"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pacifism, Japan, and Jesus Christ (1)

 (Written before we left, June 7. We just reached home today, June 13. Sorry for any confusion.)

Dear Friends and Family,
     Our flight to Tokyo, scheduled for 1:10 tomorrow morning, has been delayed 8-1/2 hours! So I have time to send you one more letter before we go, if you will bear with me. 
     As you know, living in Hiroshima and learning about the dangers of nuclear power made my parents pacifists and led to their joining the Friends (Quakers), one of the historic peace churches. I became ardently anti-nuclear but I have struggled over the years with full pacifism (in spite of the Sermon on the Mount which commands individuals to "turn the other cheek") and stopped short of becoming a Quaker. 
     The popular Japanese idea of abolishing war by "all holding hands" and making paper cranes (never mind that the two are mutually exclusive) seemed simplistic to me. How does one "passively resist" rape? They seem mutually exclusive. If I would not hesitate to use whatever force was necessary to prevent an intruder from hurting my child, how can I not use force to protect my neighbor, even when my neighbor, as Jesus makes clear, is any victim of abuse anywhere? Neighbors can be legion, living in a foreign country.
     I respect pacifists and I believe in their mental training to think non-violently, to recognize "that of God in every man," (God's image or what John 1:9 calls His "light" in every man), to realize that hurting another person hurts both of you, to plan ahead, practicing creative non-violent responses to possible aggression. It takes more courage to respond with love than with a physical weapon, yet love is more powerful in that it can do much more than end a life; it can change a life. A founding Quaker, George Fox, had a gun in hand when he stood at the top of his stairs and faced a burglar below him but the weapon he actually used was a magnificent statement, much more complex and noble than "Make my day." Fox told the man, "Friend, I would not hurt thee for the world, but thou standest in the place where I am about to shoot."   
     We Christians know we will never have world peace until the Prince of Peace comes. We can't have peace in the interim because the Stalins, Pol Pots and Bin Ladens won't cooperate--appeasement proved disastrous when Hitler started expanding his empire. So, too, doing nothing would have been disastrous in response to the Japanese Imperial Forces which attacked Pearl Harbor in peace time. There is no way the war they started could have been stopped without force. 
     I now believe the force necessary to stop World War II (at least the Pacific theater) included the dropping of some definitive weapon. Bombing Tokyo to smithereens hadn't done it. The Imperial Army was committed to fighting "to the last man," which in their case included the last Japanese man, woman, and child. So the civilians as well as the soldiers stationed in Hiroshima would have been sacrificed anyway if we had not dropped the bomb--and an additional vast number of Allied troops would have been killed as an invading army. I have come to see that Hiroshima became necessary when Pearl Harbor was bombed and that both those events and everything in between were the responsibility of the aggressive Japanese military. (Nagasaki is another story. Japan was already surrendering when Nagasaki was bombed--with a nuclear bomb designed according to a different formula. Declassified documents prove that our government rushed to drop that second bomb before the war ended so we could see what it would do. What it did was wipe out a school alive with children plus nearly the entire Christian population of Japan.) 
     I am telling you this in order to explain why I will be saying what I have written to the survivors of Hiroshima. To them, I will not say I believe the guilt for your pain, though the immediate cause was America, should ultimately be laid at the feet of your own Army. Nor will I say the horror and agony you experienced--your burns, your melting flesh, your excruciating thirst, your rivers filled with bloated bodies, your keloid scars, your nightmares, your lost family members and friends, your devastated lives--are all justified somehow because it saved American lives.
     Though the bomb may have been necessary, I do not think it inconsistent to grieve with the victims. And they were victims. They were forced by their government to stay in the city (in contrast to governments like that of the United Kingdom, which sent its children to the safety of the countryside) and help with the war effort. My adopted Japanese brother Hiro was orphaned by the nuclear bomb and at the age of four helped his grandmother rummage through city streets to collect scrap metal for the Army.
     I believe every word I will be telling them, that I am deeply touched that they would want to honor, at their Ground Zero, a woman from the country which bombed them. I am touched by their forgiveness.

(Continued tomorrow)

1 comment:

  1. I have been praying for your trip...I too am befuddled at the lack of public outcry in the face of wrong-doing. I got an email from a friend with links in it regarding the REAL story of the Fukushima disaster...I was shocked. I had not heard these things on the news and my husband never talked of them. When I confronted hubby with the truth...he just shrugged and said yes, I know but what can I do? WHAT CAN YOU DO?? I wanted to shout..!!! I am trying to get used to this new idea of being a "pacifism". I feel like there are some things worth standing up and fighting for. I agree....we can't just sit quietly and let evil roll over us....can't wait to hear about the trip! God Bless