To a generation that’s come of age since the Cold War’s end, the news this week from the UN might seem ho-hum: A summit-level meeting of the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution laying the groundwork for a nuclear weapons-free world.
And? The Bomb is so
Except it’s not. With 20,000-plus nuclear weapons worldwide, and nuclear breakout threatening from North Korea to Iran, we’re actually headed toward a 21
century crisis—a “nuclear tipping point,” as Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, puts it.
If we fail to act decisively, we could well see a world with dozens of nuclear-armed nations—and a terrorist group getting a nuclear weapon. If that happens, there will be no way to defend against or help the hundreds of thousands that a terrorist Bomb would kill, nor the resulting financial meltdown that would devastate the global economy and billions of lives.
That’s why what happened at the UN this week was critical—despite the fact that resolutions are just words, and the UN is notoriously non-committal. It means there’s a growing international consensus that global threats require a global response.
And that’s also why it’s necessary for the US to set a course for the long road to a nuclear weapons-free world, and to exercise leadership by bringing the fractious, grumbling “community” of nations with us. (That’s right, France, I’m looking at you.) As President Obama said in his address to the General Assembly
, “In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game ... No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed.”
A Biblical Perspective on Superpower
In the opening chapter of the biblical book of Habakkuk, God describes how he has roused the Babylonians—the superpower of their day—to judge Israel: “At kings they scoff,
and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress,
for they pile up earth and take it.” But we are not to confuse God’s use
of Babylonian strength with approval
of their violent ways: rather, the Babylonians are “guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Habakkuk 1:10-11, ESV)
The moral of Habakkuk is not that national strength is a bad thing, but that a nation’s capacity to dominate others turns readily into idolatry. If only the Babylonians had known Psalm 33: “The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.”
Franklin Roosevelt, the American President who built (but didn’t live to use) the first nuclear weapons, remarked that global peace must rest “on the cooperative effort of the whole world.” These words proved prophetic when nuclear weapons gave humankind the technological capacity to wreak on a global scale the destruction and death that has been in our hearts since the Fall. It’s a good thing Cain didn’t have plutonium.
Not Strong Enough to be God
So the question to us, who live in the strongest nation in human history, is what we’re going to do with our superpower status. If you believe God is sovereign over human history, then ipso facto
you believe God has allowed the United States to accumulate vast wealth and power. But to interpret this allowance as a blank check for domination is to ignore the all-too-real lesson of the Babylonians: in Habakkuk’s day, they were the greatest nation on earth; today, our military controls Babylon’s contemporary incarnation, Iraq.
In recent years, America has tried what might be called the "great neoconservative experiment," which attempted the unrestrained projection of American power around the globe. But the resulting plummet in America’s global credibility, compounded by the inability of that strategy to deal with problems like Iran and North Korea—which can’t be bought or bombed into submission—proved the experiment a failure.
The theological truth that neoconservativism’s most die-hard, head-in-the-sand supporters have failed to recognize is that there’s no country strong or rich enough to take God’s place in charge of history. Wouldn’t it be a relief, instead, to stop trying? To use our power responsibly, recognizing that America is but one of the peoples in God’s global household, regarded equally under the divine gaze?
I say this as someone whose love for his country is only exceeded by his love for God and family. I’ve gotten used to the predictable attacks: “utopian,” “idealistic,” unrealistic” and worse. Some say that I need to live in the “real world.” But there is a simple response to this: Does God rule over the “real world” that you live in? And if so, what lesson from Scripture or history makes you believe that God will bless any one nation’s effort to achieve lasting domination?
A Mandate For Action
Let’s be clear: Foreign policy problems have explicitly theological solutions. The proliferation crises in Iran and North Korea, for example, have to be dealt with in the best, most prudential fashion. That’s why the consensus this week at the UN to help lock up nuclear material is so important
. And I stand wholeheartedly with fellow conservatives like Johnny Hunt, Richard Land, Chuck Colson, James Merritt and others in their recent public reminder
that a nuclear-armed Iran is flatly unacceptable.
Moreover, the world doesn’t rest on our shoulders. Obama, offering what one outlet called “put up or shut up” remarks to the General Assembly, said, “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone.”
But I also hold, without apology or caveat, that those of us in America will succeed in navigating these choppy waters only if we have an overall foreign policy that honors God—for “the war horse is a false hope for salvation.” Because of this, it is incumbent on American Christians to take responsibility for our privilege of citizenship. I hope that you’ll join in taking steps to build a nation that, embracing justice, humility and righteousness as we address global challenges, acts in a way that befits God’s favor.
Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is the president of the Two Futures Project—an organization committed to helping American Christians exercise a witness of integrity on the nuclear issue—which has just launched a twelve-city speaking tour called “Two Futures, One Choice” to bring this message to churches nationwide. Check out their tour dates here.