Kosuke Koyama – Hiroshima Day

INTRODUCTION: Today is the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. It seems fitting for Views from the Edge to publish an address Japanese theologian and social critic Kosuke Koyama delivered at the Peace Garden in Minneapolis, MN at the very hour “Little Boy” turned Hiroshima into an inferno.  Dr. Koyama spoke these words on August 6, 2006 at the hour the bomb dropped on Hiroshima

Hiroshima Day Speech at the Peace Garden, Minneapolis – August 6, 2006. Kosuke (“Ko”) Koyama was living in downtown Minneapolis at the time.

It is hardly possible to imagine that in an atomic era,
war could be used as an instrument of justice (Pope John XXIII)

Dear Friends,

Sixty-one years ago, at 8:15 in the morning of August 6, 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was annihilated by a nuclear bomb. The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy” exploded 570 meters above the ground creating a fireball 100 meters in diameter with a temperature at its center of 300.000 degrees Celsius. Instantly the city became a land of death and destruction. 140.000 people perished. Three days later, on August 9th, the city of Nagasaki suffered the same fate. 80.000 perished. The Japanese authority told us that this extremely powerful bomb was the atomic bomb and advised people to wear white shirts and carry ointment. When the war ended 66 major cities of Japan were desolate wildernesses through fire-bombing. During the night of March 10, 1945, five months before Hiroshima, 325 B29s burned 16 square miles of Tokyo killing 100.000 people. I narrowly survived that holocaust.

As we pause to remember Hiroshima day this morning we are deeply disturbed and concerned about the destruction going on in the Near East today. Any bombing is a demonstration of human depravity. It breeds nothing but despair and hatred. Above all, it kills innocent children! Injuring and killing children is an “absolute” evil. Bombing is an indefensible act of terrorism. It must be totally outlawed and abolished if humankind is to remain human. I am not afraid of God. God will never drop nuclear bombs upon the inhabited cities. I am afraid of humans, for they have actually done it and may do it again! Religious speeches about hell do not frighten me. Hell cannot be worse than what I saw and went through the night of March 10, 1945 in Tokyo. I do not think God can make a worse hell than the one made at the order of American Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay. (1906-1990).

What is it in the thinking of people that allows for the kind of violence and terror that we have created through the use of our modern weapons? Sadly we have to admit that too often violence is encouraged by fanatic religious language. Nothing can be more ignorant and violent than religious motivated fanaticism. “God is on our side!” To release the horrors of war in the name of God is the worst of heresies. War is “the failure of all true humanism.” “It [war] is always a defeat for humanity,” says Pope John Paul II. The sages of Asia, Buddha and Confucius, taught that “god-talk” makes humans irresponsible. People, they said, are responsible for what they do. “You make a mess. You clean it up” they say. This is an honest message. “You made a hideous mess in the Rape of Nanjing in 1937. You are responsible. You clean it up!” There is no conflict between this Asian message and the message of the religions of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Honest confrontation may activate “an enormous capacity for goodness and generosity” hidden in human spirits (The New York Times, July 31, 2006, from the Tikkun Advertisement, “STOP THE SLAUGHTER IN LEBANON, ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES!) As I reflect the litany of atrocities that has taken place during my life time I am led to say that it is honest human talk, not dishonest religious talk, that will give 21st century humanity the wisdom and courage to live by hope.

James Baldwin says: “It is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own; in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself.” This is an honest observation not unlike Newton’s law of motion that to every action there is an equal reaction. We cannot demonize others without demonizing ourselves. We cannot bomb others without bombing ourselves. We cannot kill other children without killing our own children. “All who take the sword will perish by the sword,” says Jesus. This is honest human talk. To think that one can deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own is pornographic. To suggest that by taking the sword we can prosper by the sword is deceitful. The children in Hiroshima or in Baghdad are as precious as the children in San Francisco. Any religion, any political power, or any ideology that despises this universal preciousness of the lives of children and all human beings must be publicly condemned for the sake of the sanity of human spirit.

