Thank you, John Thomas...

The pastor/president of my denomination, John Thomas, recently joined the Campaign to Ban Torture. As a pastor who has served congregations with active military personnel - and as a person of faith and compassion - I applaud and support John's commitment. His statement is clear and to the point... and it astonishes me that any person and/or president who calls "Jesus Christ his favorite philosopher" could think otherwise. People of good will may disagree on a host of issues but torture is really a non-negotiable - just read the Passion narratives, yes?
I am the Rev. John H. Thomas. I am the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ and it is my honor to be a signatory to the "Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Order On Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty." Torture is an issue of deep importance to military leaders and to all who are concerned with insuring national security. But, at its heart, torture is a moral issue. Christians believe that all people, by the very fact of their creation, are endowed with the image of God, a source of dignity and worth that cannot be erased by thoughts or behaviors, no matter how reprehensible or dangerous. Just as my colleagues today will tell you that torture cannot be justified on strategic grounds, I tell you that torture cannot be justified on moral grounds, for it so demeans, so diminishes, and so denies the presence of God's image in a person as to be a violation of the very intention of our Creator.

We do live in a dangerous world. Those who would injure the vulnerable, those who would attack the innocent, do need to be restrained, brought to justice, and punished. To call for an end to torture is not to be naïve about the very real threats we face. It is, however, to attest to the truth that no threat is so great as to justify our surrendering the most central values of what it means to be a Christian. My faith teaches me that human life is sacred, even if that life is embodied in a person who considers him or herself to be my enemy. Such a faith challenges me to see the sacred even in the face of the enemy, to honor the integrity of God's image even when the person who bears it is threatening to me. Today I join many in saying to my President, "not in my name." Not in my name will you justify torture and allow it to be used.

I speak today not only as a church leader. I also speak as the father of a son currently serving with the Army National Guard in Afghanistan. With parents across the country I worry about my son's safety, and am deeply concerned when the use of torture by the United States could be used as justification for the use of torture against him or his fellow soldiers. Even more, however, do I fear how policies of our own government on the use of torture could place him not just in physical peril, but also in moral peril, making him complicit in acts violating his own faith.

As a citizen of the United States, it is shameful to live in a country that refuses to categorically ban torture. As a Christian, I am compelled to speak out against anything that denies and disgraces the integrity of the divine image planted within each human being. As a father, I plea for a ban that will help protect the physical safety of our children and, even more, that will protect them from agonizing and impossible moral choices. It is time to say, “not in our name.” It is time to ban torture


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