By Luke Moon (@lukemoon1)
It is unclear whether President Obama’s speech outlining his plan to rid the earth of nuclear weapons was timed for the release of the newest Superman movie. Perhaps on the flight to Europe they had a Superman marathon on Air Force One. The speech immediately brought to mind the most forgettable edition of the Superman franchise–Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Hoping to milk every last dollar from the franchise, Warner Brothers promised Christopher Reeve that he could write the story if he came back for one more film. A major activist in the 1980s nuclear disarmament movement, Reeve crafted the script under the portrait of chronic anti nuke demonstrator Thomas as John Lennon’s “Imagine” played in the background. The film was a flop, but the vision offered by Reeve of a nuke-free world seems to have been picked up by President Obama and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which offered its glowing endorsement of the idea.
In a statement, NAE President Leith Anderson said, “With implementation of the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] with Russia now underway, we are encouraged that the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States is declining. But even when New START is fully implemented, there will be far too many nuclear warheads. President Obama is right to proceed slowly and carefully, but we must not rest until nuclear weapons no longer threaten the future of humankind.”
(Video: Youtube) *Note: Superman decides to rid the Earth of nukes because a young boy, who may or may not resemble evangelical anti-nuke Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, wrote a letter to Superman telling him to save humanity.)
Nuclear weapons, gun control, immigration reform, and defending bloated welfare programs have been big agenda items for the NAE of late. Not surprisingly, as the priority policy issues have taken a leftward tilt, the quality of the position papers has diminished. In his critique of the NAE’s 2011 statement of nuclear non-proliferation, Alan Wisdom notes the shift,
“Nuclear Weapons 2011” introduces itself as the successor to a 1986 NAE statement on “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies.” That earlier statement also called for dialogue among evangelicals about nuclear weapons, among other topics. But it was a much richer, more balanced, more nuanced dialogue than what the 2011 statement allows. The authors of the 1986 statement had insights—theological insights as well as political insights—that today’s NAE seems sadly to have forgotten.”
On the nuclear weapons issue, and other hot issues as well, the NAE seems to have embraced utopian fantasies previously reserved for “social justice” organizations. Citing the difference between the old and new NAE, Alan writes,
The NAE of 1986 was not utopian. “The peace we are seeking to encourage in this program is a limited peace,” it admitted. “It is not the inner peace of a relationship with God, nor the absence of all conflict because of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, but the peace which is possible between organized political communities, achieved as law and political processes provide alternatives to the violent resolution of conflict.” The 1986 statement recognized that government leaders often face “circumstances where choices must be made between relative evils.” It aimed only at “progress” toward a less violent world.
But the NAE of 2011 aspires to far more than a “limited peace.” It looks toward to “a world free of nuclear weapons.” It assumes that if the United States and Russia cut back their arsenals, this bilateral gesture would be sufficient to “encourage non-nuclear powers to honor their commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” The NAE resolution does not discuss what should be done if regimes such as North Korea and Iran failed to find sufficient “encouragement” to disarm.
The resolution acknowledges a “long tradition of just war theory, to which many evangelicals subscribe.” It renders a paraphrase of Paul’s teaching in Romans 13: “The state is specifically authorized to bear the power of the sword on behalf of justice.” But today’s NAE seems confident that the United States of the 21st century could fulfill that function while dispossessed of the most powerful weapons available. It does not mention any possible dangers or disadvantages associated with the desired total “elimination of nuclear weapons.
Rejecting the possibility that nuclear weapons can be both instruments of mass destruction and instruments of peace, the NAE notes, “In an age where the most likely nuclear foe is not another nation state with property and people to protect, but a terrorist group with no specific location that could be targeted for retaliation, the very existence of nuclear weapons may be a liability rather than an asset.”
It is unclear what fount of foreknowledge the NAE is using to determine the “likely nuclear foe” of the future. North Korea and Iran have proven problematic to the assertion that only terrorist groups are the only real international threat. And even pushing the “reset” button with old foes like Russia seems to have been rather one-sided. History is filled with examples of unforeseen conflict and the repeated failure of utopian fascinations.
If the NAE continues to ignore the issues central to the vast majority of evangelicals it will become as forgettable and perhaps as laughable as Superman IV. Ok, maybe not this laughable.
Superman casting a net of nukes towards the sun.