Monday, 4 March 2013

As I See It - Awfulness and Humility: Reflection on Nuclear Weapons

Photo: Alan Gerard
When the awfulness of nuclear weapons is contemplated, the depth of the matter is great. There are so many bad consequences: not only if used, but even from their possession. Persons of faith see blasphemy; the wonderful work of a good creator abused and so much suffering too.

The Christian, brought up sharp by the incredible sacrifice of Christ and therefore aware of the amazing love of the Father, prays. Some, realising nuclear horror is not God’s will, also consider what they might prayerfully do. Not that they themselves may be completely successful (ultimate achievement is for God) but because they have been asked to act in the world. This was how Christian campaigning against nuclear weapons began.

The basic argument is simple: nuclear weapons are immoral, even if they are held ‘only to deter’, because intention to use them must be beyond doubt. Otherwise there is no deterrence. This means that those who countenance them (though most do not realise this) have murder in their hearts. Unrecognised maybe, but still murder, since these weapons are so indiscriminate.

This hidden, internal cancer could be pervading whole societies. As Richard T. McSorley, SJ, said in “Peacemaking Day by Day” (Pax Christi, USA) :

“The taproot of violence in our society is our intent to use nuclear weapons. Once we have agreed to that, all other evil is minor by comparison. Until we squarely face the question of our consent to use nuclear weapons, any hope of large scale improvement of public morality is doomed to failure.”

As well as not realising what lies in one’s heart, I guess it is also possible to choose to ignore or to adopt denial almost subconsciously. After all, this can be a difficult matter to face up to because the desire for ‘protection’ strongly beckons. (You’ll notice I’ve placed the word ‘protection’ in inverted commas to distinguish it from our real protection.) Whatever the reason, those who campaign against nuclear weapons can easily find themselves swimming against an ignoring tide of refusal. They can experience some cold-shouldering and avoidance of relevant discussion. Even if they are church members, they may feel they are held rather at arms-length and have to ‘go it alone’.

Other sections of ‘Justice and Peace’, such as giving to charity to alleviate suffering, attract approval much more easily. Contrastingly, the person who takes a step further and works to try to right the things that can cause suffering, runs the risk of being labeled ‘political’. Of course, there is a spiritual remedy. Those who find themselves distanced and unapproved can, in humility, place their isolation alongside the separation that Christ himself felt. He can give them the strength to speak and act in the right way.

Michael Pulham (Heathfield with Burwash Parish)

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