Mark D. Tooley: The Methodist Church mythologizes Nagasaki and Hiroshima





[Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.]

The Religious Left, in its historical commemorations, rarely if ever recalls the great holocausts committed by the totalitarian tyrants of the 20th century. The tens of millions slain by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Tojo, not to mention the hundreds of thousands killed by Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Kim Il Sung, among others, never have reached a high level of importance.

But never do the anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and August 9, go by that the Religious Left does not mournfully don its sack cloth and ashes to atone for the mass murders purportedly committed by a vengeful United States.

The National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons is now the main interfaith apologist for America's crimes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Founded by the late preacher-activist William Sloane Coffin, its members include the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of North America, Pax Christi, Sojourners, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Quakers.

Helpfully, the Partnership provides or points to resources to assist congregations in their collective apologies to the cities that America viciously and supposedly needlessly destroyed.

One suggested litany of remembrance was organized by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. It goes like this:

The leader: "We remember, lest we forget, the fateful days 60 years ago, when our nation destroyed two cities and annihilated over 270,000 living human beings."

The congregation: "Would that today we knew the things that make for peace."

The leader: "We remember, lest we forget, the terrible destructive power and violence latent within us and our willingness to unleash them in the world.”

The congregation: "Would that today we knew the things that make for peace."

The leader: "We remember, lest we forget the cost to all life because of our commitment to death."

In the Religious Left's mythology, the U.S. willfully murdered hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, rejecting numerous less destructive alternatives. The mythology asserts that Japan would have surrendered anyway. But the imperialist U.S., already anxious to stoke the fires of Cold War, wanted to intimidate the Soviets by demonstrating the first atomic weapons. Or, more benignly, the U.S. simply valued the lives of its military personnel more than it did Japanese civilians.

The mythology rests on the Religious Left's skewed assumption that the world is by nature a place of peaceful indigenous peoples, disrupted only by the violence of oppressive systems primarily originating out of Western Civilization: patriarchy, capitalism, militarism, imperialism and racism. None of the various Hiroshima/Nagasaki litanies focus on the years of vicious imperial expansion by the Japanese military junta; its slaughter and brutalization of millions of fellow Asians; and its plans to enslave the populations of the neighbors it invaded under its benignly named "Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere;" justified by the extreme racist chauvinism of Japanese Shintoism and worship of the Emperor; and culminating in the surprise attacks on American and British possessions on December 7, 1941.

Instead, the Religious Left, through the Partnership focuses almost exclusively on August 6 and August 8, when the U.S. dropped the atomic weapons on the two Japanese cities, ending over a decade of continuous aggression by the Japanese warlords. Here is the bizarre litany provided by the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, which strangely contrasts the atomic blasts with the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ:

The plane flew high over the city alone, by itself,

Jesus took Peter and James and John apart by themselves;

And there was a blinding flash and faces disappeared,

And his face was transfigured and glistened like the sun;

And a dense cloud rose from the ground until it covered the earth,

And a bright cloud overshadowed them;

And a din came out of the cloud as if to say,

"This is the Bomb with which we are well pleased, look at it"

And a voice came out of the cloud saying,

"This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him:"

And they threw their hands over their eyes,

And they fell on their faces in fear and awe and wonder;

And a nightmarish age of fear was given birth,

And He spoke to them saying, "Rise, and have no fear."

This is all supposed to be very moving and poignant. The sudden and horrible deaths of many thousands in Nagasaki and Hiroshima on those August days should indeed provoke reflection. But leave it to the Religious Left to exploit the truly somber with shoddy theology and faulty history.

Thanks to the war that Japan's fascists had created and would not end, the U.S. decision makers in the Summer of 1945 had no pleasant options that would result in anything less than hundreds of thousands dead. The planned U.S. military invasion of Japan would have entailed tens and likely hundreds of thousands of dead American soldiers, sailors and airmen. It also would have assured the deaths of hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of not only Japanese military personnel but also civilians, all of whom were expected actively to resist the first ever military invasion of the Japanese homeland. Little Japanese children were trained to tie bombs onto their backs and crawl under American tanks. Japan's warlords, not unlike Hitler, thought their honor required national suicide before surrender.

A U.S. military blockade of Japan would have involved months more of hostilities, hundreds of thousands of military deaths, and perhaps many more Japanese civilian deaths from malnutrition and disease, not to mention conventional bombing. Meanwhile, every additional day of war meant thousands more Chinese, Koreans, Indochinese, Burmese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Malaysians, British, Australians, Canadians, Indians and Russians, both civilians and military, would die in the ongoing conflict provoked by Japan's various invasions throughout the 1930's and 1940's.

Even a U.S. decision to unilaterally end the war by leaving the Japanese warlords in power would have meant continued war and mass death for countless occupied Asian countries whose struggles against the Japanese occupiers would have persisted.

The lives of America, British, Canadian and Australian military personnel, as agents of Western imperialism, of course are not important to the Religious Left. But why are the lives of millions of Asians oppressed and killed by the Japanese occupiers not worthy of mention in any of the somber remembrances?

A Hiroshima/Nagasaki litany from the United Church of Christ asks God to forgive America "for being a nation that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent children, women and men."

China, which lost at least 10 million dead to Japanese aggression, joined the U.S. and Britain in the July 1945 Potsdam Declaration informing Japan of the conditions for surrender, which Japan's warlords rejected. The U.S. dropped millions of leaflets on Japanese cities, supplemented by radio broadcasts, warning of continued air attacks and urging evacuation of cities. More leaflets were dropped after the August 6 bombing of Hiroshima, specifically citing the atomic weapon. Japan did not surrender then, and its military junta would not have surrendered even after the August 9 bombing of Nagasaki without the unprecedented intervention of the Emperor, who expected to be overthrown
and very nearly was.

After Imperial Japan had killed tens of millions throughout Asia and the Pacific, starting with its invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had mercifully ended the nightmare.

At the dignified surrender ceremony on the U.S. Missouri on September 2, 1945, Douglas MacArthur showed more theological acumen than any of the Religious Left's painful remembrance liturgies:

"As I look back on the long tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that He has given us the faith, the courage, and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war."



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