A Christian Voice Argues for Banning Nuclear Weapons
Atomic weapons make for bad security and bad theology, evangelical activist Tyler Wigg-Stevenson argues
Even if the "New START" nuclear arms reduction treaty is ratified by the
Arms control isn't a particularly hot-button issue. Why now?
For two decades, there hasn't been a robust public discussion about the future of nuclear security and about what we are supposed to do with this legacy of the Cold War. Among members of the evangelical community, there was a reflexive Cold War-era, anti-Communist attitude that led them to be much more cautious in opposing nuclear weapons than folks who were further to the left on the political spectrum. But all the political rationales that prevented evangelicals from opposing a reduction in nuclear weapons are no longer in play. There are quite legitimate questions about the credibility of the goal of nuclear disarmament: Is it possible? How can we pursue the goal of zero? How can we secure
Why should religious people care?
We're talking about a massive loss of life, massive destruction of the environment, and massive financial damage that would disproportionately impact the poor and would be an almost unimaginable blow to the rule of law and justice. All of these are things that evangelicals care passionately about. You don't need to be an evangelical to believe in the horrors of a nuclear attack, but these dangers are all things that are near and dear to the heart of the evangelical community. I've found an astonishing welcome to ideas about nuclear disarmament from national evangelical leaders.
Are supporters younger or older?
There's a receptivity across the political spectrum, but the real zeal comes from evangelicals 40 years old and younger. There's a sense of blessing from the older leaders, but the ones really moving the ball forward on this are younger Christians who say that the 21st century is not one that's going to be secured by nuclear weapons.
Why do you say that the threat is rising?
The nuclear deterrent is like a stone arch where the two sides hold each other up but there is always the danger of collapse. This is the way in which we configured the Cold War. I don't see that working in a multipolar world, where nations like
Nuclear deterrence has worked for decades. Can't it continue?
No, it can't. The unique privilege asserted by the nuclear powers will lead to proliferation, and proliferation will inevitably get us closer to use -- be it by accident or on purpose. The probability that nuclear weapons will be used then approaches 100 percent. Having nuclear weapons to preclude their use undermines efforts at nonproliferation. It's a nonfunctioning and self-defeating strategy. And I'm not the only one saying it. Those are also the arguments made by
[Read John Kerry's Approving the New START Treaty Keeps America Safe v. Jim DeMint's New START Treaty Weakens U.S. National Security on the New START Treaty]
Is there a theological justification for fielding a hydrogen bomb?
I've heard two common justifications. Some argue for a Christian/American exceptionalism, that God has a plan for America and that there is a righteousness to anything that
What about the argument that the threat of nuclear weapons has limited the scope of wars since 1945?
For the sake of argument, let's say that nuclear weapons have limited the size of wars. There could also be other equally important factors. We've built global finance, for instance, that could serve the same deterrent functions. We don't need the threat of nuclear weapons to deter us from going to war with
How do you reconcile the America that claims to be very faithful, yet supports nuclear weapons?
There's a strong tradition of moral pragmatism in America. We think that if something works, then it is right. In light of our calling for disarmament, it makes sense to oppose us if you believe that we're a bunch of religious zealots sacrificing national security on the altar of morality. But on this issue, there's an intersection of idealism with pragmatism, where you have realists -- like Shultz, Nunn, Kissinger and the rest -- saying that moving toward zero will make us more secure. It's also the right thing to do from a moral perspective. But we are not going to get there without a core of people who are morally driven by the belief that nuclear disarmament is needed for our national soul.
Is it a failure of the church that most Americans don't object to the continued presence of nuclear weapons?
It is a failure of the American church to not examine the fullest ramifications of what it means to be a Christian. We are all too happy to entrust our eternal security to God. But when it comes to our national security, we think he needs a helping hand with a hydrogen bomb? That's simply appalling theology.
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A Christian Voice Argues for Banning Nuclear Weapons
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