Bishop wrong to support nuclear strike

By Simon Barrow
March 7, 2007

Responding to an article by the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper (“I believe in Trident, and using it if necessary”, 4 March 2007), Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, said that the Anglican Bishop of Rochester is “profoundly mistaken” in his view that the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons can be justified on Christian grounds.

Barrow said: “The great majority of Christians, including global Anglican bishops in a 1978 statement, have rightly held that the threat and use of weapons of mass destruction is incompatible with the person and work of Jesus Christ – who was not even mentioned in Bishop Nazir Ali’s article.”

The Bishop’s op ed piece appeared to suggest that a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran might be justified if it developed nuclear weapons, though, he declared, “the threshold for any such action would have to be very high indeed and the precise nature of the action would have to be very carefully decided.”

Commented Barrow: “The bishop’s argument is strategically as well as theologically misplaced. In an age of asymmetric conflict previous notions of ‘deterrence’ do not work as he supposes. Lord Hattersley has correctly observed that you do not dissuade an al-Qaida operative in Baluchistan from attacking Europe by threatening to obliterate Islamabad. You do not discourage Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by talking about pre-emptive strikes against Tehran, either.”

He continued: “The churches have been overwhelming in their call for the Trident system not to be renewed – recognizing that the £21 billion replacement would make us less not more secure, by further entrenching the dangers of nuclear proliferation.”

The Ekklesia director added: “The church’s traditional teaching is that security is to be found in the persuasion of love not the power of death. That is the message 13 US Christian leaders took to Iran a fortnight ago. Hopefully Bishop Nazir-Ai will have a chance to talk with them soon.”

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.