Special Report

Christians & Nukes

Naïve disarmers are throwing their weight around.

By 6.29.14

UPI
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Several U.S. Catholic bishops in March visited Iran to parley with ayatollahs and other Islamic authorities of that theocracy. In June they issued a joint resulting statement extolling their abhorrence of weapons of mass destruction.

“Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction,” their interfaith declaration announced. “Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.”

Obviously the Catholic-Shia concord had the long international controversy over Iran’s nuclear program chiefly in mind. The statement omits one singularly important point. Nowhere in the world are Catholic prelates presiding over a nuclear weapons program. The clerics in Iran, in contrast, are the iron-fisted rulers of their nation. And it is they who have promulgated Iran’s nuclear program. Their pious public rhetoric against nukes can easily shift to accommodate any future decision by themselves to weaponize and deploy.

Perhaps a generous interpretation of the Catholic bishops’ accord with Iran’s ayatollahs is that they sought to place the Islamist clerics further on record for posterity and to embolden any future domestic opposition in Iran. The 1975 Helsinki Accord joined the U.S. and democratic Europe with the Soviets and their client states in mutual obligation towards human rights. The Soviet Bloc of course had no real interest in human rights, and the West looked naive pretending otherwise. But the Helsinki Accords did encourage Soviet Bloc dissidents to demand adherence by their masters to the human rights they had promised to uphold.

Let’s hope this long range view is at least partly what the Catholic bishops had in mind when conferring with Iran’s unsavory theocrats. Reputedly the Catholic Church thinks in terms of centuries, not just the moment.

U.S. Evangelicals are far less renowned for thinking long term, much less geopolitically. A U.S. representative for the World Evangelical Alliance was recently at the United Nations regretting that Americans are not more enthusiastic about complete nuclear disarmament, as the Christian Post reported.

“In the U.S. there is a very large lack of understanding,” the Evangelical rep explained. “…We are just not educated. We are ignorant on this issue. I am convinced that if we could educate our constituents in the U.S, particularly those in the younger generation, we will change the equation.” She also complained of the high costs of nuclear weapons, without acknowledging that nukes comprise a small percentage of U.S. military spending and are generally cheaper than alternative conventional forces, hence U.S. and Western reliance on them during the Cold War, when the West was unwilling to match the Soviets in spending on conventional forces.

A fellow panelist with the Evangelical rep at the UN argued that nukes violate the Golden Rule because they aren’t shared equally with everybody. “The idea that some states would say that these weapons are good for us but others can’t have them is absolutely a violation of the most fundamental principle of treating others the way you want to be treated. Either the weapons are good for everyone or good for nobody,” insisted this one purported expert.

This religion themed anti-nuke talk at the UN showcased why U.S. religionists, when addressing national security and strategic issues, often are justifiably not taken seriously. Security, which is the chief purpose of the state, as defined by traditional Christian teaching, is not about obtusely interpreting the Golden Rule to mean weapons must be shared equally.

Security is about deterring aggression, and the deterrer must outgun and intimidate the aggressors. For 70 years the U.S. has been the deterrer in chief, upholding an approximate global peace, thanks to its unrivaled military power, which includes nukes. This American sustained global peace has facilitated unrivaled global economic growth and the greatest amelioration of poverty in humanity’s history, accompanied by unparalleled increasing human longevity and human health.

The overwhelming preponderance of American power may not be fair, according to a theologically trite interpretation of the Golden Rule. But it is profoundly moral and good, indeed providential, to the extent it restrains and intimidates rogue tyrannies like Iran and North Korea, not to mention a rising power like China, while allowing billions of persons to live and thrive under its benevolent umbrella.

Weapons are not themselves immoral. Their purposes are moral or immoral, depending on intent and consequence. Nukes for Iran’s psychopathic ayatollahs so they can further empower their nasty theocracy would be profoundly immoral. The U.S. strategic umbrella, on which scores of peaceful nations depend, is not immoral, which most religious Americans, unlike some of their purported representatives, innately understand.

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About the Author

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth CenturyYou can follow him on Twitter @markdtooley.