Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fear, Racism, and EIT's

This has been a disheartening couple of months to be an American. In some ways, that is not all bad since many of us have a tendency to idealize our country to the point of idolatry. Nonetheless, there is a lingering sadness in my heart over recent events.

I chose not to weigh in with all the other bloggers on the events of Ferguson, Staten Island, and the problem of justice for people of color. My blog silence was not tacit approval. It simply reflected the fact that most of what needed to be said had been said and I really had nothing more to add. To any observant person, it has been quite clear for some time that our justice system is broken. I didn’t need Ferguson to remind me of that. All I need to do is observe the racial imbalance in conviction rates and prison populations. If any good comes out of Ferguson, it will be the re-opening of these sorts of conversations.

But then came the news from the Senate Intelligence Committee that after 911, the CIA was using “Enhanced Intelligence Techniques” in an effort to obtain intelligence on terrorism. Of course EIT, as those who have read the report affirm, is simply a euphemism for torture. Like John McCain, I would like to believe that America is above this. Clearly not. The fact that the question about whether the information gained was useful or not is irrelevant as far as I am concerned, although many have indicated that intelligence gained from torture is nearly always deeply flawed.

From a Christian perspective, I have been even more disturbed. Although with the racism issue I have seen movement and heard at least some voices, with the torture issue the church has stood silent.

We seem to be willing to speak up when a victim is a friend or acquaintance, or could have been. But when the victim is the frightening “other,” we seem to have much less to say. And here is the crux of the matter.


With both racism and torture, we fear those who we perceive as a threat, whether the person is a threat or not. And fear breeds violence and hatred. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love is, of course, the love of God, a love that should be reflected in all of those who are united to Christ in faith.

In a fallen world, a certain amount of caution is necessary. But to be pro-life, as I think all Christians should be, is to not fear those who, like us, are made in the image of God. Rather, it is to advocate for those whose inherent dignity and worth as human persons is threatened regardless of who those persons are.