There is no doubt about it.
If your aim is to assert your power over another, to create an atmosphere of fear and to destroy the humanity in another, then torture works.
If you want information torture is useless.
People who are tortured say anything that stops the pain, so inflicting severe pain on someone in order to force them to say something is utterly unreliable. The answer you get is the answer the victim knows you want to hear. Even the US military know that. Everyone knows that.
Torture is not about getting information it is always about asserting power.
The rise of torture
All around the world we are seeing the rise of politicians who espouse the painful humiliation of their enemies. President Duterte of the Philippines glories in the vigilante murder of drugs dealers. In Egypt President el-Sisi has restored the right to torture dissidents to the armed forces. In both cases the nations have seen peace restored, not because information has been gathered, but because people have been cowered into submission. they are popular, strong leaders.
Torture works, but it also destroys. In these countries and elsewhere grievances are being racked up and will not be forgotten. Revenge will be taken at some point. Cycles of violence require the central figures to retain more power, but at some point they will fall and the fall will be violent unless a new culture of reconciliation can be established.
Christians know about torture
Our central symbol – the cross – is an implement of torture. Our saviour was a victim of torture. The Romans knew that torture worked. Rebels had to be killed publically and painfully in order to assert their dominance.
Jesus died a victim of torture.
The way of Jesus
The way of Jesus is the only way to break the cycle. It is to respond to unbelievable cruelty with love. It is to be with the victim and seek justice through repentance.
Jesus exposed the frailty of those power structure by accepting the punishment and offering love and forgiveness in return. His resurrection showed that his way will prevail.
Followers of Jesus can never endorse torture.
Identification with Jesus must place our empathy with the victim of torture and must preclude its use.
So many women and men living in our churches today have been victims of cultures of torture, especially of rape as an act of war. Listen to their stories from Sri Lanka, South Sudan, DR Congo and elsewhere and weep.
God is with them and we are on their side.
Over recent years we have set our hope on a Superpower nation to work for such peace. We had a voice of power in Washington that would oppose torture and hold other nations to account. All around the world victims of torture believed that a good president of a Superpower would hold their government to account.
This is no longer true. The Superpower has a leader who believes in torture. Nations cannot be brought to account and violent leaders will be appeased, or even applauded. There is great danger is that more and more people will fall victims of torture.
Trust in a good president was never enough. Jesus did not convert Caesar. Jesus inspired a group of powerless no-bodies to take up their cross and follow him. We must not despair. We must be the powerless no-bodies who take up our cross and follow him.
They trusted Jesus – we must trust Jesus.
They knew that love conquers – we need to be confident that love conquers.
We must trust that if God is for us who can be against us and that through him nothing will separate us from the love of God.
Read Romans 8:31-9, read it again and then right it on your heart and live it.
Only by every one of us acting can we change the world. Protest at the idea of torture and display love.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.