America-Backed Atrocities in the Korean War Discovered: Troubling Questions

“Grave by mass grave, South Korea is unearthing the skeletons and buried truths of a cold-blooded slaughter from early in the Korean War, when this nation’s U.S.-backed regime killed untold thousands of leftists and hapless peasants in a summer of terror in 1950.” More here (AP)

Disgusting. We aided in executing over 100,000 civilians (quite possibly three times that)–including women and children–in summer of 1950, while ‘back home’ we were revving it up for the (supposed) Leave It To Beaver decade. Mass extinction, all because our peace-loving democratic ideals were ‘better’ than their socialist/democratic/communist/revolutionary ideals. Preemptive idealicide. Jesus wept.

Perhaps we aren’t to expect much more from the principalities and powers, but from friends and followers of Jesus, I think we are to expect much, much more. So my pointed questions are these:

1.) Is American really still a ‘Christian nation’ in your hearts and minds, Mr. and Mrs. Truebluechristianpatriot? Do you still hold your head up high and say “God and my country, right or wrong?”

2.) For the theologians out there, and those who use fourth-hand theology to justify unreflective belief (not the most diplomatic way to preamble a question, I’ll admit): Are there any guile-less ‘Just War theory‘ believers out there anymore? Have we ever, ever practiced a just war, in this or any country? Has just war theory ever prevented a war from happening based on its lofty and nuanced principles?

3.) Are any friends and followers of Jesus sick of settling for an Empire paid for by blood? “Then find another country,” the Truebluechristianpatriot says, the meat from human sacrifice still sticking in their teeth, their true god revealed in violent theophany.

4.) When are we going to say “This is not okay?” Not by the occasional blog post or rally attended, but with our lives and wallets?

5.) Do we have the theopolitical will, imagination, and reliance on Holy Spirit to boldly (and with fear & trembling) follow our Maestro, Jesus, into the thick of creative peacemaking, loving our enemies in Empire and standing up for the oppressed? This is the only meaningful response to the derisive line of questioning in #3. “No, we won’t go; we’ll stay right here and testify of Emmanuel, the God-with-us, here-and-now, who brings the Kingdom.”

6.) Can apprentices of Jesus and people of goodwill everywhere enter a movement and lifestyle committed to sustainable living for absolutely everyone on this planet? A place where life is valued, conception to the grave, and life is nurtured in every tribe, tongue, and nation? A world where our biosphere, our sacred ecosystem, is honored and our true connection to one-another as bearers of the Imago Dei trumps nationalist identities once and for all?

Just some troubling questions on a Monday morning. (HT: JM Branum)

8 Responses to “America-Backed Atrocities in the Korean War Discovered: Troubling Questions”


  1. 1 Benjamin Williams May 19, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Slow down… I’m still trying to unmix my theology and politics. You know how hard it is for me to separate capitalism with Christianity? I turned off Rush for a whole week for the first time in eight years. I knew that Christianity can be practiced anywhere under any government, but trying to separate out the American from my Christianity has been a little harder than what I thought.

  2. 2 J. R. Miller May 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I appreciate the challenge to the status-quo.
    1. No, we are not a “christian” nation (assuming we ever were.)
    2. I don’t think there is such a thing as “Just-War.” The United States is not the Kingdom of God we should be fighting for. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against… etc.
    3. I don’t get your point. Sick of “settling?” Meaning what, you could make a better country if you were running things?

    William Penn was a Quaker who founded Pennsylvania (where I was born and raised). The Quakers were pacifists who sought to establish a government on those principles of pacifism. Eventually the Quakers were all run-off and the war-types took over.
    4. Again, I don’t understand. So you made a blog post, but what are you doing other than saying we should do something more than blog? I don’t mean this as a judgement, I just mean I don’t understand what you are suggesting we do.
    5. I looked at a few of the “creative peacemaking” sites, but it seemed they were all based on talking. What are you suggesting as practical peacemaking? We know the Gospel does not always bring peace. Christians are killed all over the world for embracing true faith in Christ alone. So while a site devoted to “loving Osama” is nice, what does that do for making “peace?” Maybe you could define your gaol for what peace means to you? Is it just the absence of war? Is it just being nice to people who don’t like you? Is it…?
    6. The answer is yes, when Jesus returns and God established His rule and reign. Justice will come, a New Earth will be made and there will be noting but peace. Are you thinking that you and I, as followers, can establish this through world governments here and now without Jesus 2nd coming?
    6.

