The U.S. State Department, in its annual International Religious Freedom Report released this month, charges that North Korea suppresses religion, and North Korea responded by telling Washington to stop acting as the world’s “religious judge.”
The report quoted defectors and others who said that North Korea imprisoned and executed people who tried to practice religion. Governments and human rights groups say North Korea has one of the worst rights records in the world.
An article on Wednesday in Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun daily said: “The U.S., after the September 11 incident, has murdered many Muslims in cold blood in its mainland, Afghanistan and Iraq and made no bones about insulting and overriding Islam and Islamic culture.
“The United States is not a ‘religious judge’ but a chief culprit in the repression and extermination of religion which should be put in the dock of a religious trial,” the Rodong Sinmun article said.
“They [U.S. leaders] hold heretical a religious view and religion which criticize or disapprove of the American way of life,” said the official KCNA news agency article, according to an authorized translation.
This was the latest in a over a half-century’s worth of animadversions between the U.S. and North Korea, which have technically been at war since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in an inconclusive truce.
The U.S. has long had a proud tradition as a Christian nation that recognizes religious freedom. Our bias towards Christianity may sometimes cause us to fall short of manifesting true, religious tolerance, but we don’t imprison or execute people for their religious beliefs, no matter what some of our more zealous citizens might say when they exercise the free speech portion of our cherished First Amendment.
I will not defend tyranny and oppression, but as a Christian nation, we ought to watch out about that whole judging business as the Bible is quite clear:
“1. Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” — Matthew 7:1-2, King James Version
As Americans, we have a duty to call attention to injustices both here and elsewhere in the world. However, perception being reality, we also need to set a good example that demonstrates how we know and understand the vast difference between a secular government that protects and defends religious freedom and a secular government that forbids and punishes the practice of religion.
Unfortunately, we are currently not be able to do that as effectively as we could due to the spurious charges of tyranny and oppression that some Christians make after they’ve lost certain privileges that, in principle, they never should have rightfully enjoyed in the first place.
America’s long journey toward completely fulfilling its obligation to religious and other freedoms is nowhere near complete. Sure, we have a far better track record that North Korea (and some other nations), and we’ve even earned the privilege of calling attention to religious suppression in the world, but we still ought to tread lightly while doing so, lest we could allow our greatest virtue, justice, to transmogrify into our most deadly vice: pride.
And while we’re on the subject of pride, I’ll close with another of my favorite Scriptures:
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” — Proverbs 16:18, King James Version
God Bless America.