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When the Ethiopian famine was well underway a few years ago, and mothers were walking hundreds of miles looking for food for their hollow-eyed children, Ethiopia's Marxist-Leninist rulers had a celebration. It was a one hundred million dollar extravaganza marking the tenth anniversary of their regime.Monuments were erected, parade floats were constructed, the government financed bands and ordered shiploads of Scotch, and cream sherry from Great Britain.1 When the famine was finally acknowledged, relief ships carrying desperately needed food supplies were forced to delay unloading because Soviet ships loaded with concrete for army barracks took first priority.2
Aid was so unimportant to the Mengistu Mariam regime that army units were initially forbidden to distribute food. Instead, the units were used to keep starving peasants out of the cities. Using the catastrophe as an excuse to garner revenues, the government charged an import tax of $12.50 per ton for gift food, plus handling and trucking charges of $165 per ton.3 Moreover, despite the famine, the regime shipped large amounts of food supplies to towns that house army garrisons and surpluses were sold to the Sudan.4
Not everybody was indifferent. Beginning in 1984 the Western world and its relief organizations began a massive rescue campaign. The U.S. government alone sent more than a quarter of a billion dollars worth of emergency supplies to Ethiopia, more than a third of all relief. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Ethiopian Dereje Deressa acknowledged the help, expressing his "deepest appreciation" to the American people. Without the food and medicine, he said, the famine would have been much worse.5
Yet, officials of Church World Service, the relief arm for the National Council of Churches, blamed the famine on the United States. "Racism" in the U.S. is responsible for the "devastation in Ethiopia," Church World Service director Willis Logan said. Such a famine, he explained, would not have been allowed to happen in the United States or in Europe.6
After a visit to Ethiopia in late 1984, Norma Kehrberg, chief staff executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, said she was impressed with the country's "openness and accessibility." Kehrberg said she would correct "misinformation" distributed by U.S. government officials.7 But the officials to which Kehrberg was referring had correctly charged that the Ethiopian government was exceedingly reluctant to transport, or help transport, relief supplies to the rebel provinces of Tigre and Eritrea, a policy designed to conquer by starvation.
It was later disclosed that peasants in those and neighboring provinces had been forced to relocate in government-controlled territory, a process that killed anywhere from one hundred thousand to three hundred thousand people. A French organization which provides medical help for the starving later claimed that the resettlement had killed more people than the famine. Other organizations testified that many peasants were taken against their will, "sometimes at gunpoint," to land that had not been cleared for cultivation. They were not left with food.8
After his visit to Ethiopia, United Methodist bishop Roy Clark commented that the U.S.S.R. had done more to help Ethiopia than had the United States.9 What the bishop neglected to explain was that the Soviet Union has given almost no food to Africa's starving. If Clark had been interested in really investigating the situation, he should have talked to Angolan Methodist bishop Emilio de Carvalho. De Carvalho said in 1984 that the Marxists have exported food for money to buy arms from the Soviets - not to feed their people; they exported food to bolster their military power.10 Ethiopia now owes from $2.5 to $4 billion to the Soviet Union for weapons.11
Unfortunately, the uncritical opinion of Ethiopian policies entertained by representatives of Church World Service and the United Methodist Church is not an isolated case. It is typical of mainline leadership's attitude toward totalitarian countries in general. Church bureauracy and leadership automatically make excuses for the shortcomings of Marxist-Leninist regimes, ignoring or denying their ternble excesses. These delusions are expressed by our churches in everything from statements that ignore those governments' responsibility for famines and oppression (Ethiopia, Angola) to the view that concentration camps in some Marxist-Leninist regimes are actually benevolent to the inmates (Vietnam).12 The worst, more harmful, and most common kind of delusion has been the one in which different Marxist-Leninist societies are either proclaimed tolerant to Christians, or active persecution is ignored (Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, China).
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What makes these sympathetic attitudes even more striking is that they are inevitably opposite to those the Religious Left has of the United States. Whereas Marxist-Leninist regimes are supposedly benevolent, attempting to provide for all, America is supposedly cruel to its poor through economic neglect, insisting on an inherently unjust free enterprise; whereas the Marxists-Leninists are only trying to defend themselves, the United States is militaristic and imperialistic; whereas the United States is uncompassionate, the Marxists-Leninists are passionately committed to human rights. The Religious Left has even helped create the ingenious myth that the reason so many totalitarian societies lack the human rights to which they are supposedly committed is because the United States has made them feel threatened. Many church leaders actually used this excuse in behalf of Nicaragua's Sandinistas.
