waldronwhatcanchristianteachingaddtothedebateabouttorture -...

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Volume 63 (2006): 330-343 I Theology What Can Christian Teaching Add to the Debate about Torture? Abstract: A national debate on torture has begun in the United States, initiated in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, fueled by hypothetical ':ticking bomb" scenarios, inspired by the attempts of administration lawyers to weaken legal prohibitions, heightened by the.ethical dilemmas faced by soldiers, law enforcement officers, and intelligence operatives in the presence of abusive interrogation procedures, and galvanized by public images of the descent into depravity that torture always involves. Rather than remain silent, the churches should now join this national debate and bring to it Christian perspectives relat- ing to moral absolutes, the sacredness of the human person, the sacredness of norms, the requirement of judging means in relation to their ends, the respect due even to those who are guilty of crimes, and the venue that torture always affords for depraved and demonic conduct. It is a matter of shame, but we have no choice but to conduct a national debate about torture. This is not just a debate about how to prevent torture by corrupt and tyrannical regimes elsewhere in the world but a debate about whether tor- ture is a legitimate means for our government to use as it seeks information to act on in the war against terrorism and in the effort to suppress insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The debate has been going on now for some time (since the first of the Bush administration's "torture memos" emerged in 2002). It has engaged the voices and passions of all sorts of people: executive officials (including the president and vice president of the United States), government and military lawyers, legal scholars and moral philosophers, newspaper and magazine columnists, members of Congress, human rights agencies and activists, and-most important-ordinary citizens, organized and unorganized. Jeremy Waldron is professor of law at New York University. The comments on which this essay was based were presented first as a response to a lecture by Mark Danner at a conference at the Princeton Theological Seminary in January 2006, inaugurating a National Religious Campaign against Torture. 330 Today JEREMYWLO
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. ýy)daWhat Can Christian Teaching Add to the Debate 331 It is a debate that the rest of the world has watched with fascination and horror, as Americans have pondered publicly whether they wanted to remain part of the international human rights consensus that torture is utterly beyond the pale. For most of this period, the voices of Christian leaders-clergy and laypeo- pie-have been silent. Maybe I am slighting one or two brave men and women who have spoken out against torture from the beginning. But by and large they have not been heard, or their voices have not been noticed as distinctively Christian voices. Those of us who are actively engaged in this debate have lis- tened for-yearned for and strained to hear-a contribution by the churches,
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course REL 261 taught by Professor Erics.gregory during the Fall '09 term at Princeton.

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waldronwhatcanchristianteachingaddtothedebateabouttorture -...

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