On February 8 I posted about an online dialogue on evangelical Christians and nuclear disarmament. In March of last year, at A Deeper Story: Tales of Christ and Culture, site administrator Nish shared emails with Reverend Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, founder of the Two Futures Project, a groundbreaking evangelical disarmament group, as well as with commenters.
One of the commenters addressed what constitutes a sticking point about disarmament for evangelicals, as well as fundamentalists. To wit, many of them either look forward to the End Times or see no way of avoiding it. No matter how familiar we may be with this line of thinking, for progressives — secular or religious — chancing upon evangelicals and fundamentalists actually discussing it is surpassingly strange.
Here’s commenter Josh defending his “what me worry?” outlook on nuclear weapons. First, he points out, “God’s Word gives us some knowledge about how the world ends, and it doesn’t look much like nuclear apocalypse. … I don’t worry so much about *us* [sic] screwing up and destroying the world, because God’s already told us how *He* [sic] intends for it to happen.”
His reasoning: “The Mount of Olives does indeed split in half, but that mighty rending comes from the feet of Christ, not a nuclear detonation (Zechariah 14:4).” Josh also write that even if you think that the world ends in a nuclear holocaust “what’s the point of advocating against the fulfillment of prophecy?” Furthermore:
The evil lies not in the hunk of materials and technology that compose an atomic bomb, but rather in the heart of the one who would detonate it in aggression against innocents. Now, getting rid of “that” evil seems a worthy goal – but once again, we know from Scripture that it will only be accomplished when God Himself renews all things.
To progressives it’s clear: those who don’t actually advocate nuclear weapons yet accept the possibility of their use evince a blatant fatalism to the point of a death wish. As with many evangelical, fundamentalist, or conservative positions — especially within the Tea Party or on the Republican campaign trail — progressives can’t help but wonder, “Are you even listening to yourself?” Though, in fairness, evangelicals, fundamentalists, or conservatives wonder how progressives can be pro-choice when abortion to them is clearly murder.
Another commenter to the dialogue, April, writes of the quotidian consequences of an End Times view of the world.
I think Josh brought up some points that many Christians believe, and may not even acknowledge that they believe. Many of us are trained in eschatology, whatever version our denomination supports, and we end up with this belief that the world is going to crap in the end, anyway. [As] when I willfully throw away a 2-liter [bottle] instead of walk it out to the garage for recycling–this ungodly thought creeps up that God’s going to create a new heaven and a new earth anyway…so…why recycle this time? … I do think that many Christians are exposed to this end-time theology where we fixate on pre-, post- or mid tribulation and what the antichrist will and wont do, etc–but we’re not trained on the “so-what” of it all.
Displaying the extent of her awareness of that fatalism, she writes:
Do we believe that God is in the active work of redeeming the world, as creation groans to be released from this evil, or do we believe, without saying so, that God’s coming, will pour out his wrath and will then hit the re-do button after the apocalypse[?]
Talk about your creative destruction! Meanwhile, Rev. Wigg-Stevenson (who wouldn’t want to hear this, but he’s arguably the most rational evangelical in the United States) responds to Josh (emphasis added):
One of our most important jobs as an organization is separating religious apocalypticism and eschatology from nuclear weapons. Our “two futures” [as used in the name of his organization, Two Futures Project — RW] isn’t “God’s end vs. our nuclear apocalypse.” In the end there is just one future and it belongs to the Lord. I don’t think nuclear weapons will bring the world to an end — if they did, the gospel’s promises would be void. But the human race has done horrible things between the cross and the Second Coming, and we’re trying to prevent this particular manifestation of sinfulness.
Nuclear technology, writes Rev. Wigg-Stevenson, is “a technology that we have a responsibility to control and manage to the best of our ability.” For it “magnifies the potential impact of human sinfulness to an extraordinary degree.”
As a sort of force multiplier for sin, then, nuclear weapons distort — pervert, even — the Second Coming as God sees it (if, like evangelicals and fundamentalists, one believes in a personal God, unlike your editor). Furthermore, eager anticipation of or fatalism about the End Times screams damaged childhood. Pathology is best addressed by domains secular, rather than religious, such as psychology and the other social services.
In fact, nuclear weapons in general is less a national security issue than a mental health one.
Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.