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Alan Wisdom December 8, 2011
With age and experience often come insight and wisdom. This is the way it’s supposed to be. But what if an individual or an organization lost insight as it grew older? What if it forgot important truths that it used to know? What if the organization were less wise today than it was 25 years ago? Is this possible?
Unfortunately, this may be precisely what has happened with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)—an organization that claims the title Insight for its quarterly newsletter. In the 1980s the NAE came to prominence as a voice for the rising evangelical community. It spoke from the heart of that constituency on behalf of causes dear to it: in favor of the sanctity of marriage, the rehabilitation of prisoners, and freedom of religion domestically and internationally; against gambling, drunk driving, and abortion. The NAE was strong in affirming what it regarded as basic biblical teachings; it was more cautious about the nitty-gritty of partisan legislation. It was never a single-issue pressure group.
It was in front of the NAE that Ronald Reagan delivered his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech predicting the demise of the Soviet Union. His evangelical audience applauded. Like their constituents, the NAE leaders were solidly conservative—although not stridently so.
Today’s NAE, however, is not your father’s evangelical organization. It is determined to distance itself from the Religious Right. Even though the mass of evangelicals remains as conservative—or more so—than in the 1980s, some evangelical elites represented among NAE leadership are drifting away toward the left.
This leftward drift is evident in a series of positions espoused by NAE officials over the past five years: advocating government regulations to prevent predicted global warming, denouncing alleged systematic torture practiced by U.S. intelligence and military forces, pushing for liberalized immigration laws, and joining Jim Wallis’s “Circle of Protection” to shield entitlement programs from reductions in projected spending growth. The NAE has not abandoned its former conservative causes; however, it does not highlight them publicly in the same manner that it stresses its newer agenda items.
None of these new positions is far to the left politically. Some of them may be justified. But none of them expresses a consensus view among the evangelical community that the NAE claims to represent. Evangelicals are divided on issues like global warming, immigration, and budget priorities. Yet this new NAE advocacy embraces specific policies go far beyond the clear scriptural teachings on which evangelicals are united. And as it champions these policies in one-sided fashion, today’s NAE sometimes loses the political insights that it once possessed.
Hinting at Unilateral Disarmament Consider the example of the NAE’s latest statement: a resolution on nuclear disarmament adopted at the organization’s October board of directors meeting. This “Nuclear Weapons 2011” resolution is curiously elliptical. It speaks often in the third person:
Verbs are conditional:
The plainly stated recommendations in the document are modest and inoffensive. “As church leaders,” the NAE board says, “we simply urge that the debate [on nuclear weapons] continue. We call on evangelicals to consider these issues in light of their faith and to pray for our leaders and all who are charged with protecting our nation from external aggression.” The NAE leaders want evangelicals to “become informed” and make “a distinctively evangelical contribution.” They seek “dialogues where moral as well as prudential concerns related to the possession, threat and potential use of nuclear weapons may be discussed in an atmosphere of respect for different points of view.” Few would disagree with these charitable aspirations.
But it would be difficult to have much of a dialogue on the issue as “Nuclear Weapons 2011” frames it. The NAE resolution presents only one side. All of its elliptical, conditional, third-person statements point in a single direction:
The NAE statement does not demand unilateral U.S. nuclear disarmament. Instead it envisions a bilateral process by which the United States and Russia would undertake “verified mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles.” These disarmament moves would supposedly set an example so that all other nations would be inspired to these terrible weapons.
Yet if this rosy scenario failed to materialize, the NAE’s logic would suggest even a unilateral U.S. renunciation. After all, if nuclear weapons “weaken rather than strengthen our security,” why not be rid of them immediately? Anything less would be “human hubris” that dehumanizes innocent civilians by “targeting [them] for threatened nuclear destruction.” The NAE resolution acknowledges no possible reasons why continued U.S. possession of nuclear weapons might serve the interests of peace.
1986 Beats 2011“Nuclear Weapons 2011” introduces itself as the successor to a 1986 NAE statement on “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies.” That earlier statement also called for dialogue among evangelicals about nuclear weapons, among other topics. But it was a much richer, more balanced, more nuanced dialogue than what the 2011 statement allows. The authors of the 1986 statement had insights—theological insights as well as political insights—that today’s NAE seems sadly to have forgotten.
