While visiting White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo, New Mexico, I picked up a pamphlet entitled: Trinity Site.
For those who don’t recall, the Trinity Site is the location where the first atomic bomb, nicknamed “the Gadget,” was detonated on July 16, 1945.
The Trinity Site is located at the northern end of White Sands Missile Range. This site is open to the public only twice each year. The writing staff of the missile range Museum prepared this booklet as a “read-ahead” for people who wish to visit the Trinity Site. It presents a brief history of the Manhattan Project. This was the secret project which produced “the Gadget,” and the first deliverable atomic bombs: the “Little Boy” Uranium bomb and the “Fat Man” Plutonium bomb which were used against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The pamphlet presented the history of the Trinity Site itself.
But before proceeding with the history of the Trinity Site and the atomic bombs, this little booklet had to “set the record straight” about Trinity’s radiation levels. It emphatically made the point that Trinity’s radiation levels are no worse than many other places in America. For instance:
One hour at the Trinity Site will only expose you to 0.5 millirems. That’s only 1/4th of what you’d get from a coast-to-coast flight in a jet airline, 1/12th of what you’d get from a simple chest X-Ray, and less than 1/200th of what you’d get from a CAT Scan.
If you live in Denver for a year, you’ll log up 47 millirems of radioactivity. One year on the Colorado Plateau will give you 63 millirems. And it’s also estimated that Americans are exposed to 200 millirems of radioactivity annually from radon gas in their homes.
The booklet was essentially saying, “Hey, don’t condemn the Trinity Site as evil, as if it’s the only source of radiation poison. It’s no worse than many other places. Why don’t you blame the medical profession or blame simple background radiation or solar radiation? Living in a brick or adobe house will give you 14 times as much radiation in a year as you’d receive from a simple visit to the Trinity Site! Why don’t you vilify brick homes for the harm they do?”
When reading this, it sounded strangely reminiscent of the way we often justify ourselves by comparing ourselves with others.
- “Hey, I know that my record’s not perfect, but at least I’m not as bad as that guy.”
- “Sure I tend to be a glutton, but my overeating only hurts me. At least I don’t hurt others like this gossip.”
- “Oh, sure, I gossip a little too much, but at least I’m not a thief and I don’t rob people.”
- “So I take things that don’t belong to me, what’s the big deal? I only take what I need and from people who have more than I do. I’ve never hurt anyone in the process. So please don’t compare me with a murderer. I’m not as bad as him.”
Is this the standard that God will use to measure our righteousness or worthiness to enter heaven? As long as we can find someone worse than ourselves, do we think we’ll be alright?
No, the standard that God uses to measure us is His own perfection: “You must be perfect,” Jesus said, “as Your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And He condemns those who are confident in their own righteousness and who view others with contempt (Luke 18:9–14). But He justifies (forgives and makes righteous) those who, like the penitent sinner, humble themselves, admit their own sinfulness, and cry to God, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Dear Father in heaven, I make no defense of my sinful deeds and outright abandonment of Your laws. Here and now I confess that I am the sinner. It’s not my brother or my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of Your forgiveness. Please forgive me, cleanse me, save me—for Jesus Christ’s sake, I pray. Amen.