I don’t think there is much that can be done within state politics to get towards some real justice over torture. It is quite clear that, yes, America did it. And yes, torture is illegal. It also seems equally clear that prosecutions will not happen, or at least in the current climate. Quite frankly, the reaction to scandals like Watergate seem like a thing of the past. Instead of torture bringing down Bush’s presidency, it was Clinton who nearly ran aground, but on the rocks of didn’t-keep-his-pants-on. Seems a bit out of proportion? However my argument isn’t with the most recent impeachment trial, it is with the fact that our government ain’t gonna do much.
So what, I ask myself, is the theological answer? It is quite simple: we won’t forget what the ‘powerful’ want us to forget. But first the Christian thought begins with Jesus and so briefly part of the story needs to be retold. By most measures of success, Jesus failed. Indeed, in the passion God seemed to lose. But the story does not end there, and nor did it begin at the cross either. The work of God as we know it began with Creation and the covenants in history. After a time, the person of Christ took on the human story in the kenotic incarnation, and therefore enacting the divine act of drawing humanity up into the divine life and orienting creation towards its proper telos. This conversion or transformation of the broken world was shown through the juxtaposition of the rule of God and broken life. The parables and teachings of Jesus, along with his faithful, divinely incarnated life, broke open the closed system of death. Jesus died because the economy of death, that claims to determine who can live and die, responds with death. Thus in his death, Jesus showed the bare life as impoverished: there is nothing freeing in an economy of death. Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection showed a more powerful economy that focused on flourishing and support: an economy of love and grace (pure-gift).
So what is this story? In one way, this is a memory of someone who lived dangerously as counter to the then established, self-serving order. This is also a memory of someone who was tortured. If rightly done, as Christians we remember this life in a very specific way: this Christological life calls us to identify with those tortured in such a strong way that we look like Christ, the one hung from a tree. This is certainly not a safe life, but it is the good life. This is in a word, solidarity.
So to the government and the self-serving powers who aim to sweep your oppressive work under the rug, we will not forget because God will not forget the browbeaten. And while political vendication may be far off, that is if it ever does occur, here in the now, because we are formed by the Christ-life, we will be the voice for those you have attempted to silence. No more torture! Stop the oppression!
The theological response is not simply strong talk, it also seeks justice: the holistic reconciliation between people. Thus we will love through action: we will seek out and treat those whom you have considered as less than human.
Government, Christianity will seek your redemption through playing partisan politics by caring for the vulnerable, hurt, and needy. Christianity in living the life of love will expose the impoverished life of the powers that be. Quite simply, government, we will prosecute you.