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Jesse Jackson Visits Cuba
Cuba, however, is the best illustrated example of these attitudes as it has been the most revered "political pilgrimage" of both the religious and secular Left. Consider the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1984 pilgrimage. He ostensibly made the trip as part of a vague "mission for peace," during which he spoke at the University of Havana, toured the Isle of Youth, and hobnobbed with Fidel Castro and a swarm of reporters. Jackson's speech was consistent with the rest of his attitudes toward his country as opposed to the Third World. "Industrial powers purposely and consciously structured their relationships with weaker societies in such a way that the 'natural' operations of this structure would reproduce and exaggerate an already asymmetric relationship," he said. In other words, the United States has exploited the Third World. Castro later called Jackson's speech "profound."13
Jackson also appeared at a Martin Luther King memorial service - which was attended by about three hundred representatives of U.S., Caribbean, and Cuban churches - accompanied by Castro. According to reports on the service, Jackson, who spoke, criticized the United States for interfering in Nicaragua. He also praised what was being done for children on the Isle of Youth.14
One hopes Jackson was ignorant about the Isle of Youth because it is an indoctrination center for children from anyplace where Cuban troops "have reached a critical mass."15 The children are also used as forced labor in Cuba's sugarcane fields. There are six thousand children there from Angola alone, most of whom had no choice but to go. Obviously, Mr. Jackson thinks well of Cuba, despite overwhelming evidence of Castro's oppression. It is also evident Jackson does not think well of the United States.
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Christian Leaders Confess Anti-Imperialism
The King memorial service was interesting in itself. It was included as part of a seminar on Martin Luther King and was attended by Tyrone Pitts, the director of the National Council of Churches' Racial Justice Program, Rev. Benjamin Chavis of the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ, and dozens of other American and Cuban church officials. Various Cuban church-related organizations were supposedly the cosponsors as well as the U.S. Black Theology Project. The Prague-based Christian Peace Conference, which has been labeled as a Soviet-front organization by the West German and U.S. governments, was represented.16
The seminar was a bizarre tribute to a man committed to nonviolence. Topics included "liberation struggles" in North and Latin America, theology and Marxist analysis, black liberation theology, and seminars on present-day Cuba. When the seminar was concluded, delegates attended a reception at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples. The host was Rene Rodriguez - a man infamous for his indictment by a Miami federal grand jury for his alleged role in smuggling drugs into the United States.17
Castro was probably gratified by the statements delegates gave to the Cuban press. A theology instructor from Chicago Theological Seminary said, "The presence of Fidel in the church and among Christians with Rev. Jackson and his acknowledgment of the Catholic Church is an outstanding occasion - the recognition that God is at work in Fidel and Jesse's work in both contexts. I personally feel at home in Cuba and feel that Cuba is a sign of hope that God is still on the move in the world."18
Pitts said, "This seminar has given me greater insight into the Church's struggle for peace with justice in the U.S.A., and against those 'principalities and powers' in the world that promote war, hunger and oppression."19
Chavis went further, acknowledging the Cuban church's collaboration with the Cuban government, then stating that the history of a majority of the church in the U.S.A. "is a history of supporting counterrevolution and imperialism of the capitalist class interest."20
The seminar produced a remarkable "final declaration" with a "confession" of "anti-imperialism." "We confess . . . that our churches have not condemned strongly enough the blockade of the United States against Cuba; we have learned . . . about the Cuban revolution and the positive role played in the revolution by Christians . . . about the importance of Rev. Jesse Jackson's efforts to bring the peoples of the world together for justice and peace."21
Unfortunately, Jackson and company's attitude concerning Cuba reflects views which pervade church bureaucracy. The World and National Council of Churches have never passed a resolution condemning Cuban human rights violations. They have many times, however, called for normalizing relations with Cuba, and delegates have made numerous trips to that country - and inevitably returned praising it as a model of one thing or another.
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Cuba The Great
The hero worship accorded Cuba has, at times, been obsequious to the point of embarrassment. A report on Cuba's "thin, healthy church," for instance, published in the World Council of Churches' One World magazine, related the writer's arrival at Matanzas Evangelical Seminary and his finding no one there. The professors and students were harvesting tomatoes on a state farm. "For us the tomato harvest became a symbol of evangelical action," the writer joyfully gushed, "of state-church collaboration, of the church side by side with the working people."22
Friendship Press, the National Council of Churches' publishing house, has treated Cuba the same way in its People and Systems study guide on other countries. Author Mary Lou Suhor suggested Fidel Castro is a hero; that the revolution freed the Cuban people and Castro gave them economic and social justice. One example and the reader can surmise the rest.23
After the Cuban revolution, Suhor wrote: "A Marxist analysis is (was) applied, with emphasis on the role of the working class. Agrarian reform is ordered to break up the hugh latifundios, and land so expropriated is turned over to the peasants. Then Law Number 135 lowers all rents by 50 percent. The revolutionary government declares that ultimately all social services - education, health care, hospitalization, sports facilities, transportation and telephones - will be free or virtually free. Later on the leaders are to call that socialism. The poor people call it great."24
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In contrast with the National Council's positive view of Cuba are the facts. Cuba has one of the world's more repressive regimes. Block committees spy on their neighbors and report any suspicious meetings, the reading of forbidden books, listening to forbidden American radio broadcasts. Children are taught to inform on their parents. Worst of all, Castro sends his young people, especially black young people, to fight in wars of "liberation" for the Soviet Union, most notably in Angola and Nicaragua. In other words, he sells his own people in order to insure Soviet financial support for his system.
