Church & State

Trump’s Korean summit gets mixed reviews from Christian leaders

President Trump got both massive pushback and praise for his recent comment that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “loves his people,” given how many thousands of North Koreans continue to be tortured, enslaved, murdered, and held in concentration camps.

His comments were uttered in a conversation with journalist Greta Van Susteren following the historic summit in Singapore Tuesday.

“He’s got a great personality. He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I’m surprised by that,” Trump said of Kim. “I think that we have the start of an amazing deal. We’re going to denuke North Korea.”

But the idea that the North Korean leader in any way “loves” the people in the nation under his regime, which is widely considered the most repressive in the world and is known for extreme human rights violations and brutal persecution of Christians, elicited outrage from many people spanning the political spectrum.

“This statement by Trump is one of the most inane, insensitive, cowardly, and despicable remarks in modern presidential history,” said Joe Carter, editor of The Gospel Coalition, said in a tweet. “But it’s also a litmus test. How you react to it speaks volumes about your values and character.”

Likewise, Joe Walsh, a former Republican Congressman and radio host, argued that Trump’s remark was 1,000 times worse than President Barack Obama bowing before the King of Saudi Arabia, and might be the most ignorant and offensive thing he has ever said.

“Kim terrorizes, imprisons & kills his own people. He purposely keeps them impoverished. He purposely denies them basic human freedoms. That’s love?”

“The next time a Democrat president meets with or makes a deal with an evil dictator, Republicans better not say a darn thing. You’ve just applauded the normalization of an evil tyrant who kills hundreds of thousands of his own people,” he said.

Kirsten Powers, a Democratic pundit and author, also noted the North Korean regime’s atrocities and their incongruence with “love.”

“[Kim Jong Un] keeps them in prison camps for offending him. There are people who are born and die in prison camps (b/c their parents upset Kim) where their ‘food’ is eating rats,” she said Tuesday.

Bishop Talbert Swan, who pastors at Spring of Hope Church of God In Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, did not hold back his disgust, calling the president a “white supremacist demagogue” and the North Korean leader “a murderous self-serving tyrant.”

“The media is complicit in hyping up this farce of a summit,” Swan said.
According to a State Dept. Religious Freedom Report, up to 120,000 are trapped in North Korean labor camps.

However longtime never Trump conservative Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Washington-based Ethics & Public Policy Center, also expressed his irritation with evangelicals who back the president.

“A note to evangelical Christians who support Trump: NK is listed as the world’s main persecutor of Christians. No matter; they’ll still defend Trump to the end.”

But leading evangelist Franklin Graham believes that President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un will benefit the highly persecuted Christian community in the isolated nation.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse humanitarian organization was asked if he thought Trump’s meeting with Kim will “have the potential to ease some of the persecution on believers in North Korea.”

“No question, no question,” Graham, who has personally taken four humanitarian trips to North Korea, responded. “I think this meeting with Kim Jong Un and President Trump is huge. Yes, the Christians are going to benefit in North Korea as a result of President Donald J. Trump.”