Swords Into Ploughshares: Agents of Shalom in a Nuclear Age

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He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4 (NIV)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

Last week, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved their infamous Doomsday Clock ahead by 30 seconds, making the clock read, “11:58, two minutes to midnight.”

According to the Bulletin, the danger of nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War. This is in direct response to the growing climate crisis, as well as hostility between North Korea and western countries, specifically the United States. The Bulletin has announced that "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon."

In the midst of the growing international tension, followers of Jesus should act as peacemakers. In 2006, Synod strongly called for the Christian Reformed Church to “speak a word of peace” and to be an agent of shalom in a war-torn world. This statement is just as relevant today in 2018. But how can Christians go about making peace in a nuclear age?

The CRC in Canada is an ecumenical member of Project Ploughshares, an operating division of The Canadian Council of Churches that “works with churches, governments and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence and build peace.” Project Ploughshares provides expertise and analysis to the council on peace and security issues and assists them in shaping an ecumenical response to those issues.

The organization is a member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition that played a crucial role in 2017 to get the United Nations to pass the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN would go on to win the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for their work. Despite the massive accomplishments of the treaty, both Canada and the United States refused to sign the treaty and boycotted the negotiations.

As the Doomsday Clock ticks, Christians must continue to act as agents of God’s shalom. Members of the CRC in Canada should continue to engage with the important work of Project Ploughshares. They can also find ways to biblically advocate for peace through resources from the Centre for Public Dialogue. The Office of Social Justice has resources for issues of peace and war that are helpful in discerning our role as peacemakers.

I pray we can continue to pray and work for peace in this nuclear age. May we continue to fulfill the prophecies of the Hebrew Prophets, beating our swords into ploughshares. May we continue to act as agents of reconciliation in the name of Jesus.

What are some ways you and your church can act as everyday peacemakers? What are some creative ways we can pray and work for peace in our world today?

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The suggestions of this article notwithstanding, the US should refuse to eliminate its nuclear arsenal. And it should not join a UN effort to ban all nations (including the US) from maintaining a nuclear arsenal.

Were the US to abandon its nuclear arsenal, it would significantly increase, not decrease, the worldwide prospects for war, including war that used nuclear weapons.  Suggesting otherwise is akin to suggesting that elimination of a city's police force would have the result of reducing crime.

This is one of the problems that arises when institutional churches take up matters outside their areas of expertise.  They tend to approach those issues naively, for the simple reason that they are in fact naive about the issues.  Of course, this doesn't mean individuals who are members of institutional churches should not involve themselves in these issues, but they will more often do so after acquiring expertise about those issues so as to avoid the problem of engaging the issues with total naivete.