1. The NAE of 1986 was not utopian. “The peace we are seeking to encourage in this program is a limited peace,” it admitted. “It is not the inner peace of a relationship with God, nor the absence of all conflict because of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, but the peace which is possible between organized political communities, achieved as law and political processes provide alternatives to the violent resolution of conflict.” The 1986 statement recognized that government leaders often face “circumstances where choices must be made between relative evils.” It aimed only at “progress” toward a less violent world.
But the NAE of 2011 aspires to far more than a “limited peace.” It looks toward to “a world free of nuclear weapons.” It assumes that if the United States and Russia cut back their arsenals, this bilateral gesture would be sufficient to “encourage non-nuclear powers to honor their commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” The NAE resolution does not discuss what should be done if regimes such as North Korea and Iran failed to find sufficient “encouragement” to disarm.
The resolution acknowledges a “long tradition of just war theory, to which many evangelicals subscribe.” It renders a paraphrase of Paul’s teaching in Romans 13: “The state is specifically authorized to bear the power of the sword on behalf of justice.” But today’s NAE seems confident that the United States of the 21st century could fulfill that function while dispossessed of the most powerful weapons available. It does not mention any possible dangers or disadvantages associated with the desired total “elimination of nuclear weapons.”
2. The NAE of 1986 disdained “the search for simplistic solutions.” Unlike many Roman Catholic and oldline Protestant bodies of the time, it did not recommend measures of unilateral disarmament. Church pronouncements “often fail to recognize the complexity of many difficult issues,” the 1986 statement warned.
Yet the NAE of 2011 is drawn toward the kind of simplistic solution that it disdained 25 years ago. It believes that steps taken by the United States and friendly countries alone—“verified mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles,” ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, abandonment of tactical nuclear weapons—would propel us toward “a world free of nuclear weapons.”
3. The NAE of 1986 did not declare the possession of nuclear weapons to be immoral. Instead it asked open questions: “Does the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons mean that they should be rejected as part of our defense arsenal? Or does their threatened use act as an effective deterrent to nuclear blackmail by an enemy? Would it be better to risk totalitarian subjugation than a nuclear war? Would acquiescence to totalitarian power prevent war, or might it make war more likely?”
For today’s NAE, it appears these questions have been answered. The only view presented in “Nuclear Weapons 2011” is the “growing body of Christian thought [that] calls into question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense.”
4. The NAE of 1986 was conscious that well-intentioned policies can have unintended negative consequences. “Evangelicals must avoid the illusion of thinking that something has been accomplished for peace, just because the stated goal of an activity has been in the name of peace,” it advised.
But the NAE of 2011 doesn’t seem to worry about possible unintended consequences of the policies it favors. For example, its resolution alludes to the fact that “the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons will always be with us”; however, it never pursues the implications of that fact. It never inquires what would happen if the United States and all friendly nations dismantled all their nuclear facilities while a hostile, secretive country retained the ability to reconstitute nuclear weapons in a few months. Might not such a situation be even less stable than the current situation? Perhaps in a sense these awful weapons will always be with us. And if so, might it not be the lesser evil to possess them openly with all due fear and trembling?
5. The NAE of 1986 rejected the view that “weapons are the problem.” It disputed the notion that “the most urgent task for peacemakers is to stop the arms race.” On the contrary, it offered this wisdom:
It is tempting to locate the source of human evil in a physical artifact. By localizing evil outside of the recesses of the human heart and in changeable structures, exorcism becomes simply a technical matter. But the source of evil, and the source of international tension, is not the existence of weapons. Wars have followed in the wake of arms races (World War I), but they have also started because there was no response to an arms build-up by an aggressor (World War II). Weapons and their stockpiling must be demythologized; they do not have the omnipotent ability to make enemies out of friends, though they certainly make relations among enemies more precarious. But to fix attention on hardware is only to discourage attendance to the real sources of conflict.
By contrast, the NAE of 2011 is entirely focused on the weapons. It is the weapons—not the potential users of those weapons—that the NAE endeavors to judge as moral or immoral. It seems conscious of the World War I scenario (an arms race leads to war) but not the World War II scenario (failure to respond to an arms buildup unleashes war).
