SEETHING LATIN AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-23-62 10:50 a.m.
Thank you for ten thousand kindnesses, and there are ten thousands words of appreciation I would like to say. But I have so many other things to compress into this address this morning, I shall not say them, just know them in my heart. You are listening to the services on television, on radio, to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing an address after a four-week’s tour through Central Latin America. It is entitled Seething Latin America—The Death Struggle of Communism and Christianity. Not in anywise by way of exposition, but just as a text, the wisest man who ever lived in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Proverbs and the eighteenth verse wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” [Proverbs 29:18].
I was met in the airport in Guatemala City by several missionaries, and one of them, Missionary Cadwalader, said, “You go through immigration, and I will take your suitcase through customs.” So I went through immigration with my inoculation certificate, my document of American citizenship. And standing there in the airport waiting for Cadwalader to bring my suitcase, he came himself and said, “Your suitcase is locked, and the customs official has sent for you.” Well, I said, “It’s not locked, it’s just an old beat up bag, and you have to twist your mouth a certain way in order to get it open. But evidently you can’t twist your tongue like that in Spanish, so I’ll go and open it for him.”
Well, the fact that he couldn’t get it open immediately aroused his suspicion, so when I opened it for him, he looked carefully through everything in it and was manifestly disappointed. But I had a brick colored portfolio tied with a string around it. He seized upon that, opened it, looked through, was manifestly disappointed. But on the inside of the brick colored folio I had another portfolio with a zipper made out of plastic, and he seized that and unzipped it and looked in. And the missionary Cadwalader told me the explanation that he made. When he looked inside of that zippered portfolio, he said, “Why, why, why, there’s nothing but paper and pen. Why, there’s nothing at all, just paper and pen.”
Had it been a gun that would have been something. Had it been a bomb, that would have been something. Had it been a knife, that would have been something, but just paper and pen! There was a wise man who said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” And unknown to that customs official in Guatemala, and seemingly and apparently unknown to most of the nations of this world, this battle is being fought and will ultimately be won not by guns and tanks, not by bombs and jet planes, but it will be won by those who can capture the minds of men. It will ultimately be fought by paper and pen.
The vast, indescribable inroads of atheistic communism among those peoples of Latin America is indescribable, and equally as fearful. You meet it everywhere, if for no other reason than because the radio of Havana Cuba twenty-four hours a day beams a relentless propaganda of hate against America without cessation. It is their purpose to divide the Americas by this final ultimate thrust through the center, and they are succeeding. Way out in the jungle, out there in the bush, in that hovel in the slum of the city, there you’ll see those people humped over a cheap radio listening to the unwearying attack of Castro’s Havana, Cuba.
Guatemala had a communist government in 1954 under General Arbenz. Backed by the United States, General Carlos Armas from Honduras invaded the country and overthrew the communistic government. But General Arbenz in Castro’s Cuba, is preparing to launch an attack any day, any hour, any night, to overthrow the present corrupt Guatemalan government.
When you walk down the streets of Tegucigalpa, the capital of the Republic of Honduras, you’ll see newspaper boys hawking the communist newspaper. You can buy it for a penny. I bought one, had a fellow by my side translate it for me; filled with the most vicious untruths that mind could conceive of. When you preach in Honduras, the chances are there is an agent of the communist government from Cuba or the Soviets there listening and writing down against the day of the takeover. Just before I came to Tegucigalpa, the communists lacked just a fraction winning the entire board that governs their national university.
In one of those Central American nations, there is a devout and gifted woman in the Baptist church where I preached. She is a secretary in the United States embassy in that nation. She said that recently there were four appointed, from the president of that republic, to go to Washington to represent their nation in the Funds for the Alliance for Progress. And it was her duty and her office to see of their security in their coming to America. And she said that their security search revealed that three of those men were communists! They’re on the staff of the president of the republic.
The Canal Zone is a center of riot and of bloodshed—hated by the communist drive and finally so weakening the moral of our American government that we are now in the act of turning over the Panama Canal to the Panamanian so-called republic. Our American people there are gradually being withdrawn, and the announcement has already been made that all the young people must prepare to return to America. There is no future in the Panama Canal Zone. One of the men, in describing that, said, “Oh, for the days of a Theodore Roosevelt!”
Mostly and especially do you find that communist drive in the universities. In the University of Guatemala the faculty and the student body of the law school are solidly communist. In that university the faculty and the student group of the liberal arts and sciences college is solidly communist. In that university the faculty and the students in the business administration college are solidly communist.
