Here are my thoughts for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost.
I will admit, as I have in the past, that I have problems with any Biblical prophecy or prediction that says there must be a war before there is peace. It goes without saying that I have some problems with today’s Gospel reading. (1) There are some who have used Jesus’ comments about the possibility or rumors of wars to point out that my arguments against war are meaningless.
Now, there are individuals who say that they speak on the behalf of God and feel that now is the time for the United States and/or Israel to initiate a nuclear exchange with Iran. This is because they see these times as the End Times and Armageddon is about to occur. They see the signs and hear the rumors and say that now is the time.
Those who say that there will be peace on this planet following Armageddon ignore the truth and the reality of war. If what we learned after Hiroshima and Nagasaki is any indication and since the nuclear weapons that will be used in the next war will be improvements over what was used in 1945, it will be a long time, a very long time before there is peace.
I suppose that I might not have these qualms if this were an earlier age or if I had been born at a different time. But I was born and raised during the height of the Cold War and when I was old enough, I could see the B-52 bombers parked on the ready ramp ready to roll within 15 minutes as a response to an attack on this country by the Soviet Union. I was also privy to a briefing given to the families of the SAC pilots and crews stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri that indicated that the majority of the state of Missouri would be wasteland in the event of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Throughout the Cold War the only thing that prevented a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union back then was the knowledge that we could easily destroy each other’s country many times over. This policy was known as mutually assured destruction and it had its own quaint acronym, MAD. No acronym was ever so appropriate in describing what it was.
The effects of radiation will not quickly disappear but only linger long after the initial exposure. The ground where the nuclear weapons land will be poisoned for a long period of time and any survivors will be hard pressed to find a new Eden or its equivalent.
While many people may feel that a tactical nuclear attack would be limited to one area of the globe, they fail to realize that the effects through the fallout will be affected in an area much large than the intended target. It has been long thought that one of the reasons why this country sought a ban on above ground nuclear testing in 1962 was that fallout was beginning to show up in the world’s food supply.
Everyone remembers or has probably heard of the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 26 April 1986. It would be easy to presume that the results of the accident were limited to just the area around Chernobyl but the fallout drifted over parts of Russia, Europe and North America. Granted, large areas of the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were contaminated but the effects of the radiation were felt as far away as the northern portion of Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
Radioactive fallout contains radioactive iodine (129I or I-129) that is quickly absorbed in the environment. In humans, it is quite easily absorbed by the thyroid gland. One beneficial effect of this action is that we can use I-129 to treat various problems with the thyroid. Unfortunately, such treatments can only be used on adult patients; similar treatments would affect the growth of children. For children in the path of the fallout from Chernobyl, it was necessary to give them large doses of iodine that would be absorbed by the thyroid and thus prevent the adverse affects of the radioactive iodine.
It is quite clear that any discussion of a limited or tactical nuclear war anywhere in this world is also a discussion on destroying the future of the world as we know it.
If we were to have a limited nuclear war anywhere in this globe, are we prepared to take the steps to protect our children? Or shall we see the future of this civilization and the world die in the toxic residue of nuclear folly? Let those who call for a nuclear war in the Mid-East because these are the End-Times explain to the world why no one can live in the world that is left after a nuclear Armageddon.
It should be noted that Jesus warns us against listening and following false teachers. (2) The false teachers, even today, are the ones who say that they speak for God and that now is the time. And even if all the signs of the end were to happen, Jesus still tells us that the end is not immediate. Other things must happen first.
Now, with what Jesus said and with what Paul wrote (3), if I see war coming and I do nothing about it, can I say that I am upholding or following God’s will? I think not! We who say we are Christians must work for the Kingdom and not simply assume that when Jesus comes, all will be right with the world because we say that we are the true believers.
Many use Paul’s admonition in the portion of his letter to the Thessalonians as a rationale to oppose welfare. (4) That discussion is for another time. Paul was writing to the Thessalonians because they thought that they were in the End Times and they no longer had to work for the coming of Jesus. I take what Paul wrote as meaning that with the Second Coming about to occur, it was even more important to work for the coming of Christ.
What we do can take many forms. It strikes me that words can stop war but they must be words of truth spoken from the heart. They cannot be words of hatred or anger; they cannot be words that threaten or condemn.
1968 was a very interesting year. First, it was the year that I graduated from high school. It was also the year that the Viet Nam war became a distinct part of my life. The war had been going on for several years and there had been many protests against the war prior to 1968. I had not paid much attention to the protests because I had other things on my mind.
But during the summer of 1968, I became more and more aware of what was transpiring in the jungles of Southeast Asia and what was transpiring on the campuses across this country.
And then there was April 4, 1968. I have posted my thoughts about this day (5) and there is no reason to go over them again at this time. But on that night, in city after city, riots and violence broke out as it became known that Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. It is reported that in 110 cities, there were over 39 deaths and 2,500 injuries. But in one major city, Indianapolis, there was no violence; there were no deaths.
Robert Kennedy had come to Indiana as part of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the President. There were those that night that encouraged him not to go into the ghettos of Indianapolis, for it was too dangerous. But the part of Senator Kennedy that made people admire him and seek to work with him told him that he had to go. And as he spoke of the pain and sorrow in his own life when his brother, President John Kennedy, was killed some five years before, he asked the people of Indianapolis not to strike out against the society which they held accountable for the death of Dr. King. He advised and prodded them not to strike out in violence but to work so that such violence would not occur again.
Unfortunately, Senator Kennedy would himself die by an assassin’s bullet some two months later and any thought that words of hope and promise would be part of the political campaign disappeared with his death. Political campaigns today are characterized more by the mud that is slung and how low a politician can sink. No longer do politicians offer hope. No longer is there a discussion as to how to make a better tomorrow when politicians and leaders offer only gloom or doom.
The new world is here if we work for it. If we stand aside and let those who only gather for themselves the fruits of the people, then we shall go hungry. If the words of false teachers and false prophet are the only words people hear, then there will be wars. And there will be no peace; for there will be no earth for the people to live on.
Isaiah speaks of a new tomorrow, of a better place. (6) He speaks of people building home in which they themselves will live. He speaks of people having food to eat and lives that are worth living. It will be a world in which the young will live long lives rather than dying young. It is a worth so much different from the world that we live in today. When Isaiah speaks of creating a new heaven and a new earth, he is speaking of the world after Christ has come. But is not the Second Coming of Christ of which he speaks but rather the first.
But if we hold to the teachings of Christ who announced to the world that the Good News was upon us, that the sick shall be healed, the hungry shall be fed, the naked have clothes and the oppressed set free, then the new earth promised so many years by Isaiah will arrive.
(1) Luke 21: 5 – 19
(2) Luke 21: 8
(3) 2 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 13
(4) 2 Thessalonians 3: 10
(6) Isaiah 65: 17 – 25