The Collapse of Communism and the Aftermath of Desert Storm
By Mark Beliles
When are Christians in America going to stop being so pessimistic and unbelieving about the great things that are happening in the world today?
The Berlin Wall is gone, Eastern Europe is free, Soviet communism has collapsed and democratic movements are making great progress in Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world. Desert Storm stopped aggression against Kuwait and opened up the Middle East to western Christian principles. Eleven African states are now democratic and six more have just begun to move strongly that way after years of post-colonial dictatorships. All but Guyana in Central and South America now have freely elected governments.
After victory in the Gulf war, secular commentators spoke of an “exorcism” of the demons of doubt and pessimism that lingered in the American psyche ever since the Vietnam era. I believe that such comments are very accurate – that indeed the attitudes of Americans, including Christians, have been subject to spiritual forces (2 Corinthians 10:4).
My question is: Has the Christian community really been delivered yet? Let’s face it folks, things are happening today in the world that are historic and very positive, perhaps as significant as the Protestant Reformation. Why should Christians be tentative and always saying “Well, let’s see what happens” before they can rejoice.
One of the problems, I believe, is the lack of a Providential perspective toward current events. If God really is controlling and directing events, why should we be pessimistic? Even if people whom He is using are not Christians, or perhaps are Christians but have obvious shortcomings and sins, does that prevent us from affirming the workings of God? Does that not rather glorify Him more when he uses fallible clay vessels and still accomplishes His purposes? Why dismiss everything out of hand and not embrace it just because it comes to us with flaws in terminology and mistakes in judgment?
To have a Providential perspective on history is to see the Almighty behind each event, without swallowing or embracing everything that comes along, but neither rejecting it at first sight when we see unbiblical or unholy elements mixed in with it. God looks at us and sees flaws and sins and foolish judgments and yet still calls us by His name and uses us to accomplish His will. So He does with the nations. Sure, America has sinned in the past and continues to do so, but I believe God has called America “good” just as He did with many sinful kings or governments in Judah and Israel. Those kings were judged by God in the Bible as either “doing evil” or “doing right” based on their alignment with His basic purposes in their generation, not on their complete obedience or perfection. Many of the leaders who God said did “right” in His sight had also committed sins and had done evil, as in the case of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:32-33) or Amaziah (2 Chron. 25:2).
If modern American Christians were to be making the evaluations, most of those leaders called “good” by God would be rejected and accused and second-guessed today. No one does right all the time and yet God still uses them. That is the amazing way in which the Bible portrays all of its heroes. They were all sinners and fallible men.
Many Christians today all too often evaluate leaders and events unrealistically. Books and newsletters are churned out preoccupied with what is wrong with this leader or that program and warning Christians of the dangers that lie ahead. Much of this so-called “prophetic” criticism is nothing more than slander, tale-bearing, and bearing false witness, which the Bible condemns (Ex. 23:1,2; Deut. 19:15-20). Their “facts” are not researched and even if they were true, they do not redemptively use those facts in line with the Biblical commandment to “honor the king” and love your neighbor.
Certainly there is the necessity for speaking out and blowing the trumpet against sin and calling people to repentance. Certainly there is the prophetic responsibility to warn against dangers that are well-founded and proven. There is a valid place for rebuking rulers who sin and make foolish decisions, but there are Biblical guidelines for doing so.
A Providential perspective doesn’t blindly follow anything that comes along, neither does it downplay sin anywhere. It doesn’t offer a candy-coated “all is well” commentary. But what it does is move the focus less on the importance of the man or men whom God is using and more on the God behind them; less on the flaws of the men and more on the will of God; less man-centered and more centered on God and His sovereignty.
Many Christians, from both the dispensationalist and reconstructionist perspectives, have a pessimistic, and often critical and conspiratorial, view of world events. While conspiracy talk and criticism of others sells more books, such writings are not what Christians need to best equip themselves. People like gossip, but what they need are answers – solutions! What we need to impart to others is faith and encouragement to be involved. American Christians today tend to view government as an adversary rather than as a minister of God and a servant of the people as the Bible speaks of it. The result is a separation and detachment from social problem-solving.
Government can become a dangerous “beast” that devours when power is centralized in the hands of sinful men. The message of the book of Revelation warns of such beasts of the sea and of the land that bring oppression, and which Christ and his saints must resist and overcome. But Revelation and the prophecies of the Old Testament also speaks of our victory over the beast and injustice, and of the nations of the world being transformed by the power of the Gospel through changing men’s hearts and minds (Daniel 2; Revelation 13).
I believe we are finally seeing an era which Jesus promised would come to pass among the nations. Jonathan Edwards believed that the end of the twentieth century would mark the beginning of the “Golden Age” for the nations as a result of the progressive influence of Christianity. My hope is that Christians would seriously think about this possibility at least as much as they think about books such as 88 reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988 or The New Dark Age or The Middle East and Armageddon.