Another tool for financing Cuba's disastrous economy is drug smuggling. The federal government has "strong evidence," President Reagan said in 1983, "that high-level Cuban government officials have been involved in smuggling drugs into the United States." The drug smuggling charges were not voiced lightly. Evidence was gathered during five Congressional hearings and via reports by the Departments of State, Justice, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.25
Not only is the Cuban government "directly involved in the production and trafficking of narcotics with the goal of promoting addiction, violent crime, corruption, and obtaining hard currency," it also uses the money to "finance and promote terrorism throughout the Americas."26 The federal government later charged that the government of Nicaragua is - in cooperation with Cuba - also smuggling drugs.27
Ironically, the Christians who spoke so highly of Cuba during their 1984 seminar were speaking of a country where religious believers are persecuted. Those who practice religion are excluded from the Communist Party and thus from positions in the government and military. They also face discrimination in employment, housing, and schools. All the Catholic schools have been closed, and the church is forbidden to educate its young people. Christmas has been repressed, and even the "smallest of Christmas trees is looked upon as counterrevolutionary." People have been sent to prison for translating Scriptures for friends, and prisoners have been beaten for reading the Bible.28
Voting with your feet has been so common in Cuba that over one million have left the island, more than 10 percent of the population. About two hundred thousand more have tried to emigrate even though those who apply often suffer persecution: for example, losing their jobs, their ration cards, and their housing, and having their children barred from school. There are at least one thousand political prisoners, some of whom have been in jail since 1959. These jails are not simply dungeons for dissenters; torture and arbitrary murder are employed for even minor offenders.29
Solitary confinement and starvation are also used to break prisoners, and psychiatric hospitals are common tools, as they are in the Soviet Union.
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De Soso's Ordeal
Eugenio de Soso, a former journalist, is a living example of what can happen to Cubans who resist the power of the state. He was jailed in 1960 in the Combinado del Este Prison in the province of Havana. In 1977 he was suddenly taken to State Security headquarters in Villa Marista. There he was interrogated regarding information he supposedly passed to the "counterrevolutionary" exiles in 1963. Soso said that his jailers told him he would be shot; they kept him naked and isolated in a totally dark cell and slipped hallucinogenic drugs in his food (he found a partially dissolved capsule and stopped eating). One of their favorite techniques was to put him in a completely soundless room for a long period of time, then subject him to extremely loud noise.30
After various other tortures, he was taken to the National Psychiatric Hospital, the Carbo-Serba Ward, which he referred to as the Chamber of Horrors. There were about eighty men in the ward, he said, all violently disturbed. "The smell of urine and excrement was sickening." One night a team of four men entered the ward, and six patients were grabbed and rubber pieces stuffed in their mouths. They were thrown to the floor, and electrodes were applied to both sides of their heads and electric shock given. Six more men were captured, and the same thing was done to them. Soso had the shocks applied to his testicles instead.31
Several boys were brought into the ward one day, the oldest not more than sixteen. They had been caught writing antigovernment graffiti on walls. Before the first day was over, all of the boys had been gang-raped by more than thirty patients. "To this day," Soso wrote, "I can hear their cries for help and see their bloody bodies as I stood by in impotent rage. Not a single staff member intervened. This nightmare, this terrible episode, lasted for five months. It took place, I repeat, in 1977, not at the beginning, but in the 18th year of the revolutionary government of Cuba."32
China has been another revolutionary society which the Religious Left has traditionally glorified (until it introduced capitalism back into its economic life), and it has persecuted Christians with greater vigor than Cuba. Eugene Stockwell, director of the National Council's Division of Overseas Ministries, said in 1979 that his visit to China had not led him to abandon his Christian faith but forced him to ask himself "whether Christian nations can provide nothing better than injustice while an atheist nation struggles mightily to secure a fair modicum of justice."33
Stockwell must have a unique definition for justice. Mao Tse-tung expelled all missionaries after he took power in 1949 and forced the Protestants to dissolve their separate denominations and unite over the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The union was designed to separate the churches from their partner churches in Europe and America. The Catholics were forced to break their ties with the Vatican in 1957. Then came the Cultural Revolution of the sixties and seventies. All
religious organizations were subsequently forbidden, and thousands of Christians were sent to labor camps. Many were executed.
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The National Council Extols China
Nonetheless, the National Council of Churches published a 1977 study guide on China which made the Marxist-Leninist government look like its savior. The writer's hero was obviously Mao, and the whole book is a paean to him and to China's version of Marxism. The writers even extol the Cultural Revolution, which the West now knows was a destructive nightmare for the Chinese people.
