Nuclear Weapons (United States)

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An atomic bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," inaugurated the age of nuclear weapons when the United States exploded it over Hiroshima in 1945 at the close of World War II. Apart from several brief editorials in church papers, Mennonites said little about nuclear weapons in the first two decades of the nuclear age. In the 1950s several leaders in the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) and one of their official resolutions (1959) called for a ban on atomic bomb tests. Mennonites began to speak forthrightly about the threat of nuclear weapons in the late 1970s some 30 years after Hiroshima, as a spiraling arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union defied control. A resolution on the nuclear arms race, issued by the Mennonite Central Committee (U.S.) Peace Section in 1978 called upon all "peoples and nations to renounce the research, development, testing, production, deployment and actual use of nuclear weapons." The statement also contended that nuclear deterrence, based on trust in nuclear weapons, is "a form of idolatry." In 1978, Mennonites joined with the Society of Friends and the Church of the Brethren in a New Call to Peacemaking effort which urged the "Worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons." In the late 1970s and 1980s the Peace Section of the Mennonite Central Committee (U.S.) produced and distributed some 8,000 copies of a poster declaring, "It's a sin to build a nuclear weapon." This bold announcement underscored the theological and moral issues entwined in nuclear weaponry.

Mennonite concern about nuclear weapons escalated as a rising tide of public opinion called for a nuclear freeze in the early 1980s in response to a massive American military buildup initiated by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. In short order, several books by Mennonite authors appeared condemning the nuclear arms race and exposing the inadequacy of the "just war" logic for the nuclear age: Nuclear Holocaust and Christian Hope (1982), Facing Nuclear War (1982), and Faith in a Nuclear Age (1983). Mainstream Protestants as well as Catholics joined Mennonites in advocating a nuclear pacifism that considered any use of nuclear weapons immoral. In the 1970s and 1980s a small but persistent number of Mennonites deliberately trespassed on facilities involved in the production of nuclear weapons. These people were arrested and served time in prison because of their opposition to U.S. nuclear arms policies. Mennonites, however, have not acted collectively as denominations in a concerted response to the nuclear threat. They have not engaged in sustained political action comparable to the Mennonite response to conscription. The Mennonite witness against the terror and spiritual idolatry of nuclear arms has been largely carried by the Peace Section of Mennonite Central Committee along with selected individuals and academic leaders.

See also Disarmament; Nonresistance; Peace.


An Annotated Bibliography of Mennonite Writings on War and Peace, 1930-1980. Willard Swartley and Cornelius J. Dyck, eds. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1987: 634-39.

Beachey, Duane. Faith in a Nuclear Age. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1983.

Kaufman, Gordon D. Theology for a Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985.

Kraybill, Donald B. Facing Nuclear War. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1982.

Kraybill, Donald B. "Taming the Nuclear Threat." Christian Living (December 1982): 12-16.

Kraybill, Donald B. "Hearing the Laughter of God." The Other Side (October 1982): 11-14.

Kraybill, Donald B. "The Cloud, the Rainbow and the Dove." Gospel Herald (6 August 1985): 541-43.

Kraybill, Donald B. and John P. Ranck. Nuclear War and Lancaster County. Elizabethtown, PA: The Star County 1981.

Peachey, Urbane Editor. Mennonite Statements on Peace and Social Concerns, 1900-1978. Akron PA: MCC, 1980: 164-65, 217-218, 232-235.

Sider, Ronald J. and Richard K. Taylor. Nuclear Holocaust and Christian Hope. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982.

Stoner, John K. "Take the Message to Jerusalem." Sojourners (August 1980): 91-93.

Stoner, John K. "Conscientious Objection to Nuclear Deterrence." Gospel Herald (2 October 1979): 782.

Author(s) Donald B Kraybill
Date Published 1987

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Kraybill, Donald B. "Nuclear Weapons (United States)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 30 Jun 2022.

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Kraybill, Donald B. (1987). Nuclear Weapons (United States). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 June 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 641. All rights reserved.

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