The Soviet Coup and the March of Liberty
- Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain, said: “The crumbling of the coup was the victory of … liberty over darkness…. The forces of dictatorship and communism have been defeated.”
- Senator Daniel P. Moynihan of New York asserted in the Washington Post on August 22: “The age of totalitarianism is over. More important, the possibility of totalitarianism may be over as well.”
- Time Magazine (Sept 2) said: “The event is one of the turning points of world history … “
- Another Post article proclaimed: “ A new historical epoch began.”
Could this be part of what the resurrected Jesus meant when He answered the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 concerning the restoration of the liberty of Israel and liberation from Roman bondage? He said “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (verse seven). Then in verse eight He adjusted their focus in two ways: (1) the important thing is not so much when, but how this liberty will come, i.e., by the internal to the external (receiving the “Spirit of the Lord” who brings liberty), and (2) this liberty will not only come to the Jewish nation, but to “the ends of the earth,” i.e. all nations!
I believe we are seeing today the fruits of a 2000 year Christian revolution. Great hymns such as are sung at Christmas-time each year speak of it. “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” proclaims that “lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old, when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold when preach shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling and the whole world send back the song which” the angels sang at Christ’s birth.
I believe there is evidence that the outpouring of the Spirit that has been going on for years in much of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union is directly associated with the changes that are taking place externally in their government. Is there evidence enough to go further and say that the events which are going on in Europe and the Soviet Union are a “Christian” revolution? To answer that question accurately, we must define what we mean. It does not mean that the right-wing Christians overthrow the governments of the world and set up a top-down, coercive regime based on biblical laws and morality. That whole idea (which is commonly, but erroneously, identified with Reconstructionists) is pagan, not Christian.
In a recent article of Imprimis published by Hillsdale College, Malcolm S. Forbes, Jr. wrote:
“We have a chance, in short, to build a brave new world, but one that is very different than the term popularly implies. It will not give rise to collective institutions designed to control the masses or to remake the world. It will not be brought about by political decrees or fancy crusades. The new world order will be one that leaves individuals freer than ever before….
“Now, most people regard technology as an enemy of individual freedom — the world conjures up 1984 (Orwellian)-style totalitarian governments, and, … berserk computers that want to take over the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Technology is in reality the mortal enemy of tyrants and bureaucrats; it doesn’t suppress ordinary people – it frees them from centralized control and gives them unprecedented power over their own destinies….
“Even in the most closed societies a person can fax written documents, receive satellite communications, and transfer billions of dollars in an instant via computer – in such an environment, how can repressive regimes do more than postpone their own inevitable collapse? … Another thing to remember is that it will not bring about political unity; it is quite likely, in fact, that we will see political disintegration at the same time that we see more economic integration.”
A Christian revolution is one of ideas. These ideas have an impact on a society through their permeation of the culture by evangelism and educational efforts that lead to a significantly enlightened citizenry who democratically pass laws that reflect their Biblically-based system of values and justice.
A Christian revolution does not even have to be led by Christians. If Christian ideas are being furthered and established by democratic processes in the political system, then it is a Christian revolution. King Henry VIII was not a godly man, yet when he broke from the Catholic Church he started something in England just as significant as when Luther nailed his theses to the door in Wittenberg, Germany. Rather than getting hung up on who God is using, we should look at the outcome.
Christian ideas of individuality, self-government, private property, decentralization, union, equality, and liberty are what we should look for. In the revolution now occurring in Soviet countries we see that these ideas are conquering the pagan ideas of totalitarianism that have held sway in that area for a thousand years.
The manner in which the goals of the coup leaders were completely reversed has few historic parallels, the best being the story in the book of Esther where Haman ends up being hung on the gallows that he had constructed for Mordecai. It is interesting to note that although Esther and Mordecai were Jews, and therefore related to Jehovah, this whole book never once mentions God. These historic political changes in the midst of a pagan government and society are only told in terms of human agency and events. So also the new Russian Revolution may at first seem only a secular event, yet in reality it is a spiritual one. Not only were some of the leaders of the Russian Revolution Christians, but I believe the reason such a move toward liberty could occur in the USSR is because the Soviet people had been prepared in their hearts and minds through the influence of the gospel in recent years to support such a change.
Baskakov was one of the commanders of the Russian defense unit #34, but retired last year as a senior officer from the Tamanskaya tank division because of his Christian faith. In August, when the people began to gather around the Russian Parliament building where Boris Yeltsin was leading the resistance, Baskakov said, “I just knew my place was there … As a Christian, I had to be on the barricades.” His old tank division was the first to come over to the side of the resistance. As reports of an expected attack were increasing on Tuesday, “an organizer with a megaphone called, ‘All courageous men who are willing to defend the building, please come forward!’”
As thousands watched about 90 men formed three rows on the stairs, even though they knew their resistance would mean certain death if they were attacked. A clergyman ascended the steps and led everyone in the Lord’s prayer. Prayer was prominent in this period, and when the coup failed, people acknowledged God’s aid. One young tank commander in the forces controlled by the coup plotters shouted as they began to retreat from the city: “It’s over! Thank God, we’re heading home.” A member of a construction crew who heard him from the side of the road responded similarly as the convoy passed by: “Yes, Thank God!”
