Skip to content

A Hiroshima Grandmother’s Plea to Americans via Waging Nonviolence

Rev. John Dear


Several times, over the next few days, the American visitor spent the evening drinking tea listening to Grandmother tell stories of her life.

Turns out, she had been a young mother in her early 20s living on the edge of Hiroshima, the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb, 76 years ago on Aug. 6, vaporizing and eventually killing approximately 200,000 people.

At the very moment the bomb exploded, she was outdoors carrying her young daughter on her back. She had her back to the bomb, and the young daughter immediately disappeared. She herself was totally burned and exposed to radiation but somehow survived.

But massive scars, that is, big mounds of skin like potatoes, had covered her face, arms and back ever since. Periodically, they had to be cut off.

The young American listened in shock to this account of the atomic bombing. She touched the older woman’s face and arms and showed as much compassion as she could muster.

On the third visit, Grandmother asked the young American, “Would you like to see my back?”

“Okay,” the young American replied tentatively.

With that she stood up, turned around, and lowered her dress to show her back to the visitor. Along the sides of her back and arms were the thick horrific scars from the Hiroshima blast. But most of her back was a black shadow — the actual remains of the daughter that Grandmother was carrying on her back the moment the bomb went off — burned into her body.

For her entire life, Grandmother had carried the burnt remains of her beloved daughter, seared into her back.

“Please tell the Americans,” she whispered. “They shouldn’t keep building bombs and preparing to do this to more people.”


The idols of death

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to my friends and teachers, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, the legendary peace activists and founders of the Plowshares disarmament movement. As a kid, I regularly attended their weekend retreats and witnessed them open their Bibles, reading from the Hebrew scriptures about idolatry. I rarely understood what they were talking about. They would talk for hours about the consequences of our idolatry through our quiet support of nuclear weapons and ever-worsening loss of our humanity. As I get older and our predicament worsens, alas, it all makes sense.

I well remember, for instance, spending a quiet afternoon 35 years ago listening to Daniel Berrigan read Psalm 115. I expected sweet reflections on the spiritual life of peace. Instead, I heard sharp denunciations and condemnations of the idols of war. To this day, I’ve never heard anybody else say such things.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see.
They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell.
They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk,
and no sound rises from their throats.
Their makers shall be like them, and all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8)

The idols of this world are dead, the psalmist wrote long ago, as are those who worship them. That means, as Dan explained, you can’t live in peace and the fullness of life if you spend your years quietly supporting the culture’s idols of death.

“The great sin, the source of all other sin, is idolatry and never has it been greater, more prevalent, than now,” spiritual writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote on Good Friday a few months before his death in 1968. “Yet it is almost completely unrecognized precisely because it is so overwhelming and so total. It takes in everything. There is nothing else left. Fetishism of power, machines, possessions, medicines, sports, clothes, etc., all kept going by greed for money and power. The bomb is only one accidental aspect of the cult… We should be thankful for it as a sign, a revelation of what all the rest of our civilization points to: the self-immolation of humanity to its own greed and its own despair. And behind it all are the principalities and powers whom humanity serves in this idolatry.”

What is the antidote to idolatry? Like their friend Merton, the Berrigans testified to their faith in the living God of peace, but they insisted that such faith can only grow within the boundaries of nonviolence. Belief in the God of peace, in a culture as sick as ours, they taught, requires publicly renouncing belief in the culture’s false gods of war — the idols of nuclear weapons, Trident submarines, drones, AK-47s and all other instruments of death. In other words, if you dare pursue faith in the God of peace, you must denounce the culture’s false faith in the idols of war, according to Psalm 115. You have to do both simultaneously if you want to stand in the fullness of life.

As I reflect on these teachings in light of our global crisis, I see a widespread loss of meaning, truth, faith, compassion, community, spirituality and basic humanity — like a spiritual plague that touches us all without our knowing it. Perhaps this psalm is coming true as never before. We are as dead and lifeless as the metallic weapons we have created and subconsciously worshipped for 76 years.

