Science in Christian Perspective
A Call to Faithfulness
This declaration is sponsored by John F. Alexander, Richard Barnet, Gordon Coshy, Richard Mouw, Wes Michaelson, Henri 1. M. Nouwen, John Perkins, Clark Pinnock, Graham Pulkingharn, Glen Stassen, William Stringfellow, Jim Wallis, and John Howard Fader.
From: JASA 30 (September 1978): 100-101
The time has come for Christians in the United States to stand upon our biblical convictions and act together in a clear and visible witness against the nuclear arms race. The spiraling momentum of nuclear weapons production has possessed our nation and placed the entire world in unprecedented danger.
The church hears the biblical responsibility for stewardship of the whole creation. However, Christians in America for the most part have stood by and watched as our nation has assembled the largest and most deadly military arsenal ever to imperil the earth.
Instead of fulfilling the prophetic hope of Isaiah to "plant justice in the earth," we in the church have remained largely passive for more than 30 years of nuclear arms buildup. Today our country devotes immense and increasing portions of its material, intellectual, and financial resources to war, thus threatening the world with catastrophic violence while guaranteeing continued neglect of the world's poor.
The victims of this callous arrangement cry out, and above their voices can he heard another voice: "As you have done to the least of these, so you have done unto me.
We have let the biggest myth go unchallenged: that all this military might is for a righteous purpose, for peace and self-defense. As military planners, political leaders, and industrial interests have relentlessly pushed us beyond the threshold of overkill, the truth has become clear. These weapons are for winning, for maintaining superiority, for keeping control, for dictating our terms, for protecting our wealth and power in a global order that is fundamentally unjust.
Under the guise of national security, our true security and the security of the world is being severely jeopardized.
Jesus tells us that it is the peacemakers who are blessed. Yet the peacemakers among us have been few. Most Christians have ignored the strong biblical warnings against placing our trust in weapons of war.
We are soberly reminded of Cod's command, "You shall have no other gods before me." But we have fallen away from God by joining our fellow citizens in succumbing to the idolatry of military might and power. To plan for a nuclear war assumes that tens of millions will die, justifiably in the name of national security. This exalts the nation above all else, including the survival of humanity.
Our professed allegiance to Christ and his kingdom rings hollow when we accept military policies of indiscriminate mass destruction, placing us in direct opposition to Christ's unequivocal instruction to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us.
Repentance means to stop, to turn around, and go in a different direction. This is what we must do. As Christians, we know too much and have seen too much; we can on longer quietly accept our perilous situation. We feel compelled by the words of Ezekiel:
If you see the sword coining and blow the trumpet and warn the people, then if those hearing the trumpet do not take warning, their blood will be on their own hands . . . . If the sentry sees the danger coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people die, I will hold the sentry responsible. I have made you sentry for my people; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. Ez. 33:3-7)
Nuclear war is becoming an increasingly likely event. Mary leading scientists
and arms control experts now call nuclear war "probable"
before the end of this century.
Our nation bases its security on demonic systems capable of turning the globe into an inferno. The simplest meaning of the nuclear arms race is that, in the name of national security, the world's most powerful nations are preparing to commit mass murder. To build weapons of such destruction and to be ready to use them are the marks of a people losing their minds and their souls.
The United States possesses more than 11,000 nuclear warheads, each one of which can burn the heart out of a city. This stockpile-the equivalent of 615,385 Hiroshima bombs-could destroy the entire population of the world 12 times over. Yet the United States continues to produce nuclear weapons at the rate of three each day.
The competitive momentum of the arms race has caused the Soviet Union, formerly far inferior to the U.S. in strategic nuclear weaponry, to build a correspondingly devastating arsenal. Despite the rhetoric of detente and the SALT talks, the nuclear arms race continues to accelerate. Since the SALT talks began, the United States has roughly doubled its stockpile of unclear weapons.
The balance of terror between the United States and the Soviet Union-upon which the fate of the world precariously rests-is assumed to be natural, sane, normal.
The United States has set the pace in the arms race, and the recent direction of U.S. strategic nuclear policy has become especially grave. The United States is set to deploy a whole new generation of nuclear weapons systems on land, sea, and air-the MX missile system, the Trident submarines, and the cruise missile-in addition to having the capability to produce neutron bombs.
Strategies are being devised in which the United States would be the first to use nuclear weapons. Our nation has steadfastly refused to pledge that it would not be the first to use them.
The pace of the arms race has been accelerated to the point that 35 to 40 nations could possess unclear weapons within a decade. The "peaceful" use of the atom for nuclear energy already has abetted the proliferation of the bomb. The risk of further proliferation increases as nuclear energy development is expanded and exported.
We call upon the church to make a decisive response to the nuclear arms race through prayer, preaching, and public witness. The church's prayers for peace must be offered ceaselessly, with a deepening fervor and intensity matching the escalating race to nuclear annihilation.
The church's preaching of the gospel in our day must make it clear that to turn to Christ is to turn from acceptance of nuclear weapons, so that converts become known as peacemakers. The church's public witness must be marked by costly action, following the leadership of the one who was willing to bear the burden of making peace in a hostile world. Nurtured by Christ's love, his church must bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
Our primary allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom commits us to the total abolition of nuclear weapons. There can be no qualifying or conditioning word. We, the signers of this declaration, commit ourselves to non-cooperation with our country's preparations for nuclear war. On all levels-research, development, testing, production, development, and actual use of nuclear weapons -we commit ourselves to resist in the name of Jesus Christ.
We also call upon the chords in this nation to set forth to the United States government its responsibility to take meaningful unilateral and multilateral initiatives toward the goal of complete nuclear disarmament. Other nations' desires for disarmament, peace, and survival could then be genuinely tested in the pressure to reciprocate.
Specifically, those steps should include the following:
(1) The suspension of all nuclear weapons tests and the flight testing of new vehicles for their delivery.
(2) The suspension of present plans to acquire new strategic weapons systems, including the MX missile system, the cruise missile, and the Trident submarine, as well as any future production of the neutron bomb.
(3) A decisive change in U.S. military doctrine, declaring that this nation will never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and that it recognizes that they are legitimate neither as political instruments nor as military weapons.
These initiatives are only minimal first steps toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. The urgency of such actions should be clear to all who share the biblical hope to beat swords into plowshares.
We admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ to take a hold posture of resistance to the nuclear arms race.
In the lace of so grave a crisis, Christians most avoid the easy temptation to despair. Instead, we must draw on hope born of our trust in God's love and grace, in our lives and in the world.
May our hope in Christ's kingdom undergird our witness, nurture our worship, and compel our action.
Readers who wish to identify themselves as supporters of this Declaration should write to Nuclear Declaration, Sojourners, 1029 Vermont Ape, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.
Readers who wish to respond to this Declaration through the pages of this journal are invited to submit 250-word comments for publication by November 15, 1978 to the Editor.