When they met me at the airport in Panama City, it was in the evening, and driving through the city of Panama to Balboa in the Canal Zone, I saw the most unusual sight. The great entrances into the University of Panama were blockaded with junk and stuff and old doors. And I said, “What in the earth?” and the answer was in a simple sentence: the communists had shut down and barricaded the University of Panama, and every high school in the nation had been shut down in sympathy.
I said, “Why, this is inconceivable.” There are two hundred “leftists,” hard communists, out of four thousand five hundred students in the University of Panama. But those two hundred are able to shut down the great university. These things are unimaginable to us! And in that seething, seething, seething pot boils more furiously every hour. Most of all you will meet it in the exiles who have been able to escape from Castro’s Cuba. The leaders of that republic; so many of them have gone to the nations of Latin America, because not only of proximity but because of the same language and the same cultural life. Many of them, of course, are in the United States, but so many of their leaders are in those Latin American nations.
For example, the leader of our Baptist seminary in Panama was for four years a leader in our seminary in Cuba. He was there two years before Castro. He was there two years after Castro. He said, “To begin with, the preachers, the churches, the people, everybody hailed the coming of the revolution. It meant life and destiny for them.” He said, “In the two years after Castro I saw freedom die.” And he said, “Now more than eighty-eight percent of the people of Cuba are violently anti-Castro and anti-communist.” That means only less than twelve percent of the people there are following their present dictator. But the vast majority are helpless, because there’s a reason why the Soviet arsenal placed in the hands of those hardcore revolutionaries; they could not control that island for a moment were it not for the guns and the planes and the tanks of the Soviet Union.
Then I happened to be in San Jose, Costa Rica when they were having an evangelical conference in that nation. And attending that conference was for them a world famous radio speaker and learned professor. I sat down with him and with his companion. He fought in the Spanish Civil War in Spain, in Franco’s Civil War. He had found out the turn of that awful oppression, refused to fight, was placed in prison; came to Cuba. He is one of the most eloquent men I ever heard speak and one of the most learned. Early, he said he began to see the pattern of communism in Castro, and began to point it out to the Cubans. Because of it, he was called in 12:00 o’clock to 3:00 o’clock every early morning hour and quizzed unmercifully; finally given forty-eight hours to leave the country. How do you leave? You don’t have anything to go with. There is a wonderful Christian doctor, Dr. Herrera, the greatest surgeon in Havana, a deacon in the Miramar Baptist Church. Dr. Herrera’s family was leaving for America; the doctor said, “I’ll stay, you take my ticket.” That’s how [they] escaped; the doctor is there today, unable to leave—never able to leave—unless there will be a revolution against the present regime.
He escaped. And, being known all over the Spanish speaking world because of his great radio program, he has the ear of so many of those Latin American people. He said, “More than a thousand are brought into Cuba every month from all of the Latin American countries for Soviet indoctrination, and after about a three month’s course they are sent back throughout the South American nations, and other thousands are brought in.” And he says that goes on all of the time. He said, “So extensive is the work of that Soviet bastion in the new world that unless some way is found to overthrow the communist government in Cuba,” he said, “within ten years the entire Spanish-speaking, Latin-American continents will be solidly communistic.”
As I talked to him about that, I found in him a corroboration of a feeling I began to have as I talked throughout all of those seven nations I visited. In every one of those Latin American countries, there is a violent, agitating, communistic majority. There’s a tremendous one in Mexico; they are all that way. And of course the majority seek to keep their democratic, republican way of life. But what they cannot understand is the vacillation of the government of the United States. And they interpret that—people who are looking to see which way this thing’s going—they interpret the governmental policies of the United States as a sign of colossal weakness!
That kills your soul! For those communists drive, and they say, “Look, he’s not able to help, and he won’t help!” And these who seek to keep the democratic processes of government are cowed, and are fearful, and they don’t know which way to turn. The vacillation of our American government is indescribable, and unthinkable, and un-understandable to them.
One illustration: they had that Castro regime ready to be toppled—like that, for he has lost the support of the people. And in that invasion that was made about a year and a half ago, our government withdrew its support when they had that thing won! They don’t understand. And how would you explain? For to them there is no other way to meet that threat but by great dedication on our part, “We will not allow such a subversion in this brave new world our forefathers dared to build.”
I want to tell you a joke that illustrates that. The San Blas are Indians that live on little islands, about three hundred eighty miles long of them, scattered up and down the Atlantic Ocean, next to the shores of Panama and Columbia. Well, they were having a meeting on one of those little San Blas islands, and they’d gone bankrupt and needed help. One of the braves stood up in the council and said, “I’ll tell you what. This will solve it. Let’s go to war against the United States and lose it. Then we’ll get all kinds of money.” Another counselor stood up and said, “No, that’s a dangerous thing to do! If we went to war against the United States, we might win it.” Our country seems to them to be cowed and to be afraid!
