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Kim Jong Il and Christopher Hitchens

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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News of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il fills the front pages of newspapers around the world. Millions of North Koreans had been

What did Kim Jong Il and Christopher Hitchens have in common?  In a moment, we’ll ask Hitchens’ younger brother.  But first, some background.

Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 70.  His father, Kim Il Sung, founded North Korea in 1948.  His son succeeded him in 1994.  He lived in a palatial estate, complete with an artificial lake and a racetrack, while his people suffered in abject deprivation.  A nation-wide famine soon after he took power killed two to three million North Koreans.

His regime conducted tests of nuclear explosives in 2006 and 2009; experts believe that it possesses a small number of nuclear bombs.  He considered South Korea, Japan, and the United States to be his main enemies.  As his youngest son succeeds him, what will happen to North Korea’s nuclear stockpile and unstable regime is anyone’s guess.  South Korea’s military is on “high alert” this morning, while Japan’s prime minister has called an emergency meeting of his National Security group.

Another death that made world headlines over the weekend was the passing of Christopher Hitchens.  Perhaps the world’s best-known atheist, Hitchens was author of the bestseller god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. (His refusal to capitalize “God” was part of his argument.)  I met Hitchens in March 2009 when we participated in a debate on the existence of God and relevance of faith.  Over the weekend I read his brother’s fascinating journey from atheism to Christian commitment, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.

Peter Hitchens argues persuasively that atheist regimes such as North Korea (which he visited and describes at length) demonstrate the inevitable result of rejecting God and furnish a compelling reason to choose faith.  He remains “baffled and frustrated by the strange insistence of my anti-theist brother that the cruelty of Communist anti-theist regimes does not reflect badly on his case and on his cause.  It does.”

I enjoyed very much meeting Christopher Hitchens.  He was as gracious off stage as he was acerbic on it.  I prayed often for him, especially when his esophageal cancer was diagnosed, and mourn his passing.  But I agree with his brother–the oppression and corruption at the heart of regimes such as North Korea and the Soviet Union were a direct result of their anti-theistic ideologies.  As Peter Hitchens points out, if leaders have no higher authority for their laws, they will inevitably change them to benefit themselves.

Is the same true for you and me?  If we do not make God our King and submit to the authority of his word, will we rule ourselves?  How’s that working for our people and planet?  Jesus’ imperative was intended for our benefit: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).  Have you accepted his invitation yet today?