Sarah Sentilles writes at Religion Dispatches today that Trevor Case’s alleged waterboarding of his girlfriend is unsurprising considering our “torture culture,” rates of domestic violence and historical religious precedent:
In his 2008 article “Torture and Religious Practice,” William Schweiker traces the Christian roots of waterboarding, which was used, for example, during the Spanish Inquisition and in the persecution of Anabaptists during the Protestant Reformation. Schweiker argues that waterboarding is religious violence not only due to its pedigree, but because it carries a particularly religious meaning: that it functioned as a kind of baptism.
Since the Anabapists rejected infant baptism in favor of adult baptism, to take one example, King Ferdinand declared drowning a “Third Baptism,” and an appropriate response to their heretical practices. Schweiker writes that waterboarding-as-baptism was presented as a way to “save” the person being tortured by delivering the accused from his or her sins. Torture became punishment for sins, and punishment became an act of mercy and salvation.