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Blaming America on God's Behalf -- 51 Years Later By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The outgoing chief bishop of The Episcopal Church, having presided over that 2 million member denomination’s spiraling schism over homosexuality, squeezed time into his schedule this week for an apologetic visit to Hiroshima.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold expressed “repentance” over the U.S. atomic strike on the Japanese city 61 years ago. He is also very worried about current U.S. foreign and military policies, of course.

“I express my own profound sorrow, regret and repentance for the suffering the citizens of this city bore on August 6, 1945, and those in Nagasaki on August 9,” the presiding bishop told worshippers at Hiroshima’s Church of the Resurrection. “I further issue a call to continuing mutual repentance and reconciliation.”

According to Griswold, the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima “does a terrible dishonor to both” of Jesus commands to love our Creator and our neighbor. The bishop also noted the “terrible suffering inflicted [by the U.S.] elsewhere” in Japan during the war. He specifically cited Okinawa, where the continuing presence of U.S. military bases remains a “continuing difficulty” that affects the “daily lives” of the Okinawan people.

Predictably, Griswold linked America’s misdeeds of 60 years ago to those of today. “Perhaps the single most disappointing moment for me as primate of the American Church is the decision by my government to wage war against Iraq,” the bishop intoned. He recalled an earlier letter to President Bush, in which he warned against “unilateral military action,” and instead urged a national focus on “poverty, disease, and despair.” 

Griswold also regretted that the U.S. is pushing Japan towards a “more militaristic posture,” i.e., taking a more active role in its own military defense. The bishop reminded his own government that the U.S. must “avoid policies that foment violence and revenge.” With no sense of irony, Griswold cited an Anglican bishops’ statement of 1930, which insisted that “war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That Anglican statement, of course, helped lay the groundwork for Britain’s disastrous policies of appeasement towards Nazi Germany in the coming years.

“Surely the message must be that such a human disaster must never happen again,” Griswold concluded about Hiroshima. But, of course, his left-wing Protestant brand of soft pacifism would, if actually followed by U.S. policymakers, only help to ensure future disasters such as the fascist aggression that led to World War II. Fortunately, Episcopal and Anglican bishops in the U.S. and Britain are no longer nearly as influential as they once were, thanks to their own self-created theological and political irrelevance.

In contrast to the surreal observations of the American bishop, a retired Japanese bishop spoke of Hiroshima with greater historical and spiritual perception. Bishop Joseph Noriaki Iida, as a teen-age naval academy student, was a witness to the atomic blast and understood what caused it.

“At that moment, I felt I deeply understood that we had chosen the way of death three years ago,” when Japan declared war on America, Bishop Iida recalled to the Episcopal News Service. Viewing a charred Hiroshima from atop a hill 61 years ago, he remembered the Scripture:  “Today I lay down two ways:  the way of life and the way of death; the way of blessing and the way of curse.” The glowing mushroom cloud over Hiroshima also reminded him of the pillars of cloud and fire that protected and guided the Hebrews out of ancient Egypt.       

Iida said the atomic blast at Hiroshima was a cause of jubilation for the Koreans, Southeast Asians and American soldiers whom the Japanese were killing. But even for the Japanese themselves, the bombings provided freedom from totalitarianism, militarism, colonialism and racism, he said. The bomb “was God’s judgment and God’s mercy at the same time.”

Remembering a blackened Japanese history textbook at the time, in which only sentence fragments remained, Bishop Iida compared it to his realization that what he had been told about his country by Japan’s militarist dictators was “totally wrong.” After learning of Japan’s atrocities and of the Nazi Holocaust, and absorbing the Japanese Emperor’s denial of his own previously professed deity, Iida considered turning to communism.

Iida read the Bible so that he could refute Christianity. But instead he succumbed to the “love of God.” While communism had urged hatred of the bourgeoisie, he said, the “Bible said unconditional love, love against those who persecuted you, who hate you.” The Japanese bishop concluded:  “Christianity is superior. That’s why I became a priest of the Anglican Church.”  

Christianity is superior over communism? Do not look for such triumphalism from any U.S. mainline church official, least of all from an Episcopal bishop. Unlike the U.S. bishop, the Japanese bishop has no multiculturalist illusions or inflated notions about humanity. In a fallen world, where choices are often between bad and worst, the U.S. chose to end World War II and Japanese fascism with an atomic weapon. “God can use not only the good thing but also bad things to do his will,” Bishop Iida observed.

The Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, shaped more by secular academic fads rather than the traditions of his own faith, views Western Civilization, the United States, and much of Christianity itself as instruments of oppression and terror. It is little wonder that he presides over a collapsing church.

Meanwhile, Christian leaders of more robust churches, especially those outside the West, better understand that Christianity and Western Civilization, though not interchangeable, and certainly not faultless, are almost always preferable to the available spiritual and political alternatives. Bishop Griswold sees the atomic blast at Hiroshima as an emblem of American cruelty and hegemony. Bishop Iida, in a more nuanced fashion, sees it as an instrument of both providential judgment and mercy. 

The American bishop, from his own insulated position of luxury and advantage, can barely conceive of evils greater than the Bush administration. The Japanese bishop, a survivor of and witness to a nuclear blast, world war, and Japanese militarism knows far better.

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Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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