I hear from colleagues that they are not sleeping well these days but wake in the night reflecting on the seeming madness coming from international exchanges, specifically from the political leaders in Washington and Pyongyang.
If we can believe the current consensus of reliable reporters, the murderous bully in power in North Korea is a serious psychopath and a threat to world order. Our hearts should go out to all who live under his domination. But for the grace of God, we might ourselves live there.
A bully with considerable power must be restrained by wise, considered and judicious leadership when there are those who have the power to do so. The United States and some of its allies have ample power to do so in a careful and just manner.
Our own country is the strongest of world powers, at least today, but is governed by a president who is also a bully. Instead of building a responsible coalition among rational and wise leaders in the community of nations, the bully in the White House elects to focus on the fact that his own finger is on the trigger. He assumes the role of a lone cowboy of western myth, ready to solve a complex and dangerous problem with a few bullets. In this instance, potentially very large bullets.
Wise and competent leaders do not engage in hurling threats at bullies. Rather they mobilize available resources to contain them and their threats.
We must hope and pray that others in Washington who may have bits of power around the center will be able to restrain the bully in the White House. The great irony is that the White House bully is more of a threat to our life and limb than the punk bully in Pyongyang.
In the 1930's in Germany, the great majority of religious leaders in that country decided not to dirty their hands in politics. They were mostly quiet in the face of murderous bullying by those in political power. Only Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a handful of Confessing Church leaders openly charged their government with criminality. They were rewarded with exile or death. Most of us have little influence in Washington, but each has a voice of some sort. We can each make ourselves heard to some extent. And this we surely ought to do.
Wisdom and courage seem not to be plentiful in the centers of power where monumental decisions are made. We must hope that it is there, simply waiting its moment to weigh in for the good of the entire human community.
And now, in the midst of this ongoing international crisis, it should be no surprise that the American Nazis and their kin have heard the dog whistle from the White House and have wreaked their murderous mischief in Charlottesville. The times are heavy with danger, from within and from without. We are desperate for courageous leadership.