>Maybe you’ve heard the story: “Once the camel’s nose is under the tent …” Well, in case you haven’t noticed, with regard to torture we are all out in the cold and there is a large animal standing in the space where we used to lay our head. The tent may have never been as secure as we had first thought, but when a person is exposed to the elements it does make one wonder what might be next.

I am not sure when the nose first poked its head into the space that formerly housed shared values like civility, decency, and basic human rights, but even I can tell when there is no more shelter for at least the appearance of such values, if we ever had them (which of course is rather questionable).

I have never been a strong advocate for such routinely cited “American values” anyway, opting instead for the fruit of the Spirit, but I do know that in an imperfect and fallen world, there is common ground to be gained for Christians who are willing to address such things in the public square. Some may say that you can’t regain what you never had, but maybe that is not the point. I, for one, believe that people, communities, and even nations can change. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this preacher thing. The money isn’t all that hot and the hours … well, you get the picture.

No honest historian can argue that brutality is anything new to the United States, or to any other country for that matter, but that doesn’t mean we should becomes ostriches just because the camel is bigger and has a nasty habit of spitting. What is new is that no one seems to blush anymore. Our greatest threat is no longer hooded cowards running around in white sheets under the cover of night or treaty-breaking politicians who say one thing only to do something else when it is to their advantage. Now, it seems, there is no need for the charade. Sheets have been traded in for Italian suits and dungeons have been upgraded to board rooms and halls of Congress. We want to bring torture out into the light of day – and now that it is out we give it a standing ovation.

As an aside, you should know that I can enjoy TV shows like 24 just a much as the next guy. I have to confess – my family actually experienced something of a 24 fest this past summer. If you haven’t seen it, be forewarned – it can be addictive. For those who don’t know what the show is about, it deals with a counter terrorist unit (CTU) based out of Los Angeles. The cowboy in me can enjoy an hour of some butt-kicking, arm-twisting, and results-producing strong arm tactics used on the bad guys by torture expert Jack Bauer. At the end of the day, or at least of the episode, I can usually turn the TV off and return to reality – but therein lies the problem for me, at least lately. Reality. Is there any surprise that such shows are so popular in a post 9-11 world?

I am not sure that we can move the camel out of the tent, but it may be time to build a new shelter. And though we do have a sordid history with regard to such things, it may also be important to retrace our most recent missteps a bit before we start construction. To take Jonathan’s advice, we could start by drawing the line at torture.

Update: Click here to join Amnesty International’s efforts to preserve fair trials and humane treatment.