At stake is whether I trust in God or the bomb. In nuclear war there are no winners. I therefore cannot agree that perfecting the bomb and developing the ability to use it first is a basis for my security and well being. It is certainly not an appropriate basis for my faith. … The fashioning of nuclear weapons and threatening to use them is a sin — a sin against God, against God’s likenesses (all humans), and against God’s creation. … Our security as a people of faith lies not in demonic weapons which threaten all life on earth. Our security is in a loving, caring God.
These prophetic words were delivered in a brave and remarkable sermon given by Charles D. Neff to the 1982 Community of Christ World Conference. Neff knew what he was talking about. He was in Hiroshima as a US Naval Officer just a few weeks after the city’s destruction by an atomic bomb. “What I saw there,” he told the conference attendees, “is indelibly etched into my mind, my heart, my soul. The stark reality of death and despair everywhere in Hiroshima in 1945 was indescribable.”
Among the many contentious pieces of legislation that the Community of Christ faces at its upcoming 2010 World Conference is G-11, “Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” from the Central USA Mission Center. I believe this will be a key test of whether the church is moving toward becoming a peace church, something I have expressed doubts about on this blog.
The proposed legislation resolves “That Community of Christ calls for abolition of all nuclear weapons throughout Earth and space” and outlines a variety of ways the church can be involved in campaigning against nuclear weapons, particularly in the run-up to the upcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference in New York next month.
Whether you agree with banning nuclear weapons or not, one has to admit that a church that can’t take a stance against nuclear weapons can hardly call itself a peace church. Nuclear weapons fly in the face of Just War Doctrine, as they are the most indiscriminate and disproportionate weapon imaginable. There is no way they could possibly meet the Just War tradition’s requirement that military’s maintain ‘just conduct‘ in war. A church that cannot commit itself to a basic stance of Just War, nevermind pacifism and nonviolence, in my view, has no business pretending to be a peace church. Either drop the label of peace church or face the hard choices that implies — including giving up an attachment to nuclear weapons.
Throwing its lot in with the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons would speak loud and clear that the church truly has faith in the ‘peace of Jesus Christ’ rather than the bomb.