ON SPIRITUALITY AND ETHICS
“This government does not
torture and…we adhere to the
international convention on torture,
whether at home or abroad.”
President George W. Bush
Would you wield a sword in your mouth?
This question is ridiculous, but Revelation depicts a sword coming from Jesus’ mouth. Why? The power of his word is sharp. Still, many “Christian” evangelists and authors of the popular Left Behind series misinterpret this metaphorical sword, asserting Jesus is the Messiah who mutilates. This is obscene and absurd. Is the Lamb who was slain actually the Slayer who conquers by war, violence and torture?
To the contrary, the four Gospels are clear that Jesus proclaims love for enemies, prayer for persecutors and forgiveness for offenders. Revelation continues this tradition by repeatedly declaring Jesus the Lamb, a reminder of his martyrdom. Christ conquers through patient suffering, not the violence of the Roman Empire.
We have a choice: We can follow the brutality of the beast or the self-sacrificing love of the Lamb. The mythic language of Revelation states the saints overcome the dragon “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (12:11).
The crucified Christ is our model. First, Jesus sacrifices his own blood rather than inflict a bloodbath. Second, the word of their testimony refers to court witnesses (Greek, martyria). As Barbara Rossing explains, “We conquer by putting the empire on trial and telling the truth about it.” The heroes of Revelation are indeed martyrs who oppose the wickedness of nations because, as verse 11 concludes, “They did not cling to life even in the face of death.”
Christians must give up the false gospel which declares Jesus is a bloodthirsty avenger. Has the Christ who declared “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” now become the Military Messiah, a role he repeatedly denounced?
Unfortunately, many of the closest spiritual advisors of our Commander in Chief commend both war and torture based on misperceiving Jesus as the violent conqueror of Revelation. Our President agrees—and his policies reflect this view of the Sadistic Savior.
What wouldn’t Jesus do? He would not torture. While declaring public opposition to torture, however, President Bush has issued no less than four Executive Orders that ravage protections against torture.
On September 17, 2001, Bush approved CIA rendition of detainees to foreign countries. On November 17, he authorized the Secretary of Defense to establish military commissions. Secretary Rumsfeld stated, “Technically, unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention.” Bush then endorsed what secret documents labeled “black sites”—where torture is routine—on December 17. Moreover, Bush explicitly eliminates Geneva protections for any detainee, on February 7, 2002, whenever “military necessity” is invoked.
Bush’s subsequent memo to senior staff states “common article 3 of Geneva does not apply to Al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.” Thus, Bush personally abrogated six decades of Geneva protections against “cruel treatment and torture.” Moreover, he opposed the McCain anti-torture amendments to the 2005 Defense Appropriation Bill. When overwhelmingly passed, Bush’s signing statement asserted “the constitutional authority of the President” supersedes congressional restrictions on torture.
Does Bush follow Jesus? Judge for yourself: Jesus endures torture; Bush inflicts torture. Jesus rejects his disciples’ call for fire from heaven on Samaritans; Bush instigates such a bonfire over Baghdad and calls it “shock and awe.” Jesus declares the liberating power of truth; Bush promotes unending detention and unconscionable destruction through deception.
Does Bush honor Jesus by preaching the propriety of war and promoting torture? If so, we must rip from the Bible the many pages of the Gospels describing the Prince of Peace together with all 29 references to the Lamb in Revelation.
The Kingdom of God cannot serve the myth of Empire. The United Methodist Church must call upon President Bush to repent or resign. If Bush refuses, he should be expelled—lest we permit the apocalyptic policies and impieties of Bush to desecrate the powerful witness of the cross of Christ.
©2007 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.