The following exchange is between myself and Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, founder of the organization Two Futures Project – a movement of American Christians for the abolition of nuclear weapons. We hope and pray that this post sparks dialogue amongst a broader audience, strengthening the call and desire for a world without nuclear weapons.

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Dear Nish,

I’ve been aware of the work y’all are doing at Deeper Story, and I have been really appreciative for your help in promoting 2FP on Twitter and the like. But I have to confess that I am also (gratefully) mystified by it – because it is frankly hard to get young Christians to pay attention to nuclear weapons, especially two decades after the Cold War’s end.

As someone who works full-time educating the church about the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, one challenge that I continually encounter is that 1) the threat feels too big, and/or 2) the threat feels unreal. As in, sure, I’d really like a giant asteroid to not hit the earth, but this rather abstract feeling doesn’t motivate me to drop regular #FF shoutouts for @stopasteroidsnow.

I’m convinced that a bit part of this challenge is the sheer inhumanity of nuclear imagery: the iconic image is a mushroom cloud, which by definition is an image taken far enough way for the photographer to have captured the sight and lived. And this physical distance maps onto the emotional distance we have to the immolated human lives rising in that diabolical cloud. Contrast this with the photograph of a needy kid that a (terrific) group like Compassion is able to provide – there’s no question which is the more approachable issue for evangelically-minded Christians. It’s just hard to get personal with nuclear weapons, and even harder to make a difference. And that hurts our activism. So I have to ask: how did you get so passionate about this? What makes it more than another cause to you? And how do you sustain such interest?

With holy gratitude for your support,

Tyler

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Tyler,

I think I was in high school when I first connected the mushroom cloud to the human experience. I was a junior, I think, and we were learning about the US involvement in WWII. I can still feel the frayed cover of my textbook as I opened the pages to learn about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even in the stark black and white pictures, I could see. I could see the burns on skin, the pictures of children missing limbs and the devastation. It wasn’t even devastation, it was obliteration. The areas around ground zero ceased to exist. Returned to dust and nothing. I couldn’t stop staring at the pictures.

Those photos burned into my memory and the presence of nuclear weapons always made me a bit uneasy. But, that all changed with the birth of my son. Now, when I think of the threat of a nuclear attack, those black and white pictures flash hauntingly and the picture of the little boy with the maimed body and radiation skin pulls the lump up in my throat. I hold my boy a little tighter and touch the smooth skin on his face and the threat of a future with nuclear weapons becomes very. very. real.

So, to answer your first question, my passion comes from my desire for a better future for my son. And it also comes from a deep desire to change the dialogue from fear, to hope. The public discourse in everything in this country, from the federal budget to gay marriage to foreign policy has been solely dictated by a Gospel of Fear. What if we didn’t HAVE to fear nuclear weapons? How can we achieve that end? Well the only acceptable answer is nothing short of complete abolition. By pushing into hope, and pushing toward the future without nuclear weapons, we are making way and creating a culture that helps God’s kingdom break through, here on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

That’s not to say that organizations like Compassion, World Vision or IJM aren’t doing their part to bring forth God’s kingdom. They certainly are, in bold, powerful and redeeming ways. Praise God! And you’re right, it’s absolutely easier to connect to those organizations because we’re seeing human faces wracked with the devastating realities of poverty, sickness and slavery. I think the reason for this is two fold, particularly in American culture. The first being, we live in a culture of immediacy. If we want something, we want it now. Instant gratification. This mentality spills out into our contribution to charity. We can look at a child on a piece of paper that needs sponsorship and immediately feel like we’re contributing by pulling out our checkbook or credit card. And the glorious thing is we ARE contributing! It’s immediate! The money that we donate goes directly to a child being rescued from poverty or water-borne illness or slavery. It’s instant emotional and charitable gratification. Which leads me to my second reason: We live in a culture of money. For decades, our way of contributing to solve the world’s problems has been money. It’s easy to do, it’s not a lot of skin off our backs to throw in $30 a month, and money can always help lead us back to our first desire: instant gratification.

Advocacy for the eradication of nukes is quite different. There isn’t a human face connection to the cause. There is no immediate gratification. The U.S. will not immediately give up one of its 5,113 nuclear weapons because you decide to finally call your Senator. And this isn’t an issue that the common civilian can throw money at and expect it to be solved. It operates on a completely different paradigm. To use the example of Compassion again, when you sponsor a child, you’re partnering with God on mission to further His kingdom NOW. When you jump on board to pursue the abolition of nuclear weapons, you’re partnering with God on mission to further His kingdom in the FUTURE. For the next generation… or maybe even for ours.

