As an NBA Hall-of-Famer and a one-time professional wrestler, Dennis Rodman has built a reputation as a great American athlete. But after making some shockingly uninformed comments about dictator Kim Jong Un after his recent visit to North Korea, it doesn’t appear Rodman is on pace to rack up any points for his political astuteness.
“I love the guy. He’s awesome. He’s so honest,” raved Rodman of the North Korean dictator in an interview following a trip intended to spread goodwill through the two men’s shared interest in basketball. Rodman was seemingly unfazed by the gross human rights violations perpetuated by the young leader, including intense religious persecution and the imprisonment of thousands of political dissidents.
In response to concerns over the leader’s continued commitment to produce a nuclear weapon capable of striking the United States, Rodman insisted that Kim Jong Un “didn’t want war,” and only continued the illicit program in honor of his father’s legacy. “He loves power; he loves control, because of his dad and stuff like that. He’s a great guy; he’s just a great guy if you sit down and talk to him,” proclaimed Rodman.
Troubling though these statements are, Rodman is only one in a long strain of public figures to poorly judge a dictator’s character. Popular authors and academics Sydney and Beatrice Webb, for example, became avid enthusiasts and friends of Josef Stalin, even penning a book on the “success” of the Soviet Union. “There is, in fact, a consensus of opinion, among those who have watched Stalin’s action in administration, that this is not at all characteristic of a dictator. … Stalin is now universally considered to have justified his leadership by success,” wrote the Webbs, denying the atrocities of a man responsible for killing millions of his own people.
Obviously, Rodman isn’t the first well-known person to view an evil dictator through rose-colored glasses. Many have been taken in by charismatic leaders with a seemingly appealing persona but who are inwardly evil. Rodman is only the freshest example of how anyone can be blinded by the aura of personality, ignoring the plain facts at hand.
Evil is deceptive and can be especially dangerous when those directly encountering it are not ready or do not want to resist the deception. It may seem strange when those like Rodman appear to walk so readily into the lies, but Scripture predicts that more and more of us will be enthusiastically led astray by smooth talkers. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (1 Tim. 4:3).
Those who would lead us astray are becoming harder to spot and easier to follow every day. As Christians, we must respond by praying for guidance, staying immersed in God’s Word and preparing to resist the frauds constantly luring our attention away from the truth.