Dennis Rodman has often bragged (in third person, no less) about “doing whatever the f— he wants.” And his public life shows he’s not joking.
From kicking a camera man in the crotch during a basketball game to his infamous hair-dying practices that often distracted both teammates and fans to the time he promoted his autobiography by showing up in a wedding dress and announcing that he was marrying himself, Dennis Rodman has always been an powder keg of peculiarity.
Now, the 52-year-old Rodman has created a media circus with a trip to North Korea to train the country’s basketball players.
And at least one person, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, thinks he’s the perfect bridge builder and mediator in the United States’ contentious relationship with the communist country.
Rev. Jackson tweeted, “Ping pong diplomacy worked in China, and Basketball seems to work in North Korea.” He also congratulated Rodman on his efforts, calling him “a light” in a dark place.
I beg to differ.
Let’s be clear: Rodman’s visit to North Korea is not diplomacy. By definition, diplomacy is the act of two governments working together through the respective country’s representatives. “Ping-pong diplomacy” worked in China in the 1970’s because U.S. President Richard Nixon was doing it.
Rodman is not authorized to negotiate for or speak on behalf of the United States or any other nation. When Rev. Jackson and others refer to Rodman’s trips to North Korea as “diplomacy,” they empty the word of its meaning.
Instead, Rodman’s bizarre foray into North Korea is low comedy and ultimately inconsequential to international relations. The only beneficiary? The North Korean government, which is leveraging his visit in its propaganda “to brainwash their people into believing they have legitimacy on the world stage.”
But it isn’t the ineffectiveness of the Rodman’s trips that ultimately earn my disapproval; it’s the way my faith speaks to such situations.
Jesus tells those who follow him to love their enemies, a command that is not for the faint of heart. How do you love the man who stole you wife away from you or the teacher who molested your child? How do you love Al Qaeda or the Taliban or anyone who wishes to kill you just for being, well, you?
North Korea has both asserted and proven that it is America’s enemy and the government has no desire to be otherwise. It’s easy to love those who love us back, but Jesus followers must also seek ways to connect with, understand, and seek the good of those who hate us.
And yet sometimes the love of enemy finds itself in tension with an even more central exhortation of Jesus: the love of neighbor and the care for “the least of these.” Such is the case with the North Korean government.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service