So to answer your second question, I’m not sure that nuclear disarmament is “more” than another cause to me. I think it’s equal to my involvement with Compassion and sponsoring a child. I believe we’re called to make a difference and parter with God in the here and now. But we (and myself especially, as a mother), have a responsibility to be stewards of the time we are given. To do the best we can to make history a little bit brighter for those that will come after us. By pushing for the eradication of nuclear weapons, I believe we’re cultivating the ground for a hopeful future.

And how do I sustain my interest? I’d have to say that I’m sustained by hope. I know that evil exists. I know that it comes into the world and has already, in the form of nuclear weapons. I know that even if we work tirelessly and achieve total eradication, the threat might always loom overhead because the creation technology is known. But, I’m willing to take that chance and bet on hope. I have to hope that a world without these weapons is better than a world with them.

Commander Robert Lewis, who was on the crew of the Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, looked on as the entire city disappeared. He later wrote in his log, “My God, what have we done?” I don’t want to be part of a generation that looks back to say, “My God, what have we NOT done?” as a result of our apathy and inaction toward one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Nuclear war would create a hell on earth that nobody is able comprehend. I don’t want to be apathetic about that, Tyler. I can’t be apathetic. I have to play my part in making our world a little bit less like hell, and a little bit more like heaven. For you. For me. For my child.

Thank you, Tyler, for your tireless work and effort toward opening the skies and giving us a clear picture of a hopeful future. Heaven on earth, indeed. And may Heaven come down.

Encouraged by your passion and vision,

Nish

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Now, it’s your turn. If you would like to draft your own response to Tyler’s questions and the pressing issue of nuclear weapons, I encourage you to do so! If you choose to write a post, would you mind linking back here and sharing it with us? We’d love to continue the conversation. And as always, we look forward to the discussion in the comments.

34 comments

  1. I have two distinct memories, the first being the primary one, when I was in High School in an English class (when I lived in Australia) on the Literature of War and Peace… We read a poem by Australian poet Bruce Dawes, an anti-war poet entitled: “On the shadow of a Japanese child blasted upon a wall after the dropping of an atomic bomb in 1945″ that poem just struck me so much that I’ve never forgotten it. The poem, if I remember, recalls the shadows that remained after the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima and that there were no bodies casting shadows. Just eerie shadows, were all that was left of them. And it frustrates me that anything nuclear still exists. Why didn’t we learn from history? There was an article in Relevant Magazine at some point a few(?) years ago on Nuclear Weapons that I agreed with, about the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons in our generation.
    I don’t actually feel like I have anything to contribute or add other than agree with the need to abolish them. I hate them, a lot. I’m quite sure God hates them too…from what I know of God…but I haven’t exactly done a word study on this in the Bible…*sarcasm*

    I think it’s hard to know what to do with the overwhelming emotions I feel whenever I think about nuclear weapons (and power for that matter) like so many of the Big monsters in our time, sex trafficking, slavery, and nuclear weapons…it seems so vast…

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    • Nish

      lorijo, I think you hit the nail on the head – the problem is real. The devastation the bomb caused is REAL. Over 200,000 lives were lost. Men, women, children. An entire city obliterated. But, again, it seems so long ago and I think that plays into the threat’s intangibility. It created pictures for history books, but we haven’t seen anything like it since.

      So what do we do with the emotions? I have theories, but my big one is this: Just like with human trafficking or poverty, we have to look at the issue one person at a time. If we look at the numbers of people affected, it seems too big. We have to personalize the cause and step one foot in front of the other – one person at a time.

      I think the same remains true for this movement to get rid of the bomb. We need to start gathering support – one person at a time. Because nothing will change unless we garner a strong, collective, powerful voice of opposition. So, we gather the voices, one at a time.

      Reply
  2. “But, I’m willing to take that chance and bet on hope. I have to hope that a world without these weapons is better than a world with them.”

    And isn’t that truth for so many issues we are confronted with? Honestly, I had never considered this issue before and probably because it seems out of my control. But the term “nuke ‘em” is used all too casually, as if simply bombing a group of people will solve all problems. I don’t remember seeing anything about this in my World History class (and yes, I was paying attention in school), and know very little about the devastation it’s caused in the past. Looks like I have some studying up to do.

    I can’t offer any insight to this issue, but wanted to thank you for eloquently sharing your opinion. It’s how we learn.

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  3. Thinking outside of our own world proves difficult for many (including me!).

    I feel people connect with issues they have experience with or issues they can see impacting their lives. . .adoption, abuse, world hunger. It’s tough to imagine the impact of nuclear weapons, and so people feel disconnected with this issue. Yes, there are the pictures from old history books, but nuclear weapons aren’t here facing me now in my little NC town, and therefore, this important issue is easy to overlook.

    Love that you took the time to share this and challenged us, Tyler and Tish.

