Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Torture Godly?

I'm currently reading Everything Must Change; Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope by Brian McLaren. I just read a paragraph that succinctly describes something that has troubled me for some time. It has to do with how some Christians speak of the end times, specifically, a particular understanding of the Second Coming of Christ made popular by the Left Behind series, which depicts Jesus as the new Rambo.

Here is Brian's insight:
...Far from being an esoteric and speculative distraction, our beliefs about the end toward which things are moving profoundly and practically shape our present behavior. This is especially true in regard to violence and war, and is one of the reasons many of us have been increasingly critical in recent years of popular American eschatology in general, and conventional views of hell in particular. Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly. The implication for, say, military policy (not to mention church politics) are not hard to imagine...

...If we remain charmed by this kind of eschatology, we will be forced to see the nonviolence of the Jesus of the Gospels as a kind of strategic fake-out, like a feigned retreat in war, to be followed up by a crushing blow of so-called redemptive violence in the end. The gentle Jesus of the first coming becomes a kind of trick Jesus, a fake-me-out Messiah, to be replaced by the true jihadist Jesus of the violent second coming...
(Everything Must Change, p. 144)
Because of very strange interpretations of the Revelation to John, torture and violence are seen as tools of God, and so are permissible to be used as tools by God's agents here on earth.

I think Brian is on to something here. Much of the underlying narrative that has shaped the recent history of our nation suddenly becomes quite clear.


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