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THE CONTEMPORARY U.S. TORTURE DEBATE IN CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

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ABSTRACT

The U.S. turn toward torture tested the moral resources of all faiths, but perhaps especially of Christianity, which has the greatest number of adherents in the United States. This moral crucible revealed that American Christian scholars and leaders were generally blind to the resources available in relation to the resources available to address torture in a study of scripture, early Christian experience under empire, Christian abuses of suspected heretics, and the just war theory, all of which are considered here. Uses of just war theory have revealed a fracture in that theory between deontological/virtue orientations and consequentialist reasoning, the latter proving susceptible to exploitation in defense of torture. Just war theory also revealed a lacuna of explicit reasoning about torture through the centuries, in a world where torture has so often been an instrument of state power.

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