When I first met Tyler Wigg-Stevenson about a year ago, he struck up a conversation with me on a topic that I hadn't discussed, much less though about, in years: nuclear weapons. With strong conservative roots, I believed that possessing nuclear weapons was important for national security. And according to Tyler, it was important ... during the Cold War. But the Cold War has ended and times have changed -- and Tyler convinced me that the possession of nuclear weapons ultimately is detrimental to our country's security, not a deterrent to threats.
Equally importantly for me as a pastor was Tyler's demonstration of how this new perspective on nuclear weapons and the desire to eliminate them aligned with Scripture.
In light of all the news on President Obama's nuclear summit last month and the U.S. signing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, I thought it worthwhile to share what Tyler is continuing to do through his organization, the Two Futures Project.
Q: Over the past year, what major shifts have you seen in your discussions with leaders about the idea of eliminating nuclear weapons?
Tyler: The major shift has been the move from thinking that nuclear weapons keep us safe to the fact that they are the greatest threat to the global public health and our own national security. The Cold War mindset said: "We possessed nuclear weapons so we don't have to use them." But in a post-Cold War and post-9/11 era where there is a real danger that terrorists can acquire nuclear weapons and no place to retaliate against them, the greatest threat to our security is the spread of these weapons. The only way to stop them is to contain the weapons and eventually eliminate them.
Q: What influential people have helped join the chorus of those calling for the end of nuclear weapons?
Tyler: A lot of cold warriors have staked out why this is in the country's national vital interest. That's the biggest paradigm change as we've gone around the country for the past year and be able to talk with people and walk them through why this situation is different and working through it now isn't do-gooderism run amok. It's actually a hardheaded attempt to deal with a crisis before it comes -- and that's stopping the acquisition of weapons by terrorists.
George Shultz, the former U.S. Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, has been a key supporter of the Two Futures Project and he's been one of the key conservatives to come forward and call for the end of nuclear weapons.
Q: What has been the general reaction to the latest treaty action on nuclear weapons?
Tyler: One of the items that people have seen in the news lately is the START Treaty with Russia -- and it's a pretty modest and conservative treaty. It is important in our relations and strengthens our hand in fighting terrorists, but it's still somewhat conservative when it comes to reducing nuclear weapons. It has received the support of a number of very conservative individuals from the Bush and Regan administration -- and even they are saying we could go lower in the number of weapons we eliminate. Yet, you're still hearing noise from the U.S. Congress that they may take until 2011 to ratify this thing.
Q: You work with the evangelical community on a regular basis. How are they accepting this call to reduce nuclear arms?
Tyler: From the beginning, I have been pleasantly surprised by the reception from the evangelical community. That's not to say everyone has welcomed us with open arms. We're not about sacrificing security on the altar of principle -- we're about aligning the two. That's something that the American people and Christians support. When it's clear that that's what we support and not something suspicious, we've been able to get support from people all over the political map.
Q: How has all the nuclear treaty news helped the Two Futures Project recently?
Tyler: For the past year, there hasn't been a lot of nuclear news. So, in a certain extent, we've been operating in a vacuum. So we're finding out that people are now starting to talk more about it. While the general sentiment has been positive toward reducing nuclear weapons, frankly some of the comments that are coming out of the mouths of prominent public people is alarming. They have no knowledge about what they're talking about -- and you can't do that when you're firing plutonium bullets.
Q: Where are you headed in helping generate more awareness about the state of affairs when it comes to nuclear weapons?
Tyler: We really want to reach out to leaders in communities. We've received a lot of support nationally from validators and evangelical leaders who have influence. But we want to reach out to pastors and college campuses. We've started a pastors' network and campus network. In the end, what's going to have an impact is something where Christians can share their Christian convictions with elected officials.
Q: How do you avoid political ties when it comes to Two Futures' message?
Tyler: I think it's really important that the people who support the Two Futures Project come from different spots on the political spectrum, even though our organizing outlook is fairly conservative. When people think nuclear weapons, they tend to think it's the liberal movement and that does a lot of political harm. I think it's important for conservatives in the U.S. to be able to stand up and say we're for nuclear security, we don't care what party the person belongs to, and it's too big to be subject to partisan gain. This is not a place where politicians should be trying to score cheap points in an election year.