An array of evangelical leaders, including megachurch pastors and college presidents, are not only supporting the Obama administration's push to reduce nuclear weapons, but are calling for the U.S. government to exert even more effort to negotiate with hard-to-deal-with rogue states.
Supporters of the Matthew 5 Project are urging the Obama administration and members of Congress to engage in negotiations with Iran and North Korea – two countries that the United States has no direct diplomatic relations with. Both countries, however, are suspected of building nuclear weapons, and – given their history of erratic behaviors – may use the weapons once they obtain them.
"The United States has crucial disagreements with Iran, but Jesus does not say talks should be refused until we approve of the conduct of the adversary," reads a statement from the Matthew 5 Project that was recently sent to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other high-ranking members of the Obama administration. It was also sent to all the members of Congress.
"Jesus is the realist," states the Evangelicals for Nuclear Reduction statement. "Talking with Iran, as with Libya and North Korea, may bring surprising peace. Or at least avoid horrible war perpetrated on millions of God's loving creation…"
In the detailed document, supporters of the Matthew 5 Project argue for nuclear reduction using biblical and theological reflection, as well as historical and political analysis.
Under a section titled "Overcoming the Nuclear Threat Requires International Cooperation," the statement highlights two of prominent evangelicals who support direct U.S.-North Korea talks – evangelist Franklin Graham and Pastor Rick Warren.
In a July 2006 interview with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Graham said, "I want to encourage the president, I want to encourage this administration, those in Congress – we need to talk to the North Koreans face to face, period. Eyeball to eyeball. And there is a lot that can be accomplished if we simply just do that."
And last year, Graham again urged the U.S. government to hold direct talks with North Korea, telling OneNewsNow that he believes it would be beneficial if the United States and North Korea talk directly even though the two long-time foes do not agree with one another.
"Look what happened when Nixon … went into China, secretly, to meet with Mao Tse Tung, who had killed like 60 million of his own countrymen," Graham had said.
"Nothing happened in a dramatic way on that first visit," he said. "But … it broke the ice and we began to talk to this communist government … and look where we are today."
Similarly, megachurch pastor Rick Warren thinks the United States should talk to North Korea.
"I am not a politician. I am a pastor," said Warren after North Korea's missile tests in July 2006. "But I do know that in any conflict – whether in a marriage, in business or between nations – as long as the parties keep talking, there is hope. My plea to everyone involved in this diplomatic process is to please, keep talking."
Neither Graham's name nor Warren's were found on the list of more than 300 evangelicals who support the Matthew 5 statement.
Evangelical leaders who did endorse the statement included Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando; and Jesse Miranda, director of the Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University.
Leaders of the Matthew 5 Project sent the statement to President Obama and other government officials in response to this week's nuclear security summit in Washington. President Obama and dozens of other world leaders are discussing how to reduce nuclear weapons and destroy stockpiles of nuclear materials during the two-day summit.
Faced with the growing threat that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists, world leaders agree that the international community must work together to ensure global security.
"Terrorist networks such as al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeed, they would surely use it," said Obama on Tuesday. "Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world."
A major goal of President Obama during the nuclear security summit is to obtain commitments from all 47 countries in attendance to secure or destroy their nuclear materials.