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  4. I did a project on WWII in college and have forever been fascinated by the ramifications of all that went on – NOT that long ago. The quote from the man who dropped the A-Bomb has always stayed with me.

    I have heard incredible things about what Tyler is doing, but haven’t done a ton of research and want to learn more. I am sure he has already answered this somewhere, but two big questions that I think will come to peoples minds are:

    1) Just like with gay marriage, abortion, gun control etc…where do Christians separate government response/responsibility from Christian response/responsibility? I know all these issues could look differently, but I feel like a lot of people would say while Jesus tells us as Christians to personally turn the other cheek and seek peace, Governments need to be our protectors. Which leads to question #2…

    2) If the motivation for this is protecting your child and there is inherent evil in the world, what does “protection” look like?

    I know I don’t know enough and I want to get behind this fully — I just think answers to these questions would really help me. Thanks to Tyler or Nish if you have time to give me some thoughts or point me to where Tyler has answered this before, as I am sure he has!

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    • Hi Joy,

      First and foremost, thank you so much for taking the time to dig into this and engage. I wish there were a million like you!

      Your questions are really good ones — I don’t want to be a comment essayist, so I’ll keep this brief, but the links below might be interesting and helpful to you as you engage further. On the first: yes, I totally agree that the government has a different ordination than do individuals, and so it’s not simply a matter of applying the Sermon on the Mount to the army. The reason Christians were divided on nuclear weapons during the Cold War was all about differing opinions about the best way to keep nuclear weapons from being used: some thought disarmament, others thought deterrence. What’s driving the current push for abolition is the realization, spearheaded by Cold War hawks, that deterrence isn’t viable over the long haul. Thus the Two Futures name: a world in which nuclear weapons exist is a world in which they will eventually, inevitably, be used, with disastrous global effect.

      And the second question is related to the first — in light of this conviction, what does protection look like? It means the movement toward abolition. But that’s a decades-long, everybody in, challenging process, requiring a longsuffering fidelity. It’s a question of whether enough of us can recognize that we’re all in it together — whether “it” is peace or disaster.

      I hope this helps. If you want to explore more, here are a couple links that might be of interest. Thanks again for opening yourself to an issue that so many choose to ignore.

      http://www.qideas.org/video/the-post-atomic-world.aspx
      http://www.qideas.org/essays/a-world-without-nuclear-weapons.aspx

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      • Thank you Tyler! I will check out those links. I so appreciate your reply. Means a ton that you would take the time.

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  5. Nish, thank you so much for blogging about nuclear weapons and the Two Futures Project. I’ve been reading the entries at A Deeper Story since its inception and I am always challenged by the pieces I find here! I love you ladies!

    I was especially excited to see this piece and to learn about Tyler and the Two Futures Project.

    I am a 30 year old wife, mother of a two-year-old, sister, daughter, friend, and musician. I love to drink wine, hang out with friends, watch good movies, and be outside as much as possible. All of that to say, I consider myself mostly normal. But when I pull out the latest edition of Foreign Affairs backstage before a show, or on an airplane, you would think the people around me had encountered an alien. Men usually respond by asking if I am in college; as if the only reason I would be engaging in such material is because I were being forced to by a college professor. And women, some of my best girl friends, usually say something like, “That stuff is way over my head. There’s Jenny trying to be all smart again.” Both responses annoy me because I feel like somewhere along the way it has become acceptable in our society to let someone else do the thinking for you. The assumption that you only read about foreign affairs if you are in school or that the average person (in my case, the average stay-at-home mom) is incapable of understanding policy or governement is simply not true! As you so beautifully stated, we owe it to our children to be knowlegable about issues concerning the world at large so that we might create a future of hope. But more importantly, as followers of Christ, we are called to join in bringing about peace on earth and to uphold respect for human life… and that cannot happen with the existence of nuclear weapons.

    To answer Tyler’s questions, I would say that I am passionate about this issue because I am actually passionate about the military. My dad is a full-bird colonel chaplain and my brother-n-law deploys next week on his third trip to Afghanistan. On both sides of my family I have aunts, uncles, and grandparents who have served and fought in every war since War World 1. Somewhere along the way, as a Christ follower, you begin to explore how to reconcile faith with wars and bloodshed. This inevitably leads you into a maze of policy, nation-building, past wars, rogue governments, deterrence, etc. that seems impossible to find your way out of.

    As with every complicated issue, the use of nuclear force, has many, many sides! I completely understand the desire to want to throw our hands up in the air and say, “I can’t understand this. Someone else figure it out for us!” But we can’t. Because though their are people within our government, collegiate institutions, think tanks, and military who study these issues and come up with theory, doctrine and policy, ultimately, I believe there has to be a heart beat behind it all. And that heartbeat comes from us. Every day people who say, “NO nuclear deterrence is not an option. And living in a nuclear armed world is not what we want for humanity.” Until the collective voice raises to a roar against these earth altering weapons of mass destruction, new policies, like START will not be implemented and followed through with.

