Remembering the “Zero Hour” Over Hiroshima and Nagasaki

This week marks the 73rd year since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima, Japan, (August 6) and a few days later on Nagasaki (August 9).

Two months ago, Judy Wu Dominick, whom I follow on Twitter, posted a photo of “the Enola Gay, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.” This image and knowing what it meant stirred up a lot of emotions. It moved me to post on memories I’d been mulling over the past few years. Here is that series of tweets:

Wow. Sobering. This photo stirs up many feelings and brings back memories – one in particular connection that deals with nuclear war, conflict, and personal peacemaking. I hope it’s okay to share a few details here. /1

The Newsweek issue of July 29, 1985, focused on 40 years of legacy of the atomic bomb. It included accounts of survivors and eyewitnesses. One was Larry Johnston, a Manhattan Project physicist who developed the bomb’s timer device. He was the only physicist present for the Trinity test, and both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. /2

Dr. Johnston was also a devout Christian, and member of the church I attended. He shared about his Newsweek interview. Most poignantly, he knew his work had harmed people. He’d said that if he met someone who’d lost family in the bombings, he’d want to talk with them, apologize, and ask their forgiveness. /3

That happened unexpectedly, at a science summit when he met Chia-Tsang Lu, an agronomist from China whose brother died in Hiroshima while attending medical school. It was uncomfortable for Dr. Johnston, yet Dr. Lu was gracious, and did not hold against Dr. Johnston his part in his brother’s death. /4

It’s one thing to read about that encounter in Newsweek, as well as about rifts that occurred within Dr. Johnston’s own family and among colleagues from his work on nuclear bombs. It’s another to have heard him sharing it in person, reaching for words to capture the complexities of situation and emotion. /5

As I reflect on this, I continue to see how our lives interconnect, even when we don’t realize it. Our actions impact others, in ways that are destructive or constructive – that destroy or restore. Despite war, we were designed to be people of peace, treating all with dignity, impartiality, and hospitality. /6

Thank you for posting the photo … seeing the Enola Gay is a timely, stark reminder of the necessity to seek to embody what it means to be people of peace in times of strife. /7

In my role as a writer, part of my calling has been to process experiences involving trauma, recovery, and resilience – not just from researching other people’s experiences, but my searching into my own. Many of the personal pieces will show up eventually in the training series I’ve been developing. I’ll have segments that share what I learned from presentations by Jesse Owens, Archie Moore, and Flo Kennedy. I’ll share about pilgrimages to places surrounded by traumatic history – Angel Island, Dachau, Flossenbürg (where Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed). And I’ll share life lessons from my professor who was a conscientious objector during World War II, friends who lived through Mao’s cultural revolution and Tiananmen Square, my friend who lived near The Peoples Temple in San Francisco during the era of the Jonestown Massacre, a friend who served as correspondent for a survivor of the Holocaust who had a worldwide speaking ministry. Also, I’ll include an extended version of these recollections about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and what I learned from what Dr. Johnston shared.

Meanwhile, you might be interested to hear a bit about how I typically prepare for such processing. I’ve found one of the best ways to find meanings in what I’ve experienced is to look to the broader context and see what it meant to others. Media is one of the best ways I’ve found to do.

So, I have been collecting select resources to do just that to amplify my thinking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I learn a lot the situation, people involved, and social impact during the course of finding options and choosing media I find the most relevant, or perhaps just intuitively intriguing. (In those cases, I often find a goldmine of information in them!) And it takes a while to sort out the possibilities, especially to find materials produced by people with close connections to the issues at hand or otherwise known for having an important perspective.

Once I have the set and the timing feels right, I’ll immerse myself in them. That seems to turn out the best way to focus my thoughts and to create a sort of “spiritual and historical MRI” to capture the context of the events and the interior thoughts and feelings of those who’ve experienced them. Here’s what I’ve chosen so far. (I’ll post the rest of the images once I’ve gotten all the items.)

Personal accounts, including from people in the Manhattan Project, those involved in delivering the bombs, and survivors. Newsweek, July 29, 1985, issue.

Documentary film. White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japanese anime movie. Grave of the Fireflies (2 disc edition with special features not found elsewhere).

Graphic novels. Barefoot Gen series of 10 volumes by Keiji Nakazawa.

Photographs. Hiroshima: Remembering 1945 & 1958, by Virginia Moffat Khuri.

Research and analysis on historical trauma and its impact. Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, by Robert Jay Lifton (paperback edition with new introduction by Dr. Lifton, who is considered by many to be the father of trauma psychology). And Hiroshima in America: A Half Century of Denial, by Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell.

I understand not everyone is called to this kind of process if they write about abuse, trauma, or recovery–or minister to survivors and their support networks. But all of us can benefit from some time of reflection on difficult experiences of ourselves and others. That’s a good thing, better so when aided by photos, artwork, stories, personal stories, discussions with friends, visits to monuments and memorials, reading fiction or non-fiction works. In all of this, may we develop as people of peace, as our self-understanding deepens, and our empathy for others broadens.

