President-elect Barack Obama, in his first interview since being elected, promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Several news reports had been reporting that he wanted to close Guantanamo but was unsure of where to move those presently imprisoned there. There are several viable options, and I am sure any of them will be more humane and just than what has been happening in Cuba. This announcement by our future president is greeted with much joy and optimism by those who have lobbied and petitioned for so long to bring this evil to an end. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Evangelicals for Human Rights, and thousands of people of goodwill have pushed to end the atrocities occurring in our name. President-elect Obama was correct in saying closing Guantanamo is one big step in regaining any moral standing we once had in the world. I applaud him for making such a quick and decisive stand on this important issue and am waiting to see how the closing and legacy of Guantanamo unfold in our near future.
On a related note, there has been a vigorous discussion on this site regarding whether Christians should vote or not. Those who claim that Christians should not vote cite the inherent violence of voting for a candidate who is going to be commander in chief. The argument is that Christians should not vote because they should not participate in, or give credence to, the violence of the world and governments in the world. While sharing much theological affinity with the majority of those who hold these views, I graciously disagree with them. President-elect Obama's strong stand against the use of torture and insistence on closing Guantanamo is one clear example of why.
A vote for Obama was, in one small way, a vote against torture and against Guantanamo Bay. Those who do not understand this miss the point. The point is not to hold to some ideological or theological position without wavering. The point is to love our neighbors and seek justice in their lives. I agree that the church is an alternative community that provides a prophetic witness and is a light in the darkness pointing to another way to live life. But that does not exempt me from doing what I can to ensure that people I know are being tortured find relief. The only real option here was to push politicians to end our use of torture and elect politicians who we knew would do so. In actuality, how one votes can be a vote against violence, as was the case this election season. (I applaud those who voted in the Republican primaries for John McCain, the only Republican candidate willing to denounce torture. Unfortunately, that strong denunciation weakened over time.) Those who have remained quiet and held their votes in recent elections when we have known that torture is occurring have not washed their hands clean of this evil. Those were votes as well, but they were votes for torture and the way things currently are. If we are concerned with truly loving God by loving our neighbors, we must do what brings them real justice, not simply justice in word and thought.
Jimmy McCarty is a student at Claremont School of Theology studying Christian ethics, a minister serving cross-racially at a church in inner-city Los Angeles, and a servant at a homeless shelter five days a week. He blogs at http://jimmymccarty.wordpress.com/.