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Shane Claiborne, a popular pacifist evangelical, recalled the 67th anniversary of Hiroshima by quoting the pacifist remarks of a Catholic priest who, having served as a chaplain in the Pacific during World War II, 40 years later regretted his military service.
“I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to the men who were doing it… It never entered my mind to protest publicly the consequences of these massive air raids,” the priest remembered. “I was told it was necessary – told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church’s leadership.”
The priest concluded: “For the last 1700 years the Church has not only been making war respectable: it has been inducing people to believe it is an honorable profession, an honorable Christian profession. This is not true. We have been brainwashed. This is a lie.”
So this priest essentially joined the Anabaptist perspective and rejected Roman Catholic teaching, as well as the teaching of nearly universal Christianity, about the state’s vocation to exert force. This stance is Shane Claiborne’s, and he insists, amid a growing chorus of neo-Anabaptist evangelical elites, especially in academia, that Christians must reject all force. Their position essentially makes all government impossible. It also asserts a very narrow definition of Jesus and His teachings that separate Him from the wider apostolic witness and from the Old Testament.
Jim Wallis’ Sojourners largely shares Claiborne’s neo-Anabaptist insistence on complete rejection of all force. But in recalling the Hiroshima anniversary, Sojourners published an old interview with leftist historian Gar Alperovitz, author of several books about the Atomic Bomb, the first published in 1965. His latest book is Beyond Capitalism, appropriately blurbed by Noam Chomsky
Alperovitz didn’t make pacifist arguments. Instead, he claimed the “use of the atomic bomb, most experts now believe, was totally unnecessary” because the Japanese would have surrendered any way, even before a U.S. land invasion scheduled to begin in November 1945. In other words, Japan would have surrendered eventually thanks to continued massive U.S. conventional bombing, plus the slaughter of Japanese troops in Manchuria by attacking Soviets, not to mention the ongoing starvation of its population.
That the bomb was needed to avoid massive casualties is only “popular myth,” though the alternative scenario Alperovitz preferred would have entailed massive casualties and human suffering. He cited “liberal Protestant theologians for the Federal Council of Churches” who criticized the bomb shortly have the war. And he suggested a joint American-Japanese apology for Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.
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