On Holy Thursday, and the MOAB Bomb

On Holy Thursday, and the MOAB Bomb April 13, 2017


Today, Christians all over the world are celebrating Holy Thursday, the Thursday of the Last Supper. This is the night when Christ celebrated the Passover with His disciples; then He went out into the garden to pray. He was so terrified of what was to come that His sweat became like drops of blood. He prayed that the Father would let the cup pass from Him– but only if it was the Father’s will. And then Judas arrived with the guards to arrest Him.

And, at first, the Apostles were ready to fight back. Simon Peter, always a man of action, drew his sword and struck off a slave’s right ear.

And Jesus said ““Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?  But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”

Jesus healed the man who had come out to arrest Him, and He let His enemies lead Him away.

Also, on this day, the United States dropped the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, on a cave complex in Afghanistan.

The bomb was called a MOAB, which is coincidentally the name of a place in the Bible, the place that the righteous Ruth, the ancestor of David, came from before she renounced her idols and followed her mother-in-law into Israel. MOAB stands for Massive Ordinance Air Blast or, colloquially, for “Mother Of All Bombs.” It weighed about ten tons, cost about sixteen million dollars, and had a blast radius of a mile.

It isn’t quite apparent why we dropped the MOAB on a cave complex in Afghanistan. The Washington Post remarked that “The U.S. military has targeted similar complexes and dropped tens of thousands of bombs in Afghanistan, raising the question of why a bomb of this size was needed Thursday. It was unclear what the GBU-43 strike accomplished, as the bomb is not designed to penetrate hardened targets such as bunkers or cave complexes.”

It’s been suggested to me that a “boom” of that size would take up all the oxygen in the caves, suffocating anyone inside. This when days ago, the president expressed being so horrified at photos of people asphyxiating from a bombing that he bombed a Syrian airbase.

It has also been suggested that the use of a bomb so much larger than necessary will intimidate the enemy into surrendering. It will terrorize them, in other words. The fine line between ordinary warfare and terrorism gets a little blurrier by the day. Maybe there is no line. Maybe we need to admit that war is always a tragedy and bombing something to strike terror in the hearts of your enemies is wrong,  whether or not you are the United States of America.

It has further been suggested that the president is just going to keep ordering more and more grandiose military strikes until we stop questioning his ties to Russia; perhaps until his ratings improve. And this is far from the first time that a president has bombed the Middle East to direct people’s attention away from himself. Every president, Democrat and Republican, for as long as I’ve been old enough to notice, has done that. Bombing the Middle East is the tacitly accepted presidential way of saying “Look over there!” People in the Middle East are different from us. They’re uncivilized. They practice strange religions and wear odd clothes and sometimes do horrible things to one another. Sometimes they produce terrorists who view us as the enemy. And so we feel free to kill them with bigger and bigger bombs, to improve our ratings, whether this makes us safer or not, whether it kills our enemies or not, whether it ultimately creates more terrorists or not. Bombing the Middle East is presidential.

The military reported that every possible precaution was taken to protect civilians from a bomb whose blast radius was a mile across. But they didn’t say what precautions they took, or how one could begin to protect civilians from a weapon that destructive.

Today, on Holy Thursday, we dropped the Mother of All Bombs. And perhaps we were right to do so, though I can’t imagine how.

But I know that, whether or not we were right, this is an occasion for mourning. Every bombing and all war is an occasion for mourning. Every act of combat, no matter how just, is a sign that humanity has failed in the command to love one another. All war reminds us that, at some level, we have chosen to live and die by the sword, when Our Lord did not wish it so.

And so we go, on Holy Thursday, to sup with the Lord and to wait with Him in the garden. We go also to repent for having taken up the sword, and beg to be freed from death by the sword. We pray that our hearts be healed of the love of war, the admiration of terror, the love of killing strange people to make ourselves look important.

May we submit to the Father’s will rather than our own, and never take up the sword again.

(image via Pixabay)


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