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If Harold Were Right.

There’s no need for me to add my voice to cacophony out there telling the world why Harold Camping has been before and is currently wrong about the Rapture and coming apocalypse. For Christian insiders like me, it began as a joke; another nut with extraordinarily poor textual criticism skills shouting from the rooftops about the end of the world. Then it turned slightly more maddening as we realized that some naive believers were following Camping, but worse, his crazed misconceptions about Scripture and Jesus were becoming a obstacle to faith for those  searching for faith and another obstruction for those already opposed to it.

But in these last hours, I’ve become more understanding of both Camping and some of his followers, not of their eschatology, mind you, but their emotions; their longing. What if today were the rapture (which many Christians don’t believe in and haven’t historically)? What would it mean for you? Let me tell you what it’d mean for me.

If Harold were right, my mother would be reunited with her best friend, her mother. My mother might also know more or see more about her two sisters who died at the moment of childbirth.

My wife would be reunited with her father who died far too early. And my two daughters would get to meet their grandfather, a great man who loved them before he knew them.

And all the other people in our family, deceased grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins; the whole lot would come together once again, because death has been conquered by Jesus. That’s a little bit of what it would mean for me.

But it’s not only about death and resurrection, is it?

The Kingdom of God (which is not someplace you go after you die, by the way) is the place where everything is done as the King would have it done. That means, if Harold were right, my daughters, would no longer live in a world consumed with the threat of terrorism, war, or nuclear disasters and/or holocaust, or famine, nakedness, and disease. They wouldn’t even have to negotiate the terrorizing social structure of Junior High School. I wouldn’t see marriages fail and children abused. None of us would be witness to slavery, the mistreatment of women and minority groups around the world. If Harold were right, I’d never again sit next to a hospital bed with a dying parishioner. I performed the funeral for a 7-month old once, watched his mother weep uncontrollably for days, if Harold were right, I’d never have to do that again.

If Harold were right, at 6pm tonight there would be renewal breaking out across the globe, complete with a New Heavens and a New Earth. There would be singing on Zion’s glorious summit and the lion would lay down with the lamb. If Harold were right, we’d have a reconciliation celebration. If Harold were right, the Jesus I now see dimly, I would then see face-to-face.

Wouldn’t that be good?  Doesn’t part of you wish Harold were right? I do!

With all the talk about hell recently, we may have looked past the simply fact that the return of Jesus is not, in fact, Doomsday; it’s Joyday, Renewalday, Lifeday, Perfectionday. And we belong to that day!

Maranatha! Come, Oh, Lord!

Moral Nuclear Policy (from my friends at 2FP)

New nuclear doctrine a step toward a morally sound nuclear policy

Evangelical Christians call Nuclear Posture Review a “welcome attempt to marry idealism and realism”

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Today, Evangelical Christians welcome the Obama administration’s long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review as a step toward a morally sound nuclear policy.  Coming just a year and one day after President Obama’s historic speech in Prague, where he articulated a firm commitment to seeking a world without nuclear weapons, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review represents the administration’s first comprehensive outline of the precise ways in which that commitment will impact U.S. nuclear policy.
“The Nuclear Posture Review is a welcome attempt to marry idealism and realism. This is Ronald Reagan’s vision, translated into policies that meet the needs of our post-Cold War, post-9/11 era,” said the Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, an expert on the ethics of nuclear weapons policy and Director of the Two Futures Project, a growing movement of American Christians dedicated to the moral imperative of nuclear abolition.
“In an age of global terrorism, the Nuclear Posture Review recalibrates our nuclear policy around the preeminent goal of non-proliferation and takes seriously the need for U.S. leadership in that global effort,” Rev. Wigg-Stevenson said.
Among the changes in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review:
·      No use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Nuclear posture

