Colloquium to Provide ‘An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Torture Issue’


MACON – Mercer University's Center for Theology and Public Life will host a one-day colloquium, titled “Faith, Duty, and Temptation in Intelligence-Gathering: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Torture Issue,” March 19, 2-5 p.m., in the Medical School Auditorium on the Macon campus.

The colloquium is being held, in part, to promote Mercer University Press' publication of Russo-French author Vladimir Volkoff's last novel, Le Tortionnaire/The Torturer, this fall. It is the story of an idealistic young intelligence officer in the French Army during the Algerian War, a conflict in which torture was alleged to have happened all too frequently on both sides.

Featured speakers include retired Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine, an attorney, former U.S. Army officer and former Utah state legislator, Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer, and Dr. John Marson Dunaway, professor emeritus of French and interdisciplinary studies at Mercer.

“We're fortunate to have two of America's foremost scholars on this issue,” said Dr. Dunaway. “The three different perspectives – military intelligence, theological/ethical and literary – will provide a rich context for fruitful reflection on a problem of compelling contemporary concern.”

“Torture is absolutely banned by U.S. and international law. Yet the U.S. resorted to torture after 9/11 and many people, including many Christians, defended it morally and do so to this day,” said Dr. Gushee. “This conference will help shed light on this very important issue.”

Irvine will open the colloquium, speaking on “Torture: America's Experiment with Alchemy” from 2-2:50 p.m., followed by Dr. Gushee on “Christian Ethical Reflections on Our Nation's Descent into Torture” from 2:55-3:45 p.m. After a 15-minute break including refreshments, Dr. Dunaway will speak on “Vladimir Volkoff's The Torturer: The Drama of a French Intelligence Office in the Algerian War” from 4-4:50 p.m. All three speakers will allow time for questions from the audience.

Irvine enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1962 and received a direct commission in 1967 as a strategic intelligence officer. He maintained a faculty assignment for 18 years with the Sixth U.S. Army Intelligence School, teaching prisoner-of-war interrogation and military law, and was the deputy commander for the 96th Regional Readiness Command. Additionally, he served four terms in the Utah House of Representatives as a Republican legislator. He is currently an attorney in Salt Lake City in private practice and a member of The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment.

Dr. Gushee teaches in McAfee School of Theology and throughout the University in his specialty, Christian ethics. As director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, he organizes events and courses to advance quality conversations about major issues arising at the intersection of theology, ethics and public policy. He was the principal drafter of the Evangelical Declaration against Torture, which changed the conversation in church and society about the issue, and is the editor of a book on the subject called Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul.

Dr. Dunaway is the principal American translator of Volkoff's writings. He has retired from full-time teaching, but continues to teach part-time in Mercer's College of Liberal Arts. His most recent book, a translation of Jean Louis-Chretien's Under the Gaze of the Bible, was published last fall by Fordham University Press. He continues to direct the annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium at Mercer.

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.