6. The NAE of 1986 knew that the deeper problem lay in the human motives of the governments that might provoke a nuclear conflict. “The [Peace, Freedom and Security Studies] program will confront the harsh facts of totalitarian power,” the NAE promised. “We believe that our work must include an accurate assessment of hostile Communist states, and other contemporary anti-democratic governments and ideologies, recognizing their variety, their political, economic, and ethical appeals, and the serious threats they pose to the values of this program and this country.”
For this reason, NAE leaders of 25 years ago were convinced that “peace is not an isolated political achievement.” They pledged to be “concerned simultaneously with peace, international human rights, democratic values and national security.” They maintained that “peace and freedom have an organic relationship.” The NAE observed, accurately, that “democratic societies are the least likely to engage in wars of aggression.” More grimly, it made the assessment that there was “little hope for constructive change in international affairs without a radical shift in the Soviet agenda.”
History proved the correctness of that last assessment. It was the breakup of the Soviet Union, with the dissipation of its dreams of global communist hegemony, which brought an end to the U.S.-Soviet arms race. Once the character of the government in Moscow changed, the nuclear missiles that it possessed became far less threatening. And the arms reductions that earlier had been so difficult to achieve became suddenly much easier for both sides. Disarming in the face of a still-aggressive Soviet Union would not have produced the same good result.
But today’s NAE takes little notice of the nations most likely to provoke a nuclear war. “Nuclear Weapons 2011” makes a vague reference to “worrisome regional tension in several parts of the world that could conceivably escalate into nuclear conflict.” It mentions in passing the threat of “a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.” The document, however, never analyzes why that threat exists—viz., that Pakistani weapons are in the hands of an unstable government in which the military holds disproportionate power and radical Islamist movements are gaining ground. Nor does it say anything about the other two most threatening regimes, North Korea and Iran.
The 2011 resolution, unlike its 1986 predecessor, is concerned entirely with peace and not at all with freedom. It does not address the fact that “democratic societies are the least likely to engage in wars of aggression.” It does not speak frankly about “hostile Communist states, and other contemporary anti-democratic governments and ideologies,” such as Islamism.
7. The NAE of 1986 protested against “one-sided church stances [that] are dressed up in scriptural, theological and moral warrants (all too often presented as if these are the only legitimate ‘Christian’ positions).” It criticized the abuse of “citing Scriptures to support one viewpoint” on complex contemporary issues. “Both political right and left in church circles tend to focus only on facts and events which support their own particular policy preferences,” the NAE lamented. Consequently, its “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies” statement strove toward balance. It included an appendix on “Other Voices” favoring different political approaches. It tried to paraphrase these other views—quietist, separatist, isolationist, survivalist, pacifist, brutally “realist,” reflexively pro-American or anti-American—in terms that their proponents would recognize. It granted that each made some legitimate points.
“We do believe,” the NAE leaders remarked, “that it is necessary to understand these other voices. They can aid in clarifying and improving our thinking. For these reasons, and because unanswered and unqualified these views can be an obstacle to the work at hand, we list below some of these other viewpoints, together with a brief suggestion of why they have not been accepted as offering a sound approach to these problems.”
The NAE of 2011, on the other hand, leaves no place in its resolution for “other voices.” Not only does it fail to rebut arguments for the continued possession of nuclear weapons; it pays no attention to such arguments. The only perspective that it presents is the view that “the mere possession of nuclear weapons decreases rather than increases national security.” The NAE resolution reports the conclusions of “most analysts” and “many knowledgeable observers” and “new research”—but only when those sources support the agenda that it is advancing.
“Nuclear Weapons 2011” cites an op-ed by former top government officials “argu[ing] that nuclear weapons, as with chemical and biological weapons, should eventually be banned.” It does not identify any policy experts making the opposite case. (The NAE might have considered, for instance, the hawkish Center for Security Policy’s website section on “Strategic Defense and Deterrence.” Here is a Wall Street Journal piece by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on “Why We Need to Test Nuclear Weapons” which might have given the other side of the debate on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.)
“Nuclear Weapons 2011” tends to pick Bible verses that reinforce the perspective it wishes to promote. All four points in its “Biblical Foundations” section end with anti-nuclear pronouncements:
Some of these pronouncements are undoubtedly true. But all of them are political judgments going well beyond the plain teaching of Scripture.
