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Before I became a Christian, I had the worst lunch breaks in the world. They went like this:

Every day I would take my bowl of rice and beans into the noonday sun and sit on the tailgate of my '87 Ranger, which commanded a billion-dollar view. Armed with the painfully earnest idealism of a new college graduate, I had scored a job at a nonprofit organization located in a house-cum-office just off the southern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'd sit there in the parking lot, humming Otis Redding, literally at the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away. As I ate, I'd take in the bridge, the Marin headlands, Alcatraz and the East Bay, and the stunning Mediterranean sweep of the San Francisco skyline.

And every day the scenery was swept clean, in my mind's horrified eye, by the merciless white flash of a nuclear airburst.

Dust and Ashes

I was then an irreligious religion major, raised in a secular home and employed straight out of college by Alan Cranston, a four-term warhorse of the U.S. Senate who dedicated his retirement to advancing the global abolition of nuclear weapons. The crash course in nuclear policy I received my first two weeks on the job was nothing short of traumatic. My imagination had become a bit zingy from eating only rice, beans, and lettuce, and sleeping every night under my desk. (It was the height of the dot-com boom; rentals, especially for impoverished, nonprofit employees like me, were impossible to find.)

As just one example of the things that kept me awake at night: We had in 1999, and inexplicably still have today, thousands of nuclear-tipped warheads on hair-trigger alert. This is a holdover from the Cold War, when policy wonks were afraid that a preemptive nuclear attack by the Reds would destroy ...

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Christianity Today
A Merciful White Flash
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In the Magazine

April 2008

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