This is big news, I think, but I don’t really know what it means for the future. My thoughts are similar to those of Dr. Thompson:
The strange leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, has died. Everyone is worried about what’s going to happen. Hell, we couldn’t figure out North Korea before. North Korea has never been predictable. … I suspect that they will continue to be a head scratcher.
North Korea is one of the most repressive, tyrannical societies in the world. North Koreans seeking greater freedom flee to China. The totalitarian state created by the dead tyrant and his father has worked, in part, by asserting its own Bizarro reality — an entire delusional epistemology. The cult of personality surrounding “Dear Leader” was such that state-run media regularly reported on his golf outings during which, they said, he routinely shot several holes in one. This is a society that has so separated itself from the rest of the world that it sometimes conducts diplomacy through a rib-joint in Hackensack, N.J.
So I can’t pretend to even begin to understand North Korea, or to speculate about what its post-Kim Jong Il transition may entail.
But here is a good reminder of something that is always true: Every dictator dies, eventually, although usually not soon enough. But there’s hope in remembering that.
The death of someone like Kim Jong Il also inevitably brings us back to the question of Hell. On that question, allow me to refer back to a post from 2009, and to quote a bit of that here:
“Life is never fair,” Oscar Wilde noted in An Ideal Husband, “And perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” That’s an echo of an earlier playwright: “God’s bodkin man, much better, use every man after his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping?”We hope for more justice than this world affords, but at the same time we hope for mercy to triumph over justice. Lazarus deserved better, but we don’t necessarily want to “use every man after his desert.”
So not perfect, absolute justice, then, but ultimate justice tempered by mercy.
Surely, though, there must be limits to this mercy. It’s one thing for you or me or the rich man to be cut a bit of slack for our myopic self-absorption, but what about those driven by cruelty and evil to create Hell on earth? What about the mass-murderers and torturers, tyrants and oppressors?
Or, in other words, what about Hitler?
Whatever miserable end befalls a Hitler or an Amin or Stalin or Saddam Hussein in this world it still seems, somehow, inadequate. Those responsible for the suffering and death of millions can only suffer and die once themselves, and this seems disproportionate. It seems unfair. It is unfair.
For that unfairness, that injustice, to be addressed or redressed, it seems there needs to be some further accounting for such evils. Hell, or something like it, seems necessary then for the Hitlers of this world.
It’s quite a leap, though — and a baseless, insupportable one — to jump from believing that ultimate justice requires some kind of accounting for evil to deciding that the precise form of that accounting must conform to the details of the fiery, eternal torment imagined by Dante and Hieronymus Bosch and Jack Chick and a thousand other (extracanonical) sources.
… I believe there will be … some kind of ultimate accountability for evil. I can’t prove this, mind you, but I believe it. And this assertion — that the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice — can be defended and supported by that Bible we evangelical Christian types put so much emphasis on. The same defense and support cannot be found for the sordidly detailed idea of a sulfurous netherworld to which all non-RTCs will be consigned for eternity.