Community of Christ President Steve Veazey has a new blog and has been posting reflections on his experiences visiting the city of Hiroshima:
The scenes at the Peace Memorial Museum will haunt me for the rest of my life, as they certainly should. May I never forget them. If enough people could see what we saw and feel what we felt our mindset would change. We would do whatever is necessary to ensure that nuclear weapons (which a many, many times more powerful today) would never be used again for the sakes of all of our children and grandchildren.
Veazey’s thoughts remind me of the following comments made by the late Charles D. Neff in a 1982 World Conference sermon, in which he called on the church to take a courageous stand against nuclear weapons:
My friends, I was in Hiroshima just a few weeks after an atomic bomb was dropped from an American military airplane onto that city. What I saw and felt there is indelibly etched into my mind, my heart, my soul. The stark reality of death and despair everywhere in Hiroshima in 1945 is indescribable.
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.”
Over the last several years, mission and outreach have become major emphases within the Community of Christ. I must admit I often feel quite uncomfortable with this. Missionaries have a long history of collaboration with imperialism and have a record of insensitivity to cultures other than their own. I am not always convinced that we, who often have difficulty defining precisely what we are and believe, have something so much better to offer than other cultures and religions.
Indeed, stripped of all political correctness, the job of a missionary is to go tell people that they are wrong and that they must change the way they think and act. This holds incredible potential for arrogance – at its root is a belief that the missionary knows better than the potential convert how to live one’s life. Unsurprisingly, this does not jibe very well with the notion of a pluralistic society, in which diverse cultures and faiths are tolerated, celebrated and encouraged to thrive.
One way to think about this issue is to look at the different approaches to mission that were expressed in the work of Charles D. Neff, one of the Community of Christ’s most prominent missionaries from the early 1960s to 1980s. I believe his work in Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Liberia and Kenya has rich potential for teaching the Community of Christ how to interact with people of different faiths and cultures. His understandings of mission evolved over his career through at least five different models: