The euphoria of President Reagan’s summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is long past. It is in the cold light of day that Congress now considers ratification of the INF missile reduction treaty.

And in that cold light of day, what are evangelicals to think of the treaty? We may be helped in our judgments by the Guidelines formulated last year by the National Association of Evangelicals, under the auspices of its Peace, Freedom, and Security Studies Program.

The Guidelines are concerned to support two basic principles: religious freedom and the nonviolent resolution of international conflict. Accordingly, they are wary of the Soviet Union’s past and present policies, which certainly suppress religious and other freedoms. At the same time, the Guidelines are desirous of discussions such as that between Reagan and Gorbachev, since they affirm the universal human capacity for “reason and mutual respect.”

In principle, then, the Guidelines vigorously support prudent efforts at arms reduction. Arms reductions are clearly attempts to reduce international conflict non-violently. And prudent arms reductions will safeguard religious (and other) freedoms by not upsetting the balance of power to the point that either superpower might feel emboldened to abuse human rights in a third country—or even launch an attack on its superpower opponent.

So the important question becomes: Is the INF treaty prudent? It calls for the destruction of only 3 percent of both countries’ nuclear arsenals. This is hardly a cut radical enough to destabilize the present, uneasy “balance” of power.

The treaty also provides for the most extensive verifications of the reduction ever written into such a document. These include allowing each power to count physically the other’s medium-range missiles, as well as continuing 13-year, on-site inspections (in the USSR, at more than 100 locations). Such measures comport well with the Guidelines’ concern for realism and prudence.

Yet there are those who say the only realistic stance toward the USSR is one of threatening physical force. This is a view explicitly repudiated by the Guidelines. They deny that there can be no “change in Soviet society,” assert that “there are new realities” in Russia, and state that “there is the possibility for the establishment of more common ground between the U.S. and USSR.…”

With the affirmation, then, that the INF treaty realistically seeks an alternative to violence (and the proviso that the current congressional investigation will confirm its realism), evangelicals should heartily support its swift ratification. And they should pray that it is only the first of many steps toward, in the words of the Guidelines, more effective alternatives to “that most terrible form of human conflict, the organized mass violence of war.”

By Rodney Clapp.

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