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Christians must end torture

Jesus of Nazareth was tortured and executed by the state. We as Christians call this to mind each Good Friday. As American Christians, our government is the world's leading purveyor of violence, and it has enshrined torture in law. We must therefore look state violence and torture in the mirror.

When reading John's gospel, there is a striking similarity between Jesus' treatment at the hands of the Roman garrison and the treatment of US prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Jesus would not provide satisfactory answer Pilate's questions, so the governor turned him over to physical abuse, torment, and humiliation. Our government and military have done the same for "unlawful combatants" and terrorism suspects. Not all of them are innocent, but some (like Jesus) are. None of them deserve unilateral punitive treatment. Either they are prisoners of war (and the subjects of the Geneva conventions) or they are accused criminals, and innocent until justly proven guilty. However Pilate and our own leaders opt for the cruel path, because it is easier to achieve their goals with lower standards.

Pilate's decision to castigate and execute Jesus was based on the same political exigencies which guide our government's decisions to do the same: security. Pilate feared a violent riot (or even insurrection) and slander against his loyalty to the emperor; America fears appearing weak against terrorism and is quashing an insurrection in occupied countries. I do not think that we can claim that America has an agenda morally superior to Rome when it comes to torture.

What as American Christians do we have to say about the actions of our government? Can we endorse the prerogatives of state which brought about the execution of our savior? Do we mete out the same punishments as were carried out on Jesus? No. We must protest. We must work to end torture on our behalf.

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