    As soon as I read this article I went back to an essay in Foreign Affairs (nov/dec 09′) that I have hung on to. Entitled, The Nukes We Need, by Keir Leiber and Daryl Press, I underlined a sentence that summed it all up for me. In reference to high yield nuclear weapons, the authors said, “If the U.S. military had to destroy an enemy’s nuclear force in circumstances so dire that collateral damage was not a major concern, these weapons would provide the best odds of success. They maximize the odds of getting the target, albeit at the cost of enormous collateral damage.”

    I remember the sting of reading those words. Albeit. So clinical. Collateral damage. So impersonal.

    Collateral damage with a nuclear weapon is a child blown to pieces. An entire town disappearing from the earth. It is years of nuclear aftermath found in the environment, animals, and food supply. Moreover, as Desmund Tutu says, when commiting such crimes against humanity, we not only destroy the other person, but we destroy ourselves. Any nation, even in the most dire of circumstances, who can committ such violence will not only obliterate the “enemy” (God’s children- who are more than likely suffering under a dictatorship they have little control over), but it will also destroy the soul of the country who pulls the trigger.

    Do we need a strong military for our safety and protection? Yes. Do we need to be able to deter a threat made against us or our allies? Absolutely. Will the gradual reduction of arms be costly, complicated, and require participation from Russia, Israel, Pakistan and other complicated governements who possess arms? Yes. Frustratingly so. But is it worth it? YES.

    To live in a world free from the threat of nuclear war not only ensures that the unspeakable- the obliteration of 200,000 people in an instant- does not happen again, but it also ensures that we do not completely lose our souls in this world.

    God forgive us for the day we destroyed a generation of people. May we destroy the weapons that could lead to the loss of lives and the loss of our own souls. May we as Christ followers strive to bring light into a dark world. Through adoption. Feeding the poor. And yes, through eliminating the most deadly weapons ever created.

    Thank you Nish and Tyler for bringing awareness to a very complex topic! Please forgive the length of my “essay”!

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    • This is awesome. I admit that I was not necessarily expecting a direct citation of Leiber’s and Press’ FA article in the comments here! But Amen, Amen to all you say. I think one of the most poisonous things about Washington is the vocabulary, which obscures humanity. In fact, you have to check your humanity at the door to be taken seriously in the nuclear field. Because otherwise you threaten to expose the truth of the whole venture: that people talk about the deaths of millions as if that event was a possibility that reasonable folks could envision. Thank you for breathing some Christ-filled speech into the void.

      Also: the most zealous anti-nuclear folks I know are military people. They take seriously defense, peace, and security, because they’re the ones who are asked to pay the price. And they know that these aren’t weapons of war. So I just wanted to encourage you — you stand in good company! Thank you so much for your passion.

      Reply
  6. OneBridesMom

    I know for me, personally, this is one big scary problem that I don’t want to think about. But I need to think about it. We ALL need to think about it because it is real and it is here.

    I’m taking that first step today. Thanks for opening that door for me.

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  7. I can remember my shock and horror the first time I saw pictures of children who were burned and scarred by the bomb in Japan. How could that have been the best solution to win the war? How many innocent lives were lost or impaired that day? Though I’ve always believed there has to be a better way than nuclear weapons, I’ve never known what to do about it. I’m very interested in learning more about Two Futures Project. I’ve heard all the arguments of why nuclear disarmament will never work or will never happen but I just can’t believe it. Even now in thinking of how Japan has been shaken because of the earthquake/tsunami’s effect on their nuclear power plant and the potential damage of leaked radiation…and how this could spread to other countries. How can this be justified? How can we say it’s for our defense when lives are literally at stake?

    Reply
    • Hi HopefulLeigh,

      So glad to read your steadfast commitment — it’s inspiring. There were great arguments against the abolition of slavery, too: it was impossible, it came at too great a price, it was an inevitability of human nature. I take heart from the fact that when enough of God’s people believe more strongly in his redemptive power than the status quo, possibility itself changes. Stay strong!

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  8. I am just now getting a chance to read this and am a bit saddened by the few comments here. Wow.

    I completely agree on all levels, Nish.

    Honestly we barely learned about the atom bomb in WWII where I went to school. No pictures. Just a part of the story, but no emotion, no human attachent. It wasn’t until a couple years ago when my husband and I began our study into Christian pacifism (or religious non-violence, whichever term has less stigma) that we watched the docu called “White Light, Black Rain” and I found myself face on the floor devastated by what happened. I think for me the passion in this may stem from more than just nuclear, but from non-violence, and regardless it’s really the same result. And it breaks my heart that so many fellow believers are slumbering through this.

