This past week, in cities around the world, groups gathered to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings--Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. Included in the commemoration events were numerous groups and cities throughout the United States. This strikes me as rather strange. We would not, for example, commemorate the bombing of Berlin during World War II in sympathy to the Germans killed, as this was the home of a vicious enemy that had brought war upon itself and was unrelenting in its aggression.
However, in an act of self-incrimination, Americans are beginning to revise history in such a way that we are the “bad guys.” Ron Takaki, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb says, “Racial hatred against the Japanese and the thrill of possessing 20,000 tons of TNT prompted President Truman to unleash bombings against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...”
Some argue against history that the bombings were unnecessary while others now suggest that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were the penultimate war crime, saying the US should “apologize” to Japan as if we were the villain--seemingly ignoring the real war crimes of both Germany and Japan.
The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, speaking at a commemoration service this past week said, “The Japanese Government, which has the duty to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons through international law, should protect its pacifist constitution which it should be proud of, and clearly say 'No' to antiquated and wrong US policies.” Of course, his honor the Mayor fails to mention that Japan’s “pacifist constitution” was imposed on them only after their aggression was subdued by force and that the “wrong” policies of Japan’s militaristic government made Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary.
Recently, Japan’s Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma remarked that the atomic bombing of Nagasaki “could not be helped” going on to say, “I now have come to accept in my mind that in order to end the war, it could not be helped that an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.” This position is in keeping with the long-held perspective of the historical events leading up to the bombings. The Japanese army was unrelenting in its resolve to fight to the very last person and an invasion by ground forces would have cost more than a million American lives. Contrary to revisionist theories, Oliver Kamm writing in the Guardian points out, “New historical research in fact lends powerful support to the traditionalist interpretation of the decision to drop the bomb.” Nonetheless, Kyuma’s comments drew an angry response resulting in his resignation.
What should be of concern here is the apparent drift toward self-condemnation that derives from a sense of shame over American cultural and civil success—what one writer describes as a “crisis of civilizational morale.” Beginning in Western Europe, this crisis of civilizational morale has spread, characterized by an apologetic posture, which says to the rest of the world, “we’re sorry for our superiority.”
This may sound arrogant but Western civilization’s superiority can be measured by objective facts such as our justice systems, governmental systems, economic systems and basic human rights. Western conceptions of morality and ethics have produced elaborate systems for dealing with everything from building codes and food safety to labor practices and consumer protection. Western civilization is superior in every objective category and America is the least imperialistic empire the world has ever seen, despite its unprecedented military and economic power. This does not demean other cultures--it merely means that in every measurable category Western civilization better serves the common good and natural rights of humanity. Look around the world. Injustice is commonplace, tyrannical governments abound, hopeless poverty is the fate of two-thirds of the world’s people, and suffering is the overwhelming norm. Why on earth should we be ashamed when Western-supported ideas and people have done more than any other to remedy these tragic conditions? (By Western-supported I mean originating in Christianity and not merely Western civilization)
I reason that this crisis of civilizational morale is the natural consequence of secular humanism. It can be reasonably argued that every objective category of measurement listed above is superior because the basis of each is derived from the Christian worldview, which provides an objective truth about reality. This “truth” formed the Western foundation of understanding about the world, humanity, morality and ethics. Therefore, mankind could create various social and cultural systems that corresponded with reality and met the test of human experience. In other words, they worked. However, they worked precisely because they were structured in accordance with the truth about reality as revealed by God.
In the wake of secular humanism, truth becomes more subjective, having its origins in man and not God. Therefore, under this system we inevitably come to realize that “truth” is ultimately a matter of opinion and so who are we to say that our “opinion” about reality is superior. This, I think, is the source of this “civilizational morale crisis” in which we now find ourselves, apologizing for the preeminence of American civilization and ambivalent in the face of our enemies.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific human tragedies indeed and I am not suggesting that we be indifferent to the victims but that is altogether different than apologizing for defending ourselves. Warfare cannot be reduced to simple platitudes as those put forth by Angela Blank, organizer of a Hiroshima commemoration event who said, “I like peace because war is bad and killing people is bad.” Unfortunately, life’s a little more complicated than that. I like peace as well, who doesn’t, but sometimes war comes upon you and then what do you do? A civilization whose morale is intact, whose identity is founded upon something solid and where there is a common set of values will fight and, it will fight to preserve what it values. If it values nothing or tolerates everything, not only will it not fight, it will not long survive.
If we are commanded to “hold fast to whatever is good” (Rom 12:9) then there must be some objective standard by which we can distinguish good from bad. Some things are true, some are false, there is right and there is wrong and the difference between them can be known through God’s revelation. Abandoning our collective commitment to this true view of reality in which we can say with objective confidence that this is better than that will not promote human harmony; it will only embolden the enemies of Truth.
© 2007 by S. Michael Craven
S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.