Can Easter Enlighten the Nuclear Crisis?

College students from Japan march in Vienna on June 20 with a banner to mark the first meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (Asahi Shimbun/Tabito Fukutomi)
College students from Japan march in Vienna on June 20 with a banner to mark the first meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (Asahi Shimbun/Tabito Fukutomi)

by Peter Kakos

According to one Biblical Easter account, when Jesus appeared to his followers- now frightened that Roman crucifixion would be their fate as well, his first word to them is one that is spoken to this day as a  greeting across the world by three of the world’s major faiths: Jewish, Christian, and  Muslim as well. Simply but hope-filled, that word is “Peace” (Shalom, Salaam). In first century common Greek it is transliterated as Irenay, coming down to us as the adjective,”irenic” and adverbially “irenically.”  The import of this word to his listeners cannot be overstated. It conveys the healing condition of reconciliation, whereby each party reunites in a spirit of commonality, no longer seeing the other as the enemy or adversary. It understands that the needs of each side basically is identical, so that none brags of triumph over a lesser or weaker “other”. On one level, this is what Emily Dickinson meant when she observed: “My need is all I have.” In the case of the Gospel story, that concept served to calm their fears in the midst of witnessing the sheer mystery of the “other side”. In recent history the courageous South African Truth and Reconciliation measures enabled a miraculously poignant reckoning, as opposed to a stale, mere truce.

For the “prophet of Galilee”’ as he was called in Matthew’s account, his inclusive actions spoke volumes, were regarded as troublingly radical, and in so doing he knew the brutal price he would pay. He applauded the story of an (heretical) Samaritan who cared for a stranger he found beaten and robbed on the dangerous road down to fabled Jericho. It didn’t matter who was in need, what counted was that each were sisters and brothers of the one human race: those with leprosy, or blindness , or terminally ill, or outcast due to utter poverty, or women bearing the brunt of ruinous stigma. For both the immoral occupier, Rome (are not all occupations inherently immoral?), and for his religion’s belief that the true Messiah must be the One who would lead the charge to free them from the cruelties of their oppressor, he was made a shameful lesson to each and all would-be resisters.

They nailed him to a t-cross, but could not crucify his spirit. Were he here now, he would be out there striving toward the “peace that passes all understanding” as the first century interpreter, Paul of Tarsus, envisioned. He would call upon the nations who possess nuclear weapons to turn from the terrifying darkness of global annihilation, to the civilization-saving light of a path to converting “weapons to windmills” as Nuclear-Ban author, Tim Wallis, memorably imagines the crucial matter at hand.

Or, in the precise language of Jesus’ first directive, they must “Repent, for the kingdom of God is within you.”   Given that even a limited exchange of the exponentially more devastating missiles since 1945, would effectively put an end to humankind, meaningful reconciliation through agencies like the U.N.’s ratified Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons of 2021, TPNW; and nationally, the steadfast efforts of Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Back from the Brink endeavor, we now  have enlightened steps to take to make the ancient vision of the prophet Micah come true: “They will beat their swords into plowshares.”

In Congress, check out our Rep. Jim McGovern’s brave House Resolution 77, and state-wide Rep. Sabadosa together with Sen. Comerford’s Resolution to establish  Commission, S. 1487 and 1488, to assess the present, existential nuclear threat posed to the Commonwealth.

Does Easter’s Irenay still speak today? You and eight billion can bet your life on it.

Rev. Peter Kakos, Northampton, member of Nuclear Free Future (Nuclearban.US.) April 5,2023.