The Purification of Memory: On A-Bombs and Consequentialism

I am an unabashed believer in American exceptionalism, and I gladly recognize that patriotism is a necessary human virtue. This primal commitment augments an even more basic commitment of mine: to defend the right to life of the innocent in every instance.

It is because I am a pro-life American, devoted to the truth, that I have always taught that the nuclear strikes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki were immoral.

I say this as the proud son of a man who flew 35 B-17 sorties during World War II, the most necessary war that has ever been fought.

The point is not to judge the soul of Harry Truman, or of anyone else. The point is to recognize that when evil is done so that, presumably, a greater good may come about, it is corrosive for the doer of the evil. When our president, the one elected to represent the nation as a whole, orders our military to carry out evil actions, by the inescapable bonds of national solidarity, we must all confront our action.

If we approve the evil, we do wrong. And we do violence to the ideals of our nation.

And if we do such a thing as pro-lifers (!), we make an absolute hash of the principle upon which hangs the most urgent and fundamental of social-justice causes: the defense of the most powerless human life.

I love America. If we are to become healthy as a people, one needful thing is the purification of memory. No more compromises with evil. No more targeting of innocent human life.

The purification of memory is a basic social responsibility, and for Christians, it means opening the floodgates of divine mercy. As the International Theological Commission notes in "Memory and Reconciliation":

"...the purpose of every act of 'purification of memory' undertaken by the glorification of God, because living in obedience to Divine Truth and its demands leads to confessing, together with our faults, the eternal mercy and justice of the Lord. The 'confessio peccati,' sustained and illuminated by faith in the Truth which frees and saves ('confessio fidei'), becomes a 'confessio laudis' addressed to God, before Whom alone it becomes possible to recognize the faults both of the past and of the present, so that we might be reconciled by and to Him in Christ Jesus, the only Savior of the world, and become able to forgive those who have offended us."

The purification of American memory is necessary for there to be an American future. We have much to grapple with, when it comes to the use of violent force: our treatment of many Native American tribes; the way black men face disparate (and sometimes brutal) treatment in all the policing that has to be done in our decomposing social body; the private, legally promoted execution of more than 50 million unborn babies...

This is the greatest nation on earth; therefore, we are more responsible. From those to whom much has been given, much is required.