In criticizing reliance on nuclear deterrence, the NAE resolution turns to Psalm 33: “No king is saved by the size of his army, no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.” Lest any miss the intended contemporary application, the resolution remarks, “One might substitute ‘nuclear weapon’ for ‘horse’ without doing violence to the text.” But contrary to its claim, the NAE is twisting this text to make it support a disarmament agenda. The psalmist was not advising the king of Israel to slaughter his herd of horses and go back to fighting on foot. He was instead teaching that one should rely on God, not on military power of any sort, for one’s security. It is possible to possess weapons while also recognizing the limits of what those weapons can do.
8. The NAE of 1986 qualified its political involvements by affirming “the primacy of the spiritual task” of “worship[ping] and glorify[ing] God” and “making disciples” of Christ. It warned of the consequences when church leaders “disregard … the primary purposes and well-being of their religious communities” in order to advance political agendas. “Great national church and ecumenical organizations have become the instrument of political activists particularly on the left, though also on the right, whose primary commitment is to an ideological position,” the NAE regretted.
Yet the NAE of 2011 has allowed political activists to enlist it in the nuclear disarmament crusade, among other causes generally associated with the left. The activists—such as former Democratic Senator Alan Cranston’s former staffer Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, head of the anti-nuclear Two Futures Project—help the evangelical association draft its resolutions and provide supporting materials. The primacy of the church’s spiritual task sometimes seems to be lost in the process.
9. The NAE of 1986 was careful to seek consensus within its constituency before it spoke publicly. The “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies” guidelines were “the product of over a year of work involving widespread and intensive discussion within the evangelical community.” In releasing the guidelines, the NAE had confidence that they expressed “the basic agreements—theological, political and institutional—that had to be reached before the Peace, Freedom and Security Studies program could be launched.”
Today’s NAE consulted its board before adopting the “Nuclear Weapons 2011” resolution. But there is little evidence of any broader discussion throughout the evangelical community. More conservative experts knowledgeable about nuclear issues do not seem to have been included—at least they are not mentioned. The resulting resolution certainly does not express any kind of “basic agreements” among U.S. evangelicals. Large numbers, in fact, would disagree strongly. The resolution instead appears to represent the convictions of a small circle of left-leaning advocates who have gained sway within the NAE.
10. The NAE of 1986 was concerned that “[c]hurch offices sometimes issue statements on a host of issues in the name of church leaders who have neither the time nor the training to consider them thoughtfully.” It was resolved to avoid that error. “We will enter the arms debate,” NAE leaders stated, “but not to argue for or against particular weapons programs.”
Regarding one of the major issues of that time—Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative—the NAE conveyed both sides of the argument:
The shift to defensive weapons, for example, could lead to a massive expansion of arm expenditures. It could also provide the occasion for new efforts at mutual security arrangements—action to protect people of the U.S. and the Soviet Union from nuclear attack. America could take the lead in bringing such security arrangements into being, not simply for us and for our adversaries, but for a world now dominated by the threat of nuclear war. Such efforts, when allied to the pursuit of the other goals listed here, could lead to conditions in which major cuts in all forms of military expenditures become feasible.
The NAE of 2011, like its earlier self, professes humility. “We write as church leaders, not as military strategists,” its recent resolution says. “We raise both biblical and pastoral concerns, and speak to policy issues, though with due restraint and humility.” Yet the resolution goes on to render judgment on several disputed points of military strategy. It gives thumbs-down to a particular weapons program, rejecting “the deployment or use even of tactical nuclear weapons.” It sides with “most analysts” in declaring that “further bilateral reductions [of U.S. and Russian arsenals] are a necessary prelude to eventual multilateral negotiations.” The NAE endorses the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, asserting its “confidence that countries seeking to cheat on the ban would be caught.” It deems the Obama administration’s Nuclear Security Summit of 2010 to be “a positive step forward, as are the planned follow-on conferences.”
