In his first post-inauguration interview with ABC news the other day, President Donald Trump said that torture works and indicated that using it against ISIS fighters may be justified. The administration's policy on the subject is under review, so it's good that Trump also said that he wants to do "everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally."
There are many distressing matters raised by all of this, particularly for people of faith, including whether the new administration might want to stretch and stretch again "what you're allowed to do legally."
For years now an organization called the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has been raising lots of troubling questions about torture as it seeks to convince policy makers here in the U.S. never to use torture.
Here is how NRCAT describes torture: "Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved -- policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable. Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now -- without exceptions."
If you missed it, here's what the ABC story said about the news agency's interview with the president: "Trump said he would wage war against Islamic State militants with the singular goal of keeping the U.S. safe. Asked specifically about the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, Trump cited the extremist group's atrocities against Christians and others and said: 'We have to fight fire with fire.'
"Trump said he would consult with new Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo before authorizing any new policy. But he said he had asked top intelligence officials in the past day: 'Does torture work?'
"'And the answer was yes, absolutely,' Trump said."
And yet there is considerable evidence to the contrary. For instance, as this 2014 New York Times report shows, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found many reasons to dismiss CIA claims about the value of information gained by torture.
And this analysis in The Guardian raises lots of questions about the efficacy of torture and the reliability of the information torture produces from its victims.
But asking whether torture works is a question that never should need to be asked in the first place -- similar to whether murder works or rape works. Torture is simply morally unacceptable in any case in that it debases people, treating them as commodities and as not part of the human family.
So I found it at least modestly encouraging on Friday when Trump said that although he thinks torture works, he plans to yield to the opposition to torture expressed by Defense Secretary James Mattis. Trump's temptation and instincts to use torture, however, must be continually opposed.
This is one matter on which the voice of people of faith should be strong, clear and in unison as it speaks to the new administration with this message:
No. Torture is unworthy of us as a people. You will not commit it in our name. Ever.
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CHRISTIANS HELPING JEWS IN ISRAEL
It turns out that in Israel, evangelical Christian groups are among those helping Holocaust survivors live more comfortable lives as they age, this report notes. There's always the question of motive in such cases. Are these groups doing it out of guilt, out of respect for the common humanity their members share with survivors or as a way of trying to convert Jews to Christianity? I hope it's mostly for the second reason, though it wouldn't surprise me to find some helpers attached to reasons 1 and 3.