Important but not easy
August 6th and August 9th are two dates which we should remember with sorrow and with trepidation. On these two days, in 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The death toll was somewhere around 200,000 probably.
It marks the first use of nuclear weapons in war – the harnessing of a force so powerful, so devastating that humans could literally blow up the planet on which they depend.
The threat is not over – nuclear weapons are now in the hands of several of the world’s militaries, vast stockpiles of them in the case of Russia and America, enough for Mutually Assured Destruction, which goes by the darkly ironic pneumonic of MAD. Equally worrying is the presence of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of too many other countries, several of which have the most fragile and fractious relations with their neighbours. We have lived through the “Cold War”, and the situation is not quite as bleak and troubled as it has been in past decades. The nuclear arsenal is however a very dark shadow on our future.
That ability to harm the planet so profoundly is not restricted to nuclear weapons. Slower, but with potentially as devastating a result, is global warming, stemming from the over-use of fossil fuels (because we all like to travel our way!), from the destruction of forests and peat-bogs and mangrove swamps so we can grow more beef, or prawns, or make more golf-courses and beach-resorts etc, and from our consumer-driven society (with all its throwaway elements), because we like avocados or strawberries all year round, and we want cheap goods from over there, and we think we need them because advertising bombards us with their apparent necessity.
We probably don’t want to be reminded of the use of atomic bombs, and we won’t want to see the impact they had on ordinary Japanese people. It is also the case that sustained bombing with so-called conventional weapons killed more people, more civilians; it is also the case that jihadists armed with rudimentary weapons, machetes etc cause barbaric harm on innocent villagers in so many countries. As weapons become more lethal, so the ethics of war (if there is such a thing) fade still further.
We also don’t want to deal with the impact of Western Consumption (including China and the emerging powers in India), the polluted waters, the mountains of plastics (which we try and offload on other countries), the ever-worsening flooding and wild-fires, the huge numbers living in absolute poverty (even while down the road the rich can party and the holiday-makers can rest on the beach). let’s face it, we benefit from it.
August 6th is also the date on which we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus was revealed to his disciples as the glorious Lord, to assure them of the true King and so to help them seek first God’s Kingdom and his justice and righteousness.
We need to look within with sorrow with honesty, we need to look up and see and hear our glorious God, hear his call to work for the Kingdom, to be people who make a difference, people who work, pray and give towards a better world for all.
We cannot turn back history, we cannot put nuclear weapons or over-consumption back in its box, but we can respond. The world is not safe at the moment. We need to act.
Rev’d Peter Reiss