I’ve heard that phrase before. In fact I’ve said it many times. It usually comes out of my mouth when I’m listing to a political speech – so often these speeches are torture to me because they don’t actually say anything but use words that allow the hearer to interpret it in ways that matter to them. Here’s two example – “hope,” “family values.” That covers both left and right. Another one is “common sense.” Actually, it’s not that common.
At any rate, this past week we heard that the use of torture was back in the news again thanks for statements by the president supporting the use of torture against enemies. Apparently he’s all for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but doesn’t like turn the other cheek and take up your cross and follow me.
An eye for an eye is so satisfying. You get your revenge. You get the last say. You get to feel righteous and justified. You get the last hit. An eye for an eye does wonders for your ego. You get to call others names when you disagree with their point. You get to judge others. An eye for an eye is just giving people what they deserve after all – they started it.
Torture fits into all of this. It must be so satisfying to bring pain to another human being that has caused pain and suffering to our side. It must satisfy the rage within our hearts to see someone else suffer for their sins. In a way, we get to be God – or rather a god. A wrathful god at that.
Yet, this isn’t who we are called to be. Not as individuals, nor as leaders over others. If all we are going to do is respond in kind to any violence that happens to us, then how is that leading? How is it leading us to a better future? How is it living out the values that we claim to cherish?
But maybe this goes back to another post I wrote the other day about the ends justifying the means. If the ends are all that matters, then torture is no big deal. You do what you have to get what you want – it’s the end result that only matters. But if the process of how we get to the end matters, then torture matters too. Apparently our current leadership thinks the ends justify the means when it comes to dealing with our enemies, our neighbors, and a host of other issues facing us.
The problem with this, and with an eye for an eye way of living is that we forget that the “other side” can quote the passage as well and use it against us.