The Scope of the Problem
The crimes against humanity that are occurring in the Ukraine and the increased threat of a nuclear holocaust suggests the quote from George Orwell; “if the war didn’t kill you, it was bound to start you thinking”. Well, all the misery and threats of the past weeks have started me thinking. As I stated last week all war is a crime against humanity, as the violence can never be contained, and the innocent suffer the most. This is exponentially true of a nuclear exchange, as the “collateral damage” is all of humanity. The scenario would according to an article on the web site Our World in Data would go something like this:
The shockwave and heat that the detonation of a single nuclear weapon creates can end the lives of millions of people immediately. But even larger is the devastation that would follow a nuclear war.
The first reason for this is nuclear fallout. Radioactive dust from the detonating bombs rises up into the atmosphere and spreads out over large areas of the world from where it falls down and causes deadly levels of radiation.
The second reason is less widely known. But this consequence – ‘nuclear winter’ and the worldwide famine that would follow – is now believed to be the most serious consequence of nuclear war.
Cities that are attacked by nuclear missiles burn at such an intensity that they create their own wind system, a firestorm: hot air above the burning city ascends and is replaced by air that rushes in from all directions. The storm-force winds fan the flames and create immense heat.
From this firestorm large columns of smoke and soot rise up above the burning cities and travel all the way up to the stratosphere. There it spreads around the planet and blocks the sun’s light. At that great height – far above the clouds – it cannot be rained out, meaning that it will remain there for years, darkening the sky and thereby drying and chilling the planet.
The nuclear winter that would follow a large-scale nuclear war is expected to lead to temperature declines of 20 or even 30 degrees Celsius (60–86° F) in many of the world’s agricultural regions – including much of Eurasia and North America. Nuclear winter would cause a ‘nuclear famine’. The world’s food production would fail and billions of people would starve.
True enough all of this makes these weapons unattractive; I mean what use is a weapon that will destroy you as well as your enemy? That does not mean that a state actor backed into a corner or miscalculating cannot or will not use these weapons. Then there is the ever-present possibility of an error, as the number of “close calls” that the above article lists makes clear. So, the problem is real and as one of the leaders of the anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero said “if nuclear deterrence fails once, it fails forever”. So, there is the problem. That is about as stark a choice as anyone could have, existence or not. As Christians the choice is even starker, how could we even think of allowing a situation in which all God’s creation and all his children could be destroyed by human hands. There could not be a more clear-cut example of humanity turning its back on everything that our Lord has given us.
All of this means that there is an inherent immorality to the use and even the possession of nuclear weapons. The possession and threatened use of these weapons also creates an inherent instability. The threat of global destruction has not stopped the carnage in Ukraine, it has only vastly elevated the stakes in the event of a miscalculation. Therefore, there is only one response for anyone who cares about the survival of humanity: the complete and total elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere.
What Is Global Zero?
Global Zero is a group formed in 2008 in Paris, that is dedicated to the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons from the planet, with a target date of 2045. In their words:
Since its launch in Paris in 2008, Global Zero has grown to include hundreds of eminent political, military and civic leaders and hundreds of thousands of engaged citizens globally. By combining cutting-edge policy analysis, backchannel diplomacy, media outreach and public engagement, we’re blazing a trail for governments to follow — one that leads to the lasting peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
Their plan may sound unrealistic but consider that 40 years ago there were 70,300 nuclear weapons on the planet and today there are 12,705. If reductions are possible, then so is elimination. If these reductions occurred during the height of the Cold War, then we can further reduce them even in today’s tense climate.
The plan of this movement is not utopian, but rather rooted in a clear step-by-step movement to zero nuclear weapons worldwide. Global Zero offers a four-step process to the elimination of these weapons. Phase 1 would have the U.S. and Russia agree to cut nuclear stockpiles to 650 deployed warheads with a cap of 450 reserve warheads each. This would be accomplished in direct talks with all nuclear armed powers and would include a signed “No-First-Use” Treaty, prohibiting the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.
Phase 2 would see the U.S., Russia and China cut their stockpiles to 300 “off-alert” warheads each and all other nuclear armed nations agree to not exceed this limit. This phase would also see universal fuel cycle safeguards, and enhanced monitoring and verification methods to ensure compliance.
Phase 3 sees all nuclear armed states negotiate and ratify the Global Zero Accords. This would be a binding international treaty that removes all nuclear weapons from military service within two years of treaty signatures and the destruction of all such weapons by 2045.
Phase 4 would see the erection of an internationally run verification and monitoring program. This would be confirmed by constant surveillance and on-site, no-notice inspections. This would continue forever.
Obviously, the first thing is to reduce the potential flash points around the globe. This means a negotiated settlement in the Ukraine, and a restarting of the Iranian nuclear agreement, as a starting point. While this is not easily accomplished, it is possible. What should give us all hope is that the other side is not full of some group of “demons”. These are flesh and blood humans, just a terrified and horrified of the prospects of a nuclear exchange as we should be.
This is not pie in the sky stuff. This is not unilateral disarmament. This is not asking anyone to “go first”. This is a joint, coordinated, simultaneous effort to reduce and then eliminate all nuclear weapons AT THE SAME TIME. It might not happen, but it certainly will not if we don’t ask. “Knock and the door will be opened for you” (Matt 7:7).
What is most urgently needed is a concerted effort by people of good will that want to see the continuation of humanity. Forefront in that effort should be people of faith.
The Plea and The Pledge
At this point I am explicitly pleading and begging for the followers of Jesus to act. Yes, I understand that our first goal is to bring people to Christ. But as the famous song Eve of Destruction said, “there’s no one to save with the world in a grave”. Maybe the world ends in a nuclear conflagration, but then again, maybe God himself has other plans and we should not end like we started, by acting like God.
Yes, the first thing for the faithful is to believe. Then comes the obedience. We must respond in faith to the gifts of God’s Grace upon Grace. I am suggesting that first and foremost is the continuation of God’s creation. All other issues pale in comparison. In fact, none of the other issues can be discussed with the earth a smoldering husk. To build and uplift the human community, in the name of God, that community must still exist. After a nuclear war, it will not. I will not criticize anyone for any act of service they perform. The need is always endless and different people are called to different ministry. Additionally, we can as a species walk and chew gum at the same time. We can address more than one need at once. In fact, many of these issues are intertwined. Like the use of the Federal Reserve to prop up the war machine.
What I am pleading for is to put this issue front and center. The abominations that are occurring in the Ukraine and the deeply irresponsible actions by all parties in the run up to this crime should bring into sharp focus the need to prioritize our need for nuclear disarmament.
It starts with faith. It continues with rationally and humanely looking at what we need to do to honor the gifts God has given us. Not slaughtering the entire human race at once seems to me to be top of the list. Placing ourselves completely in the service of the Prince of Peace is to respond to our gift of faith in such a way as to live out our faith in ways that are profoundly meaningful. This is not about my own mortality, and it should not be about any one person’s mortality. If I die tomorrow, by whatever means, I will have received more from this life than I ever deserved. It is more important to me that the world continue than that I have a place in it. This is about ALL God’s children.
This crisis has seen the Holy Spirit put a boot in my ass. For as long as I am able, I will do two things in response to what God has given me. First, I will, to the best of my ability proclaim God’s good and gracious word. Second, I will put all my focus in the public policy arena to working for real peace, and the elimination of all nuclear weapons. I, and we as humans, may fail. I might go out in a nuclear fireball, but it will be with the peace of Christ on my lips. That I pledge. So, help me God.
Praise Be to God