G.R. Stirling (with comment from Sarah Backholer)
This piece, written by G.R. Stirling in 1982, is easily transposed as a crucial word for our times. We see that issues of violence and global catastrophe are not new; we witness Stirling’s theological imperative to faith in the midst of confronting reality. We too, are confronted with terror beyond our capacity to assimilate, trauma beyond our ability to understand. We are here reminded that our first task is to let God get at the seeds of war in our own lives; intolerance and hate, prejudice and pride, and our fanatical desire to hang on to material prosperity at all costs. This response seems simultaneously too small and too big; yet only in this way can forgiveness begin to ‘go viral’.
(With reference to Waleed Aly, ‘Send forgiveness viral’, The Project, Channel 10, 19th July 2016).
I’m worried because the second special session on disarmament of the general assembly of the United Nations did not seem to reach substantial agreement on reducing the billions of dollars being spent on armaments. Twice now, arms races have led to global war.
I’m worried because computers sometimes mishandle messages, and the early warning systems in the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are dependent on computers. I know that once, a false alarm caused by radar activated by a large shoal of fish had nuclear armed planes in the air.
I’m worried that the super powers arm small nations to do their fighting for them. This means that the big powers are confronting one another in more and more explosive situations in the world.
I’m worried that the arms trade to irresponsible governments round the world gives them the capacity to do a lot of damage…perhaps nuclear damage. Perhaps it is some sort of judgement that modern soldiers are killed by weapons made in their own home factories, e.g. in the Falkland affair.
I’m worried because the destruction gap between conventional anti-personnel weapons are almost as destructive as the earlier atom bombs.
I’m worried because while the American alliance provides us with a protective umbrella it also leaves us open to nuclear attack. There are submarines from both sides on the high seas each of which can destroy 400 cities from where they may be sub-merged out of sight.
Not for myself: I am not worried for myself. I am worried for my grandchildren and every one else’s grandchildren. I am worried about what war can do to people whom God loves and to little children for whom Christ died. I am worried about what war does to God.
Wars and rumours of wars: Some of my friends tell me that war is inevitable…there shall be wars and rumours of wars. How much comfort is that to the grandfather who appeared briefly on my screen with his orphaned grand-children, one blinded and one in his arms limbless, in Lebanon? In any case the exegesis of my friends is wrong. Jesus referred to wars and rumours of wars as signs of the destruction of Jerusalem. The context makes it clear that it was to be in the lifetime of his audience. I am also aware that Jesus said, blessed are the peace makers.
Defence necessary: Some of my friends say, “But we have to defend ourselves”. Of course we do, but do modern enlightened nations have to go made in a frantic arms race because the people of the world are too indifferent to put the brakes on them? My concern is what we are doing about the resources God has provided and man is wasting. We are using billions of dollars worth of energy, raw materials and produce for destruction when God intended it all to be used to feed and clothe the world. The earth is the Lord’s. To mess about with it is to bring his judgement upon us.
So little we can do: Some of my friends say that there is so little that we can do. I do not believe them. God is at work in the world through little people like us. Perhaps he just needs more of us to do something. And what can we do?
1. For a start we can let God get at the seeds of war in our own lives; intolerance and hate, prejudice and pride, and our fanatical desire to hang on to material prosperity at all costs.
2. We can pray for peace constantly. God wants to give us peace, but somehow or other there also has to be masses of people committed to prayer for peace.
3. We can create in our churches and neighbourhoods a consensus for peace-making and disarmament and conciliation by being interested, informed and willing to talks about these things until it seeps up to the decision makers.
4. We can commend our government and our local representatives when they make such moves as increasing aid in the Pacific, and elsewhere, and when they show awareness of North-South responsibility. We can make it clear at election times that we want clear statements from candidates about their intentions concerning disarmament, the reduction of nuclear weapons and increasing nuclear free areas.
5. We can take an interest in and an active part in the World Disarmament Campaign launched at the U.N. Special Session on Disarmament.
So far away: I suppose that my main worry is that a lot of Australian Christians feel that it is all so far away from us that we can pull down the blinds on it all. Perhaps it is later for us than we think!
GR Stirling ‘Page 13: I'm worried! Are you?,’ Australian Christian 1982 (373) 13 (Recast, Sarah Backholer 2016).