    So much to take in, but we don’t have to bear it alone. Thank you for this post.

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  9. I have been waiting for this piece here. Especially in light of the nuclear disaster in Japan (not the same thing – I promise I do know the difference between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons! But still – the word “nuclear” is now on people’s minds.).

    Annnnd…. just deleted three paragraphs worth of ranting…

    Anyway. I’ll just say this: it’s the whole aspect of disembodied killing again. Whether it’s nuclear weapons or smart bombs, the issue for me comes back to that of pacifism or non-violence. Murder is murder. And just because I only have to push a button to do it doesn’t excuse one from the truth of the matter. The sheer scale of nuclear weapons boggles the mind.

    I remember when I was in high school studying world history (clearly, long, long ago in a galazy far, far away). We read literature and watched films that dealt with many of the “dates and names” of history including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Devastating can’t begin to describe it for me. It planted many seeds that have come to light in my adulthood. And then there was this “role play game” where we went up against each other and, over and over again, students would reach an impasse with their “countries” and next thing you knew, Def Con 3 had been reached and the world was destroyed. It was meant to show us how quickly things escalate in the world stage but I remember being more bothered by the glee with which people would holler “Nuke’em!” and press that button – even though it was a game.

    The reason why believers (or most believers – forgive me my constant “always” and “never” and “all of them” – a habit I’m trying to break, I promise!) don’t care about this is because the Christian traditions of non-violence have been buried under war and military rhetoric. It goes back to “patriotism” or nationalism versus kingdom allegiance. It goes back to an incomplete pro-life ethic. It goes back to cheering for “smart bombs” and referring to death as “collateral damage” and on and on. We have lost our connection to one another and have turned war into a global video game – like it’s not really real. It’s connected to a thousand spider webs from the military industrial complex to our beliefs about the nature and character, the justice and mercy of God and on.

    I am ranting. And I need to stop.

    Thanks for writing this, Nish. And thanks to Tyler for continuing the work here.

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    • Oh my. Ditto and yes. A million yes’s!

      Honestly I don’t read this enough from Jesus followers. Maybe I’m reading in the wrong places, but I feel like an island. Thank you for being brave enough to put this out there. For speaking such truth. xo

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    • Amen.

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  10. I took a grad school class called Nuclear America a couple of years ago. It explored various aspects of nuclear weaponry and energy in the U.S. from cost to development to use to secrecy to supposed protections (ha!) against weapon use to environmental impacts…and I have to say that class changed me in such a deep way I’m only barely beginning to understand it. It is impossible to study anything about the unbelievably destructive power of nuclear and thermonuclear technology, or to take more than a cursory glimpse at what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, without realizing the sheer evil involved. I grieved, and still grieve, over these things. And I grieve all over again when I hear about other countries developing nuclear technology, or when I see on the news that the president of Iran has threatened to use nuclear weapons on Israel. It’s deadly serious, and it doesn’t just affect the people in those countries. It affects all of us, and it absolutely needs to be a bigger issue.

    I think there are is at least one big reason we study concentration camps and Anne Frank and not Hiroshima in American schools: one is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki force us to confront our (American) involvement and responsibility, and it runs smack up against our feelings of patriotism. We want to believe that the U.S. did the right thing. We want to be able to have unalloyed pride in our nation, especially when it comes to World War II, which has so many and so deep emotional resonances–it was a war it felt like everyone could believe in. And all our rationalizations seem so flimsy in the face of the images and testimonies from the places we dropped the bombs. I don’t want to deny the complexities of the situation, or to place undue blame on any of the individuals involved–God save any of us from ever being in the place to make a decision like that again. But it’s such a difficult situation to grapple with. I think it’s much easier to avoid it.

    The lack of education plays a large part in why people aren’t rallying around this issue as much as others, and it’s related to another part – the distance from the issue, the lack of a sense of immediacy. I was born in 1981, and was old enough to know that the Iron Curtain had fallen, but with no real awareness of what that meant, or the long Cold-War-arms-race-brinksmanship history behind it. I didn’t grow up under fear of nuclear annihilation like my parents did. Half the kids who are college-age now have never even heard of the USSR. It doesn’t feel dangerous, not the way it should. World leaders talk about developing “clean nuclear energy” as if there could be such a thing–as if the radioactive byproducts of nuclear energy aren’t going to contaminate the planet for thousands of years. And people use distancing language like “collateral damage” that makes it sound like it’s not death and destruction on an unparalleled and totally unwarranted scale. It all sounds so much farther away than it really is. And Tyler is right. Causes with faces, like human trafficking and poverty and world hunger, are much easier to relate to, to get emotionally involved in.

