by William Swing and Tyler Wigg Stevenson
The following excerpt originally appeared on TheWeek.com on August 7, 2015.
As preachers, we know that the Bible’s Psalms tell us that “the days of our years are threescore and ten.” By that counting, then, the bomb has grown old, too. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, however, it appears that the lessons of 70 atomic years have gone unlearned. Policymakers, including President Obama, are still deferring decisive action on disarmament to the future generations whose very existence these weapons threaten.
To many hibakusha, it seemed an answer to prayer when the newly inaugurated President Obama described his nuclear policy vision in Prague on Palm Sunday in 2009: “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. …So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
This line — and the ambitious disarmament and nonproliferation agenda that the speech laid out — are arguably what won Obama that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Six years later, however, his bold declaration of nuclear abolition seems less prophetic than the throat-clearing caveat that immediately followed: “I’m not naïve. This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime.”
A lifetime is hard and short, according to the Psalmist. We get 70 years, “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” A lifetime has passed since 1945.