I was proud of the BBC Correspondent and Political Editor Laura Kussenberg when she questioned Theresa May and Donald Trump at the Press Conference in the White House. She asked such a direct question, and asked it so pointedly that despite the evasions and characteristic deflections, there was no hiding place for the British Prime Minister. President Trump doesn't know what a hiding place looks like, and if he saw one he would avoid it as interfering with his lust for showmanship. In her question Kussenberg included the issue of torture, and the US President's uncompromising approval of its efficacy and use, if that's what the Generals think will work. It was a pragmatic justification of brutality and dehumanising cruelty that lacked the slightest hint of moral seriousness or ethical awareness. And when he responded, he spoke with the matter of fact confidence of someone discussing a change in parking regulations, rather than giving notice to the world that America is ready to torture, to inflict cruel and inhumane treatment on suspects, in order to allow for enhanced interrogation techniques and so aid homeland security. Really? And is this what putting America first means? Is this what America voted for?
And yes, that first paragraph is combative, because torture has no place in a civilised society. It is for me a glaring and chilling example of why I am prepared to be outspoken about the US President now, and not prepared to be told to wait and judge his actions and achievements. Words are actions; words do things; speech has consequences; powerful people are listened to and their words borrow the authority of their office; out of the mouth comes what is within. That our own Prime Minister refused to condemn those green light words of President Trump brings shame on our nation, and is rooted in fear of offending the powerful and disregarding the powerless who will be the victims of such gratuitous callousness.
Torture is indeed effective - in dehumanising perpetrator and victim; it is effective in mirroring back to (in this case) ISIS the moral nihilism of their cause; it is effective in brutalising a human being; and it is often used against suspects who have no recourse to a judicial system and who are denied human rights. Information may well be obtained by torture, but that renders use of such information illegal in this country, and therefore reversion to such procedures would make it illegal for this country to collaborate and co-oprate with intelligence agencies they know use torture. That however is a practical difficulty - my contention is that state sponsored torture is wrong, regardless of its effectiveness; it is evil, therefore its effectiveness is irrelevant.
As a Christian I abhor torture, oppose torture in principle and would resist it in practice. That comes from my commitment to the way of Jesus, to the teaching of Jesus, and to my calling as a minister of reconciliation, an ambassador for Christ, and one who actually believes it is the peacemakers who will be called the children of God. Christianss know about torture. It is embedded at the core and emblazoned on the surface of our faith.
The Romans were experts in torture, its psychology and pathology. Crucifixion was one of the most effective instruments of torture ever used to secure political power - it silences the dissenter, executes the terrorist, uses fear as a weapon and deterrent, and dehumanises both the torturer and those deemed disposable. The Passion Story is an account of state power unleashed on a victim, all within the legal framework, and approved by the religious authorities. That's enough for me - I can't follow Jesus and consent to torture in my name, in the name of freedom, or in the name of supposed security.