    I am looking forward to learning more about the Two Futures Project, and how I can be involved. And I’m glad you wrote this post, Nish. This is something I believe in with all my heart, and I’d like to have more conversation about it.

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    • Beautiful words Sharone. Love your thoughts on this.

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    • Sharone, I’d love to know what school offers this class. It sounds great! Thanks for these comments, which I’m sure help make a seemingly unreal situation feel more real — as it should.

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      • Hi, Tyler. The class was offered in the history department at Claremont Graduate University, the graduate school of the Claremont Colleges, in southern California.

        Also, I’ve been reading through your website (and your comments here), and I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to these issues. Thanks for the work you do.

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  11. “I have to play my part in making our world a little bit less like hell, and a little bit more like heaven.” That is beautiful.

    Also, I think that this is another “pro-life” issue that Christians need to get behind if we’re going to be the lead voices in the anti-abortion world. It’s two-faced double speak if we don’t.

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  12. Josh

    I’m afraid the points I want to bring up will sound agitated and argumentative, so let me say this to begin: God wired me to be something of a natural devil’s advocate, and I tend to be rather blunt about it. Were we speaking over a cup of coffee, I don’t think you would feel as though I were attacking you or your ideas, but in my writing I’m often flatly analytical and fail to convey my intended sense of peaceful discussion and good fellowship. Please forgive any offense, and offer grace?

    I can easily agree with the ideal of a non-nuclear world, but I can’t so easily accept the assumptions and strategies of the disarmament movement. Here’s why:

    1. The very name of the Two Futures Project presents a false dichotomy: that there are only two possible futures – nuclear abolition or nuclear apocalypse. To me, this suggests that the organization has either not thought things through very well, or is being deliberately dishonest in order to make an emotional appeal. There are certainly more than two possible futures, and the two proposed are among the least likely to occur! Please, do understand that the idealist in me would be happy to see nuclear weapons abolished – but the realist in me has had to accept that humanity left the possibility of an ideal world in the Garden of Eden.

    2. In support of comment #1: God’s Word gives us some knowledge about how the world ends, and it doesn’t look much like nuclear apocalypse (Even if you think it does, what’s the point of advocating against the fulfillment of prophecy?) The Mount of Olives does indeed split in half, but that mighty rending comes from the feet of Christ, not a nuclear detonation (Zechariah 14:4). I don’t worry so much about *us* screwing up and destroying the world, because God’s already told us how *He* intends for it to happen.

    3. The evil lies not in the hunk of materials and technology that compose an atomic bomb, but rather in the heart of the one who would detonate it in aggression against innocents. Now, getting rid of *that* evil seems a worthy goal – but once again, we know from Scripture that it will only be accomplished when God Himself renews all things.

    4. To those who are engaging disarmament primarily from a pacifist or pro-life perspective: Do you not have a problem with the fact that the explicitly stated strategy of Two Futures is to “protect life” by a) getting the whole world to dismantle their nuclear weapons, and then b) creating some global authoritarian body with the means and mandate to detect and *kill* anyone who tries to build more? I’m not sure what the moral difference is between coercion by threat of conventional violence and coercion by threat of nuclear violence.

    5. I can’t support creating an armed global police power for any purpose (and yes, I do realize that the USA already functionally is one, and no, I don’t like it. But nobody asked me.) History has repeatedly shown, and current events are confirming, that great power held by a few over many always gets used for the wrong things. Who watches the watchmen? I can *recognize* and *submit* to lawful human powers, but my *trust* is reserved for God alone.

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    • Hi Josh,

      The questions you raise are good ones and totally valid — and, since I named the Two Futures Project, I feel a certain responsibility to tackle them! Given the space, I’ll do so briefly, but if you’re interested in hashing these out, they’re all things that we have addressed (and continue to) as an organization, so check out our website.

      1) First, we don’t think that it is a false dichotomy to talk about two futures. The name indicates the shifted situation from the Cold War, in which a balance of nuclear terror seemed like a viable solution to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. Top former Cold Warriors are now arguing, however, that if nuclear weapons continue to exist, they will eventually be used. This is because a world of nuclear haves and have-nots means the spread of nuclear weapons, which makes their use — by accident, war, or (undeterrable) terrorism — inevitable. But don’t take my word for it: here’s the case by two former secretaries of state, a former secretary of defense, and a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee — two democrats and two republicans.
      http://twofuturesproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/WSJ-opeds.pdf

      2) One of our most important jobs as an organization is separating religious apocalypticism and eschatology from nuclear weapons. Our “two futures” isn’t “God’s end vs. our nuclear apocalypse.” In the end there is just one future and it belongs to the Lord. I don’t think nuclear weapons will bring the world to an end — if they did, the gospel’s promises would be void. But the human race has done horrible things between the cross and the Second Coming, and we’re trying to prevent this particular manifestation of sinfulness. Which takes us to question 3…

      3) Yes. The human heart is deceitful above all things and will not be repaired this side of God’s consummated kingdom. But that recognition actually drives our work, rather than arguing against it. Nuclear technology magnifies the potential impact of human sinfulness to an extraordinary degree. Therefore, it’s a technology that we have a responsibility to control and manage to the best of our ability. And we believe that there’s no way to manage nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 era other than abolition.