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Movie Recommendations in Remembrance of Nelson Mandela’s 100th Birthday

Nelson Mandela was born July 18, 1918. Surely he is one of the most renowned people of the 20th and 21st centuries. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, I have three movies to recommend.

Mandela died in 2013, just around the time when a movie based on his autobiography premiered. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom contrasts how similar suffering led to different trajectories for Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie. For him, apartheid and imprisonment led to a heart for truth, justice, and reconciliation. For her, these conditions propelled her on an opposite path. This is instructive — and an important warning — during an era when oppression and injustice are so pervasive in our society.

The past few years, I’ve explored the topic of apartheid in South Africa and the role that peace-making played there in the 1990s. I’ve looked at how Nelson Mandela in particular sought to reduce enmity between the races, and to forge a sense of one nation out of what had been a horrific race-based split. Among the many documentaries and dramatizations I’ve watched about apartheid are Invictus, including all the related special feature interviews, about how the 1995 Rugby World Cup became a symbolic center for uniting the nation, and a related documentary, Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle.

In these movies, I see deep lessons on both humility and having a conciliatory spirit, and how these two complementary attitudes can fuel peace-making efforts that embody “compassion, restraint, and generosity.” Those three qualities were absent under apartheid, according to a speech Mandela gives to his fellow black and colored South Africans in Invictus. And now, as their newly elected president, he hopes these qualities will be exhibited by the black and colored majority toward the white minority.

These are movies for our times, whether we are survivors of injustice, leaders in social enterprises or ministries, or everyday people who want to make a difference.

 

Domestic Violence, Ministry, and Controversy in Conservative Christianity: Some Historical Context and Perspective

This article also appears on Spiritual Sounding Board as a guest post.

Although I am known for my more recent research writings on spiritual abuse from a systemic perspective, I have also written and edited on other forms of abuse and violence since the 1980s.

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Contemporary Conservative Christianity

and Questions About Abuse

Contention over abuse and violence in Christian communities has heightened in the era of #metoo and #churchtoo. However, controversies over theology, advocacy, and actions have been with us for a very long time. Recently, comments on abuse made by Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, resurfaced and ignited a social media firestorm. Continue reading

Remembering The White Rose

February 22nd. On this day 75 years ago, three members of the White Rose student resistance group were executed for opposing Nazism. Hans Scholl. Sophie Scholl. Christoph Probst.

I first learned about their courage 50 years ago, from a text my sister translated in her high school German class with Mr. Reid. The article had photos of White Rose members. So full of life – they seemed radiant, yet willingly risked all to stand against evil.

I wondered why.

By raising that question, they planted a seed in me to find out whys and wherefores of resistance, a course I’ve pursued 50 years.

The New York Times published an article by Richard Hurowitz on Remembering the White Rose. Here is a quote from it:

“They did not seek martyrdom in the name of any extraordinary idea,” Inge Scholl recalled in her memoir of her siblings and White Rose comrades. “They wanted to make it possible for people like you and me to live in a humane society.”

The sentiment makes me ponder:

What change-seeds do we plant?

What legacy do we leave for next generations?

How might our pursuit of hope, service, and justice affect the course of the future?

A quote I’ve pondered for the last 25 years continues to challenge me to keep those kinds of questions in mind:

In the long run, what counts is how the next generation thinks. How far new ideas permeate culture is not measured just by attitude change during one generation, but by what is taken for granted in the next. ~ Helen Haste

Perhaps I’ll have far greater understanding in another 25 years …

A “Systems Approach” and Some Historical Background on Dealing with Abuse and Violence

To deal with “systemic abuse,” we must understand systems, victimization, and what makes individuals and institutions vulnerable.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

In the previous post, I gave a brief preview of key features for The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide from a systems perspective, and listed other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In this post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal and historical perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

Book Review: The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide, by Boz Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits

Key component in a system of resources on child sexual abuse for policy makers, survivors, educators, and advocates.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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Spiritual Sounding Board was invited to participate in the Litfuse “blog tour” for the recently released Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. They asked us to post a one-paragraph summary of our overall response to this resource book, so that could be used as an excerpt on other sites. Here is what I wrote:

How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

Available reviews of the Policy Guide share about its concepts and content from a variety of angles. Already posted on Amazon are great summaries, detailed insights from church leaders, poignant personal accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Litfuse Publicity Group has review excerpts and links to full posts, and New Growth Press, which published this book, has additional endorsements.

In this post, I will give a brief preview of key features from a systems perspective, and list other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In a follow-up post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017

What can we learn about contemporary forms of systemic abuse from questions raised by case studies of the Holocaust, collaboration, and resistance in World War II?

This post previews questions covered in Volume #2 of my curriculum for social change agents, community developers, missional ministers, and church planters. Case studies from the Holocaust will be prominent in it, but I will also use other historical and contemporary case studies, and movies from various genres, to explore issues of recovery from abuse, advocacy and activism for those who currently have no voice to speak up for themselves, and rehabilitation and remediation for individuals and organizations that have perpetrated abuse. Continue reading