Tuesday, December 21, 2004

America's Most Immediate Moral Crisis

As we get closer to Christmas, the celebration of Jesus's birth brings those of who profess Christianity not only the hope of Christ's joy, love, and peace, but also the necessity of confronting the stark reality of a world so heart-breakingly estranged from Christ's moral teachings. One could identify any number of pressing moral issues today--poverty, inequality, health care access, preemptive war, materialism, greed, etc. But for me, the moral issue that most immediately pains me as a Christian and citizen of the United States is torture and prisoner abuse being carried out in our name. And over the past few days, we have learned more and more shocking details about these atrocities. (You can read about these degrading, disgusting, and perverted--not to mention physically and emotionally destructive--acts here, here, here, and here.) While these new revelations are not getting as much attention as they deserve, they are out there and sometimes get reported (Thank God for the ACLU, though they might not want me to say it that way...)

Sadly, there are some in our country, too many of them Christians, who seek to minimize or even justify these atrocities as a necessary evil in the war against terrorism. (Never mind that experienced interrogators in the FBI and elsewhere doubt the value of intelligence obtained through torture...) Have we sunk so low in our morality in this society that murky ends somehow justify brutal means? It is time for people of faith to join secular humanists in rising up against this immoral outrage. If we do not hold political leaders and military operatives responsible for these atrocities, then aren't we complicit in them? What can we do to bring more attention to this issue? WWJD? (It is interesting to remember that Jesus himself suffered from prisoner abuse and, ultimately, brutal execution.) Any ideas?

Still, I realize that in the larger picture we are inflicting greater harm on even more people through the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and we need to condemn that as a moral outrage as well. However, something about the whole idea of prisoners totally under our control being subjected to horrific abuse seems like such a morally clear place to start. If we can't stand up for principles and values on this issue, what sinful activity couldn't we rationalize?

1 comment:

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

The lack of popular outrage at the government responsible for the abuses at detention centers in Iraq and elsewhere--our own government's version of a gulag archipeligo--is perhaps explained (though not excused) by the fact that America has accustomed itself to imprisoning larger and larger segments of its own population in the last two decades. Harsh sentences for petty crimes, dealt out with only a modicum of due process in many cases, is justified by the dehumanization of criminals and prisoners. The foundations for the abuse of prisoners in Iraq were laid well before September 11, 2001.