"China's Communist revolution has propelled a backward, poverty-stricken, virtually medieval society into the modern world," the booklet gushed. "It has brought about the end of such feudal traditions as ancestor worship, arranged marriages and the foot-binding of women. Starvation, epidemic disease, drug addiction, prostitution and illiteracy have been eliminated." The writer attributed several more exemplary virtues to the "Chinese Communists" before declaring that "serving the people" is their "dominant social value."34
Some of those claims may be true. China no longer allows women's feet to be bound, and there is probably less starvation and epidemic disease. But that does not compensate the millions of Chinese who have been murdered by the government in Peking through the years, nor does it compensate the Tibetans whose homeland and traditions have been destroyed by the Chinese as well as hundreds of thousands of their people. Nor does it compensate the Christians who are persecuted. Oddly enough, the booklet does not mention that China's Christians are persecuted. "The Chinese official view of religion today is one of supreme disregard." Going even further, it hints that Marxists-Leninists are the real Christians. It quotes the Reverend Hosea Williams: "Is it possible that Christianity is too important to be left in the hands of today's so-called Christians?"35
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China And Christianity
In the late seventies, when Stockwell and the National Council was busiest extolling Chinese justice, the persecution of Christians in China was at a modern all-time high. It reached new levels of intensity in 1983. Over three hundred and forty Christians were arrested (including Catholic priests) and two Bible couriers were killed. Government officials have also used torture to gain information about the activities and identities of other Christians. The Sixth Session of the National People's Council of China in September 1983 created six new categories of capital punishment offenses. One was for individuals who use "feudalistic superstitions" (religion) to evoke antigovern sentiments - a law created specificafly to punish Chinese house - Christians.36
House-Christians meet in homes to avoid government regulations, monitoring, and Chinese efforts to stifle evangelism. One warrant against a house-church Christian claimed the evangelist "deceived" four hundred people into converting to Christianity and also "disturbed the social order" by organizing a rally at a sports field.37
Roman Catholics also have a difficult time. Priests who are loyal to the underground church are forced to "roam the countryside" offering clandestine Masses. In 1983-1984 dozens of these priests, and several bishops, were jailed, including Bishop Joseph Fan Xuevan. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for communicating with the Pope. Catholic bishop Peter Fan and his vicar general, the Rev. Huo Pin Chang, were reportedly sentenced to ten years in prison for secretly ordaining priests and communicating with the Vatican.38
According to the Chinese Church Research Center in Hong Kong, there are currently an estimated total of thirty million Christians in China, none of whom has been helped by the silence of the American church regarding their persecution.
As this book goes to press, the Chinese government is reportedly easing its persecution and allowing more freedom of religion. Roman Catholic bishop Ignatius Gong Pinmei was paroled in July 1985 after thirty years in prison, and the Chinese government did not require him to denounce the Pope. Groups of Chinese Catholics have also been allowed to meet with Catholic authorities in Hong Kong, and the government has allowed bishops to be ordained who are not members of the officially sanctioned church organization, the Catholic Patriotic Association. Protestants have also been allowed to invite American evangelicals to speak in Chinese churches.
On the other hand, the government has made it clear that although they want aid in social action projects, the money sent to China (by Protestant groups such as the National Council of Churches) for such programs cannot be used to support churches or make converts.
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The Reason Why
It is difficult to understand how the Religious Left could make positive statements about totalitarian systems like China and ignore the many abuses. It would seem that reasonable people, raised in freedom themselves, would be horrified by the oppression and religious persecution. But the late Arthur Koestler, former Communist and author of A Darkness at Noon, offered an explanation: "Faith is not acquired by reasoning. Reason may defend an act of faith - but only after the act has been committed."39
Koestler, then, would probably explain the glorification of Marxist-Leninist societies by American Christians as their worship at a new shrine. Christians are an idealistic people who have always concentrated on humanity's plight and its need for salvation. This is as it should be. But the same altruistic state of mind which creates compassion and commitment also creates a vulnerability to utopian schemes, the quintessence of which is Marxism. Utopianism is based on the visionary, the possibility that society can be perfected through a system. Marxism reflects that vision as well as a system in which it can allegedly be brought to fruition. Flaws in both systems are overlooked because the belief is based in faith, and is therefore not subject to logical examination.
The attraction seems even more natural when each creed's psychological attitudes are examined. Koestler points out that "There is little difference between a revolutionary and a traditionalist faith." He argues that all true faith is uncompromising, radical, and purist; "hence the true traditionalist is always a revolutionary zealot in conflict with pharisaian society . . . thus all true faith involves a revolt against the believer's social environment. . . ." Devotion to utopia (which can be viewed as the Kingdom of God) and revolt against a "polluted" society, he said, are the two poles of all militant creeds.40
Christianity certainly fits Koestler's description of a militant creed. It is uncompromising, radical, and purist. It is in revolt against the values of this world. But it offers no solutions for the problems of this life outside of faith and spiritual values. Seen in this light, it is not difficult to understand why Christians, once they abandon the substance of their traditional faith, would seek a new one which also is "in conflict with pharisaian society," but which offers the added bonus of societal solutions.
Marxism even resembles Christianity in its doctrinal creed. According to author Klaus Bockmuehl, it is a "heretical" form of Christianity. Bockmuehl points out that Marxism has a creation doctrine (historical processes as creator) and original sin (division of labor). Marxism provides a doctrine of salvation in its belief of the proletariat. It also has a doctrine of the church which manifests itself as the Communist Party.41
Faith in this utopianism, Christianity's doppelganger, is so deeply ingrained in the Religious Left that facts, observed firsthand, are not accepted. It is obviously possible for the faithful to observe persecution of Christians in Cuba or China and still not accept what they have seen. Paul Hollander, writing of modern American intellectuals, asked, "How can sensitivity to social injustice and indignation over the abuses of political power so abruptly give way to the cheerful acceptance, or denial, of comparable flaws in other social systems?" He answered: ". . .intellectuals, like most other people, use double standards and . . . the direction of their moral indignation and compassion is set and guided by their ideologies and partisan commitments."42 This could just as easily been said of the Religious Left.
