Friday, December 23, 2011

UPDATED: Strange coincidence, or is North Korea a lot like ancient Israel?

So as I’m sure you’re aware, North Korea’s short dictator and Hollywood wanna-be Kim Jong il died like last week (good riddance), to the overwhelming chagrin of its brainwashed emaciated population.  The country is officially in a morbid state of mourning, and as new reports and videos (see below) have started to come out, I cannot help but see a connection between this sort of communal mourning and that of ancient Israeli culture as described in the Bible.

Firstly I must admit that for all my life when I’ve read, mostly described in the Old Testament (though the high priests Caiaphas’ robe-tearing escapade upon Jesus claiming to be God is right up there), about these uber serious, extended, mourning sessions by the Hebrew peoples, both individual and communal, I could honestly never really relate, nor conceptualize what that type of mourning entailed.  I mean I’ve seen people cry, even uncontrollably sob, at the death of a close family member or something else extremely tragic.  But mourn?  "Old Testament, day and night, multi-day" mourning?  Never seen it and never really knew what it looked like. 

Until now…thanks to those poor saps that got the short end of the stick by being born in North Korea :/

Genuine, or fo show?
            Now the outward action of mourning is one thing, but what’s really going on inside those peoples’ hearts?  Are they truly deprecated at the passing of their “Dear Leader”, or are they just trying to “cover their bases” in sight of the ever watching eye of the North Korean, Gestapo/Sauron-like authorities who will throw you in the Peninsula’s worst dungeons for saying “Lady Gaga” out in the open?  I think it’s probably 50/50.  No doubt the cult of personality, forcibly enforced, of the Dear Leader was as palpable as land mines along the 38th Parallel, and knowing so I’m sure at least half of these people truly are absolutely devastated that the only god-king they’ve ever known (apart from his father and now his son) is actually dead.  That said, I think the North Korean people are smarter than their actions may say.  I think a ton of them could give a rat’s @$$ about the Dear Leader and his miserable example of a “leader”, and merely give the status quo “worship” only to avoid the severe punishment they and their family would receive if they did actually relent a bit (though where are all the revolutionaries and visionaries in DPRK?!). 
            Regardless, because this type of mourning only reminds me of the “mourning” often found in the Bible, I wondered if the split is similar.  I mean growing up in an evangelical culture, often strong Jewish sympathizers; I was implicitly taught that this type of mourning was an extreme, yet pious act of devotion and reverence to G_d.  But what is half the folks in Numbers 20 were just giving lip service…
“Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, all the Israelites mourned for him thirty days.” Numbers 20:28-29
Are we to assume each and every Israelite was that broken up that Aaron had died?  Sure he was a good guy, as opposed to Kim Jung.  But thirty days of mourning?  Come on.  Not a chance that whole people were genuinely mourning that long.  Heck, most of them were prolly over it by the end of the week; getting on with their lives.

There are other extreme Biblical accounts of mourning that I actually believe were legit however by those that partook.  Take Daniel 10 for example.
“In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war.  The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.
   At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”  -Daniel 10:1-3
Now it’s a bit self righteous sounding at the end there, but if you were acutely aware of Danial’s overall life, you’d know this guy was legit.  He was authentic and I take his word for it. 

Then again, there are times where the Bible makes it clear the people are giving lip service, either out of fear of punishment or for personal gain or public accolade, like in Zechariah,
“Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?  And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? “  -Zechariah 7:5-6
So it’s nice that God himself calls out the false fa├žades of mourning that these people were giving.  That said, I still feel like the church culture treats almost all accounts of old skool “mourning” as a holy thing….when in fact, save a small few of truly authentic individuals and small groups, I’d say most of the Old Testament Israelite mourning was to follow the group and give lip service to a God or patriarch that they’d prolly turn their backs on or forget about in a few days.

Sure blessed are those that mourn (genuine mourning that is), for they will be comforted…but I think Jesus said it best in Luke 23 on his way up to Calvary,
“As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.  Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”  -Luke 23:26-28
So people of North Korea…don’t mourn for Kim Jung il.  His fate has already been determined (he lost by the way).  If you’re going to mourn, mourn for any unforgiven sin you or your children have…for that is the only thing worth truly mourning over anything else.

For better context on the monumental pressures of social conformity that North Koreans face, check out this recent National Geographic documentary.

Clearly the "mourning" going on during il's funeral the other day is staged.  I mean I would too if the state TV was all up in my grill and it meant getting a pat on the back or sent to jail, or worse. That said, what the world wouldn't give to see one North Korean in front of everyone giving the jerk the bird as his casket drove by.  

That said, there are two things I'm actually envious of North Korea in these clips:  snow and G-wagens :)


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