We place our hope and security in our weapons of mass destruction, and so worship these idols of death, symbolized in the bomb, and have become lifeless, soulless people of the bomb. Like our weapons, we have mouths but do not speak for peace; eyes but do not see the vision of peace; ears but do not hear the good news of peace; hands but do not reach out in peace; feet but do not walk the road to peace. The psalmist was right.

“The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that humans have ever made,” Arundahti Roy writes. “If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is humanity’s challenge to God. It’s worded quite simply: ‘We have the power to destroy everything that You have created.’ If you’re not religious,” she continues, “then look at it this way. This world of ours is 4,000, 600 million years old. It could end in an afternoon.”

Dan and Phil Berrigan taught me that the best way toward the fullness of life, toward the God of life and peace, is through our public nonviolent resistance to the idols of death. That’s why many of us commemorate Hiroshima every year, to say “no” to the idolatry of nuclear weapons, and “yes” to the possibilities of new life. Our resistance helps us exercise our faith and hope.

Dan and Phil put it something like this: “Don’t worship the idols of death! Take a stand and know where you stand. Be clear about whom you worship and what you do not worship. If you worship the living God of peace, then do not worship the false gods of war, the idols of death. Take your life and faith seriously. Understand the social, global implications of faith within the boundaries of nonviolence. Topple the idols of death, dismantle the weapons of war. Remember that life is short and do your part to help humanity reclaim the gift of peace.”

Read more.

Posted in *English.

Tagged with , , , .

14 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. manholelid says

    دریچه منهول کامپوریت
    The composite manhole cover is dense, wear-resistant, corrosion-resistant and does not rust, so there is no need for maintenance. The inside of the composite manhole cover is
    reinforced by lattice steel rods and the pressure is dispersed to ensure safety in the event of a strong impact from an external force.
    Because the composite manhole cover is free of metal, there is no risk of rust and theft, which not only greatly reduces road maintenance costs, but also ensures the safety of pedestrians and vehicles. In addition, composite manhole covers are lighter than metal manhole covers, which is much easier to move and unload, and also saves money.

  2. apk mod says


  3. Seema says

    Nice Article 🙂

  4. slot says

    Playing slot to be successful is that. Of course, techniques and methods are necessary and extremely important. That will make you a winner and receive rewards from various websites that provide services for spinning

  5. Ankita Tiwari says

    This is Ankita Tiwari, your post is Good.

  6. Adobe Inc says

    Also a thing to mention is that an online business administration diploma is designed for college students to be able to without problems proceed to bachelor degree education. The 90 credit education meets the lower bachelor education requirements when you earn the associate of arts in BA online, you should have access to the latest technologies in such a field. Some reasons why students have to get their associate degree in business is because they are interested in this area and want to get the general instruction necessary before jumping in to a bachelor college diploma program. Many thanks for the tips you actually provide inside your blog.

  7. freeactivationkeys says

    Wonderful submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector do not realize this.
    You should proceed your writing. I am sure,
    you have a great readers’ base already!
    diskgenius professional crack

  8. tukang taman says

    kami memiliki jasa tukang taman untuk pembuatan taman rumah dan perkantoran

  9. Wang Lei says

    Thank you so much admin for uploading such amazing content with us your blog is really helpful for me. wish you all the best for upcoming comments. Great Article ! my liking towards gloves never ends by the way Nice efforts keep it up. I am also wanted to write blog kindly guide me if my topic is concrete leveling machine then what should I do first and how will I create new and unique content on this topic

  10. gstarcad crack says

    f secure antivirus crack key redesigns and transforms Windows PC malware with simple scanning and cleaning – and now fixes rootkits too. Malicious products (malware, spyware, viruses, and Trojans) can disrupt the performance of your device and the Internet and reduce connectivity and access.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.