Today's headlines about nuclear warfare give the world much unease. When talk centers on such terrible things as MIRVs, SLCMs, GLCMs, lasers, particle-beam generators, killer satellites, the public is understandably concerned about where mankind is headed in this nuclear age. The issue cannot be avoided. Nations cannot ignore thinking about what they must do to remain secure against potential aggression, debating whether they need land-based missiles or more submarines, weighing whether strategies should be based on ''defensive'' or ''offensive'' weapons.
But humankind must not lose sight of where the solution to the nuclear dilemma lies. True and fundamental defense rests not in numbers of launchers, bombers, and warheads, as necessary as these may seem to be in the present climate of intense nationalisms, vehement tribalism, and conflicting ideologies. True defense lies in a day-by-day uplifting of people's lives - in a regeneration of thought and feeling that subdues the selfishness, greed, hate, and envy which lie at the root of tension and conflict. Here are ''weapons'' that every individual can employ, and with the greatest effectiveness. The weapons of compassion, honesty, integrity are the most potent anywhere, for they - unlike the weapons of plutonium - actually destroy the evil impulses which give rise to war.
In an earlier age, an age probably no less frightening to people for its brutal oppressions, aggressive empires, and widespread injustices, St. Paul the missionary told a band of Christians in Corinth: ''For the weapons of
our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.''
Here, perhaps, is a central message of the Easter season. The man whose resurrection Christendom celebrates used those ''mighty weapons'' not only to get himself out of the dark tomb, but to confront and overcome every adversity that human beings have to deal with. Whether those around him were afraid, or ill, or impoverished, Jesus met the challenge with an outpouring of Christly affection. Nothing could resist that divinely derived power. Even the winds and waves - the laws of the physical universe - obeyed his ''Peace, be still.''
Christendom today can be reminded that Jesus did not tell his contemporaries to give up their armies and armor. But everything he preached was an antidote to the way of violence. ''Put up again thy sword into his place,'' he said to one who had cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, ''for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.'' If some think his Sermon on the Mount a sublime but irrelevant prescription for coping with ICBMs and IRBMs, let them ponder what the living of purity and love accomplished for humanity. Proving that even the ''last enemy'' can be vanquished, that life is indestructible.
So the world need not feel terrorized or helpless. Not if it keeps its primary focus on the moral and spiritual demands of peace.