Monday, February 14, 2011

Candles, Marxists, and the Word of Truth

As we witness the riots and unrest in Egypt, it brought to mind an incredible untold story (at least by our secular media) during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Most of us remember the usual talking heads focusing on the surface themes of politics and economics, while denying that Ronald Reagan had anything to do with the event. Yet, as with most stories, the important underlying causes were ignored by the media.

It is true that political and economic conditions had reached critical mass in Eastern Europe and Asia by the late 1980s, but this emergency situation was the direct result of the moral and spiritual crises created by communism’s Marxist worldview. If we are open to the truth about this atheistic worldview, we can easily see that it must inevitably lead to this outcome.

A primary tenet of Marxism is the supposition that God only exists in the imagination of the economically downtrodden; that He is subjectively created as a wishful fantasy to remedy a person’s misery or unhappiness. Thus, while American liberals generally view religion as the root of all evil, a true Marxist would view religion as the imaginary, but ineffective solution to evil, with the primary evil being an unequal distribution of wealth. If one could build an alternative system (under government control); a new world order in which all persons were monetarily equal (except the ruling elite, of course), then there would be no further need for religion. After all, why would someone cling to fanciful thoughts of a joyful hereafter when they could have a utopian paradise in their present life on earth? We, of course, see this "government is the solution to all our problems" theory promoted by many today.

So, for Marxism to work, it must “kill God”, at least in the sense of replacing His memory in the minds of the people with reliance on the government. We’ve seen from history however, that any attempt to eradicate God is always doomed to failure. Just to give a few examples, at the beginning of the fourth century, Roman emperor Diocletian began possibly the most intense empire-wide persecution in an attempt to eradicate Christianity. Yet within a few years, Constantine took the throne and later made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. In the eighteenth century, the French philosopher Voltaire declared that within a hundred years, there would not be a single Bible left on earth. The house where he lived is now a distribution center for Bibles printed in many different languages. Finally, in 1966, the New York Times declared that “God is dead”, but as Ravi Zacharias so aptly noted, the Times was “dancing on an empty grave”.

Another major reason that Marxist socialism is destined to always fail is that it is based on the false assumption that man’s nature is inherently good; that putting man into a better environment will solve all his problems (one glance at the Garden of Eden experience disproves this presumption). It assumes that enough people will be willing to work hard while others are idle, and yet share everything equally. On the other hand, the Free Enterprise system thrives because it is consistent with man’s fallen nature, rightly assuming that most folks won’t work without reward. One of my former pastors, Dr Harold O’Chester from Austin, used to say that he could tell how a person would vote based upon the answer to one question, “Do you believe man is inherently good or evil?” As Adrian Rogers once said,

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it. You don't multiply wealth by dividing it. Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn't first take from somebody else. Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don't have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don't get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Perhaps the best account of the Soviet collapse is recorded in a book by Barbara von der Heydt entitled Candles behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution That Shattered Communism. Ms von der Heydt had worked with the first displaced Eastern European refugees in 1989, and much of her account is based on personal interviews with everyday people involved in the struggle against those who were attempting to obliterate any traces of the Faith. She recounts the stories of individuals whose grass roots movements eventually challenged the very core of communism. We recommend everyone read this book who has the opportunity, but we’ll paraphrase a couple of examples here.

One of the stories that stood out to me was the account of Uwe Holmer, an East German pastor who, along with his wife, managed a Christian organization for the mentally and physically disabled. In 1989, Dictator Erich Honecker resigned due to health issues. Honecker was so hated that even his own daughter refused to take him in. Yet, the Holmers finally provided the former tyrant and his wife with shelter even though the pastor’s family was terribly persecuted during his reign. When asked why, Pastor Holmer replied

The Lord has charged us to follow him and to take in all those who are burdened ... to follow his commandment to love our enemies; and to live by the prayer he taught us in these words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” ... We want to live by Christ’s example.
Ms von der Heydt also provides us the inside story on the tense situation outside the Russian parliament in August of 1991. The Soviets had recently lost control of Eastern Europe, so while Michael Gorbachev was in the Crimea, the totalitarian communist party seized control of the government. They dispersed tanks and their troops and surrounded the Russian parliament, trapping Boris Yeltsin and the legislators inside. The world watched anxiously as thousands of freedom-seeking civilians formed a human barricade around the building.

According to Ms Von Der Heydt, it was at this point that Iven Kharlanov and Anatoly Rudenko of the Bible society in Moscow called other Bible societies around the world asking for prayer before coming up with a brave but dangerous plan. They contacted other Christians and drove a truck full of New Testaments to the scene, arriving just as the military was about to storm the building.

Christians took the Bibles and began handing them out to the soldiers quoting Exodus 20:13, “thou shall not kill”. At the same time, others began going tank to tank, handing out the Scriptures and quoting the verse. Ms Von Der Heydt specifically mentions one woman, Shirinai Dossova, walking over to one of the tanks and banging on its side with her bare knuckles until the mystified driver finally opened the hatch. She held the Bible out to him and declared, "It says in this book that you shouldn't kill. Are you going to kill us?" The young soldier was obviously baffled, but nervously took the Bible while saying, "We not intending to kill anybody."

Ms Von Der Heydt also reported that very few of the soldiers refused the Bibles. Some tucked them in a pocket or bag, but others, who probably had never seen one but perhaps may have been wanting one, began reading right away.

Of course, we know from history that the attack on the parliament building was averted and the coup collapsed. Yet to this day, secular historians still puzzle in amazement as to why the almost certain attack failed to transpire. But now, as Paul Harvey would say, we know the rest of the story. It was the Hand and the Word of God.

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