Posts tagged ‘Genocide’

The Dogs of North Korea

The more we learn about North Korea, the more sickening the regime there looks.  Recently, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley held a meeting on human rights in North Korea, which featured Ji Hyeon-A, a woman who escaped from North Korea to South Korea in 2007.  Fox News reported on her remarks:

“Pregnant women were forced into harsh labor all day,” she said. “At night, we heard pregnant mothers screaming and babies died without ever being able to see their mothers.”

North Korea does not allow for mixed-race babies, she said. At one detention center, she described how inmates starved to death. Their dead bodies, she said, were given to the guard dogs for food.

This is horrifying.  But it is also tragically common in this isolated nation.  So, how are we to respond?

First, we should pray for the protection of the citizens of North Korea.  Living under the nation’s current dictator, Kim Jong-un, or its prior dictator, Kim Jong-il, as did Ji Hyeon-A, has to be terrifying emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically.  Just this past week it was reported that North Korea’s top military official, Hwang Pyong-so, second only to Kim Jong-il himself, is suspected dead after falling out of favor with the supreme leader.  In North Korea, there is no reasonable assurance of life.  Thus, prayers for the thousands whose lives are in danger every day are in order.  In Psalm 22, the Psalmist prays:

But You, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.  (Psalm 22:19-20)

The Psalmist’s prayer echoes an all-too-literal North Korean fear.  For those who face the grisly specter of being fed to dogs, we must pray.  For those who are oppressed or threatened in any way in North Korea, we must pray.

But we must go further.  Our prayers must include not only petitions for protection, but cries for justice.  The evil of the North Korean regime must be stopped.

When John has a vision of heaven in Revelation, he sees both those saved by God’s grace and those condemned by God’s judgment.  He explains the scene thusly:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  (Revelation 22:14-15)

John offers a laundry list of those who will be “outside” salvation on the Last Day.  But what is most interesting about this list is who heads it: “the dogs.”  Considering dogs are such a ubiquitous part of American families that they have garnered the moniker of “man’s best friend,” the idea that dogs would be excluded from God’s kingdom may puzzle us.  But in the ancient world, dogs were considered to be not pets, but dangerous, disease-ridden scavengers.  They were reviled.  In his vision, then, John sees dogs as symbols of all that is evil.

Those who feed people who have died to literal dogs can only be called dogs themselves, in the biblical sense.  Yet, we have the assurance that, one day, these dogs will find themselves on the “outside,” just like John foresees – whether this means they lose power in this age, or in the age to come.

In Psalm 22, shortly before the Psalmist prays that God would deliver him from the dogs, he declares:

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)

This psalm, it turns out, is not only a prayer for deliverance, but a prophecy of things to come – a prophecy of One who, just like in the psalm, would be surrounded by His enemies and pierced for them (Psalm 22:16; Luke 24:39), a prophecy of One who, just like in the psalm, would die humiliated as His enemies divided His clothes and cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35), and a prophecy of one who, just like in the psalm, would cry out in despair, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46)?

Jesus, just like the North Koreans, knew the horror of being surrounded by dogs while in the throes of death.  Jesus, just like the North Koreans, experienced the most diabolical evils humans could perpetrate.  But Jesus, while suffering death at the hands of evil, was not overcome by it.  The dogs that surrounded Him were defeated when His tomb turned up empty.  And the dogs that surround many in North Korea will be defeated when our tombs turn up empty too.

The dogs may maul.  But Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of their defeat, and it is offered to all.

December 18, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Castro’s Death and the Christian’s Hope

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When news first came a little over a week ago that the longtime brutal dictator of the island nation of Cuba, Fidel Castro, had died, the reactions to his death ranged from the viscerally ecstatic to the weirdly and inappropriately sublime.  Many reports simply sought to chronicle the events of Castro’s life without much moral commentary, but, as Christians, we know that a man who, over the course of his raucous reign, murdered, according to one Harvard-trained economist, close to 78,000 people is due at least some sort of moral scrutiny.  As Cuba concludes a time of mourning over the death of a man who himself brought much death, I humbly offer these few thoughts on how we, as Christians, should ethically process the life of one of history’s most famous and infamous leaders.

We should not be afraid to call wickedness what it is.

It is true that there were some bright spots in the midst of Castro’s morally dark oppression of Cuba.  Cuba’s literacy rate, for instance, stands at 99.8 percent thanks to its government’s emphasis on education.  It has also been reported that the robust healthcare system there has resulted in one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world at 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births, although The Wall Street Journal has called this number into question.

Whatever good Castro may have done should not excuse or serve as rationalization for his gruesome human rights violations.  As ABC News reports:

Over the course of Castro’s rule, his regime rounded up people for nonviolent opposition to his government and subjected many to torture and decades-long imprisonment.

In a January 1967 interview with Playboy magazine, Castro admitted there were 20,000 “counter-revolutionary criminals” in Cuba’s prisons…

Under his dictatorship, Castro arrested dissidents and gay citizens and forced them into labor or prison, according to human rights groups. He is also responsible for mass executions of people who spoke out against his government.

There is simply no way to mask or minimize the atrocities that Castro committed.  They were – and are – evil.  As Christians, we should be willing to call evil for what it is – not only for the sake of upholding moral standards, but for the sake of being honest about the way in which Castro’s immorality took countless human lives.

We should remember those who Castro brutalized and pay attention to those who are currently being brutalized.

The website cubaarchive.org is devoted to remembering those Castro murdered.  The stories in the “Case Profiles” section of the site are heart-rending.  In one case, a tugboat carrying children was intentionally sunk by order of Castro himself because the people on it were trying to escape Cuba.  In another case, U.S. citizen Francis Brown was given a lethal injection at a Guantanamo hospital that ultimately killed him while, on that same day, his daughter’s full term unborn child was murdered by doctors at a Havana hospital.  These stories should not be forgotten.  These are victims who should not fade into the recesses of history, for they remind us who Fidel Castro really was – an egomaniacal madman with no regard for any life besides his own.

These stories should also lead us to seek justice for those currently suffering under oppressive and brutal regimes.  The stories of people in places like Syria, Iraq, and Sudan should demand our attention and touch our hearts.

Though we should not eulogize Castro’s life, we also should not revel in his death.

It is understandable that many have celebrated the death of a despot like Castro.  Indeed, Scripture understands and points to this reality: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” (Proverbs 11:10).  But even if this is an understandable and natural reaction to the death of a dictator, we do well to remember that God’s reaction to the death of the wicked is more measured: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways” (Ezekiel 33:11)!  God refuses to rejoice at the death of the wicked because He understands that such rejoicing ultimately serves no purpose. For when the wicked die, they stand eternally lost and condemned.  This helps no one and fixes nothing.  This is why God’s preference is not death, but repentance.  Death is merely the result of wickedness.  Repentance is the remedy to wickedness.  God would much prefer to fix wickedness than to let it run its course.

As Christians, we are called to mimic God’s character in our responses to the death of the wicked: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn His wrath away from them” (Proverbs 24:17-18).  These verses caution us not to revel in the death of an enemy while also reminding us that God will render a just judgment on the wicked.  And God’s justice is better than our jeers. 

We should find our hope in the One over whose death the world once reveled.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of God’s refusal to rejoice in the death of the wicked is the fact that the wicked once reveled in the death of His perfectly righteous Son.  The Gospel writer Mark records that when Jesus was on the cross:

Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save Yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked Him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save Himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  (Mark 15:29-32)

For God not to rejoice in the death of the wicked when the wicked rejoiced in the death of His Son reveals not only God’s gracious character, but His perfect plan.  For God deigned that, by the mocking of the wicked, wickedness itself should be defeated.  Indeed, at the very moment the wicked thought they had succeeded in defeating God’s Holy One, God’s Holy One had accomplished His mission of opening salvation to the wicked.  Our hope, then, is not in the death of a wicked man, but in the crucifixion of a righteous One.  His righteousness is stronger than Castro’s wickedness.  That is the reason we can rejoice.

December 5, 2016 at 5:15 am 2 comments


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