The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Aleksei II, denounced the coup publicly, word of which was sneaked onto the controlled Tass news on Tuesday afternoon. He issued an appeal to all the “people, especially to our soldiers, to show restraint in this critical moment for the motherland. Do not allow the spilling of fraternal blood.” He also called the resistance a “fight for a sacred cause.” When the coup failed, this clergyman asserted boldly that “God has saved Russia.”
Time magazine said that the Russian revolution was “a miracle” (Sept 2), as did 32 year old Elena Averiova. On the day after the coup failed, she and thousands more gathered in Red Square and listened, with tears in their eyes, to the cathedral bells. Oksana Shersheleva, 13, said “I’m a believer and all of my friends believe, too. God has helped us all.”
What appears as the most significant blunder of the coup plotters – the failure to detain Boris Yeltsin – was not just a forgotten agenda item. They had indeed dispatched KGB agents and troops to arrest him at his home before he could rally opposition, but they were providentially “delayed” so that Yeltsin left 40 minutes before they arrived (reported in Time, Sept. 2, p. 35). Once he got to the Russian Parliament building, it was too late. Also, on the crucial day that the coup plotters ordered an attack on the building, critical commanders began disobeying orders and some even defected to Yeltsin’s side (although not before the death of three resisters on the barricades).
For the Russian Revolution to continue, the people must grow in their reliance upon God and in applying His truth in their society. An article in Time (September 9, 1991) entitled, “Rebuilding a Moral Framework” by High Sidey reveals the likelihood of this taking place.
“If communism as we have known and hated it is out of the way, perhaps George Bush can now talk unabashedly to Soviet officials about such good old-fashioned values as God, truth and the sanctity of human life. Evangelist Billy Graham, who talked to Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev shortly before the botched coup, returned from the Soviet Union and passed word to his friend Bush that both men had told him of the need for ‘some philosophy, some religion, an inner strength’ for their society…. White House planners are anticipating a reemergence of Christianity in Russia, bringing with it a moral framework that has long been absent from Soviet political life.”
A USA Today poll of Soviet citizens revealed that 85% of the people now believe that “religion [will be] playing an increasingly important role in Soviet society.” The newspaper also said that “young people appear especially open to religion.”
America was created by God through the sacrifices of committed Pilgrims who came here to start a new world based on the Bible. Christian ideas were infused in the institution and the laws of America, culminating in the formation of a Christian union under the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. This Christian nation of America has been a model for scores of nations seeking liberty, prosperity, and justice, and is why millions of people admire America and want to imitate her. Just a couple of months ago, for example, when Secretary of State James Baker visited newly freed Albania, 300,000 people spontaneously rallied in a square where he was and began to wave American flags and chant “USA, USA!”
While no nation should be idolized or take the place of God as the true source of liberty, it must be emphasized that God alone can give this influence to a nation, as He has America, and which our Christian Founding Fathers frequently affirmed that He wanted to do. As long as America acknowledges God and points to the source of her blessings and refuses temptations to become imperialistic, then God will grant her honor among the nations, This is what God promised Israel if she would remain faithful to God – gentile nations would come to her, admiring her laws and liberty and prosperity, and praise and seek to imitate her (Deut 4:5-8). There is nothing wrong with being praised for conducting your nation the way God desires. If, however, America continues to backslide as she has in past decades, God will eventually discard her, as He has other nations, on the ash-heap of history.
One hundred and fifty years after America’s Christian revolution a new order called communism emerged in the Soviet Union and spread to a number of nations. This alignment of nations became known as the “second world,” in contrast to the western “first world.” All those nations that were dependent on the help of more developed countries but were not politically aligned with either the West or communism were labelled the “third world,” beginning in the 1950s. Today, in a matter of a few years, a whole “world” has disappeared, the second one. The first world, the philosophy of government and economics that was based on the Christian idea of man and reality, will now proceed to envelop the globe.
In conclusion, I urge the Christian community in America to seriously examine its attitudes and methods. We should ask God to deliver us from our critical spirit and to give us His perspective and understanding of present history. We must seek to work with Him to fulfill His purposes in the earth, and not against Him. Yes, there will undoubtedly be times of chaos and war and disaster as the nations learn how to handle their liberty, and as leaders with no Christian character or values are removed. Certainly, it is possible that in the vacuum of the communist world there may arise another world, perhaps of Islam or secular humanism, that may be even more difficult to overcome. But despite some imperfect situations and actions taking place both here and abroad, let us not call “evil” what God may be calling “good.”
Mark Beliles is the founder and president of The Providence Foundation and publisher of Providential Perspective. For more information on how to receive this publication, write: The Providence Foundation, P.O. Box 6759, Charlottesville, VA 22906.