Last week I was riding back from the DMZ between South and North Korea during a ministry trip there. The demilitarized zone is the most fortified boundary on the planet. For over 50 years it has been one of the most tense places on the earth. A minefield separates two people, who share the same language and race. It is the exact spot where an evil man who literally thinks he is God is in an ongoing standoff with, not only South Korea, but with the rest of the world.
As we drove alongside the barbed wire fence along the river’s edge, put there to keep out invading North Korean spies, we could look across the river and see North Korea. Our guide pointed out the difference between the mountain range in North Korea and the one beside it just across the river on the South Korean side. “Note that there are no trees on the mountainside in North Korea,” she pointed out. “The North Koreans have stripped the mountain, having to use the wood for cooking and heating.” The poverty in North Korea is horrendous. People are starving to death there every day.
A satellite image of Korea at night shows South Korea well lit, but darkness covers North Korea. They don’t even have the most basic utilities. Their leaders live in luxury while the people there suffer unspeakable horror.
At one point, our guide pointed out a village in the distance. “Can you see those skyscrapers?” she asked. “They aren’t real buildings. They are only facades, intended to suggest that North Korea lives the quality of life known in South Korea.”
On the horizon were what looked like tall buildings, but they were only there for show. “It is called a ‘propaganda village'” our guide said. The people in North Korea live in deep poverty, but their communist leaders want to project otherwise to the rest of the world.
It was a sad sight to see. I had already read about the horrors of life for the North Korean people under the rule of a cruel and wicked despot. I couldn’t help but think about how the plight of North Koreans is similar to that of those trapped in dead religion.
Empty religion gives the illusion of life, but in reality it is nothing but a facade. There is no love or life behind it. All that matters is looking good. Religion insists that we make a good impression, but doesn’t offer anything. Like the North Korean propaganda villages, dead religion projects abundance, but behind the facade is a spiritual hunger that it can never satisfy.
On one side of the river between North and South Korea is wealth, on the other is destitution. On one side is freedom and on the other is slavery. To see the contrast is sobering.
As you pray today, please pray for those trapped in dead religion and know no way out. And while you’re at it, pray for the people of North Korea. They are good people who are being held prisoners by an evil dictator.