·     Significant reductions of the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security strategy
·     Changes in nuclear command structure to help prevent accidental launch
·     A commitment to reduce Cold War-levels of nuclear arsenals
·     Firm restrictions on when nuclear weapons can be used
·     Elimination of obsolete weapons systems
·     Rejection of new nuclear weapons programs
“The stated retention of first-strike capacity against states caught violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty seems to be a tactical move to deter nuclear breakout in states like Iran. But for this policy to have any claim to a moral foundation, it must move us toward the position where proliferation crises are resolved and the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear attack against us or our allies—which must in turn serve as an interim ethic that seeks the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons,” Rev. Wigg-Stevenson said.
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review was released just days before President Obama and Russian President Medvedev will meet in Prague to sign a treaty committing to deep reductions in each country’s nuclear arsenals—and a week before the President convenes a meeting of 47 heads of state in Washington to seek their commitment to secure loose nuclear materials.
“The use of even one nuclear weapon would cause indiscriminate death and destruction and threaten uncontrollable escalation, both of which are anathema in the just war tradition,” said Rev. Wigg-Stevenson. “The moral imperative is to do everything possible to ensure that no nuclear weapon is ever used, whether in war, terrorism, or by accident—which requires taking concrete, threat-reducing steps toward their multi-lateral, verifiable, and complete elimination.”
Founded a year ago, the Two Futures Project has already ushered in a new era of engagement from American Christians on nuclear issues.  The organization has garnered endorsements from a long list of nationally-known figures, including church leaders like Bill and Lynne Hybels, founders of Willow Creek Community Church; megachurch pastor Joel Hunter; Rob Bell, influential communicator and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church; and Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals; Christian media elite, including Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant magazine, and David Neff, Editor in Chief of Christianity Today magazine; leaders of national organizations and denominations, such as Samuel Rodriguez, President of the 16-million-member National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners; Noel Castellanos, President of the Christian Community Development Organization; Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church; and political leaders like former Secretary of State George Shultz, Ambassador James Goodby, and former Congressman and Ambassador, Tony Hall. (See http://twofuturesproject.org/endorsements for a complete list.)
“In the past year, I’ve crisscrossed the country, meeting with thousands of Bible-believing Christians who share the conviction that the threat of nuclear weapons is antithetical to the claims of our faith in the twenty-first century,” Rev. Wigg-Stevenson stated.  “Just as Evangelicals have been at the helm of historic movements to abolish slavery and fight global poverty, Christians are at the vanguard of a new movement to lift the nuclear shadow once and for all.”
For more information about the Two Futures Project, visit http://twofuturesproject.org — Twitter http://twitter.com/2FP — Facebook: http://facebook.com/twofuturesproject

A World Without Nukes -3 (What’s Obvious)

It been a while since I articulated a theological perspective regarding why I advocate a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not going to do that now, either – at least not a purely theological perspective – but I will attempt to articulate the most common and palpable reason we should all work together toward this goal. Here goes…Nuclear Weapons Are Not Safe!

When a nuclear weapon is detonated, it is unlikely that a nation-state will have lit the fuse. This is contrary to the commonly held belief that nuclear weapons make us safer. There was, however, a time when this thinking was true: The Cold War era. The fear of mutually assured destruction (MAD) served to dissuade any country from using nuclear weapon. Mad was the logic of deterrence. It worked for the Cold War. But the Cold War is thankfully over.

Add to that the fact that the logic no longer works that Osama Bin Laden and his al qaeda network have stated as their express goal the murder of 4 millions Americans. This, my friends, will not happen on an airliner over the Atlantic. What I mean is this: The greatest threat for nuclear attack is not from a nation, regardless of how rogue it is. The greatest threat is from terrorists. The existence of nuclear weapons once made us safer, now they do not.

We cannot forget that terrorists networks have been attempting to steal, buy and/or build a nuclear weapon for over a decade. This fact is made all the more unsettling when we come face-to-face with the number of nuclear warheads that have been lost or misplaced. The most sobering fact about contemporary life may be that Russia, without its Cold War army and infrastructure, has become the nuclear Craigslist for madmen high on destruction and low on conscience. Crazily enough, these nuclear weapons are walking out the back door of Russia under master plans only slightly more sophisticated than a 16 year-old girl sneaking out her bedroom window after curfew.

Without going into the gory details, let me say this: When a nuclear weapon goes off, regardless of where it is in the world, everything else everywhere else shuts down. Millions dead in an instant, millions more die from the literal meltdown of organs and tissue, the global food supply line collapses, environmental carnage happens in both an instant and throughout the next decades and this is only the beginning. One bomb means everybody loses! There is no location in the world where a bomb can detonate that does not unleash death on us all. As my friend Tyler says, “Would we celebrate a tumor on the liver because we believe it to more responsible than the brain?”

If that’s not enough for you, consider what would happen in our world should one bomb be detonated in a major city like Los Angeles and the group claiming responsibility were to threaten another detonation should their demands not be met. What would we do then?

