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Death of an Atheist (part 2)

December 19, 2011

I wasn’t expecting to write a Part 2.  When Christopher Hitchens died, I felt compelled to write about it, because for some strange reason I was intrigued by him.  Most of the time, atheists don’t intrigue me.  I’m not an apologetics aficionado by any means, and debates don’t float my boat.  I’m a pastor more than anything else, and I always think like pastor:  how do I edify and empower my faith family to maximum impact in the world.  So really, it was a little out of character for me to have so much to say about Hitchens.  When I published that blog, I thought I was done with that.

 . . . then Kim Jong Il died, and now I’m back in the game.  I keep trying to get out, but they keep pulling me back in (from the movie “Godfather”). North Korea and Kim Jong Il have fascinated me for the past year.  So, I can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it.

 Kim Jong Il was the dictator and dynastic leader of North Korea.  He is a communist, and therefore, an atheist.  Well . . . he is “sort of” an atheist.  He has created his own religion called Juche.  Really, Juche is the philosophy of North Korea.  It means “self-reliance.”  Kim Jong Il, like his father, effectively quarantined his entire country from the rest of the world.  That’s not an easy thing to do. China was able to do it for several decades, but the economic needs eventually gave way to the need for connections to other countries.  And boy did it work for China, who now has a powerful economy.  That’s a testimonial that will be difficult for other Asian countries to ignore. Myanmar seems to finally be making headway in opening its country to outsiders as well.

Making it even more difficult is the fact that North Korea shares its peninsula with South Korea. South Korea is a close ally to the U.S. and is quite westernized.  Its economy is flourishing, and Christianity has exploded there — with the largest churches in the world being found there, besides the underground “house” churches of China.  Ironically, North Korea borders China to the North.  I pray often for North Korea, that Christianity would one day flourish there like it has with its neighbors.

Maybe Christianity is flourishing there.  We don’t know.  The effectiveness of Juche leaves us with very little knowledge of North Korea.  In fact, very little is known about its new leader, Kim Jong Un, one of the younger sons of Kim Jong Il.  However, “Voice of the Martyrs” (www.voiceofthemartyrs.com) reports some movement of Christianity within the prisons of North Korea.  It’s been reported that Christianity was spreading amongst the prisons and Christians isolated in their own prisons in attempts to keep the movement at bay.

 North Korea has paid a heavy price in the name of “self-reliance.”  It has necessitated great investments into the military, while poverty is rampant.  Some estimate that North Korea has the 5th largest military in the world.  Its secret advancement in nuclear weapons is no secret to anyone anymore.  Isolation demands firepower.  Yet, the people have suffered.  Kim Jong Il has kept them under his fear-infused command reminding them of Japanese oppression of the past and warning that outsiders cannot be trusted, especially the ones from South Korea and their ally, the U.S.  Kim Jong Il warned that western and outside influences would damage the people’s purity even though he had scores of sports cars, imported liquor and cigars, and mistresses from other countries.

My eyes were opened to the state of North Korea through a documentary entitled, Inside North Korea by National Geographic’s journalist, Lisa Ling, who entered the country undercover.  If you haven’t seen it, do so as quickly as possible.  You will see that this atheist, “Dear Leader” as he is referred to, has advanced Juche as a religion with he as its god.  Every building in North Korea has Kim Jong Il’s picture in it.  There is a hymnbook full of songs that worship and praise Kim Jong Il.  In one scene, a humanitarian effort brought an ophthalmologist to the country to perform simple cataract surgeries that allowed those who were blind from cataracts to see.  When the bandages were removed, they immediately praised their “Dear Leader” and shouted joyously with arms raised (like a worship service) because they could finally look at the “Dear Leader’s” face in a portrait.  It reminded me of the miracle accounts of Jesus in the gospels.  It’s scary.

One scene in the documentary shows the Korean border with a soldier from North and South Korea (and U.S. military) staring each other down on their respective sides like gunslingers waiting for the other to make the first move.

I was sad about Christopher Hitchens’ death.  I have such mixed emotions about Kim Jong Il’s death.  I thought of him as one of the most dangerous men in the world.  It breaks my heart that this nation has been held captive from freedom but even worse, from the truth of Christ.  Once again, I am sad at the thought of anyone in eternal condemnation, including Kim Jong Il.  But, I am also sad at the thought of those in North Korea who are unreached and unengaged and are dying without Christ.  Perhaps I have some hope for them right now.

 We need to pray for North Korea.  I don’t really know what else to do, which is good, because I don’t think there is anything better to do.  We don’t know if Kim Jong Un will simply continue the status quo or be of a different mind.  Keep in mind he has been groomed for this.  We don’t know if his power is solidified or if there is great imbalance and turmoil internally at this point.  Will this make things better or worse?  All we know is that change has the potential for new vistas, and I am praying for them.

Pray for the gospel in North Korea.  Pray for any believers that might exist there.  Pray that Christian influences in China and South Korea might be so powerful that North Korea’s tightly guarded borders are not impervious to the testimony of Christ.  Pray for Kim Jong Un that God would work in His life even like He did with the pagan Persian emperor Cyrus who granted permission for the Israelites to rebuild Jerusalem.  Pray, today, for the gospel in North Korea.

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