Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"No Torture" is Good Stewardship

I have often written about stewardship of society as one of the central virtues of Presbyterians. A fine example of this is the new ad, being placed in papers all over the country, against torture. The ad has been signed by a wide range of religious leaders, from Jimmy Carter on down. The text was drafted by George Hunsinger, a Presbyterian and a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. The ad reads, in part:

Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved - policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.
Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now - without exceptions.

Good going, George and the other signers. Good stewardship.


F. Rottles said...

I think I understand the sentiment being expressed and the reasoning that supports it -- at the level of first principles.

However, like the application of the Just War principles, the prudential question of what constitutes actual torture is at issue -- especially when I see Jimmy Carter associated with anything like this.

What are your thoughts on the blank in, actual Torture is ____________. We could list the actions that are undisputed first and then move on to the actions that are disputed. The criteria for determining that an action constitutes actual torture are what?

Gruntled said...

The Bush administration's standard for torture is causing pain that is equivalent to organ removal. I think that sets the bar way too low. I would start with prohibiting excruciating pain. I also think the sexual humiliation that we use in Iraq is repulsive, though I could be convinced that that is not torture.

Anonymous said...

it must be said that the reviled traditional world of religious belief is now the only active voice with any chance of being effective in the struggle to stop torture, practiced in the name of promoting democracacy and individual liberty. secular civil society is almost silent, demonstrating the bankruptcy of enlightenment ethics which was embodied in the secular state. patrick

cymthia m. said...

I have to agree with f. rottles-what is the definition of torture when signed off on by people like Carter, who supports/has supported some questionable regimes?

While I have no clear cut definition of torture, either, I would suggest that an act that causes the loss of a limb or destroys normal body functioning in the process of information gathering should be considered torture.....i.e. no cutting off a foot for information on someone's location....

Gruntled said...

Every American government has supported questionable regimes, but this is the first one I know of that has publicly supported torture, or practices that come right up to the edge of torture, as something that the United States does.