Christians need to reexamine the issue of nuclear weapons. Most of us probably haven’t thought about it recently. With everything else going on, it’s not top of mind. But now is the time to reconsider seriously the moral challenge of nuclear weapons in the modern world.
Pope Benedict raised the issue in 2006. Pope Benedict raised it again in 2017 with a condemnation of the threat of nuclear deterrence. Many Christians—including previous popes—have said that in the moral calculations of war, threatening to use these weapons in order to stop other people from using them was justified. Now the Roman Catholic Church disagrees, and Pope Francis says a threat “is to be firmly condemned.”
There is also renewed debate over a comprehensive ban on all nuclear weapons. Eighty-one countries have signed on to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, sometimes called the Ban Treaty. A debate about it was set to take place in New York City this month, but it has been delayed one year due to concerns about COVID-19.
At the same time, the New START Treaty between the US and Russia is set to expire. This treaty—the descendant of the agreement first proposed by President Ronald Reagan and signed by President George H. W. Bush—has continued important historic efforts to put real restraints on nuclear weapons. If it sunsets in February 2021, there will be no constraints at all on nuclear weapons for the first time in half a century. President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin can extend the treaty for five years, but so far it’s not clear that they will, although the ball appears to be in Trump’s court.