Christian leader welcomes new limits on use of nuclear weapons - Word&Way

Christian leader welcomes new limits on use of nuclear weapons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) — A leader in what organizers say is a growing movement of American Christians supporting arms control praised new restrictions on U.S. use of nuclear weapons unveiled by President Obama April 6.

Obama's nuclear policy rejects development of new nuclear weapons, reduces the role of nukes in national-security strategy and — for the first time — says the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, director of the Two Futures Project, called Obama's long-awaited plan "a step toward a morally sound nuclear policy."

Release of the Nuclear Posture Review came a year and one day after the president outlined a plan to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and move toward reducing nuclear stockpiles at a major speech in Prague, Czech Republic. 

"The greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states," Obama said. He said the report recognizes that "our national security and that of our allies and partners can be increasingly defended by America's unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses."

The 72-page report proposes concrete steps toward reducing the number of nuclear weapons with a view toward eventually eliminating them altogether. It pledges, however, that as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world the U.S. will maintain a safe and effective nuclear arsenal both as a deterrent to potential adversaries and to assure allies they can depend on America to honor its security commitments.

It puts pressure on North Korea and Iran to reverse their nuclear ambitions and honor international non-proliferation treaties. It also calls for cooperation with Russia and China to reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons accumulated under the doctrine of "mutually assured destruction" that kept the world's superpowers at bay during the last half of the 20th century.

Wigg-Stevenson, an ordained Baptist minister and member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., called the policy "a welcome attempt to marry idealism and realism" in the post-Cold War, post 9/11 era.

A year ago Wigg-Stevenson and other under-40 evangelicals organized to form the Two Futures Project, an initiative aimed at mobilizing American Christians to help abolish nuclear weapons similar to the way churches played a role in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century.

"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 Wigg-Stevenson, an ethicist with expertise in nuclear-weapons policy. "The moral imperative is to do everything possible to ensure that no nuclear weapon is ever used, whether in war, terrorism or by accident."

According to its website, the Two Futures Project believes "we face two futures and one choice: a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them." The initiative supports "the multilateral, global, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons" as both "a biblically grounded mandate and as a contemporary security imperative."

Individuals endorsing the movement include former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson. Other supporters include David Gushee, a professor at Mercer University and regular columnist for Associated Baptist Press, and Jonathan Merritt, a faith-and-culture writer and national spokesman for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative.

The president's new policy reverses a Bush-administration stance that nuclear weapons could be used in retaliation of a biological or chemical attack. Iran and North Korea, meanwhile, remain as potential targets

The report says that while the threat of global nuclear war has become remote since the end of the Cold War, the risk of a smaller-scale nuclear attack has increased.


Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.