Malcolm Muggeridge documented this will to believe in his sardoni c observation of visitors to the U.S.S.R. during the 1930s. "They were unquestionably one of the wonders of the age," he wrote, "and I shall treasure . . . the spectacle of them travelling with radiant optimism through a famished countryside, wandering in happy bands about squalid overcrowded towns, listening with unshakable faith to the fatuous patter of carefully trained and indoctrinated guides, repeating like schoolchildren a multiplication table, the bogus statistics and mindless slogans endlessly intoned to them. . . ."43
". . . earnest clergymen who walked reverently through anti-God museums and reverently turned the pages of atheistic literature, earnest pacifists who watched delightedly tanks rattle across the Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky, earnest town-planning specialists who stood outside overcrowded ramshackle tenements and muttered 'If only we had something like this in England!"44
Hollander points out that even when the partisan understand what they see, they invariably make excuses for the facts. Simone de Beauvoir defended the use of informers in China by stating they were necessary because "counterrevolutionary" activities included "arson, the sabotage of bridges and dikes, and assassinations."45
Of course, most people in Marxist-Leninist societies who are victimized by an informer are not saboteurs, but have simply made the wrong remark to the wrong person about the wrong thing.
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America The Guilty
As has been noted, the Religious Left has coupled its promotion of Marxist-Leninist societies with attacks on the United States. This is not surprising. Those who believe in the utopian society naturally feel enmity toward societies which refuse to acknowledge its superiority or change their policies in order to reach its goals. And since belief in utopia is illogical, attacks on its "enemies" are skewed and emotional. The technique most often used is to take a genuine problem and blow it completely out of proportion, ignoring the fact that most of the rest of the world has the same fault to a greater (or lesser) degree and overlooking any potential for reform. This method is designed (probably unconsciously) to produce guilt and dissatisfaction with democratic capitalism.
These pietistic attacks are so vicious that not only have they completely misrepresented America and its institutions, they have even alienated non-Christians. Paul Gottfried, editor of Continuity, has charged that the constant denunciation has heightened Jewish distrust of Christianity. "Guilt-ridden self doubt which organized Christianity shows," he wrote, "may have deepened Jewish mistrust of Christians. If Christians have been as wicked as the National Council of Churches would have us believe, then why should non-Christians trust them?"46
It is difficult to be tolerant of these sorts of attack because they are, among other things, so sanctimonious. The rhetoric is ostensibly based on the speaker's religious beliefs, and is sometimes passed off as being "prophetic." Using this concept is egotistical at best. Prophesy is traditionally considered a message from God delivered through human beings, Staffers at Church World Service offered an explanation of the prophetic point of view when they wrote: "American Christians are awakening to the fact that God is bigger than any state and will stand in judgment against any and all states or national leaders. It is God who bids us cease our idolatry of any state and restore the creation to justice and righteousness."47
Perhaps the Religious Left has misunderstood this concept because it has also misjudged the sovereignty of God. Instead of simply acknowledging that God judges all nations, the Religious Left has taken it to mean they should judge nations for Him. Unfortunately, when the Religious Left mentions ceasing idolatry and restoring righteousness, it is always the United States to whom it refers.
A perfect example of this guilt-inducing technique is an article by Peggy Billings, the associate general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. Billings asked her readers, "Isn't it better to lance the boil and let the poison out? Let the descendants of the settler people of England and Europe face up to the fact that we took most of the land from its original peoples, that we built a powerful economy on the unpaid labor of African slaves and the indentured servitude of the refuse of England's jails, that we have started wars and overturned governments not to preserve liberty but to preserve markets, that a strong strain of fascism, American style, almost won out in Watergate."48
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The World Council And Christian Persecution
As distorted and misleading as this rhetoric is, it is still not actual lying. The World Council of Churches, on the other hand, seems unable to tell the truth about what they see during their official visits to totalitarian societies. Ethiopian Aradom Tedla (the same man who unsuccessfully petitioned Phillip Potter to help him obtain the release of the patriarch of the Ethiopian Coptic Church) said in 1984 that after the Marxists took power in his country many World Council executives came to visit. None of them, Tedla said, seemed interested in the fate of dozens of Ethiopian Christians and Coptic bishops who had disappeared into the prison system - or simply disappeared. Instead, they seemed content to be feted by government officials; and none of them returned to the West demanding that the regime stop its persecution.49
Similar testimony has been given by Jonas Savambi. Savambi is head of the anti-Marxist-Leninist rebels in Angola. He has charged that World Council representative John Fisher visited Angola at the end of 1976 and reported that everything was going very well for the church. "We were stunned," Savambi said, "because at the same time cries were coming to us all over the country - from Protestants as well as Catholics - that the MPLA (the Marxist-Leninist government party) was destroying everything that had anything to do with the Church!50
"At the same time Fisher did his report, the MPLA was in the process of transforming churches into military barracks and warehouses all over the country, but Fisher said that everything was going smoothly, and that the MPLA was helping the churches, guaranteeing the freedom of religion - and that is when we knew that he was simply lying. His report was a premeditated lie, and it shocked us that a man who was working for the Church, would do this thing because he was not misinformed - he did it deliberately to help the MPLA. . . . The MPLA's harassment of religion is a deliberate and systematic policy."51
It is a tragedy that the World Council aids a nation's oppressor, but it is not surprising. The Council no longer mentions democracy. It speaks of participation, a word sometimes used by Third-World dictators to describe their system. It is especially tragic because for more than a decade after its formation the World Council viewed democracy as "the responsible society." At the founding assembly the World Council adopted a statement which defined the "responsible society" as a place where the ruling authorities are responsible to God and their people.
