Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hiroshima, Nagasaki - and the wussiness of American Christians

65 years ago the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the civilian population of Hiroshima on August 6 and on Nagasaki on the 9th, three days later. Americans generally approve, although the rest of the world feels differently.

There are some remarkable theological implications in some of the details.

The Christian churches these past 1600 years or so have celebrated August 6, celebrated by the US with the Hiroshima bomb, as the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus was transfigured before his apostles and was too bright to look at. The Nagasaki bomb on August 9 targeted Saint Mary's Cathedral, built by the city's Christians in 1917 after the end of 250 years of persecution. The first bomb, exploded the month before in the New Mexico desert called Jornada del Muerte ("Journey of the Dead"), was named Trinity.

These guys were certainly not afraid to identify themselves and their works with God himself, even destroying Hiroshima on the very day that commemorates the brilliance of Jesus - making their new toy equal to it.

The common excuse for this deed, which was clearly meant to show something to Stalin, is the lives saved by avoiding an invasion. There are several objections to this argument, many noted at the time, and well understood by men like Dwight Eisenhower.

In the first place, no invasion was going to be necessary. Like all others at the time, the Japanese armed forces ran on petroleum, which they could count on not getting. Without petroleum, tanks don't roll, artillery can't be positioned, and soldiers don't get around. You go around them, as MacArthur did to the Japanese garrison at New Britain, and they can do nothing about it. MacArthur had already proven in the Pacific campaign how to defeat Japanese forces with very low casualties, although other commanders at Iwo Jima and Okinawa proved that they could still make it very expensive by not doing it MacArthur's way.

Moreoever, the Japanese were most afraid of the Soviet Union coming into the war, especially since the Red Army had given them a severe thrashing in 1939 and had become far more capable since. That happened on August 8, 90 days after the German surrender, just as the Soviet Union had agreed, and on the day before the Americans bombed Nagasaki.

This pattern of justifying abominable conduct with foolish fears has persisted. They killed 3 million Vietnamese on the basis that the Communists were going to take over the world if they conquered South Vietnam. They have murdered over a million Iraqis and driven several million more from their homes based on various lies, and on fantastic speculations that Saddam Hussein was going to send drones and nuclear bombs into the United States. They continue and expand a war in Afghanistan based on similarly false and deceitful national security arguments, as though bankrupting our own nation in order to invade and oppress others so that they must resist as we would will somehow make us safer. What part of "crime does not pay" do the American people not understand? Why don't Christians realize that this love of being lied to is evidence of deep spiritual depravity and alienation from the life of God?

And then there is the now well developed habit of nuclear war without explosions that the United States has made routine over the years since Hiroshima. The Hiroshima bomb used 140 pounds of uranium. The United States has used many thousands of tons of depleted uranium in Iraq, burned to fine powder so that people breathe it in. So should we be surprised that the cancers and ghastly birth defects in Fallujah since the Marines trashed the city in 2004 occur at a far higher rate than they did in Hiroshima after the bombing?

For Christians, who know that the nations do what they do, none of this is especially shocking in itself. The Assyrians, and often the Romans, often behaved even more abominably. Our problem is that professing Christians are foremost in excusing these abominations and worshiping the empire that does them. Instead of being the light of the world, so-called Christians are foremost in advocating such violence, fulfilling in our day what is written, "From the prophets of Jerusalem uncleanness has gone forth into all the earth," and again, "The name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you."

Jesus has called those who follow him the light of the world. Instead, we have arrogantly boasted of being so these past 400 years while being utterly in love with this world so as to identify with the worst of its abominations. Is that following Jesus, being his disciples? If we swallow with delight the camels of mass murder, plunder, and cruel oppression that the world around us has routinely committed since the massacre of the Pequots in 1637 and the enslavement of African slaves at the same time, and worship the flag that waves over such deeds, is it any marvel that such throats easily accommodate the gnats of sexual immorality and other acts of personal worldliness that Christians are so faithfully conformed to, even as our knickers are constantly in a twist over them? If we love the cruelty and domination of aggressive war, can we expect to resist the same cruelty and domination in pornography? Should we be amazed that the immune systems of evangelical Christian men resemble those of AIDS patients, when it comes to pornography?

Can anyone imagine Jesus or the prophets putting their hands on their hearts and affirming the nobility and sinlessness of any nation state in their own days, pledging allegiance to them, as American Christians do to one of the most bombastic and licentious nations that the world has ever seen? Is it Jeremiah that such Christians resemble, or the false prophets that called him a traitor and kept telling the kings and people of Judah how God was on their side no matter what they did?

If we live in such darkness, so full of zeal for Jesus and so full of contempt for what he says in our Bibles, then Jesus says, "How great is that darkness!" If this is how we live and think, why shouldn't the world around us be in ever deeper darkness, and why should that change if we won't?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very good. The only flaw is that even an Atheist can say this. To send to the Lutheran churches in
Peyton I had in mind soemthing that would show that the author really knows what the bible says. With lots of verse coordinates.

8/20/2010 5:09 AM  

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