“A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. Useless is the war horse for safety; its great strength, no sure escape. But the eyes of the God of peace are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for God’s gracious help.” (Ps. 33:16-18)
Psalm 33 is a hymn of praise to the God of peace and a warning to those who place their hope and trust in the false gods of war. You can’t serve both the God of peace and the weapons of war, it announces. It’s one or the other. Show reverence to the God of peace and live in peace, gratitude and joy, or show reverence to the weapons of war and their false security and die. That’s the message I get from the text. It’s more radical — and helpful — than any spiritual writing you’ll find today.
No, you say, this is just pious Bible talk. A king, an emperor, a president — yes, even Barack Obama as well as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney — are saved by a mighty army, by bombs, by drones, by Trident submarines, by nuclear weapons. That is the logic of every nation, every military, every war. The God of peace cannot save us. Only our weapons and warriors can save us. This is what we have been taught, what we hear preached, why we wave the flag, why we pay taxes to the Pentagon, why we risk radioactive waste, why we threaten to destroy the planet, why we spend nearly all our money on warfare instead of on schools, health care, affordable housing, food for the hungry and environmental cleanup. This is what most of us believe. Might makes right. Violence saves us. War is the will of God.
Not too long ago, one U.S. archbishop said these exact words to me: God cannot save us. Only nuclear weapons can protect us. They are our only hope…