Criticizing North Korea’s Stalinist tyranny should not be hard, either for its brutal repression of the North Korean people, or its routine external terrorism and military provocations. The most recent outrage of course was North Korea shelling of Yeonpyeong island, killing 4 South Koreans, wounding many others, and setting off international alarms that North Korea may ignite another major war against its much freer and more prosperous southern neighbor. But the Religious Left has not been able to find its tongue on this dangerous aggression. Left-leaning U.S. churches seem to have been completely quiet, while the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) is remaining aloof and ever striving for an unholy impartiality between the democratic victim of an attack, and the assaulting dictatorship.
In a 255-word statement, the WCC’s chief, a Norwegian Lutheran, managed carefully to avoid even implied criticism of the North Korean attack. Mostly relying on the passive verb tense or citing abstract forces so as to avoid faulting North Korea, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit was very concerned about the “escalation of tensions” in Korea, one of many “incidents” stretching back to the Korea war 50 years ago, whose promulgator, in typical fashion, the Religious Left never specifically names. The WCC is courageously “unequivocal” in opposing any “use of force and military power” that may distract from the “Korean people’s aspiration for peace and reconciliation.” According to Rev. Tveit, the most recent “violent incidents” evince how “unresolved divisions” threaten peace. The WCC chief implored “both North and South Korea to refrain from actions that exacerbate the tensions,” as though South Korea were equally prone to shell North Korea, sink North Korean ships, or assassinate North Korean leaders. Resting on this fiction, the WCC wants both North and South Korea to “demonstrate the genuine will to return to peace negotiations that will lead to peaceful co-existence and mutual respect, and to engage in a new process of confidence-building measures at the earliest possible date.”
Well, it’s nice the WCC did not, in more typical fashion, try to blame the U.S. for the latest conflict. But when the Religious Left is not faulting America, the best it can do is pretend that everyone is equally dangerous, or blame impersonal situations for mystically inciting violence. To actually condemn or even imply misconduct by a communist, or other repressive anti-Western regime, is simply emotionally or psychologically unacceptable for nervous left-leaning church elites. Would the Korean Peninsula be less dangerous without a massively armed, communist prison camp regime in the north? The Religious Left will never say. Instead, it demands “reconciliation,” as though urging two quarreling family clans to quit their irrational, decades-long feud.
The WCC and other left-leaning Western church groups often like to defer to the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK), itself, like the Western councils, far more left-leaning than most church members in its member denominations. The NCCK likes to boasts of its collaboration with North Korea’s own puppet church council and urge “reconciliation” without having to reference the brutal nature of North Korea’s despotism, which includes persecution of Christians. But at least with this latest incident, the NCCK did admit it “deplores the North Korean military for using powerful weapons against the civilian community in the most serious incident since the signing of the Armistice in 1953.” Could not the WCC even said as much? The U.S. National Council of Churches, usually quick to politically commentate, seemingly has officially said nothing about North Korea’s latest aggression, nor apparently have its leading member denominations. The London-based Council on World Mission, an international group mostly for Presbyterians, did condemn the “unprovoked aggression and attacks, and [called] upon North Korean military to cease from any further attacks upon the people of the South.”
Liberal Protestants in America were not always so unwilling to offer honest empathy for genuine victims of aggression. During the Korean War, the U.S. National Council of Churches (NCC) commended the United Nations for “resisting aggression in Korea.” The U.S. Methodist bishops expressed similar thanks. In the early 1960’s, the NCC described how North Korea’s communist regime had killed 60 to 80 percent of its Christian leaders. But in recent decades, U.S. church groups like the NCC have been more distressed over “hostile and inflammatory rhetoric” against North Korea. The NCC certainly cannot be accused of such an accusation, instead preferring a golden silence about North Korea’s atrocities against its own population and its threats against a long suffering and still vulnerable South Korea.
Pretending that Korean tensions are the fault of abstract tensions and misunderstandings for which no one is really at fault, except possibly a manipulating United States, is a long-time tradition for Western church groups like the NCC and the WCC. The tradition is so revered that even North Korea’s lobbing shells into South Korea cannot disrupt it. Would a full-scale North Korean invasion, or even a North Korean nuclear strike, bestir such leftist church groups from their aloofness? We can pray we never find out.