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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Crucifixion and Nuclear Weapons

As we approach the central week of retelling of the Christian story, I can sense the impending struggle to cope with much of what I will hear in sermons and homilies this week. It will be "religious", "pious" but disconnected from the social and political reality against which the last week of Jesus' life was lived out and against which his teaching needs to be read.

The disconnect between the spiritual and the political is endemic in Australian Christian communities and the radical disturbing challenge that Jesus presented to "business as usual" and the assumptions of empire remains out of the sight and the imagination of many of his contemporary followers.

I have been jolted into reflection on the coming week by an article that appeared in Sojourners, March 1980 by (the late) Dale Aukerman, peace activist, theologian and church of the Brethren pastor who, brings the ethical and the theological demands on those who claim to be followers of Jesus into single focus. Dale in his attempt to grasp the moral and human significance of a possible nuclear war takes us back to consider the crucifixion of Jesus.

That three hundred million persons or a billion or four billion might be killed in a nuclear world war is beyond the imagination of any mortal. My nearest approach to the magnitude of that horror comes when I realise that Jesus would be the central victim in the midst of the annihilation. Each victim he would know; each passion, each death he would feel. He in whom God has drawn near would be there with the least of all who are his in a thousand infernos.

The slain Brother would be there with every brother and sister, with every terrified child, as the slower ghastliness of radiation sickness spread across the continents. A darkness more enduring than that on a long-ago Passover would come across the world, a more ominous quaking of earth and disintegration of rocks. From inumerable parched lips would come some echo of the cry, 'My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?' For that elimination of intolerable neighbours would bring with it an apparent doing away with God. But the One who gave supreme utterance to that cry, the Neighbour-Brother-God, who was done away with, would be there in the midst.

This means that all the nuclear weapons delivery systems of this world are zeroed in on a target that comprehends all human targets: Jesus. Christians must understand that there is no aiming of nuclear weapons and no assent to them that does not zero in on him: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me."

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