Bird count

Missiles are in the news again - just over the mental, if not the actual, horizon. They trouble the psyche.

The new administration in Washington plans to build a missile shield.

Like vultures circling a family picnic, the prospect of nukes is not welcome. I had not thought about their threatening a major city for almost a decade. The author Thomas Pynchon calls the flight path of these awesome wingless metal birds traveling at thousands of miles per hour "gravity's rainbow."

How to cope with them? I have this unshakable memory, like the sight of the first robin in spring. Whatever the policy outcome on missile defense, it allows me to rely on a higher order defense.

Twenty-five years ago, I visited a missile silo outside Great Falls, Mont. The trip was part of an aeronautics course. For all I know, the silo might not even be there anymore.

At each corner of the missile silo was a radar. Our military guide matter-of-factly said that they detected the slightest movement, even a bird flying by. His words made me think of a Bible passage. No, it wasn't about Armageddon or the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It was about Jesus saying: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).

I was struck then, and still am today, with the thought that a bird, be it prairie falcon or mourning dove, literally, would not go unnoticed. So simple a fact made me believe something greater than a human touch would stay any hand, friend or foe, on all the destructive force inside that silo - inside all the missile silos.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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