“On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on a Japanese city. Turning to a group of sailors with him on the battle cruiser Augusta, President Truman said, “This is the greatest thing in history.” Truman, once described as “an outstanding Baptist layman,” was supported by the majority of American Christians, who expressed few misgivings about the bomb. The bomb, however, was the sign of our moral incapacitation, an open admission that we had lost the will and resources to resist vast evil.
The American church had come a long way to stand beside Harry Truman in 1945. Just a few years earlier, in 1937, when Franco’s forces bombed the Spanish town of Guernica, killing many civilians, the civilized world was shocked. That same year, when the Japanese bombed the city of Nanking, the world felt it was now dealing with particularly insidious forces which had little intention of obeying historical prohibitions against killing civilians.
[...] What had begun as the acts of ruthless Fascist dictators had become the accepted practice of democratic nations. Few Christians probably even remember that there was a time when the church was the voice of condemnation for such wantonly acts. [...]
Obliteration bombing of civilian populations had come to be seen as a military necessity. A terrible evil had been defended as a way to a greater good. After the bomb, all sort of moral compromises were easier — nearly two million abortions a year seemed a mere matter of freedom of choice, and the plight of the poor in the world’s richest nation was a matter of economic necessity.
The project, begun at the time of Constantine, to enable Christians to share power without being a problem for the powerful, had reached its most impressive fruition. If Caesar can get Christians there to swallow the “Ultimate Solution,” and Christians here to embrace the bomb, there is no limit to what we will not do for the modern world. Alas, in leaning over to speak to the modern world, we had fallen in. We had lost the theological resources to resist, lost the resources even to see that there was something worth resisting.” (Stanley Hauserwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Abingdon Press: Nashville, Tennessee), 1989, p. 26-27).
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