Commentary
By Shane Claiborne 8-09-2017

Aug. 9 is a tragic day in history.

Aug. 9, 2014, Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson.

Aug. 9, 1945, the United States dropped the nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands of people.

Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen" — the day before Nagasaki Day.

Aug. 9 is a good day to pause. And pray. And repent.

Aug. 9 is a good day to remember that the United States stands alone in the fire and fury we have brought to the world. There is only one nation that has used a nuclear bomb on people — the United States, and we did it twice in one week. The United States dropped the "Little Boy" bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945; three days later we dropped the "Fat Man" bomb on Nagasaki. More than 100,000 died instantly that week, and tens of thousands more in the weeks to follow.

Aug. 9th is a good time to remember that the United States has an addiction, and an affliction, of violence. Of the roughly 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world, about half of them are owned by the U.S. We have bombs now that are 80 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb. Cumulatively, the firepower of our nuclear arsenal is equivalent to 50,000 Hiroshima bombs. It only takes 100 nuclear bombs to make the world uninhabitable — and we have an estimated 7,000.

Zooming in a little bit. Aug. 9 is also the day Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., and his body was left in the street for four hours.

His death is a reminder today, a wakeup call, to the epidemic of violence, police brutality, and racism that plagues our country like a cancer. We also stand alone in the world when it comes to police violence and the proliferation of gun violence. Since Michael Brown’s death, police have killed nearly 3,000 other people in the U.S.

Guns claim the lives of 30,000 people a year in our country, more than 90 a day. Not only do we have the largest military in the world, but we also have the most guns in the world. With 4 percent of the global population, the United States owns almost half (42 percent) of the world’s civilian guns. We have a problem.

We are addicted to violence.

What we did to Nagasaki and Hiroshima was wrong. What the Ferguson police did to Michael Brown was wrong. Aug. 9 is a good day to repent, and to turn from death to life.

So let me conclude by telling a story of another man who died on Aug. 9. His name is Franz Jägerstätter. He was executed at the age of 36 by the Nazis. In 2007, he was beatified by the Catholic Church, declared a martyr.

Franz Jägerstätter was a humble Catholic peasant born to a poor German farm maid in the small town of Radegund, Upper Austria.

Franz, a husband and the father of three children, refused to serve in the military when he was drafted by the Nazi regime. Although advised by his parish priest and local bishop that his duty was to serve his country and care for his family, Jägerstätter firmly believed that to participate in the war was to cooperate with evil, and he held that belief as a voice in the wilderness, even after the Nazis put him in jail.

He felt deeply that his Christian faith could not permit him to fight in Hitler’s army. Even under pressure by local priests and bishops to conform and serve in the military, Franz refused.

After a military trial, he was beheaded on Aug. 9, 1943. His government considered him an “enemy of the state,” but the Church considers him a saint. He’s a hero for all of us who hope to have a church of conscientious objectors to war and all forms of violence, racism, and hatred.

I'll leave you with the words of Brother Franz:

"Through His bitter suffering and death, Christ freed us only from eternal death, not from temporal suffering and mortal death. But Christ, too, demands a public confession of our faith, just as the Führer, Adolf Hitler does from his followers."

Today we must choose. Will we confess our allegiance to guns and bombs ... or to the cross of Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

May Aug. 9 be a day of remembrance, a day of repentance, and a day to confess that violence is evil.

Let's declare the end of violence ... in the name of Michael Brown ... in the name of those who died at Nagasaki and Hiroshima ... in the name of Franz Jägerstätter ... and in the name of the executed and risen Christ.

Amen.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community in Philadelphia. His newest book is Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death.

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