A. G. Mojtabai. Blessed Assurance: At Home With the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas. Syracuse University Press, 1997 .
Though this book was written over twenty years ago, it remains a fascinating portrayal of the link between futuristic eschatology and American militarism (the paperback edition, published in 1997, remains unchanged from the original). Mojtabai, a secular Jew and humanist from New York, decided to pay an extended visit to Amarillo, Texas, in order to understand the people who make nuclear weapons. After she arrived in Texas she began to learn how intertwined the acceptance of the validity of such work was with Christian fundamentalism.
The book is well-written and for the most part lets the people of Amarillo tell their own stories. Mojtabai seems to be a good listener, able to evoke a sense of trust from the people she talked with. She does ask some pointed questions and lets her perspective enter the discussion at times. However, the book’s power stems most of all from her care in keeping her agenda below the surface.
What results, though, is indeed a powerful and frightening portrayal of American Christianity and the American scandal of pouring such an incredible amount of treasure (human and material) into the creation of an unspeakably evil arsenal of death-dealing weaponry. The shocking element of Mojtabai’s story arises from the overt complicity of theology in such a blasphemous undertaking.
Mojtabai finds herself wondering what’s wrong with the sensibility of these Christians who so blithely support the creation of such weapons of mass destruction. In doing so, she actually presents Jesus and his message over against the words of the Christians–an act of wonderful irony where the agnostic understands the gospel better than professing Christians.
“Going from church to church in Amarillo, the impression is unavoidable: some of the most ardent born and born-again Christians are writing Christianity off as something that did not, could not work—at least, not in the First Coming. The conviction that mankind is bent on its own destruction, that goodness cannot succeed in a world so evil, the constant recourse to the Old Testament (to the most bellicose sections), the turning for betterment to the dire remedies offered by the book of Revelation, the only light left to the Second Coming—all this strangely negates the ‘good news’ of the Gospels and the First Coming.”