Science in Christian Perspective
A DIFFERENT CHRISTIAN VIEW OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Donald R. Adolphson
552 Old Orchard Drive
Danville. California 94526
From: PSCF 39 (June 1987): 107-109.
'I don't know what weapons we will use in WW Ill" said Alderman Burton F. Natarus, 'but I know the weapons we will use in WW IV-rocks.' Everyone laughed." These are the last lines to a New York Times article on the signing of an ordinance declaring Chicago a nuclear weapon free zone. Chicago joined with forty other localities around the country in legally banning various forms of nuclear weapons, their design, their manufacture and storage.
I wish to explore a different view of nuclear weapons, since I long for a new clarity in the purpose of nuclear weapons. Such understanding may help the church formulate endeavors consistent with its mission and may result in the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and a world free from war.
War is abhorent ... all Christians agree. But I think it unwise to be so certain, as some are, that man's development of nuclear weapons is abhorent to God. We have experienced a form of peace for four decades that can be largely attributable to nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, it is a form of peace that is not guaranteed and is far from perfect. Many historic periods of personal and national peace have been similar.
There was a form of imperfect peace at the time of the birth of Jesus called the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. Pax Romana was the peace of the all-powerful dictator who had defeated all known enemies. God chose this place and this time to bring forth His perfect solution to the problem of mankind's sin and death. Rome and the imperfect peace it brought was an essential part of the stage God had set for this blessed event. God had been setting this stage for many years. Leading up to all of this, He caused the exodus to teach His people to trust Him. Nebuchadnezzar was His agent when his warriors triumphed over the Hebrews and brought them out of the Holy Land. Thus, they learned that God was universal and existed outside the temple. Cyrus was His agent when his warriors conquered Babylon. Thus, a remnant of the Hebrews returned to the Holy Land to become a holy rather than a nationalistic people. Alexander was His agent when his warriors conquered Babylon and the East, establishing a common language. Thus, the Word some 500 years later was easily transmitted. Rome, through military might, built roads along which the Word could speed. Clearly God has used the military dimension and mankind's aggressive desire for power to achieve His will. Are we too close to our own history to see God again using the military dimension to achieve His will?
Prior to nuclear weapons, wars had a clear loser and winner, with an occasional draw. Most rational people agree that another world war would only produce a loser. Those not directly killed or subsequently destroyed by radiation effects would eventually starve or freeze to death. Nuclear winter is a grim forecast. Nuclear weapon scientists and engineers have made the waging of total war a completely unacceptable way for major nations to achieve nationalistic ambitions. So, it is reasonable and rational to ask, "Why has God allowed His children to learn how to destroy His creation?"
Or, the more fruitful question one might ask, "Has God been involved with the development of nuclear weapons and, if so, why?"
At the end of World War 11, nuclear weapons were viewed simply as extensions of conventional arms. Battlefield management and new weapons systems were designed in accordance with World War 11 weapon delivery systems. Nuclear war would just be the newest kind of hell, just as the fire storms in German and Japanese cities were new kinds of hell in World War 11. The dominant attitude was that a nation could, in the aftermath of a nuclear war, resurrect itself to live and right again. The United States had used two small nuclear weapons and were the victors. Japan was the loser, but quickly returned to a normal life. Two small nuclear weapons did not destroy the world, nor did they prevent a defeated nation from returning to its prewar vitality. So, in the 1950's few Americans believed that nuclear weapons could lead to the destruction of the world.
Today many United States citizens, including leaders of many Christian denominations, strongly advocate the immediate removal of all nuclear weapons from the world's stockpiles. The implied picture is that the current level of fear would be greatly reduced and an era of international goodwill and major reductions in military budgets would occur. This would be followed by extensive international cooperative programs aimed at the elimination of the world's major problems. These hoped for consequences must be very seriously and throughtfully reviewed. We must realistically assess what the world situation would be like in the near term if the major powers renounced nuclear weapons.
