I received many thoughtful comments on my first contribution to the God’s Politics blog, including this one from MNW:

Dear Sister Helen,

Can you write on what you think about torture?

Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think that the
United States of America would legalize torture?

Can you explain how ANY Christian can support a president
that tortures other humans? Can you explain how ANY Christian can support those
who passed a law to legalize it in the USA?

I don’t get it. I don’t get how any Christian can now
support this president. It’s quite obvious that he has already tortured people
(given that the torture bill includes provisions that pardon him for any crime
he might have committed in this arena dating back to 9-11-01…and for the fact
that this bill wasn’t even a thought until the Supreme Court ruled that he was
in violation of the Geneva Convention) and that he plans to continue to torture

I certainly don’t see Christ in any of it. Can you explain?

You’re on to one of the most important moral issues of our day, MNW. Going along with George W. Bush, Congress recently “amended” the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners to allow torture of terror suspects in Guantanamo. They don’t call it torture, of course. President Bush calls it “alternative ways of obtaining information”. Suspected terrorists can disappear into the black hole of Guantanamo and be held indefinitely without charge.

This nation lost its moral footing on the torture issue when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976, stating that it is not against the dignity of human beings to kill them for their crimes, even though an alternative life sentence is available.

The definition of torture as stated in the U.N. Convention Against Torture and by Amnesty International is:

“an extreme mental or physical assault against someone who has been rendered defenseless.”

To confine a human being in a small cell for 15 or 20 years to await being taken out and killed is mental torture. To shackle conscious, imaginative human beings and bring them to the death house with the clock ticking away the last days and hours of their lives is mental torture.  To prepare human beings for execution by diapering them, shackling them, and forcibly injecting them with valium to lower resistance, then strapping them onto a gurney and injecting them with chemicals that first paralyze them so they can’t cry out and then throw them into cordiac arrest is mental torture and in all probability physical torture too. We’ve been trying over the last 30 years to sanitize death, make it look like we’re not really killing them, we’re “putting them to sleep.”

The death penalty always involves torture.  There’s no way to kill a human being without causing them extreme pain. Legalizing death doesn’t change anything.

And that was one of our first steps towards this new legalization, this new sanitization of torture. By classing people as other than human (they’re nothing but "terrorists" or "murderers") and hiding them away from public view, we allow terrible acts to be done in our name. There’s nothing Christian about it.