Monday, May 23, 2016

Bombing Christians ... Was it Okay Because They Were Japanese?

I don't want Obama running around the world apologizing for things. But, there you go. He's already apologized, bowed, scraped, on a global scale.

Now he's gone to Vietnam (and used the visit to lift a ban on the sale of weapons to that communist country) and will be traveling next to Japan.

Of course, the trip has made headlines for weeks as Obama's plans in Japan include a visit to Hiroshima. No other sitting president of the United States has visited the site of the first war-time, military use of an atomic weapon. There are many who are repulsed by the idea that Obama might apologize for the action authorized by America's only nuclear madman president, Harry Truman.

Maybe you think he should apologize? Those two bombings -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- targeted Japanese sites that did have military components, but, at the same time, those bombs were vastly destructive of civilian communities. At the time, and now, one might well argue that such targeting violated international treaties and covenants on the targeting of civilian populations.

Maybe you think he should not apologize? Those two bombings averted the need for a ground war in Japan, with the potential cost in military and civilian lives of an estimate of a million or more.

I'm going to ask your toleration of the following.

My dad fought in the Pacific Theater of WWII. He also fought in the Korean Conflict. He also served in the Vietnam Conflict. He was a "maverick." He started as an enlisted man. He ended as a full bird Colonel. After WWII, he graduated from law school, attended OCS and was commissioned as a Marine officer. He later became a Staff Judge Advocate, then a member of the intermediate Navy-Marine Court of Review, and finally, the senior judge of the Navy-Marine Corps' Piedmont District.

In our home, growing up, Pops didn't talk to me, or around me, about his wartime experiences with battle, with engaging the enemy. At most, he would talk about his interaction with Samoans when he was stationed there, and with generous host families on New Zealand, where he and other Marines took R & R during WWII. But, no, he didn't talk about engagement with the enemy. In my whole life, he never talked about shooting and killing a Japanese sniper in the south Pacific. After he died, I learned that he carried with him and kept for the rest of his life, three photographs that he took from the body of that dead sniper. But he never talked of it to us kids.

There was what seemed at the time to be the amusing anecdote that we would all recognize now as PTSD. He and Mother walking in downtown, I think Albuquerque, after he returned from the Korean Conflict. A car backfired loudly. Mother looked around and Pops was gone. When the explosive backfire occurred, he did what every sensible Marine did and hit the deck. Big laughs. Ha Ha Ha. Except, of course, now we understand how terribly damaging to the psyche war is, even if one counts themselves a fortunate survivor or even a victor.

As he approached second retirement -- he spent nearly two decades teaching police officers and other law enforcement personnel of the Commonwealth of Kentucky about the Constitution, criminal law, criminal procedure, and related topics at the Kentucky Police Academy -- he spent some time writing out some of his experiences in war, but still those recollections were mainly focused on the non-combat, non-lethal, sometimes amusing side of things.

He did write one letter, though. I've mentioned it on here before. As I understand the letter, he sent it only to his five sons, Paul Henderson, Dave Henderson, Joe Henderson, Tom Henderson, and me, Jim Henderson. He expressed regrets about choices he made in life, particularly once there was a family and children to be affected by how he pursued his military career. 

He also gave us each a book. That book embodied objective information about the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It was written by a Catholic physician who, until he also succumbed to leukemia likely the result of exposure to radiation from the Nagasaki bombing, worked to heal, help, and soothe those whose lives were savaged by that bombing.

Until I read the book and then further studied the bombing of Nagasaki, I had never really considered the most peculiarly unChristian nature of that particular bombing.

Francis Xavier is largely considered responsible for Christianity's first rise in Japan. He planted churches there, and before the persecutions of the Church and the declaration of being a Christian constituting a Capital crime, Christianity flourished in Japan and eventually, before persecution, the Catholic Christian population of Japan number in the millions.

With persecution, the numbers of Christians dwindled. 

There were pockets of Christianity that remained and persevered despite persecution. One of those communities flourished in Nagasaki. At the time of the bombing of Nagasaki, the baptized community of the Nagasaki cathedral exceeded 12,000.

There they were. Twelve thousand who followed Christ, and if faithful, did not worship the Emperor. Twelve thousand that, if properly catechized abhorred war-making and the idea of racial superiority so endemic in Japanese culture.

Yet, on the day of the bombing, those Christians, brothers and sisters of yours and mine in Christ, were set to fire like matches, reduced to ashes, or, were horribly disfigured and endowed with the ticking time bombs of massive radiation exposure. How did that come to be?

Let me step forward to today.

In the American evangelical community, there are a lot of popular concepts about "persecution." If Walmart changes its seasonal decorations and verbiage to "holiday" themes rather than "Christmas" ones, it's the war on Christmas. Ditto for the cancellation of public school Christmas pageants, etc. These, of course, have nothing to do with true persecution.

On the other hand, there are evidences of real persecution in America. When a person is targeted by the government of their State or their Nation because their religious beliefs compel them to refrain from certain behaviors, and the State or federal government coerces them to choose between surrendering their conscience or their liberties (including their economic liberties), that is, at least, the camel's nose of persecution under the tent flap.

During this present administration, it is becoming easier and easier for evangelicals to connect with the idea of persecution. As the definition of marriage has been changed by the Supreme Court in the Obergefell decision, as the definition of good health insurance has been changed by Obamacare to include the provision of mandatory provision of coverage for contraceptives, including those known to cause abortions rather than prevent conception, evangelicals are recognizing that there has arisen in this Nation "a king that knew not Joseph." [Exodus 1:8 "Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph"]

In a nation that, by history and common acclaim, "is a Christian nation," suddenly accepted notions of life and conduct are disputed. And stubborn adherence to those notions, more and more, has attached to it the risk of losing the right to participate in the economy, and the risk of losing life savings and the like. In fact, well-informed evangelicals who have followed the rapid progress of an agenda quite at odds with Christian teachings, and of the greater and greater frequency of conflict with that agenda, might reasonably conclude that what has actually happened is that American Christianity has been targeted by progressives due to the risks that a vigorous Christianity presents to progressive social agendas.

Now, such targeting might be viewed as the product of overly paranoid Christians. In fact, the Bill Mahers of the info- and edu-tainment set insist that is all that it is.

Not so the death and destruction of the Christian community of Nagasaki.

When the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the bombardier used the steeple of the Nagasaki Catholic cathedral as his target. The airburst of that atomic bomb occurred over the heart of surviving Japanese Christianity. In its aftermath, it is estimated that the bomb caused the immediate death of 6,000 of Nagasaki's baptized Christians. Thousands more died, with the passage of time, and the ravages of either blast injuries or radiation exposure. "A Song for Nagasaki" recounts that Catholic physician's experience with the blast, and with the brief lifetime of care given to survivors.

Now, Obama will be visiting Hiroshima, not Nagasaki. He will not see the 1000 cherry trees planted on the hillside near the Nagasaki blast site, planted by the author of A Song for Nagasaki. Nor will he meditate on how an American military force, at the command of a Democrat President, waged war in a blinding blast, against Christianity in Japan, in the name of ending conflict with Japan. Of course, were he to meditate on the moment when Democrat Truman unleashed fiery hell from above on Christianity, I think he might, quite likely, allow himself a brief smile and entertain his own foul wish.