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North Korea nuclear escalation spurs call to prayer

NASHVILLE (BP) — Amid escalating tension with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, evangelicals are calling for prayer and advocating wise use of America’s diplomatic and military capabilities.

“It appears that the time for a diplomatic solution to curb North Korea’s increasing acts of aggression is quickly running out,” said former U.S. Army chief of chaplains Douglas Carver. “Now is the time for Southern Baptists to pray for the commander in chief and his cabinet members, our congressional leaders and members of the armed services who may be required to make grave and costly decisions in the near future.”

The Washington Post reported Tuesday (Aug. 8) that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead which can fit inside a missile and potentially strike the United States. The Associated Press reported, however, that North Korea may still lack technology to ensure a missile fired at the U.S. could reenter earth’s atmosphere without incinerating the attached nuclear warhead.

President Trump said at an Aug. 8 news conference, “North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Hours later, North Korea’s state news agency said the communist nation was “carefully examining” a plan to strike the U.S. territory of Guam — some 2,100 miles southeast of the Korean Peninsula — with missiles.

Though North Korea has threatened Guam repeatedly and seems unlikely to carry out the latest threat, according to media reports, the flurry of rhetoric and military intelligence appeared to escalate longstanding tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Followers of Christ “cannot ignore the seriousness of this current crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” Carver, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of chaplaincy, told Baptist Press in written comments.

“Pray that the U.S., China and the nations of the world will work together in doing their part to prevent a war in Northeast Asia,” he said. “Pray for America and the world community to seriously consider the social, political, military and humanitarian cost of a potential armed conflict in Korea. Pray the current war of words between the U.S. and North Korea doesn’t provoke an all-out war between the nations.

“Pray for the Lord to end the brutal regime in North Korea and bring justice, hope and a peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula. Pray fervently, cry out to God for help, knowing that the best diplomatic action, military strategy and operational planning apart from Almighty God’s favor and blessing can only lead to failure,” Carver said, citing Proverbs 21:31.

Former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham echoed the call for intercession, tweeting “it’s time to pray” in light of Wednesday’s North Korea developments.

“Like every president before him [Trump] prays for peace but prepares to protect our nation,” added Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church and an informal advisor to the Trump administration. “This is not rhetoric — it is real.”

Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told BP “global unrest should drive Christians to prayer.”

“As the crisis with North Korea escalates,” Bethancourt said in written comments, “believers should pray that our government leaders would have wisdom, that our persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea would have protection and that our own hearts would have faith in the power of God in the midst of uncertainty.”

Bethancourt tweeted Aug. 8 that an article in The Atlantic on “how to deal with North Korea” should “be on the top of your reading list” in light of “today’s troubling North Korea news.”

The nearly 8,000-word article, written by Mark Bowden and published in The Atlantic’s July/August issue, reviewed a range of difficult options for the U.S. government and ultimately advocated “acquiescing” to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s “developing the weapons he wants, while continuing efforts to contain his ambition.”

“What’s needed,” Bowden wrote, “is the proper framework for disarmament — the right collection of incentives and disincentives to render the building of such a [nuclear] weapon a detriment and a waste — so the country decides that abandoning its pursuit of nukes is in its best interest.”

Paul Kim, Asian-American relations consultant for the SBC Executive Committee, said Korea historically has been “a peaceful nation that has not invaded other countries.” The region that is now North Korea even experienced a revival in the early 20th century, he said, asking believers to pray for a return to peace and godliness.

The early 20th-century revival “started from Pyongyang in North Korea before the Korean War in 1950-53,” Kim, a native of South Korea, said in written comments. “As God revived Korea over a century ago, let Him revisit North Korea in repentance from the sins of the political leaders to fear of God. In all these years, many Korean churches have not ceased to pray for reunification for peace of the land as one nation under the Almighty God.”

The SBC, in a 2015 resolution “on religious persecution and human rights violations in North Korea,” issued a call “to Southern Baptists and all our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray that God will turn the heart of Kim Jong Un to Himself and that President Kim might grant to all the people of North Korea the respect they deserve as God’s creation.”