Second in a Series of Three
The Communists are today spraying the world with ideological and propaganda missiles designed to create a deadly radioactive cloud of Marxism-Leninism. From bases behind the Iron Curtain and in the non-Communist world, this cloud of Communist propaganda is drenching many lands, with a particularly heavy fall-out in this nation.
The deadliest of these Communist missiles—whose warheads are exceptionally heavy—are being directed against the Christian pulpit. Communist gunners, with special ideological training and schooled in atheistic perversity, are “sighting in” the clergy—hoping to shatter, immobilize, and confuse this powerful forum of idealism, morality, and civic virtue. No assignment is more strategic in the Communist world today than the disruption of the Church of God—both within and outside the Iron Curtain.
Why does the Church—which has no military forces—merit the most explosive of Communist rockets, the most venomous of Communist hate, the most vituperative of Communist scorn? Because religion, of all facets of Western civilization, represents the eternal “thorn in the flesh” of communism, that jagged rock which is constantly puncturing, exposing, and unmasking Communist claims, performances, and hopes. The Communists realize that unless the Christian pulpit—that mighty fortress of God—is liquidated, pitilessly, mercilessly, finally, the very existence of communism itself stands in jeopardy. The spiritual firepower of the Christian Church—based on the love of God—is sufficient to destroy all the Soviet man-made missiles and rockets and extirpate this twentieth century aberration.
And the Communists know it—and fear it.
THE RELIANCE ON ATHEISM
To understand the Communist attack against the Christian pulpit, we must, so to speak, transplant ourselves into the control room of Party strategy. Let’s see the Communist high command at work as it executes its attack against the Church. Let’s note its mode of approach, its variable tactics, and ultimate goal.
The basic Communist weapon is the materialism of the Communist dialectic. Communism is atheistic, utterly denying God. This has been a fundamental premise of communism since the days of Marx and remains so today under the mendacious huckstering of Nikita Khrushchev. “It is not religion that creates man, but man who creates religion.… It is the opium of the people” (Karl Marx). “Religion is a kind of spiritual gin …” (V. I. Lenin). “In my outlook on life there is no place for religion” (William Z. Foster, Chairman Emeritus of the Communist Party, U.S.A.). “We remain the Atheists that we have always been” (Khrushchev).
Just why, we may ask, does the Party rely so greatly on these missiles of atheism? Just why do other phases of Communist strategy alter, but never the dependence on this weapon?
The answer is simple and fundamental to any progress which communism hopes to achieve. Atheism is an all-out weapon of highly destructive and devastating power. If properly launched, atheistic missiles can mangle, cut, and obliterate the spiritual tendons of life—belief in God, faith in Judaic-Christian values, love of the Church. The very existence of Communist Man—that fanatical atheist imbued with the ethics of expediency—is proof of the paralyzing power of atheism in destroying the taproots of spiritual strength which flow into the individual personality in a Christian civilization. Hence, in Communist strategy, these missiles of atheism are the ultimate weapons, the essential ideological artillery designed not to damage partially but to destroy ruthlessly.
However, as we watch from the Communist control room, we note that, in launching these missiles of atheism toward America, the Communist rocketeers are experiencing considerable trouble. These mighty missiles are propelled, but then, like meteors, they seem to burn up as they approach the atmosphere of America, a proud Christian land. In simple language, here is the problem of Party strategists: how can an atheistic Communist Party operate in the United States where the vast majority of people believe in God?
To attack directly, with an open appeal for atheism, is to risk defeat, frustration, and loss of faith. To stand on the street comer and proclaim, “We the Communists believe in atheism,” will not gain recruits. To denounce God in open Party appeals will cause open resentment and hostility. What is to be done?
A STRATEGY OF DECEIT
The Communist answer: employ a strategy of deceit—a technique designed to hoodwink non-Communists. This is today one of the Party’s most potent attacks against the Christian pulpit.
The strategy means primarily three things:
1. A false claim that the Communists stand for tolerance of religion. The Party’s tactic in the Christian world is to de-emphasize the importance of religion, to talk and write little about it, and emphasize other topics, such as social, economic, and political issues. A leader of the Communist Party, U.S.A., recently commented: “We know there is no God or Supreme Being, but we can’t go out and tell this to church people.” “We do not declare and must not declare in our programme that we are ‘Atheists’.…” (Lenin). If questions are asked, Communists pose as being “tolerant,” and say that religion is a “private matter” for the individual. “The people’s state holds that the question of religious belief is a private matter; belief or nonbelief in religion relates to the personal freedom of an individual.”
Actually, however, religion is not a private affair for the Communist. “Religion is an ideological foe of communism, and the reconciliation of the two is impossible.” As a Marxist, he must be an atheist. He has absolutely no personal choice. “Personal freedom of an individual” is a deceptive Party shibboleth. Any non-Communist believing this double talk is being trapped—and “softened up” for the next tactic in this strategy of deceit.
