Nuclear Weapons and Our Future

Doomsday Clock 

1147On January 22, 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight. Kennette Benedict, the Executive Director of the Bulletin, spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate and emphasized “this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it.”

The threat to the ongoing Universe Story, and the call to those who treasure our sacred planet and our interconnection with all being, is inescapable.

Extent of Danger

The U.S. government is very anxious about Iran’s and North Korea’s developing nuclear weapons. (No doubt both countries are anxious that others have weapons and they don’t.) They want to enrich uranium, but enriched uranium can be developed into plutonium that breaks down with an enormous release of energy and destruction.

Consider the relative destructive power of nuclear bombs:
– One kiloton equals 1000 tons of TNT. Think of it as one cube.
- 15 kilotons (15 cubes) were dropped on Hiroshima.
– 21 kilotons (21 cubes) on Nagasaki. Most readers will have seen pictures of the resulting wreckage and are aware of the approximate number of civilians killed.
– Then imagine 15,000 of those cubes — the power of Castle Bravo, the bomb detonated in 1954  by the U.S. at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands.
– Firepower has certainly increased since 1954.

Almost 16,300 nuclear weapons exist in the countries known, or assumed, to have them: the US, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, the UK, North Korea, and Israel. The United States has about 4,800 weapons now, enough collective destructive force to lay waste to every country on Earth.

One wonders not just about the morality of that fact, but the logic. Of the many wars and aggressions in progress today, how many would be solved by dropping a nuclear weapon? How many of the causes of conflict might be solved or reduced if funds were spent in other ways?

Continuing Destruction

As plutonium decays over hundreds of years, it continues to release radiation. This contaminates the environment and threatens human health. In Japan, people are still suffering the consequences of the bombs dropped in 1945.

Testing the weapons is also destructive of human health and the environment.

U.S. Budget Ramifications

President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget calls for $585.2 billion
for the Pentagon. (Compare that with $71 billion for education and $8.6 billion for the environment.)
The Energy Department’s nuclear weapons and other programs total an additional $35.6 billion for 2016.

1-trillion-dollarsObama’s plan proposes to rebuild the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal: the warheads plus the missiles,  planes and submarines that carry them. The National Defense Panel, appointed by Congress, found that the price tag over 30 years could be as much as $1 trillion. That’s $1,000,000,000,000, or 1,000 billion, or the piles made with $100 dollar bills shown next to the truck and the person standing beside it.

What will taxpayers get for that money besides threats of accidents, continued international arms race, and loss of money needed elsewhere? Nuclear weapons do precious little to address the threat of terrorism; nothing to counter Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria; nothing to counteract the growing risk of cyber attack; nothing to address the causes of conflict.

Crimes Against God and Humanity

In 1984 the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that It is evident that the designing, testing, manufacture, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons are among the greatest threats to the right to life which confront mankind today, and concluded that The production, testing, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons should be prohibited and recognized as crimes against humanity.

That UN statement echoes the 1965 Vatican II statement: Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Pope Francis, in his World Peace Day Message, 2014, reiterated the stand taken by the Catholic Church for decades: I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons. 

The Austrian Pledge 

vienna-conferenceIn December 2014 the Austrian government hosted the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Participants issued the Austrian Pledge to cooperate with all relevant parties in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks. (Sign here:

Relevant Quotes 

Christians might keep the nuclear threat in mind as they decide what they will do this Lent. Everyone can consider the calls implied in the following quotes:

Jesus: Put away your sword; Father, forgive them; Whatsoever you do to anyone, you do to me; . . . for I was hungry and you fed me . . . .

Albert Einstein: You can’t solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them.

Buckminster Fuller: You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Abraham Lincoln: The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him [sic] a friend.

Pope Paul VI: If you want peace, work for justice.

Cornelia Connelly: Actions not words.

Which quote(s) might help you respond to your call to reverse the nuclear threat and create a better future? Your comments are most welcome!

Ash Wednesday Stardust Ritual

This ritual is meant to enrich current Ash Wednesday services, not to supplant them.
Needed: at least one candle and a dish of dirt or glitter to which everyone will have access. Decide who will read. Begin in as much darkness as is practical.
(For a two-sided pdf copy, please contact

Leader: To begin, let us pause to recall past times whenashes_6329cp we have received ashes on our foreheads and heard the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Remember how that influenced your best experiences of Lent.  