  3. 3 John Sherrod May 20, 2008 at 1:41 am

    If true, things like this should be shouted, not quieted, that it may never happen again. However, we live in a country where everyone knows about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and yet we’ve yet to have a national day of repentance for those atrocities. God forgive us!

  4. 4 zoecarnate May 20, 2008 at 4:22 am

    Thanks so much for the heart-felt feedback, all of you. Matters concerning war and violence are often the post difficult to process as a society; my promise to you in any comment interaction is that I will respect you, even if I don’t, ultimately, agree with your views.

    With that in mind, brother J.R., let’s chat!

    One points one and two, we see this story essentially the same.

    3.) I’m not sure why expressing grief and outrage about a national tragedy automatically makes me want to ‘run’ things. I don’t think exercising ‘power-over’ is the way of Jesus in any case, so I wouldn’t ‘run’ things top-down if it was offered to me.🙂 And yes, I respect the peace witness of the Society of Friends a great deal.

    4.) Yes, quite right: All I have done so far is blog, which is exactly what I’m sayi1ng we should do more than. As far as what actions to take, we can lobby our representatives and engage in street theatre; as far as direct action…

    5.) You may not have seen the Christian Peacemaker Teams website in the Pax Christi section of my website. Initiated by the Anabaptists, Christian Peacemaker Teams go across the world to be a peaceful and proactive witness wherever there is conflict and unrest. As their website tagline asks, “What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?” That is the question I’m now posing to my own life and our communities of faith. Oh: and peace is the Shalom of God, manifested in healthy relationships at every level–between people and ecosystems.

    6.) Ah, you get into the question of eschatology. As I think you picked up on, I’m not an adherent to conventional views on “the second coming of Jesus,” at least what passes for the norm in many USAmerican Christian circles these days. My perspective on Scriptures ‘last things’ has been influenced by post-millennial , preterist, and inaugurated eschatology, as well as the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin and my friends at Presence International. In brief, I think that the messages of Matthew 24, Revelation, and the great Hebrew prophets are far more mysterious and wonderful and archetypal than we give them credit for. Further (and striking the opposite note), I think that Jesus (as well as Paul, Peter, and John) were quite clear in their understanding of the timeframe concerning the end of the old covenant world and the beginning of the new covenant world. I think God kept all his promises, and in a timely manner to boot! Now we have the opportunity to creatively partner with God in realizing God’s dream for humanity, earth, and the cosmos. I don’t mean for this to sound too ‘woo-woo;’ further, I am well aware that many of the ugliest expressions of religion in history are when men (and yes, they were usually males) felt that they were doing God’s will on earth. An appropriate humility is indeed called for, a respectful place between our leadings and our imaginings of God’s actuality. If the early church in Acts 15 could be so humble as to say “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” I think we can do the same when contemplating such important matters.

    Thanks again everyone!

  5. 5 J. R. Miller May 20, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Hi,

    3. I appreciate you clarifying that you don’s see this as a top-down thing. I guess I still don’t get your exact meaning, but at least I see better what you were not saying.

    4. Knowing what to do is tough…

    5. Thanks for helping me find the specific resources. I will look into those more. Some people see “peace” as just the absence of war, but I agree with you that it is also about right relationship. I did not read any mention of it, so I was wondering do you see the Gospel as part of the process for making peace?

    6. I can respect a different position on eschatology. Here is what I hear you saying, tell me where I am missing it (if I am). You seem then to say that it is our role to usher in peace and establish it. And, like you say, others have had that same view. Many of the Puritans who came to America felt a sense of Manifest Destiny that they would establish the New Word and that would be the fulfillment of God’s promise. I guess what I hear you saying is that these past guys missed it, but you and I, as Christians, can do it right. Right? This kind of takes me back to #3 where it seems your solution is to establish better “systems” and better “governments” … Sorry if I am being dense here, but I will read some of the links your provided and hopefully that will help me out. Thanks for your time and effort to help me understand.

    God bless!

  6. 6 Nenya May 22, 2008 at 6:17 am

    #6…sounds to me like you are saying that whether or not Jesus “comes back,” we should be living in such a way as to make the world better. “On earth as in heaven,” right? We don’t know what God is going to do, exactly, about the End of the World, but there’s stuff we can be doing now. It *matters* how we treat each other and our world, even if Jesus is coming back tomorrow.

