many Americas, to think this thing through. There is the altogether practical question: Did torture help us? Did it make America safer? Was the information really good, helpful, in thwarting terrorists? Did it actually in fact spoil pending plots? Frankly, the evidence is mixed.

But I really don’t care. Whether torture “worked” or not as an interrogative tactic is far from the main question. I’m a pastor. I think as a pastor, which is to say as a parish theologian. I don’t care if these guys shrieked like little girls on the playground and blubbered out plots for everything from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to knocking over Bagdad candy stores as juvenile delinquents. Torture is morally wrong. It is morally wrong, theologically speaking, because it is an attack upon the imago Dei, upon the image of God inherent to every human life.

Now, I’m not so dumb or so liberal that I can’t understand and remember and share the anger the September 11 attack produced in America, nor was I the least bit hesitant in supporting the studied determination of making sure that nothing like it ever happens again. But if there is anyone suggesting the American homeland is safer today for having abandoned the ordinary principles of humane treatment for prisoners in American custody, then he’s a moral midget. Torture is not what Americans do. Not if we still have some lingering respect for the rights with which God endows humanity.

The important phrase in this entire discussion is the image of God. That is what it all boils down too. As Christians we cannot stand for anything that diminishes the image of God in one of his creations. No matter who, or what that person is we cannot allow this to happen. Any torture is a moral outrage and we need to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

This will take many hours of thought and prayer and discussion but it is a discussion that we need to have.


  1. One of my uncle’s during ww2 was captured by the germans.He was “Tortured”.When he can home his entire nervouse system was so messed up he could never keep his body stiil always shaking and moving like some one who had palsy.He never had one moment of body peace for the rest of his life.He wasn’t just tortured for the war period he was tortured for the rest of his long life.
    I beleave we need to understand what torture is and its not playing a loud radio or keeping lights day and night.Linda

  2. Father – it is hard to forgive a person who kills in the name of God…it is hard to forgive those who kill children and woman in the name of God…it is hard to forgive those who decapitate a person for being an American.

    I do not like violence, I never have. I hate war, and I did not support the Iraq war, however, I did support our troops but cringed everytime I heard (and still do hear) of the death toll, or the injuries…

    What do we do then if we suspect terrorism? You can scare a person into telling the truth, but not hurt them. I have mixed feelings about this…however, I do not think waterboarding (a person made to feel like they are drowning)is a bad technique when needed. Please don’t think I am a bad person when I say that because I am not, I just think if we treat terrorists with “kid gloves” we are not doing justice for anyone, woman, children, men,…no one.

    We need to educate the younger generations…teach them that God does not want murder and torture…show them a life without violence…

  3. Torture of prisoners by Americans is a barbaric way of treating human beings. Moreover, it is a violation of the Geneva Convention Charter, which was signed by the United States. For the U.S. to torture prisoners in order to get information from them cannot be justified — both from a theological and from an ethical perspective. The U.S. has no right to torture any human beings, because all human beings have the image of God, and such barbaric action shows a disrespect for God.

  4. Whoa, I think that this is a very intresting take on the subject at hand, and I might even agree with it if put a different way. However, I don’t think that you have answered your own question. Is waterboarding torture? Is there an acceptable defination of the word and by acceptable I mean one that ALL parties can agree on. I am not one for out and out bullying, in fact I am totally aginst it with my entire being, however there is a fine line to draw between bulling and standing up for yourself. With all of this being said, as long as we do not have an acceptable defination for “torture” how can we say for sure.

    As I was reading this through, I realized that I am sounding an awful lot like those terrible politicans that I so detest at times. Hmmmmm, intresting…

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