2. To achieve a mutuality of agreement with the Christian pulpit on “common issues” (as defined by the Communists). This tactic is being actively pursued by the Communist Party, U.S.A., today. “Look,” the Communists are saying, “we are tolerant of religion, we do not want to attack your faith. Rather, let’s work together on issues in which we are both interested—peace, civil liberties, economic justice. We Communists are believers in love, justice, and the brotherhood of man. We too want a world of peace and good will. Let’s not fight but work together.”
Here is the deadly “come along” of communism, directed today at the Christian pulpit. This enables the Party to move close to unsuspecting ministers and laymen who see only the exterior verbiage and not the concealed danger. How does the Party work here? In many ways: encouraging churchmen to endorse, support, and even participate in Communist front groups; to sign Communist-sponsored petitions; to neutralize clerical opposition to communism (if a minister can be influenced to even keep silent about the dangers of communism, the Party has gained).
At the same time the Party, through infiltration tactics, is attempting to reach inside the churches. In one instance, a Communist official instructed Party members to join churches and become active in their organizations. Another member was working in the church office, while still another Party official helped conduct the financial affairs of his parish. Most important, of course, is the youth field. A national Party leader recently commented that Communist youth must find “common ground” with church youth groups, “not only for ideological reasons but also for the use of their facilities!”
3. Exploit the church for their own Communist ends. This “brotherliness” of Communists is most purposive: the Communists want to hitch as much of the influence of the Christian church as they can capture to the Party’s cause. This means that if clergymen or laymen participate (knowingly or unknowingly) in fronts, sign Communist-sponsored petitions, speak favorably of Communist objectives—these points must be exploited to strengthen the Party’s position. To a prospective “customer,” a communist canvasser will say, “The Rev. X has signed this petition, why don’t you sign too?” “The Rev. Y has endorsed this organization. You know him. Why don’t you help us and contribute some money?” “The Rev. Z has spoken favorably of this proposal. This shows that it’s in the spirit of the Church.”
To the Communists, any support gained from church circles enables them to break down the moral antipathy of the community and gives them a desperately desired “respectability.”
Hence, this strategy of Communist deceit is aimed to undermine, hoodwink, and exploit the Christian pulpit.
A WAR FOR THE MINDS OF MEN
Now, we may ask, what is the answer to this ideological attack? What can the clergy of America do to defeat this Communist strategy?
First, we must make this assertion. The Christian pulpit is today one of America’s most formidable barriers against communism. The spiritual dedication of thousands of clergymen, in large and small churches across the nation, is a powerful antidote to the danger. America owes a great debt of gratitude to the stalwart example of our religious leadership.
Yet the Communist attack toward the Church continues. What can you, as clergymen, do to help blunt this tactic?
In our nation one of communism’s most potent allies is apathy toward and lack of knowledge of communism. Very strangely, many citizens will be highly conversant about the diseases of azaleas, the weathering qualities of automobile paints, the latest ways to play a new card game—yet know nothing about communism, that deadly plague which threatens to extinguish our way of life. That is one of the anomalies—and tragedies—of modern-day America.
Perhaps we can pose several questions.
Have you, as a minister, preached any sermons describing the frightful challenge which communism poses for the spiritual heritage of America?
Have you encouraged members of your church to read about communism and to learn about its evil nature?
Have you urged the formation of discussion groups to acquaint men and women with this challenge?
The approach must not be one of fear, but knowledge. Communism is not a monstrosity to be hidden from sight, never spoken about publicly, or shunted into a side closet. Communism is not a controversial subject, best to be left untouched. Communism is not so overpowering as to throw us into a state of hysterical fear, anger, or violence. Like an epidemic of polio, the solution lies not in minimizing the danger or overlooking the problem—but rapidly, positively, and courageously finding an anti-polio serum.
THE GREAT CHRISTIAN ANSWER
We in America have this anti-communism serum, the answer to the Communist challenge. It lies in the strength of our Judaic-Christian tradition, the power of the Holy Spirit working in men. Too frequently, both clergy and laymen, do not realize the full resources at their command in the Christian tradition—the tremendous power of God to turn men toward good, to make personalities bloom with the living courage of sainted men. The job of you as clergymen is to help channel this divine power into the hearts, minds, and souls of men. Literally, the Gospel has the power to turn the world upside down. That should be your mission.
No greater challenge has ever faced the Christian Church. Communism has caused the deaths of millions of people. No enemy in all these 2,000 years has held such a deadly challenge to the Christian pulpit. As spokesmen of God, your task is to enable men to know the truth, so the truth will set them free.
Samuel M. Shoemaker is the author of a number of popular books and the gifted Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh. He is known for his effective leadership of laymen and his deeply spiritual approach to all vital issues.
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