The Christian and Nuclear Power (General Conference Mennonite Church, 1959)

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The Christian and Nuclear Power (GCMC, 1959)

The Present Situation

In our generation new dimensions of power have become available to man. This new power opens to men and nations terrifying possibilities for evil and violence, especially if war should come.

By a strange coincidence of history, science discovered how to split the atom just as the most destructive war of all time spread across the world in 1939. In this war, obliteration bombing became established military policy. By war's end, the split atom came forth as an atomic bomb; and obliteration bombing came to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since that war, the hydrogen bomb and the intercontinental ballistic missile make future war almost inevitably intercontinental in scope and an ominous threat to the very existence of man.

The Christian Faith

In such a time of urgency the Christian church cannot be silent. It must through its members voice clearly its Christian concern and proclaim fearlessly its conviction:

"The earth is the Lord's" (Psalms 24:1). God "made the world and all things therein" (Acts 17:24). He is the all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful ruler and sustainer of His creation. Evil men are not going to wrest it from Him. He is Lord of all, Lord even of history.

God is to be trusted and His infinitely wise will for men and the world is to be respected and obeyed. Obeying His will brings fullness of life (John 10:10). Defying or ignoring it invites ultimate and inevitable disaster (Galatians 6:7; Romans 6:23).

God created man with amazing capacity to know, to understand, and to use his knowledge for His good purposes. "Subdue" the earth and have "dominion over" every living thing was part of God's creative purpose (Genesis 1:28). The scientist's tireless search to know and understand and to adapt to practical uses the secrets of nature is therefore in accord with God's good purpose. Unlocking the secrets of atomic energy and discovering how to release its power is in itself not an evil.

These discoveries of science have released to man a marvelous potential for good but also frightening possibilities for evil. Evil results may come upon men unexpectedly, perhaps even through well-intentioned people.

Only dedicated men of good will who love God with heart, mind, and soul and their neighbor as themselves and who respect God's holy will for man and the world can be trusted to use this power for blessing and not for horrible self-destruction (Matthew 22:37). Under God they have the will, the power, and the obligation to direct the use of this God-given power into channels of peace and blessing for all mankind.

Our Repentance

We confess our submission to the will of God has not always been complete. Fear, distrust, and national and racial tensions have all too often blurred our vision of God's will and purpose for us. We are too much involved in these pagan practices. Our silence in the face of these and other social evils condemns us. Our taxes support gigantic armaments programs. Our economic prosperity rests too much on these cold-war tensions. We are so entangled in all these sub-Christian trends that we cry out for light and for the leading of the Lord. Our devotion to God's great purpose in Christ Jesus is often feeble. We find it so hard to put our faith into action. In our repentance we ever take new hope and find new strength in the knowledge that God truly forgives and restores men to their rightful relationship to God and to one another.

Our Concern

As evidence of the sincerity of our repentance and profession of faith:

We reaffirm our complete confidence in Jesus Christ as God's sufficient answer to man's need and to the whole perplexing problem of human relationship.

We reaffirm our belief that Jesus' way of unwearied, self-giving, understanding love and good will is, in God's moral order, the only effective cure for world tensions, fears, and distrust. This is the only power that can find a positive and effective answer to world tensions, fear, and distrust.

We reaffirm our faith as found in our historic Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage and in the peace statement (A Christian Declaration on Peace, War, and Military Service) adopted at Portland, Oregon, in 1953.

We pledge ourselves to live in this spirit, proclaiming in word and work God's reconciling purpose through a ministry of healing, preaching, and teaching, and through a service of love in areas of need, tension, and conflict. In this way we would help to quiet fears, allay distrust, and build mutual good will and co-operation for the good of each and of all.

We call upon our leaders in government to make permanent the ban on bomb tests. They are a serious threat to the health of peoples. They undermine mutual trust among nations. Most of all they are as contrary to the spirit and teachings of Jesus as war itself. War is sin and so are bomb testings because they belong to the war preparations scheme.

It is no less a sin to prostitute this marvelous power of the atom by stockpiling it in the form of bombs, spending billions of dollars for missiles and missile bases and cursing the soil confiscated for this purpose. Most shocking to the Christian conscience are the fantastic military installations in the very heart of the nation. Sin is sin. It will destroy a people which condones it. We oppose the use of any of God's natural resources for the purpose of warfare with our fellow men.

We earnestly urge our men in government to assure leadership in promoting the peaceful uses of atomic energy for the benefit of all peoples of the world.

Context of the Statement

The statement was drafted in an era of debate about nuclear weapons testing by the Great powers and during a "freeze" on such testing by the United States. The Mennonite, official publication of the General Conference Mennonite Church, carried a number of articles during 1959 on nuclear weapons. The Conference's Board of Christian Service brought the resolution to the floor for discussion; the minutes suggest there was "considerable discussion" but they do no outline the issues. The final statement was made available as a leaflet for circulation in the churches.


The General Conference Mennonite Church minutes, 1959 (Newton, Kan. : The Conference, 1959): 13, 24-25.

Dyck, Cornelius J. and Nicholas Dick. "The Word of God in the nuclear age," The Mennonite 74 (May 19, 1959): 308-309.

"A message to our churches from the Third National Conference of the Church Peace Mission held at Evanston, Ill., April 20-23, 1959," The Mennonite 74 (June 23, 1959): 392.

Waltner, James. "Pacifist witness at Omaha." The Mennonite 74 (August 11, 1959): 483-484.

Bryant, Alice Franklin. "Radiation and the race." The Mennonite 74 (August 11, 1959): 486-487.

"The Christian and nuclear war." The Mennonite 74 (September 8, 1959): 549. Text of the statement.

"A letter to the President." The Mennonite 74 (November 3, 1959): 678.

Habegger, David. "Toward peace." The Mennonite 74 (November 3, 1959): 679.