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On Nuclear Weapons

Greg Metzger, a regular reader of this blog, shares my belief that we all need to work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. He wrote the following essay and offers it for your consideration ... (Thanks, Greg)


I was born in 1966 and came of age during the Cold War. One of the distinct memories I have of my childhood is waking in the middle of the night scared silly with a nightmare of a nuclear bomb. Debates over nuclear weapons dominated the news in those days and these discussions were formative for me as a teenager trying to figure out the world around me.

Today, thank God, the fears of nuclear annihilation are considerably less.
I view the comparatively peaceful end of the Cold War as one of the great acts of
Providence in our history. I mention all of this as context to an experience I had
this week. I continue to follow foreign policy news and while I was driving around
I heard on the radio and television discussion of the START Treaty concerning
nuclear weapons. During that debate a Republican senator from Alabama, Jeff
Sessions, rose to speak against the treaty. Now, my purpose in this post is not to
convince you that he was right in his opinion or wrong, but rather to draw your
attention to the way in which he made his argument and the context in which his
argument was made.

Senator Sessions spoke during the third week of Advent, just days removed
from Hanukah and days away from Christmas. The “Christmas Wars” were being
fought over the airways Fox News and the Bible Belt was being provoked over
the “Happy Holidays” greeting replacing “Merry Christmas” at different events. In
fact, Senator Sessions’ good friend and senate colleague John Kyl, (R) of Nevada, was
himself carrying on over the idea of senators and their staffs and families having to
possibly endure work during the week between Christmas and New Years. Kyl said
plans for work at that time was “disrespectful” of Christians and Senator DeMint,
(R) of South Carolina, went so far as to deem it “sacrilegious”. Oklahoma Senator Jim
Inhofe had made news when he refused to participate in a Tulsa parade because it
was being called a “holiday parade” rather than a “Christmas parade.” Perhaps most
significant to the context of Sessions’ speech is the fact that in the weeks proceeding
the speech millions of Americans had been hearing sacred texts read to them from
the Jewish Prophet Isaiah. For many people, Jews and Christians alike, these texts
are holy, sacred texts worthy of deep respect. Isaiah’s words are probably the most
well known in America of all the prophets because of their presence in Advent
readings and songs, particularly Handel’s Messiah.

While it is impossible to rank the importance of different verses, it is without
controversy to say that of all Isaiah’s writings, his words in chapter 11 are among
the most evocative and endearing to all who are familiar with the Bible. It is in that
chapter that Isaiah casts forth a vision of a day in which, as the King James Bible
puts it, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down
with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together”. It is a picture
of peace that has inspired untold numbers of rabbis, priests, activists, artists and
writers to call our country to a better way. It is a passage of Scripture that to this day carries power within the psyche of our country.

But on this day Senator Sessions saw fit to use this passage as a way to mock
his political opponents generally, and proponents of START in President Obama’s
administration specifically. If you watch his speech you will see how he quotes this
passage as if it were words from a 60s hippy naively dreaming of a time of sex, drugs
and rock ‘n roll. The antipathy in his voice when he spits out the phrase “lion lying
down with the lamb” make it clear that he considers these words nonsense, liberal
hogwash, sanctimonious babble belonging to a cultural movement he disdains.

Senator Sessions is entitled to his opinion of START, and he is certainly
welcome to speak about the ways in which the Hebrew Scriptures inform his public
policy, but I hope that the irony of his opinion is not lost on him. At a time when his
culture war comrades are invoking the importance of Christianity to our nation’s
heritage and his fellow Republican senators are worrying over the profaning of
Christmas due to working the week after the holiday, Senator Sessions has revealed
either a gross ignorance of a primary Christmas text, or his utter disdain for its
message. He is either unaware of the quote’s place in our civilization’s development
or he is an opponent of the vision of dignity and harmony that quote has inspired.
He has either cheapened and demeaned religious language by using it as a line in
a political attack, or he has revealed his own ignorance of the profound place that
text holds in the two religions that Senator Sessions otherwise professes to respect.
Either way, Senator Sessions said a lot more about himself and the reasons he has
for opposing a nuclear arms treaty than he might have intended.

After hearing his words I called Senator Sessions office to express my dismay
at his words and to voice my disagreement with his perspective. In the weeks
to come I plan to mobilize others to voice their concern over his speech and to
publicize his line of thinking for all to see. Happy Holidays, Senator Sessions


Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Greg. What many people call "Christianity" here in the US is more a form of nationalistic militarism with religious bumper stickers.