Every year at this time I think about what I've come to call periods of waiting, periods of being in-between. Sometimes, I think, if we can be patient we can avoid making things worse.
Why this time of year? Because we're between the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 (when I was not quite seven months old), and the bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945 (pictured here).
I've often wondered whether the second bombing might have been avoided had we waited just a bit longer for the collapsing Japanese government to give up. If so, lots of people would be alive today who aren't.
I am not a pacifist. I suspect that if I were faced with the realities that President Harry S. Truman faced in the summer of 1945, I would have made the same decision to bomb Hiroshima. The Japanese at that time were losing but appeared perfectly willing to fight on forever -- or at least until their last soldier died. And that protracted war easily could have cost countless American lives, especially given that many American troop ships were headed for Japan (one of them carrying my former and late father-in-law).
It's also true that even after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, it took the Japanese leadership six more days to surrender. So an argument certainly can be made that Japan would have kept fighting without the second bomb.
And yet it's hard for me not to feel that the second bomb wasn't necessary. More to the point, when I think about this in-between period, I try to remind myself to be patient and not to press ahead with action that may prove to have been both unnecessary and damaging. This applies to personal relationships as well as to broader community or social projects. If the diseased tree is already dying, do we need to dynamite it out of there or can we wait a bit for it to collapse on its own?
Historians have debated the morality of using atomic bombs at all to end World War II. That's a debate worth having, though it's not the one I'm inviting today. Rather, I'm just suggesting that sometimes waiting patiently is exactly the right thing to do. And Christians should be practiced at it, given that we are said to be living in the time between the times -- when Jesus already has conquered death but when God has not yet redeemed the whole creation and put to right what evil has done.
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AND WERE DINOSAURS PETS, TOO?
A creationist claims that dinosaurs and humans lived together and were even aboard Noah's ark. This is the kind of literalist silliness that drives young people out of the church and makes them wonder why some branches of the church require you to check your brain at the door.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.