Spiritual Disaster Preparedness
At 10:13 a.m. on Thursday, May 25, 2017, a 14-foot U-Haul truck will abruptly come to an inexplicable stop in the middle of the 900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. There, in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C., only yards away from the FBI and the Justice Department, the nuclear warhead hidden in the truck's cargo bed will explode.
The weapon will be the same gun-type design as the Hiroshima bomb, crude and weak and inefficient by modern standards. But at 15 kilotons, the blast radius will cover 1.5 miles, encompassing and destroying the White House, the Capitol Building and Congressional offices, and the Supreme Court; the buildings housing the IRS and the Departments of Energy, Commerce, and Transportation; and the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, and the National Mall and Museums.
That morning the district will be bustling with workers clearing their inboxes prior to the long Memorial Day weekend and tourists who are already making the rounds. Tens of thousands of people will die in the first minutes. The dead include the majority of all nationally elected officials, including the President and Vice-President, as well as the core employees in each branch of the government.
Additional tens of thousands will die both quickly and slowly by asphyxiation, burning, and building collapse in the subsequent firestorms. And the number of critically injured will dwarf the number of initial fatalities as the regional health-care system collapses. The ledger of the dead will overflow as radiation and the plume of deadly smoke take their toll on downwind communities, whether Baltimore or Arlington.
Now, the stunned silence. Now, the widespread panic. Now, the disaster response.
Now, the howls for retribution.
Now: What does the American church do?
One thing the American church will almost certainly do in such a situation is wish that it had done something sooner.
Broad Is the Way That Leads to Destruction
The above sounds like the plot of a movie, too horrifying to be real. On the other hand, that's just how the prospect of knife-wielding terrorists using passenger planes as guided missiles would have sounded to most of us on September 10, 2001.
Professor Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, gives worse than 50-50 odds to the possibility of our going 10 years without a nuclear terrorist attack, which he calls "the ultimate preventable catastrophe." (It gets worse: He started counting in 2004.) And the famously understated Warren Buffett, who made his billions in part by insuring insurance companies, says of a nuclear attack on the U.S., "it's inevitable." Buffett observes that if there is a 10 percent likelihood of a nuclear attack each year, our 50-year likelihood of seeing a disaster like that described is 99.5 percent.
In other words, unless we're able to prevent such a scenario, it's something we need to try to be ready for even if we never face the governmental decapitation from an attack on Washington, D.C., but still incur the comparable human loss from the destruction of any other city: Pittsburgh or Dallas or Los Angeles.
At present, we're whistling down the road to disaster, maintaining a nuclear status quo that will be our undoing. But it doesn't have to be this way. The future can still be changed.
Not Your Daddy's Disarmament
"We are at a tipping point," says George Shultz, President Reagan's Secretary of State and an architect of the end of the Cold War. "The simple continuation of present practice with regard to nuclear weapons is leading in the wrong direction. We need to change that direction. We cannot wait for a nuclear Pearl Harbor or 9/11."