During the war (1941-45) the Japanese people were bombarded by the official propaganda that Japan is the divine nation for the emperor is divine. The word “divine” was profusely used. This was Japanese war-time “dishonest religion,” or shall we call it “mendacious theology.” This “god-talk” presented an immature god who spoke only Japanese and was undereducated about other cultures and international relations. Trusting in this parochial god Japan destroyed itself. Then, dear friends, do not trust a god who speaks only English, and has no understanding of Arabic or Islamic culture and history. If you follow such a small town god you may be infected with the poison of exceptionalism: “I am ok. You are not ok.” For the last 5.000 years the self-righteous passion of “I am ok. You are not ok” has perpetuated war and destruction. War “has never been and it will never be” able to solve international conflicts, says Pope John Paul II.

Today eight nations (the United States, Great Britain, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan and Israel) are in possession of nuclear arsenals. The bomb confers the power that I may characterize as “absolute.” Something that is “absolute” should not be trusted to unreliable human hands. The sanity of being human is to recognize human limitation. The idea of unlimitedness is demonic. Indefensible Weapons (Robert J. Lifton / Richard Falk) are “glorified” for their ability to pose an ultimate threat to an enemy. Albert Einstein saw that “war cannot be humanized. It must be abolished.” That is not an utopian dream. Let me quote from the recent New York Times Tikkun Advertisement: “The paranoid and allegedly ‘realistic’ version of global politics asserts that we live in a world in which our safety can only be achieved through domination, or others will seek to dominate us first. Of course, when we act on this assumption, it becomes self-fulfilling.” Martin Luther King Jr. said that “if we want to survive upon the earth, for our own self-interest, we better learn to love our enemies.”

In spite of the remarkable advances humanity has made in science/technological, our moral and spiritual growth has been stunted. Humankind seems addicted to destruction even with the nuclear arsenal and biological weapons. Today there are 639 million small arms actively present in the world (National Catholic Reporter, June 30, 2006). Fear propaganda always kills Hope. Violence is called sacrifice. Children killed in war are cruelly called a part of the “collateral damage.”

Remember that fireball! It is a human copy of the great fireball called the Sun. Humanity is now in possession of the unimaginable possibility of cosmic super-violence. We, the species called human on the third planet of the solar system, are now capable to obliterate all living beings upon the earth. When Hiroshima/ Nagasaki was nuclear bombed, symbolically the whole world was bombed. Every bomb used against others is ultimately a bomb exploded upon ourselves. How dedicated we are to destroy ourselves! Since Hiroshima, war is no longer about this nation against that nation. It is we, all of humanity, who are against our own good.

We must hold on to the vision of the “enormous capacity for good and generosity” of the billions of people upon the earth! At this moment it is fitting for the world to remember the gift the American people made to Japanese people in 1945 which was enshrined in the Article Nine of the Post War Constitution of Japan:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

4 thoughts on “Kosuke Koyama – Hiroshima Day

  1. Pingback: Speaking very clearly | VIEWS from the EDGE: Social Commentary

  2. Gordon,

    Thank you sincerely for your reply, we both appreciate your time and thoughtfulness.

    Was it not the “original war” that produced the “blood of Cain” and introduced it to the world? Is it not the same “blood of Cain” that wages war yet still on the earth? Is the “blood of Cain” not also pumped through the hearts of mankind? Is not the “blood of Cain” evidence of the “real war” that is waged in both Heaven and on earth? In reality, is not the “blood of Cain” the root cause of all wars?

    Separating the “blood of Cain” from this earthly life is tantamount to saying there is no Satan and evil exists only in the hearts of men. We both know that is not true.

    Regarding being “on the side of the weak”. Jesus championed the weak because they were the ones who were most often victimized, they were the most vulnerable, the ones who needed protection the most, and he did not discriminate in his love and compassion. But I’m pretty sure Jesus believed and taught that swords will be beaten into plowshares. Are those swords not weapons of war? Is it not the “blood of Cain” who yielded those swords? Does that not tell us that both the “blood of Cain” and all war will be put to an end? Is it not the blood of Christ that washes away the sins of the world?

