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Month: April 2009

turning the page on torture

turning the page on torture

It is sad that it has taken a change in administration to begin to turn the page on torture. A categorical ban on torture is an American value, not a debatable value of one party or another. Perhaps we were in so deep that there was no way out … other than repentance. And repentance doesn’t come easily to politicians.

But it is heartening to watch now as we do turn the page. I applaud the order passed down to all CIA interrogators directing them to comply with the guidelines of the Army Field Manual. And the decision to release the memos authorizing and defending the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is necessary and healthy if we want to clear the air and move on as a nation. Confession is the first step in repentance!

And it is confession because we must “own” together what we have done to “protect” ourselves, so we may be able to “disown” it now and move on. That’s what I see the Obama administration doing: not releasing the memos to bring shame down on the heads of Bush administration officials, but to bring shame down on all our collective heads for allowing and condoning torture. They are acting against not political rivals or even a rival ideology, but against torture itself.

That is why I can understand the decision not to prosecute officials of the previous administration. It’s not about exacting punishment or discrediting rivals, but about reversing course. It’s not about the swing of the conservative/liberal pendulum. We need to be free of the kind of thinking that allowed us to tolerate or excuse torture. And we need to embrace that commitment (once more) together.

Let’s move on, disown torture, and commit ourselves as a nation once more to an unwavering defense of basic and inalienable human rights … for all people!

A week ago, the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee released their report on the Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody. Doug Muder has a very good summary and analysis of the report on his blog, The Weekly Sift. He reviews the findings of the report which refute “layer by layer” the common arguments used to defend the practices of the past eight years:

It’s not torture …

Even if it is torture, it’s not policy …

Even if it is a policy of torture, it’s legal …

Even if it’s illegal, it’s necessary …

Even if it’s illegal and unnecessary, it only hurts people who deserve it …

Even if it’s illegal, unnecessary, and hurts innocent people, it doesn’t hurt ordinary Americans …

Even if it’s illegal, unnecessary, hurts innocent people, and makes us all less safe, no one should be held accountable …

The article is worth reading in its entirety … if only to be sure we are well-enough informed that we will recognize the truth of what we have done as a nation and be ready to turn the page!

a meditation for good friday 2009

a meditation for good friday 2009

On the way they met a man named Simon, who was coming into the city from the country, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was from Cyrene and was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) They took Jesus to a place called Golgotha, which means “The Place of the Skull.”

Wait a minute! Back up! The father of Alexander and Rufus? Who are Alexander and Rufus? And why are they important enough to mention right in the middle of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion? No other gospel writer mentions them.

There is only one reason I can think of for including them in the story: the people for whom this gospel was intended knew them! Alexander and Rufus were members of their community! Alexander and Rufus were Christians!

This story, Jesus’ story, is not about something that happened to some foreigners in some distant land. You know Alexander and Rufus? Their father was there when Jesus was executed! Their father was the one who was made to carry the Roman cross on which he was hung!

This story, Jesus’ story, is not just about other people, not just for other people. It’s about you! It is for you! It is your story too!

They took Jesus to a place called Golgotha, which means “The Place of the Skull.” There they tried to give him wine mixed with a drug called myrrh, but Jesus would not drink it. Then they crucified him and divided his clothes among themselves, throwing dice to see who would get which piece of clothing. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the accusation against him said: “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Jesus, one on his right and the other on his left.

It seems this execution was no big deal to the Roman authorities. This was no high level display of Roman superiority, no high profile execution of a well-known subversive. He was crucified … among a group of thieves! He was put to death as a petty criminal!

His was not a martyr’s death, but a common death, a death any of us might suffer, deservedly or undeservedly, literally or emotionally, at the hands of those who would judge us.

He was judged unworthy, undesirable, expendable, unwanted, and he paid the ultimate price of rejection by humanity and by God.

So when we are judged unworthy, undesirable, expendable, unwanted, when we are rejected, undeservedly by our peers or deservedly by God, we can know that Jesus has been there too. He shares our lot with us, and we share his lot with him.

With him, we die, and with him … You know the story is not yet finished! Jesus is not a martyr, but a savior!

People passing by shook their heads and hurled insults at Jesus: “Aha! You were going to tear down the Temple and build it up again in three days! Now come down from the cross and save yourself!”

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law made fun of Jesus, saying to one another, “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Let us see the Messiah, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him!”

And the two who were crucified with Jesus insulted him also.

They all insulted him. Even the thieves insulted him! What could possibly prompt a dying criminal to insult a man who shares his fate?

Insecurity. Fear. Threat. Jealousy. They are all threatened by what they do not understand and jealous of what they are unwilling to give up, what even a dying man is unwilling to give up … his pride. To accept what Jesus says, to embrace who Jesus is, we must give up our pride. We must admit what we are, admit what we do not know and what we cannot do. We must admit … we need him.

We need him. We need him. Jesus, our deliverer. Jesus, our savior. Jesus, our Lord!