70 years ago today an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Those who experienced it and lived to tell about it, all described it in similar fashion: It began with a flash brighter than the sun.
It was August 6, 1945. According to the church calendar it was also the Feast of the Transfiguration.
When Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor his face shone like the sun, and when he came down the mountain a little boy was healed. When “Little Boy” (the name given the bomb) shone like the sun over Hiroshima, thousands of little boys and girls were burned in atomic fire and poisoned by radioactive rain. The bombing of Hiroshima is the anti-Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Hiroshima was a turning point in human history. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima was the world’s first use of a weapon of mass destruction. In this seaport city of 250,000 people, 100,000 were either killed instantly or doomed to die within a few hours. Another 100,000 were injured.
When I read Hiroshima in 1972 I knew I was reading of an unspeakable evil. I knew that Auschwitz and Hiroshima were to be spoken of in the same breath. How could I not know this? I read of people with charred skin and eyes melted in their sockets. I read of fires burning with such fury that they created windstorms. I read of black radioactive rain and how those who in desperation drank it doomed themselves to an agonizing death. I read of hell on earth — for there is no other way to describe it. Dante could not have dreamt greater horrors.
The face shining brighter than the sun that saves the world is not “Little Boy” over Hiroshima or “Fat Man” over Nagasaki, but the Son of Man shining over Tabor. When Jesus was transfigured, God spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Militarists can concoct arguments to rationalize killing 200,000 civilians with two bombs. Biblicists can point to God-sanctioned killing in the Old Testament. But what does Jesus say? "Love your enemies."
Hiroshima Day and Transfiguration Day. They are the same day. Transfiguration and anti-Transfiguration. Which one will we bless?
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