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Presidents Trump and Jong-un.

As North Korea and the U.S. threaten to drag the rest of the world into the black hole of irrational demands, the U.S. has been widening the scope of who it thinks is responsible for the current tensions in East Asia.

Tom Phillips reports U.S. national security advisor HR McMaster said:

“We have been kicking the can down the road and we’re out of road. For those who have been commenting about the lack of a military option – there is a military option. Now, it’s not what we prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations to do everything we can to address this global problem, short of war.”

Perhaps it is this very metaphor that is problematic. We should ask, “why has anyone been kicking anything down a dead-end road?”

Meanwhile, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson urged Russia and China to “indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own”. His direct suggestion: Russia’s and China’s ambivalence or inaction makes them responsible; it implicates them in fostering the recklessness of North Korea.

It’s like a man telling the girlfriend of his wife, “because you don’t get her to not tick me off, I have to bully & beat her.” Refusing to take responsibility for one’s own actions is always going to be problem, however more complicated the situation is.


China’s Ethic of Responsibility:

Speaking in Beijing, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said China opposed the launch but also urged the US to change its tactics towards Pyongyang:

China is not to blame for the escalation of tensions. China does not hold the key to resolving the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, either. Those who tied the knots are responsible for untying [them].

China uses an interesting metaphor to suggest that the only ones who’ve tied the knot are North Korea and the U.S.. To use their own metaphor, this tangled knot has been complicated by every bystander watching this unfold.

Yes, China especially has shielded and supported North Korea as they’ve developed nuclear power beyond their capability to handle it.

Yes, the U.S. provokes reaction by their continual show of military options – as they play war games with South Korea and Japan – and then wonder why North Korea might be edgy.

It appears that everyone has to “change their tactics.” Everyone is afraid of everyone. What will it take to lower the fear factor?

Meanwhile, Russia

The U.S. took a similar tact with Russia. Back in December of 2016, as diplomacy continued to fail and the human slaughter accelerated in Aleppo, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers laid the blame squarely on Syria’s Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, asking them,

Are you truly incapable of shame?

Current ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, is famous for asking the Russian ambassador, “have you no shame?”  She wonders, pointedly:

How many more children have to die before Russia cares?

Perhaps the U.S. is too close to a mirror to see itself, but their opponents shot back, telling the U.S. is in no position to lay shame on any other nation, given its own track record of selective interference in the world.

So, Who is Responsible?

Paradoxically, we can go to a Russian source to find the answer. In The Brothers Karamazov, there is a line spoken by Father Zosima:

Everyone is responsible for everyone and everything.

Clemena Antovova writes that the original Russian word for responsible is guilty (vinovat); it is a telling notion that we are all “guilty” as we are all responsible. What do we do with our guilt – our responsibility?

For Father Zosima, the sense of responsibility for everyone and everything is largely incomprehensible outside a Christ-centered world view. Try as we may, writes Antonova, “we will not find a clear, well defined moral code that legitimizes the ‘culture of welcome’ which does not rely in one way or another on Christian values.” (p. 31, Sorbornist).

Awful Intersection of World-Views

In the perfect storm conditions for potential wars, it is not a good time for the West to have drifted off to be post-Christian. Modern day Western materialism, and unchecked centrism has reduced the heritage of Christian faith to simple human greed and self interest; such is globe at the awful intersection of world-views hostile to the common good.

What is your Responsibility?

For an answer, I direct you to an ancient prophecy from Obadiah. Here God tells the Edomites that when they “stood aloof” while Jerusalem was being destroyed, they were just like one of the enemies:

Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
    you will be covered with shame;
    you will be destroyed forever.
On the day you stood aloof
    while strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.

Standing aloof with apathy or self-interest covers us with shame. Sure, we can blame the active combatants who instigate aggression, but we are not free to simply watch things unfold. I am not advocating the force of military; I am advocating the force of prayer, and the force of whatever you can do to work toward justice – for where there is no justice, there is no peace.

May we know the Shalom of God in our life time.