11. The NAE of 1986 rejected the view that U.S. churches should “speak only to America” because, allegedly, “we have the right to criticize only our own country’s conduct.” It countered by asking: “Can we ever hope to offer sound alternatives to present policies unless we take into account the willingness of other nations to use military power to advance their interests? Our credibility, and our integrity as well, are lessened by a double standard which refuses to recognize in others the attitudes and policies we seek to change in our own nation.” The “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies” statement straightforwardly sought to bring about “a radical shift in the Soviet agenda.”
By contrast, the NAE of 2011 asks for actions to be taken only by the United States and other well-disposed nations. It urges bilateral U.S. and Russian disarmament, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and stricter safeguards against the spread of fissile material or the accidental use of nuclear weapons. It makes no mention of any need for radical shifts in the agendas of nations such as North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan.
Less Perceptive than the Obama AdministrationNot only has today’s NAE lost many of the insights that it possessed in 1986, but it has also failed to profit from the wisdom in other sources that it cites. “Nuclear Weapons 2011” lauds Ronald Reagan’s vision of “the total elimination of nuclear weapons”; however, it does not acknowledge that Reagan’s vision involved the development of anti-missile defenses to protect against nuclear attacks.
A. “Nuclear Weapons 2011” correctly quotes the Obama administration’s April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report as affirming the goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.” But it fails to take into account key lessons that might have been learned from the posture review. The administration stresses:
The conditions that would ultimately permit the United States and others to give up their nuclear weapons without risking greater international instability and insecurity are very demanding. Among those conditions are success in halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, much greater transparency into the programs and capabilities of key countries of concern, verification methods and technologies capable of detecting violations of disarmament obligations, enforcement measures strong and credible enough to deter such violations, and ultimately the resolution of regional disputes that can motivate rival states to acquire and maintain nuclear weapons. Clearly, such conditions do not exist today.
The NAE’s 2011 resolution, by contrast, evinces little of this sober sense of how far we are from any possibility of a denuclearized world. It never hints that giving up nuclear weapons under current circumstances might “risk greater international instability and insecurity.”
B. The Obama administration states unequivocally that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States must sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal—to maintain strategic stability with other major nuclear powers, deter potential adversaries, and reassure our allies and partners of our security commitments to them.” The NAE’s 2011 resolution contains no such statement about why a nuclear deterrent might still be necessary. On the contrary, it implies that the very concept of deterrence may be outdated and irrelevant.
C. The Obama administration’s review deals directly with the threatening behavior of non-democratic regimes hostile to the United States:
Additional countries—especially those at odds with the United States, its allies and partners, and the broader international community—may acquire nuclear weapons. In pursuit of their nuclear ambitions, North Korea and Iran have violated non-proliferation obligations, defied directives of the United Nations Security Council, pursued missile delivery capabilities, and resisted international efforts to resolve through diplomatic means the crises they have created. Their provocative behavior has increased instability in their regions and could generate pressures in neighboring countries for considering nuclear deterrent options of their own.
The review also remarks that “the lack of transparency surrounding its [China’s] nuclear programs—their pace and scope, as well as the strategy and doctrine that guides them—raises questions about China’s future strategic intentions.”
By contrast, the NAE’s 2011 resolution makes no mention of North Korea, Iran, or China. It contains vague references to “terrorist group[s],” “regional conflicts,” and “rogue nations.” One sentence predicts severe climatic effects of “even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan”; however, there is no analysis of those governments or any others that might trigger a nuclear war. The focus is on the weapons rather than the actors that might use them.
D. The Obama administration review addresses America’s friends’ nervousness about nuclear attack or nuclear extortion. “Some U.S. allies are increasingly anxious about changes in the security environment, including nuclear and missile proliferation, and desire reassurance that the United States will remain committed to their security,” it says. The U.S. “nuclear umbrella” provides reassurance to “non-nuclear U.S. allies and partners that their security interests can be protected without their own nuclear deterrent capabilities.” On the other hand, “A failure of reassurance could lead to a decision by one or more non-nuclear states to seek nuclear deterrents of their own, an outcome which could contribute to an unraveling of the NPT [non-proliferation treaty] regime and to a greater likelihood of nuclear weapon use.”
By contrast, the NAE’s 2011 resolution takes no notice of America’s worried allies. It reveals no awareness of the ways in which U.S. possession and deployment of nuclear weapons may reduce the risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear war.