    Furthermore, does Jesus come to the world as a “lamb”? Or a “sword”? Or both? I’m pretty sure Jesus “sided with the weak” because, He had power. And He knew when and how to use it. Among His many acts of compassion and forgiveness, a certain Temple comes to mind.

    I will not even pretend to be a Theologian, nor even qualified to voice anything more than my own opinion, but I’m fairly sure my “understanding” of Jesus Christ and redemption is at least sufficient to produce a mustard seed. And should the day ever come, I’ll probably be keeping my “sword and shield” handy until I see every knee bend.

    War will continue to be a part of humankind until war is no more. So as long as I am aware that we live in two worlds simultaneously, (human and spirit) I will not forget that the “real war” is not about the flesh, it is and always has been, about the soul.

    Being in the flesh, I will attempt to act more as a lamb, (not my strong suit) but; I choose to be wise as a serpent while I serve the “side” I have chosen. War is always ugly and costly, but to imply that inaction from the powerful is a means to achieve peace, or that the powerful have no obligation to protect the weak, is contrary to the examples set forth by Jesus.

    Someday, He will return. On that day all war will be put to an end. But not before. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were as inevitable as they were tragic, I wonder who could be best described as the “weaker” of the opposing forces in WWll? And which “side” served God? In my opinion, the powerful preserved the weak, in order to prevent them from destroying themselves and the world with them.

    There are no “winners” in war my friend, especially if one chooses the wrong “side”.


  3. Gordon,

    As a first time visitor to your site, I must admit to being less than well informed about yourself and your specific viewpoints. I would prefer to be much more well informed before making the comments below, but your post today (my Wife’s birthday) prompted me to take a little time to remind you and your readers of a few facts.

    First; God did not create war, He allows it. You Sir, above all others should know that. The “wars” Dr. Koyama speaks of are merely inevitable human reactions to the “real war” that has been waged since before the foundations of the earth. The war of “Powers and Principalities”. No one, least of all a Christian, should be at all surprised by the many manifestations of war in the human world. I certainly am not surprised, nor do I see an end to human warfare, at least not until the “real war” has been put to an end.

    Secondly: The very nature of war itself be it earthly or heavenly, mandates that one “side” or the other must prevail. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the ultimate outcome of the “real war” (which continues today) has already been determined. Bringing with it the end of ALL wars.

    Thirdly: As horrible as war truly is in any form, had the Allied Forces not bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima when they did, putting and end to the war, Japan would no longer even exist as a nation. Nor would countless other American lives. Japanese fervor for war openly declared that the entire nation would fight and die to the last child if invaded, and they meant it. It would literally have been a bloodbath, for both “sides”.

    In actuality, the use of Atom Bombs in Japan saved far more lives than it destroyed. Which is exactly why the decision was made to use Atomic weapons for the first and only time. Robert Oppenheimer declared this as the reason he participated in the development and construction of the first A-Bombs. To end war. And it did. For awhile.

    Atomic or Nuclear weapons have never been used since then, but wars continue to rage around the world. They always have, and they always will my friend. At least until the “real war” ends, and ushers in a time of peace where war does not exist. For awhile.

    “War is Hell”, all who have seen it would agree. “Hell on earth” is also oft used to describe war, fore that is what it truly is. War on earth is simply the manifestation of the same war that has always raged, and mankind will continue to participate until it’s end. Until that day finally comes, it’s simply a matter of which “side” you choose to serve.


    • Doc and CJ,

      As you’ve noted in your comment, we don’t know each other. We’re each unaware of the deeper points of view that shape our perspectives on common life. I thank you for taking the time to share yours on Views from the Edge.

      Clearly we disagree in our understandings of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and how one reads the Bible. Instead of a long response here, I invite you to read the subsequent posting about Kosuke and my father, BOTH ordained ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as am I. Let me say, however, that the God of the Bible as understood through the person and work of Christ, is on the side of the weak, not by use of force, but by the means of nonviolent love (the cross) as the only redemption from the blood of Cain.

      Liked by 1 person

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