Nuclear weapon and faith teach us something
By Jonathan Frerichs
Participants in this forum were invited to consider the nature of nuclear weapons and of faith -together. The vast gap between them usually keeps the two topics far apart. However, when two things of such consequence are so completely the antithesis of each other, the implications surely merit attention and action.
There is currently good news about how the forum topic. The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) a Geneva-based campaign, in which members of our congregation are involved through work with ICAN partners.
Also, just before the forum, some of those involved in this field also took part in a unique symposium at the Vatican at which Pope Francis strengthened the long-standing opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to nuclear weapons.
Currently nine countries “have” nuclear weapons – United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. What do these decisions to make, use and threaten to use such devices “teach” people of faith? A lot. For example, if we believe in God as Creator of the universe, the Giver of Life, our species is now able to destroy itself and to threaten all life on Earth.
The nuclear era, which began in 1945, is the first time in human history in which humanity has the capacity to destroy itself. That is only the ultimate form of nuclear evil. Any use of nuclear weapons, especially against cities, would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.
How does the conscious decision to have, maintain and rely on such a threat square with faith? Massive, indiscriminate, destructive force? The effects of which transcends time and space? Compare this with any tenet of faith that you treasure or any favourite verse. To note just one: You knit me together in my mother’s womb; Your works are wonderful; You are the God of all days” (Ps 139).
Faith has much to teach us about nuclear weapons. In Christian teachings all people are made in God’s image. God loves all people equally. Love God by loving your neighbour. Do not kill. Make swords from ploughshares. Take care of Creation. The teachings go beyond the pages of the Bible.
Ponder all that Christians share with other world religions in the face of nuclear dangers. Do not kill. Protect human life and dignity. Safeguard the sanctity of life. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Preserve the Earth for future generations. To take this one step further, nuclear weapons remind us how much of the basic teachings of our faith are reflected in the central precepts behind international law: that security is indivisible, certain basic rights are universal, protecting life and saving lives is the cornerstone of governance, the rule of law with justice and mercy is the basic bulwark against violence, war and destruction. Nuclear weapons teach us that our faith is a compass for awareness, concern and motivation no matter how troubling or complicated a challenge. Faith teaches us that no problem, nothing we have done or are doing, not even weapons, is bigger or more powerful than God and the manifold gifts in which God is revealed to us – beginning with love, hope and grace, the sisters of faith. Nuclear weapons also remind us that faith is inseparable from efforts to heal, protect and save life.
If faith can move mountains, it can surely stand alongside the vast majority of humanity who if given a choice would remove the mountain of nuclear weapons.