It's Nagasaki Day: Have Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un noticed?
There's a bleak synchronicity in today's news. North Korea is threatening to 'turn the US mainland into a theatre of nuclear war'. The move came after Donald Trump threatened Pyongyang with 'fire and fury' after it promised to make the US 'pay a price' after the latest sanctions. The world has probably not been closer to nuclear war for decades. Given the temperaments of the two men responsible for the crisis, no one can see a good outcome.
And today is the anniversary of the destruction of Nagasaki, the act that brought the Second World War to a close. It doesn't have the resonance of Hiroshima Day – everyone knows August 6 – but it is if anything an even more poignant memory for Christians. The poignancy comes from the location of ground zero: it was close to the Urakami Cathedral, which was packed with worshippers, all of whom were killed. They were the descendants of the Hidden Christians who had preserved their faith through centuries of persecution, now exterminated by the weaponry of a Christian nation.
As the priest who blessed the bomb confessed to film-maker Michael Moore: 'Nagasaki was a Catholic city, the only majority Christian city in Japan. The pilot of the plane was a Catholic. And we obliterated the lives of forty thousand fellow Catholics, seventy-three thousand in all. There were three orders of nuns in Japan, all based in Nagasaki. Every last one of them was vaporized. Not a single nun from any of the three orders was alive. And I blessed that.'
Arguments about whether it was right to use the bomb continue to rage. The only consensus is that it was a terrible, terrible thing that must never be repeated. What has driven the proliferation of nuclear weapons since then is not the desire to use them, but the fear that they will be used. What has prevented their use is a balance between fear and trust.
Now that balance is in doubt, on both sides. Neither Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump can be trusted to say exactly what they mean, and each feels genuinely – and rightly – threatened by the other.
The consequence could be the deaths of millions.
If ever there was a day for stepping back and looking at the lessons of the past, it's today. And it shouldn't need saying, but for a Christian pastor to encourage President Trump to use 'whatever means necessary – including war' against North Korea on the basis of a biblical text, as Robert Jeffress has done, is nothing less than abhorrent.
On today of all days, Christians should not be encouraging nuclear war. We should be resisting the rhetoric that provides simplistic solutions to complex situations. We should be reminding pulpit and armchair warriors that the 'enemy' are children of God, infinitely precious to him, not counters in an ideological board game.
Trump, and Kim, don't need encouragment to act rashly. They need restraint. If diplomacy fails now, the world will be blighted for generations. Now, if ever, Christians should be peacemakers.
Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods