December 12, 2011

Evangelicals Favor Nukes?

The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) has issued a critique of a document released by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) expressing concerns about nuclear armament and proliferation. The critique laments the loss of insight and the so-called leftward slide of the NAE not only because it has denounced things like alleged systematic torture but now also appears to be increasingly in favor of reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. The subject line of the IRD e-mail linking to this critique read: "Evangelicals for Nuclear Disarmament?" The question mark at the end suggests that the IRD finds it a strange curiosity that evangelicals would find nuclear disarmament desirable, an odd and curious suggestion from my point of view.

As with so many issues, the IRD once again seems to think evangelical Christianity has basically the same values as conservative American politics, but this matter of nuclear proliferation seems to illustrate the problem with that presupposition more clearly than some other issues. Evangelicals are typically identified by having a high Christology that affirms the full deity and full humanity of Jesus, believing in the full trustworthiness of scripture, and emphasizing the cruciality of the gospel in conversion. What is it about these basic tenets of evangelicalism that necessitates an affirmation of the value and necessity of nuclear weapons and a rejection of favoring nuclear disarmament? One wonders what the Prince of Peace thinks of the presupposition that his gospel commits his people to affirming the value of weapons capable of ending the lives of myriads of people and destroying the lives of countless others, of whom all are not only made in his image but objects of his sacrificial love.

I am reminded of the time that the sons of thunder thought it might be a good idea to call down fire from heaven to consume some Samaritans who would not receive Jesus (Luke 9:54). Their Lord and ours rebuked them indicating that, in his kingdom, we don't do things that way.

3 comments:

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, in the last couple of years I've spent a lot of time with American Christian's (of all flavours, largely service members). I love the zeal Americans bring to faith.

I must say (along with N. T. Wright) stereotypically that American politics, having only two parties, makes Americans largely see things in very clear cut terms. One question I frequently experienced was "Is your theology 'liberal' or 'conservative'?". To which I respond - "Hopefully its biblical." Some times the same question would be posted in a slightly different way - "Who would you vote for 'Bush' or 'Obama'?" (Neither, I'm not qualified to vote in the U.S., and if truth be know, I'm a firm monarchist who prefers Christ as my king) This rarely satisfies the need to fit me nicely into a familiar container.

The point is this: There is likely both 'liberal' and 'conservative' Christians who see nuclear weapons as America's tool against tyranny or as the world's single greatest evil. Although the proportion of 'liberals' vs 'conservatives' may not be equal in typical 'evangelical' circles, the politics of portraying the evangelical community itself in monolithic terms, is just that - political.

When issues like this come to me directly, I like to retort - "What was the thief on the cross?" As far as I can tell, he was neither conservative nor republican, democrat nor liberal, Methodist, Calvinist nor even protestant or Catholic. Rather he was someone who simply professed faith that Jesus Christ was Lord, and repenting of his sins ask Jesus to be saved.

Those are the values I use to judge others (that and whether they live those values).

ἐκκλησία said...

BTW Matt, just because no one's commented on the image of the nuke, doesn't mean no one's noticed the smiling cloud shape it contains.

;)

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I had a little back and forth with Mark Tooley of IRD (if you reply to his emails, he very often responds, which I do respect). I suggested that in this case it was clear that IRD had conflated conservative politics with Christianity, with no real Biblical or traditional basis at all for their belief that evangelicals should not favor arms reduction. For some reason, Mark held that "reduction" always meant "total disarmament in the face of armed enemies." Which I concede may be a bad idea. But their whole posture on this one does (as you point out so well) give insight into a basic deficiency or "blind spot" in the IRD's worldview.