The Common Good

A Good START: Reducing the Idolatry of Nuclear Weapons

The decades-long struggle to first reduce and then abolish nuclear weapons achieved two major goals this week that we can celebrate.

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Yesterday in Prague, U.S. president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Both countries agreed to cut their nuclear stockpiles to 1,550 warheads, compared to more than 30,000 each at the peak of the Cold War.

The presidents both remarked on the significance of the treaty. Obama said: "Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations." And Medvedev added: "What matters most is that this is a win-win situation. No one stands to lose from this agreement."

Earlier in the week, the Obama administration released its Nuclear Posture Review -- a statement of its policy on nuclear weapons. For the first time, there is a declaration that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against countries that are in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, that their purpose is to deter attacks against the U.S.

The two together made it the most significant week for reducing the threat of nuclear weapons in a long time. It is a goal the faith community has been working on for decades, and it is good news indeed that the tyranny and idolatry of nuclear weapons will now be further reduced.

One of the signs of the treaty's significance has been the virulent right-wing response to it from people like Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity. Hannity supports the first use of nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear nations, and wants to keep "all options on the table." The problem from a faith point of view is that all options don't pass the traditional tests of Christian morality. And some commentators have actually said that young Muslim men who want to put bombs in their underwear are a greater threat to us than nuclear weapons, which I find an absolutely amazing lack of comprehension about "the real world."

portrait-jim-wallisJim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, CEO of Sojourners and blogs at

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