Archive for the 'Mutual Assured Destruction' Category

While We Were Dreaming…

What a great celebration for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s stirring “I Have a Dream” speech. I hope and pray that we’ll see widespread renewed commitment to achieving that dream. We’ve made remarkable progress in the last fifty years. But while we’ve been celebrating in recent days, I’ve been reminded how very far it is to that time when “…justice rolls like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Thank God Dr. King listened to singer Mahalia Jackson’s urging to dump his manuscript and tell the Spirit-inspired truth. May more of us preachers tune our ears to hear such voices and our hearts to follow their lead!)

Some recent experiences got me thinking along this line. Last Friday the son of some friends of ours chose to end his life. He’d battled mental illness for years. His family had fought the battle alongside him. Along the way they’d discovered the dismal lack of resources, funding, and caring available to those who suffer from mental illness. Today yet another family mourns its tragic loss because we choose not to provide sufficient resources to meet the basic health needs of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Want to know more? The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is a good starting point.

Last Monday my wife and I spent the day with long-time friends in Tucson, Arizona. When we had some time to fill before dinner, we decided to visit the nearby Titan Missile Museum.  The Titan II missile was developed and deployed in the early 1960’s. Launch sites were built around Air Force bases in Tucson, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Wichita, Kansas. Each of the 54 sites housed a single missile equipped with a 9-megaton nuclear warhead capable of destroying everything within up to 900 square miles when detonated. The hardened silo and underground control center were designed to survive a first-strike and still be able to launch a retaliatory strike.

These missiles supported our defense policy of Mutual Assured Destruction. Very simply, US leaders believed that if we could keep the Russians convinced that any missile attack launched on this country would be met with a response that would inflict unacceptable damage on their country (not to mention the rest of the planet!), they would never fire the first shot. And if we believed the same about their capability, neither would we initiate an attack.

In the 1980’s the missiles were phased out, due to a combination of arms reduction treaties and technological advances that made the Titan II obsolete. All the sites have now been de-commissioned. The other 53 have been dismantled and converted to other uses. Vista de la Montana United Methodist Church is built on one former Titan II site north of Tucson!

This museum is the only Titan II site still relatively intact. I’m grateful for the service of all who built and maintained these sites over the years. The retired Air Force members who were our guides recalled their service proudly. My father-in-law worked at this particular site as a civilian contractor for two years.  But the musem reminds us of a disturbing chapter in our history. The US and the USSR spent countless billions on the deadly game of nuclear chicken we called Mutual Assured Destruction. It truly was MADness. For me, going down in the missile control center and experiencing a simulated launch wasn’t the game our guides tried to make it. It was a chilling reminder of the MADness of which we humans are capable. Right now that madness is playing out in Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Washington D.C.. Too many times in too many places we have chosen to fight rather than to recognize the other’s humanity and do the hard work of finding a way to live together in peace. We’ve stepped back from the brink of imminent nuclear holocaust, but we still have the firepower to destroy life on this planet. We must find another way.

In the midst of it all Miley Cyrus took the stage. I didn’t watch the VMA Awards. But I heard and saw more than enough. Some agent/talent guru convinced Miley that debasing and disrespecting herself would advance her career. Her handlers clearly loved dollars and ratings more than their client. Was Miley so brainwashed by our hyper-sexualized culture that she went along? Did she buy into a success-at-any-cost mentality? Has she so little respect for herself as a woman? Did anyone in her life love her enough to speak up:  “Is this really what you want to do? This isn’t who you are. I believe you have enough talent to connect with your audience in a way that’s mutually respectful instead of mutually degrading.” The issue goes beyond Miley to all the young girls who will see her and follow her lead, and all the young men who will take Robin Thicke for a role model.

While we were “dreaming” and reaffirming Dr. King’s vision of a new world, these nightmares and others continued unabated. Fifty years ago Dr. King spoke of “the fierce urgency of Now” when he called us beyond talk to substantive action. President Obama echoed the words and the call in his speech on Wednesday. Maybe your life doesn’t have much “fierce urgency” at the moment. But mentally ill people and their families and caregivers do. So do other vulnerable members of our communities who scramble for scraps and leftovers of time, money, and attention. The  victims of violence and war in this country and many others feel that fierce urgency. So do the women and men victimized by our hyper-sexualized culture. So do lots of other folks with lots of other equally pressing issues.

We may not be feeling much “fierce urgency” for ourselves right now. But we’re easily within reach of someone who is. Our Risen Lord is already at work in these situations. He’s expecting his followers—you and me—to join him. Let’s not make him wait any longer. When we drag our feet, we deny Dr. King’s dream that is also God’s dream for the world.