"Moving Toward Participation," however, the issue paper prepared by World Council staff for the 1983 Vancouver Assembly, moves very far away from the original concept of democracy. It ignores the fact that genuine participation means the right of people to freely choose government officials. Participation now means "a deterniined effort to promote self-reliance and an economic policy aimed at social justice, as in China. . . ."52
The concept of participation was probably created as a concession to the Eastern European and the Third-World governments of churches that were admitted to the Council in the sixties. The World Council as a whole apparently believed that if those churches were admitted, they would also gain an influence over their governments. It has had the opposite effect. The Eastern Bloc and Third-World governments have seduced the World Council into making the changes. Some of this can be attributed to the World Council's reluctance to anger member churches and risk their withdrawing from the Council. Much of it, however, stems from the conviction that Marxist-Leninist societies are superior to those which practice free enterprise.
One of the changes which this attitude has produced is the World Council's refusal to publicly support persecuted Christians in Marxist-Leninist countries. Council officials claim they often speak for the persecuted with "silent diplomacy," in an effort to spare dissidents further harassment. That statement seems to be a rationalization. The Council has no compunction in speaking out for political dissidents (by name) in South Africa or South Korea. Religious dissidents themselves, especially in the Soviet Union, have said that publicity in democratic countries helps them because they are then too well-known to jail or murder.
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Ironically, if it is Marxist goals - i.e., economic security and political justice for all - which attract church bureaucrats in places like Ethiopia, then they are attracted to an idea whose time has never come despite any claims to the contrary. Karl Marx envisioned working Marxism as a system not only linked to democracy, but one which would eventually make all government obsolete: the state, he said, would (and should) "wither" away. Instead of a withered state, however, Marxism has become the almighty state. Instead of political justice for all, there is little justice for anyone.53
Marx wanted a "society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle," a society in which "the full and free development of each is the condition for the free development of all," a society that seeks for its members "the completely unrestricted development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties." These things were more important than the material standard of living.54
Friedrich Engels, in his introduction to Marx's The Civil War in France, explains that the Paris Commune, an early experiment in communism, was what Marx believed the "dictatorship of the proletariat" should emulate. According to Marx, the Commune practiced:55
- Universal suffrage - voting for its governments;56
- An open society - a government which was open for inspection;57
- Freedom of speech and religion and separation of church and state.
Contrary to popular perception, Marx did not believe in forcibly abolishing religion. He merely thought that religion would also wither away in the new society. He did loathe religion in general and Christianity in particular, but he did not advocate its suppression.58
- The Commune also practiced a nonmilitaristic viewpoints.59
Marx said the social legislation of the Commune "could but betoken the tendency of a government of the people, by the people."60 (Since Abraham Lincoln's famous "Gettysburg Address" preceded Marx's writing on this subject, we must assume Marx was paraphrasing.)
To be sure, Marx the man was tyrannical in all his dealings and never renounced violence in service of the revolution. However, the revolution's ultimate goals were made perfectly clear. In contrast, not one allegedly Marxist country has instituted Marx's vision of ideal communism - which includes joint ownership of the means of production and a classless society.
The Use Of Ersatz Marxism
Most governments which allegedly practice Marxist theory have instead based their economic life on the feudal system. Instead of joint ownership of the means of production, the state owns the means of production: a large part of the population works for very little of anything and a small part, government officials, who control the property and the profits, benefit. Marxism has become the ideological facade for imperialistic ambition (Marxism-Leninism) and for practicing totalitarianism.
The original and best example of this vicious hypocrisy, and its inevitable result, is the Soviet Union. The Menshevik and Bolshevik parties (the former deposed the Czar and were governing Russia before the latter seized power) undoubtedly had many members who genuinely wanted to change Imperial Russia for the benefit of its oppressed people. However, Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the revolutionary Soviet Union, not only twisted Marxism into a force which insists on instigating violent revolutionary change throughout the world; he also created the present Soviet ruling class: the Nomenklatura.
