We’re a nation that uses fear as justification for torture.
Despite the fact that, according to scripture, “perfect love casts out fear.”
We’re a nation worried more about whether torture was effective than whether it was moral, as if the objects of torture are somehow less than human.
Despite the fact that all humanity bears the divine imprint. Despite the fact that torturing human flesh is an assault on the image and likeness of God.
We’re a nation that held a mentally impaired man hostage, using him as leverage to extract information from a relative. We’re a nation of secret prisons, in which roughly a quarter of known detainees, perhaps more, were wrongfully held.
Despite the prophets’ condemnation of those who “deny justice to the innocent,” despite their warning that the Lord’s anger would burn hot against such people.
We’re a nation that engaged in simulated hangings, that forced detainees to stand—in their own excrement—for days at a time, and subjected them to a particularly vile technique called “rectal feeding.”
Despite the fact that Paul railed against those who “invent ways of doing evil”—a phrase that comes from a passage we love to quote, confident it was meant for someone else and not us. Which is to miss the whole point of Paul’s rhetoric.
We’re also a nation in which not all the hangings are simulated. We’re a nation that lynched thousands of blacks for “crimes” such as talking to white women. We’re a nation that continues to lynch unarmed black men—only, now we hide it behind a badge instead of a hood. We’re a nation where a black man can have the life choked out of him for allegedly selling cigarettes. We’re a nation where blacks and whites experience two radically different forms of “justice.”
Despite scripture’s declaration that there are no longer any ethnic or social divisions among the faithful—which seems to be more a statement of aspiration than reality.
We’re a nation that threatened to harm the children of detainees, that threatened to rape one detainee’s mother and to slit the throat of another. We’re a nation that told one man he could never be released alive because “we can never let the world know what [we] have done to you.”
Despite Isaiah’s harsh words for those who “go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?’ ” Such people, Isaiah says, are far from God.
Yet God help us if someone doesn’t wish us a Merry Christmas this season. Because we’re a Christian nation, after all.
We twitch with manufactured rage if so much as one underpaid Gap clerk greets us with a “happy holidays” (which is to say, happy holy days, but never mind). We call it the “War on Christmas,” and we allow it to distract us from the very real war being waged on our humanity.
We are the persecutors thinking we’re the persecuted.
We may have managed to keep Christ in Christmas, but we have shut him out from everywhere else. We’ve shut him out of our justice system. We’ve shut him out of our secret prisons. We’ve shut him out of the immigration debate.
It’s funny how we insist on being a Christian nation, yet we are so quick to dismiss the teachings of Christ as irrelevant or impractical when it comes to the “war on terror,” the torture debate, or other issues that are fundamental to human dignity. But we will not rest until our annual orgy of consumerism is baptized in religious garb.
If this is what it means to be a Christian nation, then I want no part of it.