There are several controversial issues that seem very clear to me. There are others that tend to be murkier, causing me to shift back and forth evaluating the issue from several different perspectives. Many of the well reasoned responses here along with other circumstances helped to sway my thoughts. Here are three issues where my stance is not rock solid.
This may come across as a bit “rambly” because these are just my thoughts on these issues.
Torture – Well, I suppose I should rephrase that. I am against torture, I’m just not sure some of the current techniques being debated should be considered torture. The most talked about being waterboarding.
Al Gore’s “TV network” current set out to demonstrate the horrible nature of waterboarding, but after having watched the video I am less convinced that waterboarding amounts to torture.
Is it rough treatment? Sure. Would I want to undergo it? Not if I could help it. Does any of that mean it is torture? Not in the least bit.
Having said that, I do find the possible use of torture by the United States as very troubling and harmful to the War on Terror. But even if torture helped us and even if torture got us valuable life-saving information, some lines should not be crossed. We should not fight fire with fire in the case of the terrorists treatment of our soliders. That is a game we cannot win and should not play. Human dignity and the sanctity of human life should be protected regardless of how valuable (or worthless as the case may be) we consider the life.
My position will probably alienate both conservatives and liberals, but I agree with liberal news analysts Kirsten Powers:
I oppose torture, but I don’t consider waterboarding torture (though it is considered such by plenty of smart people…we just disagree). To me torture is amputating limbs or digits, ripping out fingernails, drilling holes in feet, starving people…you know, the things Iraqi insurgents and the Hussein clan do/did to people). That said, I’d be happy to agree that we would never waterboard a soldier who is fighting for a country that has signed on to the Geneva Conventions, since it would be a reciprocal agreement. We have no such agreement with terrorists and the worst of what we do to them — in an attempt to protect ourselves, not for revenge — is a walk in the park compared to what they do to Americans they capture or attack. We would be unbelievably lucky if they treated us the way we have treated them in Gitmo.
I don’t think the waterboard should be rolled out routinely for any person in our custody. But it should be allowed in extreme cases — as part of an interrogation, not for fun — which is exactly how it’s been used. Like for people like Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who admitted to murdering Danny Pearl after about two minutes of waterboarding. [Aaron – He also gave up info about a potential 9/11 style attack in LA.]
Death penalty – As far as I can remember I have always been in favor of the death penalty, but it has never been one of my most important issues. My wife is against the death penalty, but there have been several times when she has said something like, “I don’t believe in the death penalty, but that guy deserves to die.” So, she really has been too convincing from that side of the issue.
As Sam has pointed out here, it is a tragedy that people have been put to death as innocent individuals. That is a horrible fact of our justice system, but one that would not change with the elimination of the death penalty. People would still be convicted as an innocent person. They may even die in jail during their life sentence. I’m not sure how to completely prevent the conviction of innocent individuals, unless we are able to perfectly decide guilt.
A pastor that I work with expressed his disagreement with the death penalty. He said that all life is sacred and only God should be allowed to end it. He closed up his feelings by saying, “I just can’t see Jesus throwing the switch.” I asked him about Old Testament laws and the death penalty. He said he would have been put to death under those laws. Grace superceeds them.
I can see that line of thinking and I identify with it to some extent, but I also think we have to see Jesus “throwing the switch” because he did so in the Old Testament and the New Testament tells us He will do so again. If God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” then Jesus was just as much God in the OT. Therefore, He gave those death sentences in the OT. The Revelation says that one day, He will do much the same.
My concern is for the potential innocent victim in the public, more than the potential innocent victim in the justice system. It is much more fair to try someone in a court of law, find them guilty and put them to death, than to allow a murder to get out of jail because we don’t believe in the death penalty and have them kill more innocent victims. We should strive for neither, but if I have to choose between the two I would choose the justice system.
I would have no problem eliminating the death penalty, if I can be assured that death penalty opponents would stop trying to get murderers off with light sentences. If can know that when someone is given life in prison, they will serve that unless they are found innocent, I would not mind the end of the death penalty. My fear is many of the same ones arguing against the death penalty would argue against life in prison or any lengthy prison term and we would see even more repeat offenders and more innocent victims.
Blue laws – While I believe that local governments should have the right to reflect their collective morality in the laws to a certain point, it may be that blue laws go past that point.
I was arguing for them, while not really supporting them myself. I was simply saying that towns should have the right to do that, but my own stance on a similar issue has prompted me to reconsider.
Greenville, SC city council recently voted to ban smoking in all public places in the city limits. Having never been a smoker, having never smoked in my life, I was adamantly opposed to forcing private businesses to ban smoking just because the government wanted them. I saw it as a complete invasion of private property rights (and as they read this now, many are screaming at their screen “This is the same thing as forcing businesses to close on Sundays!”)
I think there are differences, mainly the religious aspect of it, but essentially they are the same issue. The government should not have the right to force businesses to close on Sundays. I still think that local governments can reflect the values and morals of the citizens in ways that state and federal governments can’t, but this may be one that steps past the line.
Businesses should be forced to abide by current discrimination laws, which do not let them discriminate on basis of religion. Therefore, Christians should not be required to work on Sundays. Muslims should be allowed to go somewhere and pray toward Mecca five times a day. Jews should not be forced to work on Saturdays. If a business has enough irreligious people who don’t care and they want to stay open on Sunday, Saturday or during Ramadan – go for it.
Conclusion – On some issues I am completely rigid (I’ll illustrate that later), but on others my position is not that strong. These are issues where I can adapt, even change my position. I thought these examples would show the benefit of blogs and online discussions. I hope those here who disagree with me have learned some things. I hope they have a better view of conservative Christianity for having engaged in discussions here. I pray that eventually some will change their minds completely about following Christ, but regardless thanks for the dialogue.