During the 1950s, Americans were curiously casual about nuclear energy.
A U.S. congressman proposed that two dozen atomic devices might be used to dig, quickly and easily, a brand new Panama Canal.
Tourists poured into Las Vegas not just to play the roulette wheels but to catch a glimpse of a nuclear blast.
The U.S. military at the time was detonating as many as four atomic bombs every month in the vicinity, and the bright flashes and mushroom clouds could be seen from virtually any parking lot in the city.
Visitors to Vegas could stay at the Atomic Hotel, eat an atomic hamburger, drink an atomic cocktail, get an atomic haircut, and watch the annual crowning of Miss Atomic Bomb. The picture above features showgirl Lee Merlin, one of the 1957 contestants, posing in the pageant’s patented mushroom cloud swimsuit.
Tourists could feel the ground shake and then experience the resulting fallout. Military personnel used Geiger counters to measure the radioactivity of the dust. People eagerly lined up to see how many clicks the counters registered when held near their skin and clothing. It all seemed innocent and fun.
Only through painful experience did people gradually learn that radioactivity is not trivial.
Atomic energy is neither morally bad nor morally good, friendly nor unfriendly. But what everyone came to understand is that it is inherently unsafe.
One of the core messages of Scripture is that God is not safe, either.
We may daydream that entertaining a real angel would be awesomely cool – a novel experience to share with our small group or to write about in our journal. But on the pages of the Bible, the arrival of a messenger from God almost always generates the same response: paralysis. Gideon, Joshua, David, Daniel, the shepherds outside Bethlehem, and the peasant girl Mary can hardly breathe.
In our eagerness to make God our best friend, Jesus our co-pilot, and sacred rituals little more than commonplace events, we confuse God’s accessibility with God’s safety.
God is wonderfully accessible. But that hardly means he is safe.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first volume of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, four English schoolchildren are transported to the land of Narnia.
There they learn, from a pair of talking beavers, that Aslan – the gigantic lion who represents the presence and power of Christ in Narnia – is on the move. The children are unnerved to learn that Aslan is not a tame lion.
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”
God is not safe. He cannot be managed, contained, or ignored.
But he’s good.
Very, very good.