It is kind of interesting how little, it seems, the Christian church has contributed to the national debate over torture. Of course sincere Christians do have opinions about it – often different ones – as you can imagine.
Perhaps one reason (a good one) that the church is rather silent on this issue is that there is nothing in Scripture which would speak to torture directly. It could be said that the way our Lord was crucified was a form of torture, but it was not a torture with any kind of purpose than to lead to death and be an example for anyone else planning any mischief against the status quo of Roman and Jewish law. But just because it happened to our Lord does not, of course, justify it for us today (or any day).
Of course our first problem is determining the definition of torture. There is really no exact definition. For some a tap dripping or screaming children is torture. For others “waterboarding” might not be particularly frightful. Generally speaking, people who do not consider waterboarding torture argue this way because it does not actually bring any kind of bodily harm to the subject. The technique simply inspires great fear in a person who THINKS they are going to drown.
There are those Christians who would submit that it would be inexcusable to torture anyone for any reason. But actually, the Christian thinking down through the ages has not necessarily agreed with this. What about war and the actual killing that is involved there? We do find in the scripture that the government is vested with the God given right to enforce the peace and protect its citizens. Could we not understand that torture that is “pre-emptive self defense” would be allowable? If we knew that a person had a piece of information that would save hundreds, thousands, millions of lives, could it not be considered a necessary evil?
I personally believe in a rather radical solution to this problem. I believe that it should be illegal for the government (or anyone) to resort to torture. However, hypothetically, if I were a government agent or soldier who was convinced of a life and death situation and I needed to get information out of an individual, I might very well decide to exercise some type of torture to get that information. However, I would do it in the full knowledge of lawful punishment. In other words, I would do it KNOWING I would be punished for my crime – freely admitting it and willingly submitting to the punishment of the law. And I would EXPECT that a court of law would NOT have leniency on me, but charge me of the crime and give my due sentence – EVEN IF there was a great benefit that was gained and many lives saved. Punishment must be given so that the next person in a similar situation is never tempted to torture without being absolutely SURE it is a most necessary evil.
I may be dreaming, but this is my best resolution to the problem of torture in our sinful world (besides praying the Lord would come quickly!)