Many people know that my favorite movie of all time is "The Wizard of Oz." I have pretty much memorized the entire movie's dialogue and can sing all the songs in the movie including "Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead". If you are not obsessed with this movie, then you may not know that the song is sung when the Munchkins come out from wherever they are (another song) and discover that Dorothy's house has dropped on top of the Wicked Witch of the East (not to be confused with her evil sister who will plague Dorothy throughout the movie until the witch meets with her own disaster). Upon learning of the death of the wicked witch, the Munchkins break into song, "Ding, Dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch. Ding, Dong, the wicked witch is dead....She's gone where the goblins go, Below, below, yo-ho, Let's open us and sing and ring the bells out, Ding, Dong, the merry-o, sing it high, sing it low, let them know the wicked witch is dead!" At that point there are great shouts of glee from the little people and they begin to rejoice greatly only to be silenced when the sister of the dead witch, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, appears in a dark cloud of smoke.
What great rejoicing there was in the Land of Oz when they learned that the Wicked Witch of the East was dead! How wonderful to know that someone who has threatened the world and its inhabitants has finally been eliminated! I wonder if people felt that way when they heard of the death of Adolph Hitler after WWII ended. I know that people felt that way when Osama ben Ladin was killed earlier this year. And now, we have the death of the leader of North Korea--Kim Jong Il. Did we hear strains of "ding, dong...." in our heads at hearing that news? Did we just up and down and rejoiced and say, "Good riddance" to ourselves?
It is a mixed reaction for many of us who call ourselves Christians. We follow a leader who instructed us to "love your enemies" and to "pray for those who despitefully use you." He told us to treat others the way we would want to be treated. What does that mean for us when we know that someone who died had never tried to follow Jesus' teachings but had apparently be cruel and maniacal toward his own people? It is very difficult to mourn the loss of a dictator but the newscast has shown us throngs of North Koreans who are now weeping openly and mournly loudly. Are they really moved that much by his death or were they threatened into that reaction by their government? Who is to say...but we still face the quandary...how do we respond to the death or destruction of one who has been a menace to society?
I hate to admit it but I did feel a bit of glee when I learned that this dictator was gone. I think I remember thinking, "Good...now maybe those North Koreans will be free to live the way they want to live." I forgot that he had a son who now will take over the government and we know nothing about him. Will he be just like his dad or will he have more common sense and practicality in reigning over the country in a benevolent manner? Time will only tell us that answer but my brief moment of glee was replaced by some serious reflection about how Christians should respond in such a time of this. I have to admit that I am still torn as to what my answer should be. As a Christian, I do want to love others as Christ has loved me. As a person who cares about others, do others I care about include those who are inherently bad or seem to be that way?
I think that the answer for myself and perhaps others may be found in allowing God to be in control of the situation and not worry about what is the ultimate fate of dictators or evil persons, knowing that in God's timing, all things will be worked out. There have been many evil persons throughout the history of the world. Even when Jesus was appearing as the baby in the manger in Bethlehem, there was a tyrant named Herod who did not want him to live because he could not stand the threat of another "ruler" in his country. So, Herod ordered the murder of all the babies under the age of two to be sure he could stamp out the threat. Mothers mourned for their lost children and Herod smirked that he had destroyed the new king of the Jews, not knowing that he had been taken to Egypt to find safety. Herod eventually died and was replaced by his son, who was just about as bad as his dad had been. It seems the world remains much the same, decade after decade. Evil fathers often have sons to replace them....
So, singing a song of joy at the death of a tyrant may be a form of release but saying a prayer for those who now find themselves with a new ruler whose actions we cannot guess may be an even better way to bring a wish for peace to the world. In this time of remembering the birth of the Prince of Peace, the words of another song come to mind, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Shalom.