Just before I started writing this note, I got an email from my friend Craig, who lives near Glasgow, Scotland. Under the subject line “Off to Bed” (it was about 10PM in Glasgow) Craig wrote: “Hopefully your president won’t start a nuclear war before I get up tomorrow, daft [and here he used a vulgarity I won’t repeat].”
There has been some saber rattling between the United States and North Korea in recent days, with presidential threats of “fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” North Korea, for its part, has suggested the United States will be on the receiving end of a “severe warning” if the American military does anything untoward.
It’s hard to hear these threats and counter-threats during the two days that separate the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is a painful reminder that we do not learn from our mistakes (or our war crimes, as the case may be).
The two days that separate the anniversaries of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are days I observe each year by turning a year older (my birthday is August 7), and this year I turned 49, which is an auspicious age to be. Next year will get more attention, as I will, suddenly, be closer to 100 than to zero, but 49 is a good spiritual number. It is seven times seven, the year of Jubilee, when, according to Biblical tradition, all debts are to be forgiven, all slaves set free, an all land returned to its original owner.
I doubt any real debts will get forgiven during my jubilee year—my car payments won’t disappear and the money my family owes to various doctors, dentists and orthodontists won’t be written off—but I do hope to use this year as a time to reflect on how I might be more forgiving and gracious in my dealings with others and in my thoughts about them.
I also hope to be mindful about and active around how grace and forgiveness might provide a real and practical alternative to violence. It’s hard to know what anyone would lose if the United States simply chose to forgive and get over whatever offenses are at the root of our conflict with North Korea. And if the North Korean government were to let go of its anti-American animus, that would be a benevolent development indeed.
I know I’m a dreamer and that my dreams are impractical, but it’s hard to see how forgiveness and grace can be worse for humanity than the carnage inherent in a nuclear war.
Anyway, I will continue to pray for a jubilee that involves mutual forgiveness between the United Sates and North Korea. I’m a year older and as I age I find my self increasingly out of step with the rest of the word. But so be it. I’m content to be a fool, so long as I’m a fool for peace, and I’m willing to be a solitary fool, but if you will join me, the peaceful foolishness will be more fun.
Meanwhile I join my friend Craig in hoping no one with the codes to nuclear weapons does anything we all would regret.
Here’s to Peace,