January 06, 2008

Nuclear Threat

Last night, the presidential candidates debated one another in New Hampshire. I watched the debates with my father; we agree on which party we support, but differ as to who to support in the primary. I payed attention to what the candidates said, except for the period in which my father felt the need to explain to me the important role of lobbyists in American politics. He has done some lobbying himself, and wanted to share his thoughts; the candidates were on the other side of the continent and on a three-hour tape delay, and weren't listening to him, so he shared his thoughts with me.

At the start of the Democratic debate, moderator Charles Gibson brought up the issue of nuclear terrorism and the threat of a nuclear attack on American soil. This issue is terrifying to me. I remember very clearly the day when I was made aware that humans had the real capacity to destroy the planet. I was ten years old, the very age my oldest son is now, and the discussion took place in Mrs. Magnante's fifth-grade class. Until that point in my life, I thought that the ability to destroy planets was the stuff of cartoons like Marvin Martian, who I thought was hilarious. Marvin Martian cartoons never seemed quite as funny after that.

I try not to think about the threat of a nuclear attack, because doing so creates within me terrible fear and anxiety. The responses of the candidates to Charles Gibson's question did little to reassure me. I started wondering what would reassure me and calm my fears, and when I figured it out, it had very little to do with politics or politicians.

Leaving the solution of this problem to others leaves me feeling helpless and anxious. The only thing that calms my anxiety is the realization that, instead of waiting for government leaders to act, people like me can take action now.

Greg Mortenson and some children in Pakistan.Last year I read the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. At one time, Mortenson was a rock climber with practically no financial resources, whose desire to climb the world's highest peaks took him to Pakistan. There, he met the Pakistani people, and became acquainted with their needs. Since then, Mortenson has worked with the people of that region, doing more to promote peace in the world (and specifically in areas where terrorism seems to be rooted) than most government efforts to combat terrorism. Instead of working against terrorism and terrorists, he is working for those who might otherwise become terrorists, were it not for his efforts.

Mortenson is not particularly religious. However, it seems to me that the work he is doing is what we in the church should be doing. Unfortunately, many churches spend too much time arguing over issues like homosexuality or what type of music to have in worship, instead of focusing on what they can do to show their love for their neighbors around the world.

Greg Mortenson is showing love to the people of Pakistan and neighboring areas. There is no other way to bring about peace in the world. I know that, as a pastor, I have done too little in this regard, and that this is what I need to be preaching. I know that the Christian churches in North America can make a big difference when it comes to working for peace. If one man can do it, so can we, if we are willing.

Photo courtesy of Greg Mortenson. To learn more, visit www.ikat.org and www.penniesforpeace.org. And read the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.


Dan Mayes said...

Very good, Danny! I appreciate your candor about your anxiety here. I, too, try to avoid thinking about such an issue because it scares me.

Thanks for the call to responsible thinking and action.

Brian said...

I can relate. I remember having real anxiety over the whole nuclear issue when Reagan was in office and we thought he might nuke Russia any day.

THanks for the tip about Mortenson's book. I'll definitely get a copy.