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This small class of people, numbering about three million including family members, is about 1.5 percent of the Soviet population. It consists of select members of the Soviet bureaucracy, who not only rule the country but are privileged to shop in special stores (which actually have good and plentiful products), own nice apartments and country homes, and travel abroad - things not dreamed of by the remainder of the Soviet population. Becoming a member of the Nomenklatura entities a Soviet citizen in live in luxury the rest of his or her life and, most importantly, to share the power.61
Noted Russian historian Michael Voslensky, who was banished from the Soviet Union in 1977, argues that the Nomenklatura is extremely dangerous because of its extraordinary paranoia concerning the West. The very fact that the West enjoys a high standard of living while the Soviet government cannot even provide a decent standard of living for its people is a constant threat. The Nomenklatura is also "terrified" of what will happen when its citizens, whom it contains only by constant intimidation, "tire of living in fear." The new Soviet rulers, Vosiensky believes, will only be able to rest easy when they control the world or have destroyed the telling contrast.62
If Voslensky is correct, there is almost no hope that the Soviet government will ever evolve into a less threatening entity because there is almost no hope that the gasping Soviet economy will improve. The Soviets, as well as every Marxist-Leninist society which apes them, have trapped themselves. The very process that grants the Nomenklatura its power strangles the Soviet economy. In order that this new class be able to spread the power among themselves, every head-of-household in the Nomenklatura has a position with the state. In that position the bureaucrat makes decisions. It is his (in the U.S.S.R., the great majority of bureaucrats are men) function and his power base. Even the smallest economic decision - the price of products, the number to be produced, where they are to be sent - has to go through many offices. Economic decisions are subsequently glacially slow and unable to respond to changes in need or demand.
For example, if the deputy commissar in the Ukraine needs to switch a trainload of fertilizer from one place to another he must obtain permission from Moscow, and it is possible (and common in the Soviet Union) to wait indefinitely for permission . . . until the harvest is ruined.63 Efficiency also falls by the wayside with this system. Workers do not care what they produce, or how much they produce, because they are not benefiting from their production.
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The Economic Failure Of Ersatz Marxism
The figures speak for themselves. Gross national product for the Soviet Union was only $1.2 billion in 1978, as compared to $2.1 billion for the United States. The per capita income for Soviet citizens was only $4,800. At the end of the 1970s, the living standard for the average Soviet was estimated at approximately the same as the American worker at the beginning of the 1920s. Because urban housing did not keep pace with the movement to the cities, the Soviets had "the poorest living accommodations of any industrialized nation, with per capita floor space only about 72 square feet (1,200 in America)." Only one Soviet in forty-six owned a car.64
Although the Soviet Union once had twice as much land under cultivation as any other nation, "including some of the best on earth in the Ukraine, and a relatively low population density, her import demands, sometimes 15 million tons of grain a year, sometimes 30 million tons, placed an increasing burden on the world's available food surpluses."65
Eastern-bloc countries patterned their economic and social systems after the Soviet system and have consequently had the same results. It is regrettable that most who are tempted to experiment with Marxism-Leninism will miss the chance to discuss it with its victims. When people behind the Iron Curtain are asked what they think about their system, and they are able to answer freely, they express deep dislike. This attitude was exemplified by the Pole who said, "When I graduated from university in 1954 1 really believed in Communism. They said, 'Work hard and every year things will get better and better.' And we worked hard, but every year things got worse and worse. They always lied to us and now I don't believe a word they say."66
The Eastern Bloc is not the only area economically ruined by Marxism-Leninism. Africa is a prime example of the devastation caused by governments which believe the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and the dictatorship of the state are the same thing. In 1962 the African continent fed itself. During the next twenty years, however, in countries in which "people's revolutions" were victorious, per-capita food production declined. Although today Africa holds only 15 percent of the undeveloped world's population, it receives 60 percent of world food aid.67
During the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, Ethiopian food production grew at an annual rate of about 3 percent, keeping pace with Population growth. After Selassie was deposed in 1974 (he died mysteriously eleven months later) Ethiopia's new government nationalized most land and turned commercial farms into state farms. As soon as they did, food production began to drop. The farms - run by students - comprise about 6 percent of Ethiopian farmland, produce less than 5 percent of all farm produce, but consume 90 percent of all agricultural spending. The government aggravated the problem by keeping food prices as much as 70 percent below world standards to keep its urban population and army - which takes up nearly half the national budget - well fed. At the same time it raised the price of fertilizers and seed above the amount small farmers could afford.68
As a result of these collective blows, farmers were forced off the land into the cities or into desperate straits.69
Then the drought hit. Despite everything, the rural population might have escaped famine if the stored food reserves had not been seized "in the name of collectivization."
Tragically, Western society has probably not heard the last of famine in Ethiopia. The government planned - as of 1985 - to collectivize half of all its country's farmland by the next decade.70
Most of these facts have not been acknowledged publicly by Church World Service or other mainline church bureaucracies.
The best testimony concerning the failure of pseudo-Marxist economics is China's turn toward less centralized economic control. That turn has had some successes, the most important of which is the enormous increase in crop production. China is now a net exporter of grain, allowing average peasants - which are the most numerous class in China - to more than double their cash income.71
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Support For Liberation
Not content to merely lend moral support to Marxist-Leninist governments and verbally attack the United States, the National and World Council of Churches and denominational agencies also back "liberation" groups. Moreover, they keep on supporting them even after their true natures are revealed, then go still further and denounce the authentic freedom-fighters that inevitably organize to fight the oppressive regime.