The most accurate estimation of the future is most often grounded in the past. I submit we would, soon after the elimination of nuclear weapons, experience a major confrontation with the Soviet Union. Part of that confrontation would be the awareness that Soviet missiles, loaded with "conventional" warheads, are aimed at targets in the United States with pin-point accuracy. The word "conventional" really means non-nuclear, for the warheads could carry anything from high explosives to modern nerve gas, to various germs and bacteria. Our reaction to the threat would be swift, with our intentions and demands clearly stated. Regardless of the Soviet reactions to our response, we would be sufficiently concerned to mount a very large conventional arms buildup. Automatically included in that buildup would be a very large army able to be transported to any point in the world, and an air force that would establish a global array of bases for movement of the armed troops. The military budget would greatly increase. The United States would be put on a fairly permanent military alert status with much power given to the military.
Some advocate that nuclear weapons be eliminated because they are excessively expensive, significantly reducing monies available for helping the unfortunate. It is naive to believe that if our military budget were reduced, the government would automatically move that funding to help the needy. That is wishful thinking with no basis in fact or history. There would be much less money for the unfortunate because of the massive costs associated with building up the conventional military arm. It is helpful to view money spent for nuclear weapons like one views home owner's insurance. Is insurance a waste? The answer can be "yes" if it seriously reduces the quality of life and ability to do ministry by being overinsured. However, we all find some compromise for the right amount of insurance, but having none is not the minimum stress position. It turns out that nuclear weapons are a very effective and inexpensive national insurance policy. The annual budget of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for nuclear weapon design activity is less than the money sent annually in error by the Social Security system to people who have died or are double dipping. It costs about $100,000 to build a typical nuclear weapon and $ 10,000 per year to maintain it. One division of troops in the U.S. army costs over $100,000 a day! That is why the United States in the early 1950's and 1970's placed nuclear weapons in Europe, rather than whole armies with many divisions, to stalemate the Russian and Warsaw Pact army buildup--pure economy, coupled with the wisdom which said that the average U.S. citizen was not prepared to have his or her sons drafted into military duty in the presence of only a threat.
Most rational people greatly fear the acquisition of nuclear weapons by smaller or Third World countries, especially countries led by irrational leaders. It is the legislative policy of this country to deter and actively discourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Specifically, India suffered embargoes of critical materials and South Africa was threatened with the same when they appeared to be on the verge of joining the club. Both reviewed their goals and decided to meet them with conventional arms.
To summarize thus far: Elimination of nuclear weapons will destabilize the world and be the end of our current mock peace. The size of the U.S. military dimension would greatly increase, and a major war would be much more probable than it is now. We would experience a significantly large increase in our military budget.
The present time of mock peace is a very unique time of opportunity and responsibility for the church. It is the time to passionately and assertively address not only the problems of the world with Jesus' model of agape love, but to broadcast the good news to the world with all the passion, talent and creativity used trying to prove that the existence of nuclear weapons is evil. Just as the absence of Rome's stablizing influence would have been contrary to God's plan, so the removal of nuclear weapons may be contrary to His plan. While we may never agree on the answer to the question, "Did God cause or use the military dimension to achieve His goal?", we must not be dissuaded by that debate from striving to answer the much bigger question, "Now that we have a time when war cannot be won, a time when there is again a mock peace among the major nations, what are we Christians going to do with it?" Just as a time of modified peace was needed to allow the spreading of the Word via the universal language of the day on the universal roads of the day, so today's peace has another universal language (English) and unparalleled communications technologies. These communication tools (often arising out of a military dimension)-word processors, television, radio, telephone, video and audio tapes (all found in homes, offices, and schools); satellites; fiber optics; et cetera-are discoveries that make the communication tools of 1940 seem oddly primitive.
Why has God given us such a time of peace, and unpreceridented growth in communication tools? What is the good news He wants to send? The church must get on with organizing, funding, leading, and doing what it is most skilled at and is chartered by God to do: sending the good news of eternal life to all the world via the tools God has provided. Let the skills, passions, and commitments of those who now fight for destruction of the peace brought by nuclear weapons work instead on using this peace, for that is why the peace is here. Church spokesmen cannot eliminate nuclear weapons. They are here, will stay, and will continue to grow in many technical dimensions until the nations who own them feel sufficiently secure to eliminate them. That security will not occur via the forces of economics, science or military might. but only through the incorporation of the spirit of Jesus Christ into the fabric of the life of the world. That incorporation is the business of the church using, when appropriate. the tools of the scientist and the economist. Let us assertively love those whom some would classify as enemies. in ways that would please our Savior and Lord ... in wavs that will model His coming kingdom. Let us recognize when He has been in our midst and guiding our history to achieve His ends.