The recent report about CIA tactics involving terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is a reminder about the importance of treating all human beings—even those we believe to be our enemies—with dignity, respect and care. Any use of torture is a moral outrage and against everything that our nation stands for.
Opposition to the use of torture is an issue that unites people of faith.
In fact, in 2007, the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 60 denominations and more than 45,000 churches and tens of millions of American evangelicals, adopted “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture,” in which it specifically denounced the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any part of our government.
For evangelicals, torture is directly linked to our beliefs about God and human beings. We view God as holy. As such, God deserves our highest possible honor and greatest reverence. So for us, when in the Bible God said, “Let us make human beings in our image,” we believe that human life becomes sacred because we bear the image of God.
In some mysterious way, humans bear the mark of God. That makes life sacred and deserving of certain rights and protections. Furthermore, as evangelicals, our understanding of how we should treat each and every human is derived from the Bible. Not only is every human life sacred, but the teachings of Jesus instruct us to have special care and concern for the vulnerable—in this case terrorism suspects or prisoners of war—even if we believe them to be our enemy.
This has two applications. Terrorism suspects and prisoners of war are first of all human beings with undeniable rights. They are by definition vulnerable persons, those Jesus instructs us to care for and be concerned about.
Secondly, based on Jesus’ teachings to love our enemy, we would believe that even our enemies from whom we are trying to protect ourselves deserve basic human rights. In the landmark “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture,” these are listed as the right not to have one’s body mutilated, the right not to be abused, maimed, tortured, molested or starved, and the right not to have one’s life taken unjustly. The use of torture by our government infringes upon these human rights.
When we as a society allow our government to use torture, we as a nation, collectively as American citizens, are violating human rights. I love this nation, and I am a proud and patriotic American citizen. I also believe that terrorism is a real and significant threat to our national security. I recognize that our government faces very difficult security challenges.
No one has ever claimed that it is easy to defeat evil. But there is no victory if in our attempts to defeat evil we resort to tactics that lower our own moral standing in this world. It is our values and beliefs that make this society strong.
Statement by Carl Nelson