Carry those thoughts and graces with you now, but place them in a larger context: the context of the entire universe and its amazing 13.8 billion-year history. Perhaps we can remember back to when we did not know the story of how stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. After billions of years, thanks to God’s living and acting in our world and in us, we became part of this blessed creation. We who are stardust are connected to all life; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle(s). 

blastReader One: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated by the explosive force of the blast. And yet she exists in each of us, in the cells of our bodies that are composed of her dust. Consciously or not, we carry her within us as surely as we carry the DNA of our biological parents. (Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato)

Reader Two: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of [an exploding] supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” . . .  I like knowing that the composition of my body has the elements of a star that was once brilliantly aglow in the universe and is now dancing in me. There’s a magical sense of connection that comes from this knowledge . . . . (The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp)

Reader Three: Dust particles are suspendedimages in the air at all times, unnoticed until sunlight bathes them in radiant streaming light. In this warmth, the specs sparkle. No one who cares about shiny furniture is unaware of what dust can accomplish, just by being. Nothing is insignificant in our universe!

Response to readings:

  • for the Spirit present within the creative process of creation and within each of us, We are grateful.
  • for the generations of supernovas that exploded, resulting in stars with increasingly more of the heavy elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy, We are grateful.
  • images-5 for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants, clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine, We are grateful.
  •  for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices, We are grateful.
  • for the scientists, theologians, thinkers, writers, speakers and artists who have helped us realize our place in creation — [Pause to quietly remember one or two who have helped you. Name them if you wish], We are grateful.
  • for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth, We are grateful.

Jesus, too, was stardust! Jesus, too, died to give new life. How might we connect the creation  story with our Lent experiences this year? How might our Lent resolutions reflect our call to care for E/earth?

Blessing dirt together:
May this soil, which dates to stardust images-2and which took over 4 billion years to form on Earth, keep us humble — humus is the Latin for soil. May it remind us of who we are and how vitally we interconnect with the rest of creation. May we trust in divine power working in us for the good of all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil from the center bowl:
Depending on the number of participants, either divide into pairs, each member blessing the other with soil from the center bowl, or form a circle and pass the bowl of soil, each blessing the person on his or her right.

Thank you, (name), for bringing your starlight into my life. I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for all of creation. (Add anything you may wish to say at the beginning of our Lenten Journey.)

Extinguish candle(s).


Time to Plan for Lent

 lent_thumb3_thumbLent begins next month — Ash Wednesday is Feb. 18th! Christians who care about Earth and/or whose Christ-awareness has been enriched by evolutionary biology, physics, and the new cosmology might long for Lent resources that include the suffering, death, and resurrection of Earth. Knowing that Jesus’ life is interconnected with everything else, they might want resources that foster actions that contribute to Earth’s sustainability and renewal.

Our reflections on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection need not be isolated from the life, death, and resurrection present in our our sacred and threatened Earth. This Lent is a good time to integrate concern for each precious threatened species with Christ’s suffering “in ten thousand places.” (Gerald Manley Hopkins)

Even butterflies, a symbol of new life, monarch-butterfly-threatenedare threatened with extinction — and the ramifications for other life forms are indeed ominous. “The whole creation [including humanity, so totally dependent upon it] has been groaning as in  the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8: 2) 

Though resources that integrate Christ’s passion and Earth’s passion are not plentiful, they do exist. This site — — is one of them, and it offers two resources for Lent.

Creation Covenant

This free five-part group reflection guide, Creation Covenant, is currently available in English at The Spanish version will be posted by January 24th. 

Grounded in the Universe Story, Creation Covenant connects excerpts from the Sunday Scripture readings with Earth’s current “groaning” due to species extinction and habitat destruction. Participants reflect on our common beginnings c.13.8 billion years ago, the marvel of God’s living and acting in the world and in us, and our call to respond to the signs of our times. The first four weeks highlight extinction of species, destruction of ecosystems, and our responsibility to protect both; the fifth week consists of a culminating prayer ritual.   

imagesCreation Covenant is a timely response to what Pope Francis wrote in Joy of the Gospel:
God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel … the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.

The Pope’s call to feel Earth’s pain is reminiscent of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s conviction that “it is through sympathy, and this alone,” that humans will be able to extend further the life that has made us.

It’s not too early to publicize, gather friends, and plan to use Creation Covenant this Lent!

Ash (Stardust) Wednesday Ritual 

In February will post a lent_other_picritual for Ash Wednesday that expands our dust-remembrance by celebrating our coming from stardust and by reflecting on the marvel of dust.

I hope these two resources will contribute to what Thomas Berry called the Great Work. 

Other resources

The Stations of the Cross for All Creation booklet, available from the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC), integrates the sufferings of Jesus, our planet and its people, and envisions resurrection and new life. See


Please use “Comments” to add your suggestions for making good use of our time this Lent.