      4) You mention that our “explicitly stated strategy” is to protect life via disarmament (which is true) and to create a global authoritarian body to kill anyone who disagrees (which absolutely is not true). I’m not sure where you got the latter idea; if we’ve somehow communicated that, please let me know so I can fix poor wording! Let me say, for the record, that we do NOT advocate anything of the sort. And — sorry to push — it’s just not true that you need this kind of body to achieve nuclear disarmament. Instead, we’d advocate for a multilateral agreement monitored by the parties involved. Exactly what this looks like is a complicated venture, but it’s not as though it’s unprecedented: this is exactly what we’ve done to ban chemical and biological weapons.

      5) I absolutely affirm and agree with your suspicion of power and the threat of authoritarianism/totalitarianism, and would wholeheartedly agree with everything you say in this point.

      I hope this helps, and I promise that we’re not secretly trying for world government or one world religion! We come from a genuine and authentic evangelicalism (I’m primarily Reformed in my thinking, and affirm the Lausanne Covenant) that’s seeking fidelity in light of the best policy analysis about nuclear weapons in this second nuclear age. Thanks for digging into this.

      Reply
      • I think Josh brought up some points that many Christians believe, and may not even acknowledge that they believe. Many of us are trained in eschatology, whatever version our denomination supports, and we end up with this belief that the world is going to crap in the end, anyway.

        So, I feel this tension, and it’s probably due to my bad, under-developed, theology. It’s the same tension I feel when I willfully throw away a 2-liter instead of walk it out to the garage for recycling–this ungodly thought creeps up that God’s going to create a new heaven and a new earth anyway…so…why recycle this time?

        This confession sounds so selfish, I know. And I don’t mean to offend anyone by hinting that recycling is on par with nuclear disarmament. But, I do think that many Christians are exposed to this end-time theology where we fixate on pre-, post- or mid tribulation and what the antichrist will and won’t do, etc–but we’re not trained on the *so-what* of it all.

        Do we believe that God is in the active work of redeeming the world, as creation groans to be released from this evil, or do we believe, without saying so, that God’s coming, will pour out his wrath and will then hit the re-do button after the apocalypse.

        Those are my random thoughts–I obviously need to work through these questions.

        For the record, I do support your work. I love the line, “we’re trying to prevent this particular manifestation of sinfulness.” I was so offended by the response to 9/11–our terminology of “shock and awe” made me livid. There was no sensitivity to the complexities of the culture–the radicals intertwined, living side-by-side with the moderates, who were often casualties of a complicated war. And I still can’t stand ethnocentric [country] songs that reference the Iraqi war in some us-versus-them ignorance (“we lit up your world like the fourth of july”).

        Thank you for your work. Thank you for this conversation.

        Reply
      • Josh

        Tyler,

        My sincere thanks for your having taken the time to address my comment. If I may, let me respond to your responses, and clarify a couple of things:

        1. I don’t disagree that the existence of nuclear weapons poses a danger that they will be used, especially by those who cannot be deterred by threat of retaliation. In such a case, the consequences would indeed be awful, but not necessarily world-ruining. At http://twofuturesproject.org/about, your website states, “We believe that we face two futures and one choice: a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them.” Perhaps I read too much into this statement, but that sounded like “abolition or apocalypse.”

        2. If you’re not, in fact, preaching “abolition or apocalypse,” my objection drops. Thanks for clarifying.

        3. I agree that nuclear weapons can drastically magnify the impact of sinfulness, and I agree that the most desirable scenario for mitigation is abolition. It’s when you get to the “control and manage” part that I begin to get wary. Who controls? Who manages? And by what means?

        4. In your PDF fact sheet, available from http://staging.centresource.com/two-futures/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/factsheet_formatted.pdf, under the “Can you really put the nuclear genie back in the bottle?” heading, the statement is made: “[...] we can control the Bomb because we can control the bomb material – despite human nature. Doing so will be challenging, requiring rigorous international safeguards and a global monitoring system – but it is possible, given the right political will.” And two sentences later: “The conventional might of the world’s nations would easily overwhelm any nation aspiring to nuclear breakout [...] “. That implies the following: that a simple multilateral agreement will not be enough, but active policing will be required (which in turn implies that some entity must have the power and means to accomplish such policing); and that the consequences for defiance will be violent attack by a military force.

