Over on Facebook my friend Stuart Blythe asked for names of well known Christians who are or were known for their Christian witness against the manufacture and possession of nuclear weapons. The capacity of human beings to wage technological warfare to the point of life extinction raises the kind of "issue" you would think Christians would be largely agreed upon; namely, supporting the possession of that capacity, with a credible intent to use them in order to deter an attack, is a position incompatible, incongruent and essentially contradictory of the Christian Gospel. To hold the threat of massive destruction and indiscriminate obliteration of civilian populations over those we consider our potential enemies or those we consider may have, now or in the future, lethal intent towards us, may make unassailable military and political sense, though that itself is hugely debatable.
But I am personally perlexed at the thought that those who stand under the cross of Jesus Christ, who witness to the resurrection of Christ as the turning point of history, who are ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation, who are peacemakers of the Kingdom of God, and who are followers of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, slain from the foundation of the world - as I say personally perplexed to the point where I find it is impossible to conclude that those who witness to such realities embedded in the God of Hope, should give assent to the deployment of such weapons. The inevitable consequence is that credible threat implies use, if pushed to ultimate conclusions. How much more then, should the Christian conscience oppose the manufacture, possession and maintaining of weapons which are first strike weapons, and therefore combine both deterrence and threat with the logical implication that, given the right circumstances, their use as a first act of war is not ruled out.
I do understand that this is deeply contested territory. But these questions arise in a Scottish Christian context of theological and cultural retrenchment, and where Christian opposition to nuclear weapons is neither co-ordinated nor clear. Christian activism in support of nuclear disarmament seems low on the priority list of churches claiming commitment to the redemptive mission of God in Christ. Church statements, which are representative of a common mind, and which are considered and rooted in the perspectives of a Gospel of mercy, reconciliation, peace and justice, are seldom formulated because there is a lack of agreement of what a Christian position and consensus might sound like, read like and look like at the official levels of denominational life.
At this moment in the history of our world, with unambiguous signals of political ambition, unrest and threat from Russia, this is not a discussion in principle, nor is it a hypothetical scenario deliberately made extreme to highllight what is at stake in an ethical debate. In a world of credible threat, and destabilised economies and geopolitical changes, the Church has no right given its missional mandate, to leave matters of nuclear defence policy to the politicians, comfortably assuming it will never come to this.
No, I am not I hope being alarmist; but I am contending that in our dangerous world the Christian Church has a categorical imperative to witness to the Crucified Lord, the Risen Saviour, and to stand under the cross of its Lord on the side of life, creation, new creation and in the service of the God of Hope. It cannot do this by being silent. And as primary evidence in its discussions, decisions and statements, it will have to hear again the voice of Jesus, and ensure that anything we do say, is stated as those who must always say, "Beneath the Cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand....