This essay contains a section entitled “Where the Battle Once Raged: a Survey of Political Carnage.” In that section, he surveyed the process by which the Church came to endorse the use of nuclear weapons.
He starts with a quote: “[E]verything was so changed that I was utterly amazed. As far as I could see, almost every building was destroyed and in flames. There were people whose skin was peeling off, leaving their bodies red and raw. They were screaming pitifully, and others were already dead. The street was so covered with the dead, the seriously injured, groaning, and collapsed buildings that we couldn’t get through. I didn’t know what to do, then to the west I saw flames coming nearer” (90).
That testimony came from Hisato Itoh. In 1945 he was in the fifth grade, living in Hiroshima, when American soldiers attacked his city with the first atomic bomb ever used in war. George wants the words of Hisato to stand as a warning. “If we fail to heed this warning, the future will surely be an enlargement of the past…Let [these words] disclose the meaning of every relentless preparation for nuclear war” (90).
When Harry Truman received the news that his soldiers had successfully used that first atomic weapon, he turned to those near him and boasted, “This is the greatest thing in history.” As President of the United States, Harry was the one who had ordered subordinates to use the bomb. He then promised the Japanese more of the same. He ordered a second atomic attack, this one against the people of Nagasaki, three days after the first.
At the same time, Harry was also an active Christian. One might marvel that he didn’t think Jesus Christ was the greatest thing in history. Let’s think about this for a minute.
In absolute contrast to these six false gods stands Jesus Christ: the one true god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality.
Each human being has two distinct personalities: one, an Olympian personality organized around the six conventional if false gods of power; the other, a Christian personality organized around Jesus the one true God/man of freedom. In truth, our Christian personality is always stronger and it alone has a bright future. In reality, our Olympianity personality is almost always stronger even though it is doomed to destruction.
Please note that every human being has both an Olympian and a Christian personality. Every Olympian has a Christian personality; every Christian, an Olympian one. At any given moment, it’s simply but always a question of priority.
The fact that he was an active Christian meant that he understood Jesus in Olympian terms. It also meant that his church did the same. We may understand a church which so confuses Jesus with the false gods of Olympianity as a conventional church. We may understand those who participate in it as conventional Christians, Christian Olympians, Olympians with a Christian flavor.
Once used, atomic weapons “would then be refined and stockpiled with overriding Christian consent…Even today, the Christian community cannot bring itself to enter into unequivocal opposition to a depraved reliance on nuclear threats. Thus, after we contemplate the once and future nuclear carnage, we must also grapple with an overwhelming spiritual collapse” (91).
I like to use the word “spiritual” to mean “relational” in terms of the six false gods or of Jesus. As churches, we devote ourselves primarily to either the Olympian gods or to Jesus. The spiritual collapse which George mentions, then, would be the devotion of the Church of Jesus Christ to Mars, Jupiter, and the other Olympian gods. Even worse, it would be the complete lack of discernment by Christians that they do in fact worship the Olympian gods and not Jesus.
“The prevailing sense seems to be that, if the demands of biblical morality contradict the dictates of national security, so much the worse for biblical morality. Thus, even the minimalist logic of the just-war theory has vanished from popular consciousness…No longer is there any awareness that it would be better to suffer wrong than to commit mass murder, and that even the very threat to commit mass murder, backed by convincing preparations,  is intrinsically and monstrously evil. The moral incapacitation of the Christian community in the nuclear era is a sign of grievous defeat” (91-2).
George writes, “if the demands of biblical morality contradict the dictates of national security, so much the worse for biblical morality.” Let’s clarify that statement a little more. As prophetic witnesses to Jesus today, we seek each day to discern and affirm the words of truth he speaks to us. These words are always consistent with the words he spoke yesterday to his biblical witnesses. Political rulers, always devoted primarily to Jupiter, god of politics, as well as the other Olympian gods, happily define and demand how they want us to understand “national security”; that is, their own security and that of their cronies. Today, they have an easy time of this because even Christians, or people who think of themselves as devoted to Jesus, are nonetheless devoted to Jupiter just like they are. Consequently, Christians remain entirely blind to any meaningful difference between “biblical morality” and “national security.” They remain entirely blind to the difference between what Jesus is telling them and what Jupiter and his minions are saying.
“Thus, even the minimalist logic of the just-war theory has vanished from popular consciousness.” George rightly calls it “minimalist logic” because the just-war theory itself is a tragic compromise of obedience to Jesus. Armed with this theory, Christians are able, with a good conscience, to stop being faithful witnesses to Jesus. They can happily blend going to church on Sundays with devoting themselves to Mars and the other Olympian gods even on Sundays. But as George said in another context, when Jesus isn’t supreme, he is soon no longer necessary. With the just-war theory, Jesus lost supremacy to Mars even in his Church. With atomic weapons, his living presence and sharp words were soon not even welcomed there. Instead, his nominal witnesses today theologically justify preparations for nuclear war which are “intrinsically and monstrously evil.”
It begins by affirming anew (each day) that, through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us right with God, all other human beings, and the rest of creation. He’s already done it. As witnesses to Jesus Christ, he calls us to live like it.
One way we live like it is to love others as he does—including people whose dominant Olympian personalities regard us as their enemies. This is hard. Our Christian personalities can’t do it alone. It takes the Holy Spirit. Happily, she burns brightly in our hearts.
Another way to live it: saying a quiet yet clear, joyful yet persistent, no to all wars by refusing to worship Mars the god of war. That means providing no supposedly Christian justifications for any wars past or present whether nuclear or not. No more justifications for the unending appetite of Mars for more and more human sacrifices.
Our mission as Christians is to share this always Good News with the many people in our lives. No more hiding it under a basket! Jesus is especially keen to have us share this Good News with people who understand themselves to be Christians. Let’s help them to clarify their witness, with all gentleness, to the light, love, and life that are ours—and everyone’s—by God’s grace. And let’s choose to do this knowing that, even by doing so with all gentleness, we run the real risk of being ignored, ridiculed, or attacked by them and losing their friendship.
As prophetic witnesses to Jesus Christ, we know that he is the truth who sets us free to love others and leads all of us together into fullness of life. Let’s work persistently, with at least one other local prophetic witness, to share Christ’s no to war and yes to life—for our good and his glory.
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