Janie B. Cheaney – Even dictators have their limits


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 8th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Next up, WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney contemplates a long line of fallen dictators.

JANIE B. CHEANEY: Does anyone remember the death of Kim Jong-un, Communist dictator of North Korea? As reported by respectable news outlets, Kim had not appeared at the obligatory celebration of his grandfather’s birthday in April. 

It’s also well known that the self-indulgent scion is morbidly obese and not healthy. Rumor had it that the surgeon who installed a stent in Kim’s heart was so nervous his hand shook and botched the operation.

Huge, if true, but apparently it wasn’t. The “alive and well” leader showed up to open a fertilizer plant in May, dutifully cheered by his subjects. But whatever his current organic condition, Kim’s days are numbered, as are Xi Jinping’s and Nicolas Maduro’s. 

All will make their final exit relatively soon. No matter how evil a despot, death will come and it won’t be photogenic.

In a ranking of ignominious deaths, that of Herod Agrippa the First must be right up there with Jezebel’s toss from the tower. The grandson of Herod the Great had been raised in Rome with future emperors, who would grant him pieces of his grandfather’s Judean territory. Eager to curry favor with the Jewish establishment, Herod executed James the Apostle and planned to make a showy end of Simon Peter as well. 

But Peter miraculously escaped, leaving Herod to twirl his villainous mustache and vow to get him later—after settling affairs with envoys from Tyre and Sidon. 

In shining robes, he delivered a speech that prompted his audience to shout: “It’s the voice of a god, and not a man!” As Herod strutted off the platform, according to Acts chapter 12, an angel struck him down for failing to give God the glory. Quote, “and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”

Dictators never learn. In The Death of Stalin, a very black comedy about Soviet-style succession, the old tyrant suffers a stroke at his rural dacha. Discovered on the floor hours later, soaked in his own urine, he is struck dumb as high-ranking toadies argue over protocol. The man who oversaw the death of millions dies within earshot of squabbling sycophants.

Hitler consumed in a burning bunker, Mussolini strung up by a mob, Saddam Hussein dragged out of a hole. Death stalks the evil and the good; wrestling from them their legacies and reputations.

According to Proverbs, “No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.” It was God’s mercy to keep us from the tree of life and limit our days to four score and 10; otherwise unbounded evil would have canceled humanity long ago. 

Still, wickedness establishes no one. Like dry reeds, bloody dictators and petty tyrants will be plucked up and tossed to the flames. Their end does not trivialize the damage they can do while living, but victims rooted in righteousness will see their hope rewarded. 

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits a memorial palace where the body of his grandfather, former leader Kim Il Sung is laid, for the 26th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s death, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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