        I don’t intend to accuse or imply that you’re conspiring or pushing for global totalitarianism… but I think that’s the natural end state of trying to *enforce* a global ban on anything. Unless you can truly teach the world to sing that perfect harmony (which you can’t), *somebody* is going to act up. And then, somebody else has to show up with guns – or accept that your mission has failed.

        I wish you blessing, and I trust that God has a purpose in the work you’re doing. It just isn’t something I can be passionate about. I can’t see an end state that is both significantly better in all ways than where we are now, and reasonably likely to be accomplished by any human effort.

        Reply
  13. Sherwood MacRae

    I shall never forget the day I stood at “ground zero” in Hiroshima and looked across the vastness that had once been a thriving city and in the stillness of that hour, I thought about those who were no longer there. A bird sang in the distance and I thought of a mother’s heart, mourning for the lost child who had been and was no longer present.

    I had yet to experience the agony of war. Korea was on its way, and when it came I could still recall the weeping woman as now I saw so many, clinging to their children as they hurried out of harm’s way.
    Where were they headed? Only South, away from the terror that was now everywhere.

    “War is Hell”- they tell me those were General Sherman’s words as he too was headed South on an earlier day. Many running from war, another headed into its face.

    “My God, my God,” I pray in vain. Will we never learn.

    “Join me, join them, join someone, somehow, somewhere”. I hear those voices as well, but deep in my heart I know, it will not being in the joining that the opposing forces will cease.

    The reason men go to war and search for weapons that provide them with an advantage in combat is innate. It is not their tendancy to kill. They were born to love. War is – in fact, absurd.

    It is time that we sound the cry – not of the warrior, but of the weeping widow whose only desire in life was to provide it for others. Honor them and you honor God.

    Reply
  14. Dick

    Dear Tyler,

    I was nine years old when I heard my parents talking about some kind of amazing new bomb that had been dropped on two cities in Japan. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I remember my parents amazement. They said that it would make war impossible. I wish they had been right.

    It was a couple of years later — at one of the usual Saturday afternoon movies where we saw two cartoons, a western, and a second feature — when the second feature was “The Beginning or the End”. Probably the movie was primarily intended to be entertaining — another love story with a World War II backdrop. But the World War II backdrop was the making and use of the first atom bomb, and the scene where the Enola Gay drops the bomb made it suddenly clear to me that many thousands of unsuspecting people had been instantly doomed.

    I was too young to grasp the import of Einstein’s famous statement that “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking …”. But I had no doubt that I had lived through a history-changing moment, and I wondered why it had happened during my life time. Would my generation be the last generation?

    And then — except for occasional moments of terror such as the Cuban Missile Crisis — life went on, and the latent peril that Jonathan Schell calls the brooding presence faded out of my consciousness. What brought it back to consciousness was hearing Jonathan Schell in a 2008 television interview recount how Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had come “within an ace” of agreeing to eliminate their nuclear weapons! What an opportunity missed!

    How many more opportunities like that will we have? The people who quietly build these weapons and weapons systems have five- and ten- and twenty-year plans to “modernize” the arsenals. We periodically respond with a burst of effort, and then become distracted and forgetful.

    But I am heartened that I keep encountering more and more people who not only realize the enormous danger of nuclear weapons and the profoundly immoral nature of their use, but also realize that nuclear deterrence does not make us secure, and that nuclear abolition is actually achievable. Tyler, I believe that somewhere you once said of nuclear weapons that “… we must abolish for our safety, we can abolish verifiably, and we should abolish because it is consonant with our deepest values not to threaten indiscriminate destruction. Must-can-should: a powerful triad.” Amen.

    Reply
  15. jim carlin m d

    my dad chaplain james a carlin gace communion to the crew of the enola gay the morning they flew to hirroshima. when he passed i inherited the communion set
    i have struggled with war – radiation – and am comitted to use it to help humanity
    jim carlin m d diagnostic radiologist

    Reply
  16. jim carlin m d

    at age 8 walking over a future camp site in palestine texas with dad
    i said “it’s time for us to disarm” dad said “we’re not ready”
    later i learned he had served communion to the crew of the enola gay.
    the struggle began about nuclear war-disarmament-radiation-&continued
    even after i finished residency in diagnostic radiology
    when i inherited the communion set-the family agreed to return it to
    the world with a dedication- -
    “even in the tragedy of war
    there is hope and faith and
    forgiviness”

    Reply

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