I Follow a Middle Eastern Person Who Was Tortured and Executed by the Governing Authorities

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As an American, I live in a nation where the majority of persons now approve of the use of torture (around 59% according to an ABC/Washington Post poll). A majority of Americans also approve of state sponsored execution (around 63% according to a Gallup Poll) , although the percentage has declined significantly since the mid 1990’s when support for the death penalty peaked around 80%. The polls also show that those who identify as Christian approve of torture and executions at a significantly higher rate than most other groups in our society.

As an Oklahoman, I live in a state where an even larger majority of persons approve of the use of torture and execution. The percentage of persons in Oklahoma who identify as Christian is much higher than the national average. The vast majority of persons in Oklahoma approve of the use of capital punishment, even in the aftermath of the horrifically botched execution in April of 2014 in which an execution became torture and in spite of the fact that no other Western democracy allows capital punishment. Torture and executions are supported and defended by Oklahoma politicians who are elected with large majorities time and time again. Retiring Senator Tom Coburn says, “To me, waterboarding is not torture. That’s just me personally. I’ve seen it. You’re not going to die from it, you just think you are. It’s a psychological tool.” Long-time defender of torture Senator Jim Inhofe said in response to the atrocities at Abu Ghraib that he was “outraged by the outrage” over the torture that occurred there. In response to the Senate Torture Report released earlier this month, Senator Inhofe stated, “This over $40 million report is nothing more than a partisan attempt to discredit vital intelligence gathering techniques that have saved an untold number of lives” (Senator Inhofe’s facebook page, December 9, 2014).

Torture and execution are strongly held Oklahoma values, and self-identified Christians in Oklahoma hold these values more strongly than those who are not Christian. The self-identified Christian politicians who speak openly for and support these Oklahoma values are rewarded.

There are numerous aspects of this reality about Oklahomans’ support for torture and execution that sadden me and make me scared for our future, especially for the future of my Muslim friends and neighbors and also for persons who are in other minority groups who are more likely to be tortured or executed. As a Christian, I am especially saddened that there is such a strong correlation between being a Christian and supporting torture and executions. Perhaps we who say we follow Jesus need to be reminded that the incarnation of love we celebrated on Christmas a few days ago was a Middle Eastern person who was tortured and executed by the governing authorities and who calls us to love our neighbor and to love our enemies and at no time or in any way, shape, or form, calls us to torture or execute them. Perhaps we also need to be reminded that we are bearing false witness when we sign international treaties condemning and outlawing torture in any form but then continue to support torture. Not only are we not following the way of Jesus; we are breaking our promises to the international community. Lying to the international community and not following the way of Jesus who calls us to love our neighbors and our enemies surely cannot be Oklahoma or American values. Christians follow one who was tortured and executed, not one who calls for torture and executions.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is The Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. From 2009 to 2015, Mark was dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences and Wimberly Professor of Social Ethics at Oklahoma City University. Previously, Mark was dean of the Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University and Founding Director of the Vivian Wimberly Center for Ethics and Servant Leadership. Prior to becoming dean of the Wimberly School of Religion in 2002, he was associate dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma City University and chair of the department of philosophy. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University.
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5 Responses to I Follow a Middle Eastern Person Who Was Tortured and Executed by the Governing Authorities

  1. popecope71 says:

    Thanks Mark. I wish more Christians read the statements of their churches, or the excellent statement on torture released by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

  2. Tom Elmore says:

    And make no mistake about it, friends – if our government will do these things to “others,” it will also – inevitably – do them to US, as well. And still — Jesus Christ calls each of us to repentance.

    I don’t think he’s joking.

  3. Pingback: 5 Most Viewed Posts on One World House | One World House

  4. Firstly Mark, thanks for following my blog that led me here to yours. I find the contents of this post most depressing and admittedly as an outsider from the U.K. it’s safe to say I’m shocked at the popularity of such beliefs and easy-going attitude to things like torture and extra-judicial killings both of “terrorists” by drones and by police on the streets.

    It seems to me that some of these churches need to actually remember the core teachings of our faith which around the rest of the world is one of total peace. Jesus wasn’t in to torture, he advised on turning the other cheek so the assailant could strike again. Do unto others as those who do unto you was what I remember learning as a 5 year old and decades later it seems just as true to me.

    To me I can’t imagine any Christian supporting torture. I certainly have never met anyone who feels this way.

    If a state can’t show even the most basic mercy towards its prisoners then it will have no problem doing so towards its own people. Such fine examples include China, Russia, Iran and apparently the USA. Nice to be in that company I guess and of course in the USA providing you survive then you’re likely able to sue someone afterwards for justice which somewhat separates America from the other nations listed above but quite frankly it would be better to live in a country with real Christian values such as maybe Denmark or Sweden.

    These people you mention sound much more like followers of the Old Testament God (not that it is any of my business what their faith is), not Jesus who teaches us to love our enemies like our friends. I’d much rather have my faith in what The Pope preaches in his New Year announcement or that of the Archbishop of Canterbury than any of those senators.

    I would never change my lifestyle or want my liberties impinged or see anyone suffer just so that I might not be a victim of terrorism. I hope this isn’t too much of a rant but from my perspective these people sound anything but Christian and almost precisely like the regimes and people they espouse to be targeting and are apparently such bad folk.

  5. If people truly followed the teachings of Jesus, there would be peace in the world and abundance for all. ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’

    Thanks for posting this. Thanks for following my blog, it led me to yours!

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