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The Obliterating Folly of Single Text Christians

ironmaiden_05There’s been a lot of chatter on social media of late about torture. Now, torture is a powerful weasel word… i.e. a term that comes pre-loaded with good or bad sentiment meant to manipulate the outcome of an exchange without having to resort to actual discussion, facts, or proofs.

While I do want to discuss issues of interrogation, like anybody else… today, I’d rather consider the weaselly ways this discussion is carried on by those who take their own moral superiority for granted.

Under the United Nations Torture Convention of 1984, the definition of torture is: “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him…”

So, essentially since “severe” is up for grabs, and “physical or mental” has a rather broad spectrum to it, the use of any act intended to gain information from a person involved or reasonably suspected to be involved in a plot to destroy others is open to accusations of torture. Innocuous, non-deforming, non-life threatening pressure to one is “severe” to another, being mentally painful. This leaves the rules for interrogation vague and those seeking to extract information from calculated threats perpetually open to being plastered with the epitaph “torturer.” After all, is not imprisonment itself a form of mental torture?

I was once punished for complaining about my food by being made to miss a meal. It was my first experience with devastating hunger and the four hours I was made to wait before my parents relented and let me have a bowl of cereal was true torture… at least to my 8 year old self who’d never known such starvation. Does not the fact that I remember it so clearly at nearly 50 say that it was… I might have become a food hoarder!!!

I am not intending to trivialize torture, nor to condone it. He destroys his own humanity who acts without regard for another’s.

I do intend, however, to challenge the use of the word “torture” as a weasel word that might be applied to any level of discomfiture, and as a weasel word whose very use is intended to end all discussion and all analysis. Who, after all, would want to be the one guy in the room who is in favor of torture? NOT ME! That’s for sure.

This is the power of weasel words, and “torture,”—powerful because of its very real association with atrocities committed over the ages—is only the most recent weasel word applied so broadly as to eradicate discussion, thought, and reality.

In my attempts this week to discuss issues of violence, self-defense, and the tactics that we use to secure the safety of millions, I’ve been forced into long slow dances not only with this often poorly applied term, “torture,” but also with a few weasel texts. Evangelicals love to use weasel texts like others use weasel words—to take a position of automatic moral superiority without the need to define, clarify, discuss, or confront reality.

Evangelicals, like leftist liberal types, are always good for sweeping condemnations using hard to define concepts whose very invocation is intended to be a conversation killer.

Many of these noble souls have the advantage over the rest of us of living in a pristine world of their imaginations, and their anointed sentiments do not need to be proven, measured, defined, or otherwise examined. They’ve envisioned it and their sugar plum dreams of a new world order are—to everyone except benighted fools—obviously superior. Intention is good enough for government work… and religious sentiment… so there is no need for analysis or a weighing of consequences in the real world.

I love the smell of un-validated moral superiority in the morning.

For the liberal, sweeping poorly defined terms like equality[1] and rights[2] have become the new morality of the age. They are trump cards that require nothing but an accusation to undo all sense, history, law, constitution, or reality.

For the Evangelical, however, texts are often used to obliterate the rest of Scripture.[3] They are trump cards, automatic appeals to possession of a moral and spiritual high road that require no truck with wisdom or reality and turn a spiritual nose up at things like consequences; only an unspiritual clod worries about consequences. They will “obey” God and Christ… in this one obliterating text… and let the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit worry about the consequences.

Just as “Whatever you ask in my name, believe that you shall have it,” is often turned to overwhelm any notion that suffering is a real and effectual tool of God in the life of his saints (an oft repeated theme throughout the Scriptures)… so also, “Judge not lest you be judged” or “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” often obliterates all that worrisome bother about other people’s sin or even open wickedness. It does not matter how many Scriptures call the saints to preach Torah, uphold law, and enforce punishments, Jesus wiped it all away with these little ditties.

“God is love,” is often used to obliterate all other biblical concern with Divine Holiness, eternal consequence, and spiritual discipline. An axiomatic emotional sense of love and loving leaves no room for all those passages that portray God and Christ as reigning lords, coming to judge the quick the dead, calling his saints to teach people to obey His commands, Hell. (That last bit wasn’t a curse word, I it was my final category.) I’ve even encountered those who insist that God never does anything negative, all the punishments and suffering is exclusively the work of the Devil… no matter how many Scriptures say otherwise.

“Turn the other cheek” or “love your enemies” is the pacifist’s call to inaction in the face of unchecked evil, no matter how many Scriptures condemn those who ignore the injustices around them and fail to stand against the onslaughts of the wicked. These loosly tossed quotes swallow up all other biblical concern for self-defense, home defense, and national defense.

If all that stands between the plots of the wicked and any number of innocents is information inside the mind of a wicked man, we are just plain out of luck. We should make him a hot coco with plenty of mini-marshmallows and a dab of whipped cream, fluff his pillow, make sure he has a good book to read, soothing background tunes, and hope that our kindness induces him to spill the beans… and if it doesn’t? Oh well, that’s not OUR problem.

Perhaps, if it’s okay with those who sit as the king of the moral hill, we could at least discuss the issue, considering all of Scripture, and weigh all the principles that contribute to our consideration of the dilemma.

Can we at least acknowledge that there is a dilemma without having weasel texts hurled at us?

[1] They seek a final product equality that circumvents human responsibility in decision making and inclination. In order to do so they must scorn the very idea of equality of process. Human choice and innate ability and circumstance is so daunting as to demand unequal treatment under the law to create equality of result. The strong must be hamstrung and the weak artificially propped up, even against their will.

[2] They craft rights as positive rights rather than negative rights. Positive rights mean that people have a right to get things provided by others for nothing. Negative rights mean that others need to be restrained from taking something from another. Negative rights are the right to life, liberty and property. Positive rights are the right to be fed, clothed, housed, given medical care… at cost to others if need be, by the confiscation of their property and the denial of their liberty.

[3] This suggests a weak doctrine of Scripture. If all Scripture is equally inspired, we should not have a handful of passages that nullify the rest. One might claim that this text or that text does not apply to this or that situation, but to use one Scripture to obliterate the rest is a dangerous practice.

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