E. The Obama administration review observes a tradeoff between nuclear deterrence and other military programs:
Although nuclear weapons have proved to be a key component of U.S. assurances to allies and partners, the United States has relied increasingly on non-nuclear elements to strengthen regional security architectures, including a forward U.S. conventional presence and effective theater ballistic missile defenses. As the role of nuclear weapons is reduced in U.S. national security strategy, these non-nuclear elements will take on a greater share of the deterrence burden.
In other words, reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons necessitates a strengthening of conventional and ballistic missile defenses in order to preserve the same deterrent effect. Nuclear disarmament could lead, ironically, to higher U.S. defense spending, as maintaining conventional defenses is far more expensive than keeping a nuclear stockpile in storage.
This tradeoff may be a wise choice in the end—the Obama administration clearly thinks so—but it is a choice that must be considered carefully in an era of budgetary constraints. Yet the NAE’s 2011 resolution appears oblivious to the tradeoff. It seems to assume that dismantling nuclear weapons would bring only benefits, with no costs.
F. The Obama administration’s review states that the United States follows “the practice of ‘open-ocean targeting’ of all ICBMs and SLBMs [nuclear missiles] so that, in the highly unlikely event of an unauthorized or accidental launch, the missile would land in the open ocean.” Even earlier, during the latter stages of the Cold War, U.S. defense officials had become uncomfortable with the 1950s’ strategy of “mutual assured destruction” of civilian populations. In 1980 President Carter ordered a new “countervailing strategy” under which U.S. nuclear missiles would be aimed primarily at enemy command-and-control centers and military facilities rather than residential areas.
But the NAE’s 2011 resolution shows no awareness of these facts. On the contrary, it portrays purely genocidal intentions. Possession of nuclear weapons entails “targeting noncombatants for threatened nuclear destruction,” the resolution charges. It presumes that “national nuclear strategy relies on maintaining a credible threat to kill millions of civilians.” It sees the United States planning “indiscriminate violence,” projecting “the threat to annihilate large civilian populations.”
Insight Needed, at the Very Time It Has Been LostDealing with nuclear weapons is far more complex—morally and practically—than today’s NAE seems to understand. No sensible person wants to “annihilate large civilian populations.” All responsible actors wish to avoid a doomsday scenario. And they are very conscious of the risk that even a limited nuclear exchange could quickly turn catastrophic. But dismantling America’s nuclear arsenal might increase rather than decrease the risk.
Worldwide nuclear disarmament does not seem feasible under current conditions. And even if it were feasible, it would not remove the threat the will remain as long as humans know how to make nuclear weapons. There appears to be no easy way out of the nuclear dilemma.
For this reason, Christians should engage the dilemma prayerfully and thoughtfully, with full information from all sides weighed judiciously. We need to eschew utopian thinking that forgets the limits imposed by human ignorance and sinfulness. We must avoid the temptation of simplistic solutions. We have to remember that well-intentioned policies can have unintended negative consequences.
Christians must understand that the nuclear problem runs deeper than the weapons; it goes to the distorted motives of aggressors that might use or threaten to use those weapons. We need to talk frankly about the particular regimes that are the most dangerous.
U.S. churches are called to uphold the primacy of their spiritual mission above any one-sided political agenda. They should seek consensus among church members before they speak publicly in the name of those members. They need to be humble and cautious in taking positions on questions of political and military judgment. They must be attentive to the ironies and tradeoffs that make such judgments so complicated. They have to be willing to speak to all international actors, not just the United States.
The NAE of 1986 possessed these kinds of insights. So does the Obama administration Defense Department, to some extent. But today’s NAE, sadly, has lost touch with much of the wisdom that it once had. Its “Nuclear Weapons 2011” statement is a poor successor to the “Peace, Freedom and Security Studies” document of 25 years ago.
This decline is tragic. The U.S. evangelical community, pulled this way and that by ideologues of the left and right, needs biblically centered, socially savvy voices that will foster its discernment. The NAE of 1986 fulfilled the function. Today’s NAE has lost its aptitude for that mediating role. In repositioning itself leftward, it has separated itself from its still conservative constituency. The NAE is no longer helping that constituency to sort through various policy options and try to reach consensus. Instead it has fallen captive to political entrepreneurs who promote only one alternative.
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