It’s worth noting that the original context of engagement of the ecumenical movement by figures like Paul Ramsey and Ernest Lefever (two voices that figure prominently in my book, Ecumenical Babel) had much to do with foreign policy and the Cold War, and specifically the question of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Last week marked the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and today is the anniversary of the Nagasaki detonation. As ENI reports (full story after the break), the ecumenical advocacy against nuclear weapons has not abated since the 1960s.

The question of nuclear weapons is a complex one, that involves distinctions between ius ad bellum and ius in bello, strategic and tactical nuclear devices, and combatants and non-combatants. Kishore Jayabalan has also made the case that we also need to distinguish between different kinds of regimes.

It may well be that the question of nuclear weapons is analogous to the question of capital punishment: the government might well have the theoretical right to prosecute it, but given the practical limitations of human fallibility, there may be no morally-sound way to practically implement it.

As Paul Ramsey wrote of the nuclear question in 1967, however, the position that it is acceptable to possess the weapons only on the condition that they never be used is incoherent:

The actuality of deterrence depends upon a credible belief, mutually shared, that one might use a nuclear weapon. If the government of one of the great powers were persuaded by the churches never to be willing to use any nuclear weapon under any circumstances, and this were known, there would be instantly no deterrence and therefore no practical problem of finding a way out. Likewise, the morality of deterrence depends upon it not being wholly immoral for a government ever to use an atomic weapon under any circumstances.

Nuclear weapons about values, says pastor who survived Hiroshima

By Hisashi Yukimoto
Tokyo, 4 August (ENI)–A Japanese pastor who became a Christian after surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima says his decades-long pursuit of peace has involved a resistance to “nuclear weapons in the human mind”.

In his autobiography published in May, the 82-year-old pastor, the Rev. Shouzo Munetou, of the United Church of Christ in Japan, writes that nuclear weapons are “a symbol of the devil that was produced by egoism, greed, pride, conceit, enmity, hatred”.

Munetou contracted leukaemia after being affected by radiation from the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 in the closing days of the Second World War. This led to him questioning why he had survived and what life meant to him.

“The problem of nuclear weapons is not only a matter of weapons, science and technology, but also a matter of human existence, values, way of life, and thoughts that do not fear God,” Munetou told ENInews.

The United States is to be represented this year, for the first time, at the commemoration of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos, is to attend the event, as well as diplomats from Britain and France.

It is believed that at least 150 000 people died as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima and the dropping of another atomic bomb three days later on the city of Nagasaki.

After surviving the bombing and the radiation, Munetou became a Christian and then resolved to train to be a pastor. He studied in Tokyo and San Francisco, where he wrote his master’s theses on the apostle Paul’s understanding of human sin, and on the relationship between Church and State in the writings of Karl Barth, a Swiss Protestant theologian.

“The beginning of my steps as a pastor for 50 years has been simply these two master’s theses, that is, the issue of human sin and forgiveness and what the social mission of one who has been forgiven is,” he writes in his book.

Munetou says the atomic bombing was “a result of a war of aggression and colonial rule in Asia by Japanese militarism, which cannot be talked about without a deep repentance as one who supported and cooperated with causing the war of aggression”.

He has been actively involved in peace movements and Christian actions to promote world peace, and has written several books on peace and Christianity.

Munetou said the world church “has an obligation and a responsibility to continue to say ‘No!’ without any ‘Yes’ to nuclear weapons that are against humanity and the absolute evil that plunges humanity into ruin and is incompatible with Christian faith”.

  • Patrick

    Consider 180 million dead from totalitarian governments in the last century or so. Throw in a few hundred million more from abortion and abortifacients encouraged or permitted by governments then the nuclear threat seems trivial almost irrelevant.
    True a few hundred thousands died in the atomic blasts in Japan, but this must be contrasted with the expected 2 million fatalities expected to be incurred with an invasion of Japan. Was the Allied strategy worth the fatalities, or should Japan have been permitted to maintain its culture?
    In my mind, the debate about nuclear weapons is gun control on steroids. The real issues remain cultural and the conditions that lead to armed conflict.