Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


WWJBD—What Would Jack Bauer Do?

I don't watch much TV and when I do, it is usually re-runs as my schedule won't let me get connected to some show on a regular basis. I can't afford to get tied down to being in front of the the TV every [insert set day and time here]. So I could never get plugged in to the TV show 24 if someone hadn't loaned me the DVD set. Victoria and I have watched our way through a few seasons by looking at the DVDs as time permits. I like watching a show that doesn't wrap things up in a half hour or an hour, but is allowed to let longer story arcs take shape.

The downside of the show for me is that I worry that not every viewer sees the scenarios as fictional. The show seems an ongoing lesson in how our nation can be on the brink of a cataclysmic crisis of biblical proportions with one man—Jack Bauer—being the solution as he is willing to do what it takes to get information out of the one key suspect of the moment. And Jack will do anything to the one person in front of him in order to save thousands if not millions of innocent Americans.

If you woke up this morning it is because Jack Bauer spared your lifeBob Cochran, who created the show with Surnow, admitted, “Most terrorism experts will tell you that the ‘ticking time bomb’ situation never occurs in real life, or very rarely. But on our show it happens every week.” The show regularizes the most unlikely of scenarios and risks making torture seem essential to national security.

The truth is that the Army has asked 24 to cut down on torture scenarios. [see U.S. Army Invites Sutherland to Give Anti-Torture Speech and 24 - a hit drama with too much hitting, according to the US army]. The creator of the show talks about his view on this in The New Yorker article Whatever It Takes. And there is also How the world views Jack Bauer which includes the odd fact that the show's theme song is the most popular ring tone in the 95% Muslim nation of Senegal.

Over at the On Faith forum of The Washington Post and Newsweek the panelists are weighing in on the ethics of torture from a religious perspective Can torture be justified?.

Jesuit writer Thomas J. Reese puts it, "It would be ironic and perverse for Christians, who worship a man who was tortured and killed, to use torture themselves." Martin Marty answers the question of when torture can be justified writing, "Never, by Jew and Christians and other religious people who believe that the 'human is made in the image of God.'"

Brian McLaren quotes a New York Times article which said of torture,
With virtually no experience in interrogations, the CIA had constructed its program in a few harried months by consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods long used in training American servicemen to withstand capture.
Then he asks since when did we want to learn from these examples? He closes his respoinse writing,
I believe it was Nietzsche who said to be careful when fighting a monster lest you become a monster in the process. A person who tells a lie to cover up a lie does so because he doesn't want to be thought a liar. But his efforts to avoid being thought a liar makes him more of a liar than he was before. Similarly, torturing secretly and then seeking to defend torture as a valid moral option only hardens us in a monstrous identity.
I weighed in on this issue two years ago in a column for the Tribune & Georgian Approving Torture would kill the soul of U.S. and I stand by that essay.

Ticking bomb scenarios make for great fiction, but if we believe our own myth too strongly, we will not only harm innocent people in the process, but we will dismantle the very integrity that makes our nation great.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

PS: Yes, I am still watching 24. I just continue to appreciate that it is fiction and the Gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion are not.



  • At 11/08/2007 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I prefer to watch Chef Gordon Ramsey "torture" restaurant owners until their kitchens are clean. And it's reality!

    Admittedly, I get a "sick" satisfaction out of watching Dr.Gregory House torture his patients until they are well.

    Did you know that the execs in Hollywood are thinking about pulling 24 and Lost off of television completely, until next year or even the year after that, until the writer's strike is over?

    Now that's torture!

  • At 11/08/2007 10:51 PM, Anonymous denise said…

    If folks allow themselves to believe fiction as fact, then I think we have much more to worry about than terrorism.
    Parts of your post brought to mind the saying "When you save one life, you save them all..." (paraphrasing). I tend to think the opposite is true, as well, "When you take one life, you take them all...". I'm not sure what about shows like that draws us in, knowing it's wrong, and how it can be entertainment. But it is what it is, it's how you deal with it that matters.

    I really need to get my own blog, don't I?

  • At 11/11/2007 2:44 PM, Blogger Amar B said…

    Hey thanks for the link. It was an odd stat indeed. I really liked your post and your blog. Keep it up. I look forward to following it. - Amar


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