By Zachary Parris
student, Lutheran School of Theology
Over sixty years ago, in just seconds, 160,000 men, women and children in two Japanese cities were instantly turned to ash. In the years that followed, more than 200,000 more men, women and children were returned to ashes as a result of those few seconds.
This is the ultimate alternative to nuclear disarmament. Ashes.
Within the life of the Church, ashes also symbolize death. But the Church teaches us that there is also an alternative.
One of the most powerful and emotional moments of my pastoral internship came on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the Christian time of Lent. Forty days spent focusing on our mortality and frailty. During this service, I rubbed ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead of each person in the assembly and said, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The ashes remind us of our mortality.
The Ash Wednesday service also reminds us as Christians that we proclaims a God who time and again chooses life over death, reconciliation over ashes.
Thanks to President Obama and the UN Security Council, the world again is talking about nuclear disarmament. But this is more than a geopolitical issue. Nuclear disarmament is a religious issue simply because it is an issue of life and death.
We must pray for nuclear disarmament, in our pious prayers and our frustrated cries to God. But we must also pray for nuclear disarmament by working to address the issues that lead to nuclear armament. We must pray and work for the recognition and respect of the other based not on one’s ability to harm the other, but on our interrelatedness and interdependence.
By doing that, we will be heeding our call to choose life over death. Disarmament over ashes.
Zachary Parris is studying for the ministry at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and he is a student in Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite’s course “Public Theology” at Chicago Theological Seminary. The students in her class are studying the writings by the “On Faith” panel and learning how to write about religion in the public square.