Writing from china to a friend in America on February 22, 1929, I said: “One other cause of pessimism is the character of the average student in the schools, the class from which naturally the national leaders will come in time. Communistic teaching and propaganda has been going on among these boys and girls for three or four years and is still rampant. The result is a group of young people who fear neither God nor man and whose minds are filled with an insane desire to tear down the existing social order, even if their own parents go in the fall. I have personally come in contact with the results of the new freedom which, as in Russia, has declared freedom between the sexes, with all restraints removed.”
Today, thirty years later, the Washington Post quotes Bruce Schwartz on the recent upheaval at MIT: “This was not a week of antiwar protests.… They are indeed revolutionaries, Socialist-Communist revolutionaries dedicated to the overthrow of the government and the political-social system of the United States.”
Within the week I have seen quoted two churchmen who concede that the answer to the present social revolution in America is “violence.” Both of these men are strategically placed and highly regarded. And just yesterday I heard a first-hand report of a conversation with another clergyman who, when asked about incidents of violence and destruction in a local school, had said, “The kids were exactly right. They should have done it.”
The point I am trying to make with all the earnestness I can is that a determined and regimented minority can overthrow the existing order, even here in America, and that the tactics with which I was familiar in China are exactly those being used here today. Remember, it was not a majority movement that swept Hitler into power. It was a small group of fanatic and dedicated activists who accomplished this task.
I am not writing as an alarmist, but the fact remains that, if America is to be spared the horrors of growing anarchy with an eventual dictatorship of either the right or the left, there are things that must be done.
First of all, we must recognize the forces with which we have to deal. We are not confronted merely by a group of idealists who wish to effect change by an over-activistic approach. True, many young enthusiasts have been captivated by the professed idealism of some leaders. But the fact is that we are faced with a hard core of student activists and others who are determined to tear down the present structures of society at any cost, and within their number are those whose basic philosophy is closely allied with that of either Moscow or Peking.
What should be the attitude of the Christian toward this menace? The support given by some churchmen to radical activists who in some cases are found at the forefront of the movement cannot possibly be used as an excuse for failure to take positive action. The fact that some ministers are advocating or condoning violence and destruction only intensifies the necessity that Christians look behind what is going on and evaluate the evidence. We are confronted by people who are determined to destroy America!
First of all, “law and order” must be restored to its rightful place as the basis of that stabilizing force by which a constructive society can operate. That some have succeeded in making this phrase a “dirty word” shows the gullibility of some otherwise good and discerning people.
When people threaten to “burn your town down,” or boast, “I will kill you,” or, “We will take over your institution until you accede to our demands,” the time for temporizing has ended. We have been entirely too easy on those who have defied the law or threaten to do so, and we are now paying the price for our foolish permissiveness. Surely the words of the Scriptures are being fulfilled before our eyes, “Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil” (Eccles. 8:11).
So one duty of the Christian is to back those who would maintain law and order in the midst of chaos. Those within our midst who condone violence and destruction will be wise to take to heart the words, “He who says to the wicked, ‘You are innocent,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations; but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will be upon them” (Prov. 24:24, 25).
But the Christian is not a negativist. He has something wonderfully positive—the Lord Jesus Christ and his redemptive Gospel—and he needs to distinguish between the spirit of Barabbas that has infected so many (even within the Church) and the Spirit of Jesus Christ, which was its antithesis.
Jesus was not a “political revolutionary,” even though there are those who so malign him today. He was a spiritual revolutionary, devoted to changing men from the inside, rather than seeking to alter the social order by means of unredeemed men. When he drove the money-changers out of the temple, this was not social activism but a burning indignation against what was taking place within the church. He made a clear distinction between the secular and the spiritual when confronted by those who wished to impale him on the horns of a political dilemma: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).
The spirit of Barabbas was that of insurrection and violence, the Spirit of Christ that of gentleness and love. His plea, then and now, is, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).
Is it not that for which countless millions are longing? And who but Christ can give that rest? It will be found not in the spirit of Barabbas but in the Spirit of the One who speaks to and changes men at the heart level.
For this reason the Christian and the Church have an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility today. Our nation needs men of character and conviction, men able to distinguish between the unbridled spirit of rebellion and that Spirit by which alone peace, hope, and joy come into human hearts and through those hearts to the nation.
That tiny and rebellious minority of today can become an ominous movement of power tomorrow. It took twenty years for the seeds of Communism in China to grow into a tree that bore the bitter fruit of totalitarian repression, during which God and his Church were banished and man’s most precious possession, personal freedom, was lost.
It can happen in America!
L. NELSON BELL
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