One example is Southern Africa. The church supported the Marxist-Leninists who were attempting to seize power in Angola. When they won, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society passed a resolution which, among other things, urged the United States government to extend full and immediate recognition - as if the Angolan people had won a victory. But of course they had not. In fact, Angola was probably less free than any time in its history. Portugal abdicated its power in Angola in 1975 and left it to three groups which bad fought for independence. Those groups were the Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Independence of Angola (MPLA), the anticolonial National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the democratically inclined Union for the Independence of Angola (UNITA).
The Popular Movement expelled the other two groups and emerged victorious. They had received help from massive Soviet financial aid, arms, and an army of about thirty-five thousand Cuban military "advisors." The United States did nothing to stop the process, but voted.against giving any aid to the National Front and UNITA. Now Angola suffers under a totalitarian government which, sustained by a Cuban army, East German-operated secret police, and Soviet arms, keeps its people in an iron grip. They suffer all the usual abuses including disappearances, torture, and a disastrous economy. Meanwhile, UNITA, which is widely supported among the Angolan people, is doing its best to overthrow the regime.
The United Methodist Global Ministries magazine, however, did not blame the Angolan government for hunger. It blamed South Africa and UNITA. "Compounding the problem are actions taken by UNITA . . ." it said.72
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An Instructive Experience
Koestler's explanation of his turn to, and away from, communism is instructive and sheds some light on why American Christians manage to close their eyes to so much in Angola and elsewhere. He writes that he was ripe for conversion because he lived in a "disintegrating society [Europe] thirsting for faith," and his conversion was one of the more pleasant experiences of his life. Nothing can disturb a convert's inner peace and serenity, he wrote, because the new faith answers every question and settles all doubts and conflicts. As the "only righteous men in a crooked world, we were happy."73
The only thing Koestler feared thereafter, he wrote, was losing the faith that had become so comforting-an experience which he attributes to all converted Marxists and his explanation for why only a few have recanted. Koestler believed so deeply that he even propagandized (twisted the facts) for communism at a European newspaper, the explanation being that he had learned to distrust facts and regarded the world around him through the light of dialectic interpretation. He believed that the Party was infallible.
Although he did not immediately renounce the Party after his visit to the Soviet Union in 1933, Koestler attributes his awakening to what he saw on that tour. He was assigned to write a book titled The Soviet Land Through Bourgeois Eves, a supposed account of a skeptic who is convinced of the goodness of communism after a tour of the U.S.S.R. during its "five year plan." Research for the book (which was eventually published under another title) allowed him to travel throughout the U.S.S.R. without guides or restrictions and to receive enough pay to take care of all expenses.
The trip backfired for the Soviets because Koestler witnessed the famine in the Ukraine (which was deliberately induced by the Soviet government) and the millions who died as a result. He saw the extreme poverty, the uniform oppression, the lies that the Soviet government told about the countries of the West, the wholesale liquidation of opposition.
After being imprisoned in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, Koestler, already unconsciously ready to learn from experience, renounced the faith that had meant so much to him. He saw, he said, that "Man is a reality, mankind an abstraction." He saw that men cannot be treated as "units in operations of political arithmetic . . . that the end justifies the means only within very narrow limits; that ethics is not a function of social utility, and charity not a petty bourgeois sentiment but the gravitational force which keeps civilization in its orbit.74
". . . every one of these trivial statements was incompatible with the Communist faith which I held . . . they deal in slogans as bootleggers deal in faked spirits; and the more innocent the customer, the more easily he becomes a victim of the ideological hooch sold under the trademark of Peace, Democracy, Progress or what you will."75
Author Susan Sontag made a similar about-face in 1982 when she declared that American leftists have deliberately overlooked the murderousness of Marxist-Leninist regimes. Communism is "fascism with a human face," she said.76
Marxism. Fascism. Democracy. What does it all mean? It means - as numerous philosophers through the ages have pointed out - that ideas are the germ of action. Societies are founded on ideas; people base their conduct on ideas and ideals; the whole of Western civilization is based on the Judeo-Christian ethic and the democratic political ideas of ancient Greece. The Western belief in human rights is a direct descendant of the Biblical assertion that men and women were fashioned in the image of God. The Gulag was invented by people who believe the idea that there is no God but themselves. Systems do not invent themselves. People invent systems which are based on their values.
When Christians propagandize for Marxist-Leninist regimes and attack democracy, things happen. It influences some to believe those regimes are beneficial. It undermines resistance to Christianity's worst enemy. It undermines America's determination to promote freedom at home and abroad. It destroys the credibility of the church as Christ's shepherd on earth.
Most of all, it stains the soul of Christians who overlook the murderousness of Marxist-Leninist regimes to justify their politics.
The next church bureaucrat who travels to Cuba, or Albania, or the U.S.S.R., should be required to read what Marx actually said. He wrote a poem while at the University of Berlin which eerily predicted the use totalitarians would make of his theories:
"Then I will wander godlike and victorious,
Through the ruins of the world . . . "77
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The Betrayal of the Church Copyright © 1986 by Edmund W. Robb and Julia Robb. Published by Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Westchester, Illinois 60153
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