    (*waves* Hi, referred over here by Peter. May drop in again sometime!)

  7. 7 Kevin Beck May 23, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Wow. Your blog is the first I’ve heard of this particular war atrocity. War atrocity…what a redundancy. War seems like a meta-atrocity. It reminds me of James who wrote, “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?”

    Our conflicts emerge from our egoic longings. We want more and more, but we cannot ever have enough. We Perceive ourselves to be lacking, and in that insecurity we seek solutions to our insecurities. We build defenses, and when the defenses seem faulty, we go on preemptive strikes against our perceived threats. What is war, after all, beside individual insecurities writ large?

    To expect God to magically take away all war, violence, and fear is (as I see it) an illusion. Besides, if God wanted to do that — (1) why didn’t he create the world like that in the first place? (2) Why is he waiting so long to do it? This approach, as I see it, constantly looks for a solution “out there” somewhere. “Maybe God will intervene and solve everything.” That seems pretty detached and mechanistic to me. It’s lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.

    Instead of looking outside for a solution, why not invest ourselves in the process? God does not reside without; God indwells us. We wring our hands waiting for a solution rather than picking up the tools God has already put in out hands and use them. God isn’t going to beat our swords into plowshares for us. Take world hunger. The reason people starve is not because God hasn’t given us enough food. There’s plenty of food to feed the entire world. People starve because we let them. God could, I suppose, provide an Operation Manna Drop. But perhaps he already has, and we just let it lay on the ground and rot. War won’t end unless we want it to. And it certainly won’t end by waging War on War. War breeds war — just look at how Franco-Prussian War set the stage for WW1, which set the stage for WW2, then the Cold War, Viet Nam, Iran-Iraq, Gulf Wars 1 & 2, and so on.

    I look at theologies that expect God to show up and repress all violence, anger, hatred, and inequities like Field Marshall Tito in what was Yugoslavia. By rule of force, Tito suppressed violence in the Balkans. Serbs, Bosnians, Kosovars, Muslims, Christians, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, and Montenegrans put a halt to their killings for a generation or so. Yet, that didn’t change their hearts. Once Tito died and the Eastern bloc fell, the warfare broke out in earnest. You don’t eliminate violence by violence. God does not live by the sword. God’s Armageddon couldn’t end war. It would only eternally institutionalize it.

    More than that, I’m not sure that peace is a destination. No one reaches “peace.” Instead, peace is made (created, fashioned, maintained, tilled and kept). It involves people engaging others and participating in mutual modification. To use the NT as a guide, we might look at Philippians 2. “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” At the risk of sounding anti-Lutheran, this involves people actually doing something. Jesus’ footwashing incident makes a similar point. Once again, here is a model for us to embody. If that calls for our actions, so be it. Oddly, many people in the “peace community” try to make peace by waging a war of their own (like an angry 60s peace community near where I live).

    Maybe none of that addresses your questions, JR — or your concerns, Mike. But as I mentioned before I don’t see suffering as a ‘problem.’ I’m not thrilled with it, speaking of someone who has it out with God regularly. God is passionate, not detached. To me this means, among other things, that God knows suffering. And our suffering is an indication of the divine likeness and our participation in the divine nature. That doesn’t mean suffering is not real, or that we can’t mitigate it. Even Schopenhauer, one of the most pessimistic people ever, emphasized the ethic of compassion — suffering with.

  8. 8 kevin beck May 24, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Mike,
    I’ve been thinking about your post while doing some reading on Seneca. The Roman philosopher and tutor of Nero (whom Nero murdered) wrote this.

    We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of genocide? There are no limits to our greed, and neither to our cruelty. And as long as such crimes are committed by stealth and by individuals, they are less harmful and less portentous; but cruelties are practiced in accordance with acts of the senate or of a popular assembly, and the public is invited to do that which formerly was forbidden to the individual. So we come to this clearest manifestation of insanity: that deeds which rightfully would be punished with a sentence of death when committed by an ordinary man, are suddenly praised and celebrated when committed by a general wearing a uniform. By his nature man is a gentle creature, yet does he not revel in the blood of others without shame? … Against this overmastering and widespread madness, philosophy comes as a matter of great effort, only slowly assuming the strength gathered by the forces of barbarity.

    –Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Ad Lucilium epistulae morales, epis xcv, sec 30-33 (CE 64) (S.H. transl.)

    It seems as relevant today as it apparently was 2000 years ago.


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