I’m not a slippery sloper, but I cannot escape the simple fact that nothing in our world has ever been made yet never used. Someone will use a nuclear weapon someday. It is, IMHO, an inevitability. For that reason, the world needs a strong, intrusively verifiable, and punitive system to reduce and eventually destroy all nuclear weapons. Thankfully, it can be done. We can implement system to ensure that new weapons are not created. Hopefully, this little fact will keep us from killing ourselves.

Countdown To Zero

Last night I had the privileged and honor of viewing a soon-to-be-released documentary entitled, Countdown To Zero.  The film documents (as you might conclude from it being a “documentary”) the necessity of reducing the world’s  22,000+ nuclear weapons to the whopping sum of ZERO . Those of you who know me and read this blog know that this issue – nuclear reduction – is increasingly becoming a passion of mine.  I have previously blogged about the issue here and here. And Countdown To Zero has only increased my desire to invite you to join in this cause along with me.

On the face of things, the idea of a world without nuclear weapons seems far-fetched, naïve and even crazy. Yet truth be told, some very serious men and women are working toward it and have been for some time. These “crazy, hippie, utopian dreamers” include George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn, 70% of living former Secretaries of State, Defense, and National Security Advisors. This list also includes John McCain, Jim Baker, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, President Obama, and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev. And much of it began with Ronald Reagan.  These names alone should hearten us that the issue is non-partisan, realistic, and, most importantly, doable. No one, I think, has ever considered George Schultz gullible or utopian. Yet rather than rehearsing the reasons for non-proliferation and reduction, please read my friend, Tyler’s, insightful and thorough essay here.

What I need from you, and what the world needs from you, is to keep your eye out for this movie. The film is high quality, informative, troubling and oddly inspiring. I have seen it, hope to see it again next month and will proudly take people from my family, church and community to see it in the theatre this summer. If you live in NorCal, hit me up and we’ll go together.

While you’re waiting for the release, go ahead and educate yourself. Start with Two Futures Project. Sign-up to receive e-mail and get involved. Then cruise over to Global Zero. If you really want to get nerdy, hop over to the Nuclear Security Project. Next, sign-up for twitter and follow the guys: @seanpalmer, @armscontrolnow, @nukes_of_hazard, @cirincione, @TylerWS, @globalzero, and especially @2FP.

It is my hope and plan to help engage Christians around this issue. In fact, if — and some people say it’s only a matter of time until “when” — a nuclear weapon is discharged, none of the other good works that occupy our prayers and labors will matter. Let’s work together to change the world for good.

A World Without Nukes #2 – The End of The World and Beyond

Another reason to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons is that all Christians ultimately believe that a world of unbounded peace and unity will eventually be. This is an eschatological reasoning. Perhaps John Howard Yoder can best articulate this point, but suffice it to say this: There will be a day in the future in which the lion will lie down with the lamb. There will be a day of complete, undisturbed peace. As a follower of Jesus, both my instincts and my calling are to live as if that day is this day. I am called to live my life to honor this coming and peaceable Kingdom. I am summoned to live as though – as Jesus said – the Kingdom of God is near.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6.9ff). Prayer, as always, is not only a petition to God, but also a call to local, global and real action. To pray such a prayer involves my decision to side with God toward the in breaking of God’s Kingdom.

If Christian people know that a day is coming without not only war, but also without the threat of war, annihilation, fear, forceful coercion or terror, we are to actively engage the bringing about of that day.  In stark contrasts, a world in possession of over 20,000 nuclear weapons opposes the vision of God for the earth and the vision of God for His children. The simple fact that I can thoughtlessly or easily live in a world that is made, shaped, and formed by such deadly and dangerous weapons, without giving voice to a more peaceful vision for humanity suggests – to me at least – that I do not take the Lord’s Prayer seriously.  As I do when I give a cup of water in the name of Jesus, when I pray and petition world leaders to reduce and  eliminate nuclear weapons, I stand as a voice in this world calling out for the initiation of the next world.

I cannot imagine, therefore, that there will be nuclear weapons in heaven – as I cannot imagine rape, abuse and murder – so I must oppose them here. I cannot imagine that lasting, hopeful peace will be instituted by the threat or commencement of violence. It has not worked for past superpowers and it will not last for the nations now in possession of nuclear weapons. These weapons are icons of our bent to destruction rather than peace. This is an inclination that God, I suspect, wishes we did not have.

Scripture teaches us that only peace is eternal, and not “peace” at the tip of the sword, therefore, let us together step into eternity’s peace…today.

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