Most of all I enjoyed, as an interpreter took the letters of this God-blessed, able forensic and translated them to me—you can’t write a letter out of Cuba that has anything in it against the regime. A Pentecostal preacher is now in prison under a six year sentence for writing a letter that they just interpreted as being anti-Castro—so as those letters were read to me, they sound like the Apocalypse. They use the language of the Apocalypse. Only a preacher would understand 666, and the beast, and the pestilence, and so many of those things that refer to the language of those under great persecution.
Now, in one of those letters he had a ration of Castro’s Cuba. Every one of the citizens of Cuba is given a little piece of paper, and that’s one of them. On cheap, cheap paper, yellowish—and this is the food that is allowed to each member of the Cuban life and citizenship—each person living in Cuba is given that little sheet of paper, and on it is how much he is allowed to buy each month. And when he took that out of one of the letters, I asked him for it. And he gave it to me and I hold it here in my hand. Here is what you can spend in one month; seven and seventy-two hundredths pesos. In a whole month that’s all that you can spend.
And here’s what you can buy. For one month you can buy one and a half pounds of frijoles—I know that word; good old beans, and if they put a little chili in, man, best stuff in the world—one hand of bananas, one bar of soap, one-fourth of a tube of toothpaste, one pound of fish, five eggs, one-eighth of a pound of butter. That’s what you’re to live on with just a few other like things for a solid month. And not only do you have to buy according to that little piece of paper, but you are designated a certain store where you are to buy it. And if you were to spend one penny over that seven and seventy-two hundredths of a peso, you’re off to the jail. One of those letters said, in a language that could be translated to me—he said that if a person is sick and they needed oranges, you have to go to the government to get a certificate to buy an orange if one is available. And the economy of the country and the poverty of the nation is deteriorating so rapidly that one of those letters referred to “the pestilence that is overtaking and destroying us.”
In the editorial column of the newspaper in Panama the day that I left, I cut out this editorial. It ends like this: “We still think that Uncle Sam will have to make the march against the Reds in the Americas virtually alone. He is still rated,” now look at this, how people think of us, “he is still rated as the world chief-imperialist, ready to take over his American neighbors.” In the minds of these people, Uncle Sam is viewed as a more abhorrent imperialist than the people who cold-bloodedly carried out the rape of revolting Hungary and of other Eastern European states. This is no exaggeration:
Time is running out fast for democracy in the American world; and if Uncle Sam intends to fight the inevitable battle with Red China and Red Russia, he’d better begin now to count his friends and erect safeguards against those who might very easily be catapulted into his archenemy’s camp as out and out foes.
It is a fearful prospect. It makes you tremble in your soul.
Now, I tried my best to find out why the appeal of communism, and I found out talking to them, listening to them, especially their intellectuals, their professors, and their students. Here are some handles that communists use—and the relentless mill of Castro grinds on it twenty-four hours every day. First, poverty; the poverty of those Latin American nations is again appalling and tragic. A farmer, a worker in the rural areas in say El Salvador gets four cents a day. A city worker in those Latin American countries will make eighty cents a day. When I was in Mexico City, they had about two million people in it. They now have four and one half million. And at the rate of five hundred thousand a year, those what they call campesino, those rural, uneducated, illiterate people are pouring into Mexico City, and there are slums by the miles and the miles; the poverty, the appalling tragic lack and want of most of those people.
For example, I was in El Salvador; took a bus ride out in the country just to look at it. Returning into the city the thing was jammed. And the only open seat was by me, a hated gringo. So I was sitting there by myself. The bus stopped, and several got on who stood up, except one of them, an Indian woman with a tiny baby in her arms. She sat down by me. I looked at her. She was deathly sick. She could not hold her head up. She put her head on the back of the seat in front of her, and when she came to the place where she was to get off, she took the baby in her arms, got off of the bus. I watched her get off. I watched her collapse there on the side of the road. I watched the bus drive off, and I wondered what happens to a mother who collapses on the side of the road. I don’t know. They have no money, they have no property; they live in indescribable want, and that is grist for the communists’ mill.
And the privileged few; the president of Guatemala makes more than the president of the United States. Three percent of the people in that country own ninety-eight percent of all of the land and the wealth. Twelve families in Salvador own the entire nation. And the astonishing thing to me—I not only met that here but I met it in that trip around the world—the astonishing thing to me is that these vast sums for aid, foreign aid, are given into the hands of those privileged few.
What do they do with it? Do they take these vast sums of American aid and build factories where those poor people can work? Build pineapple plants where those fruits can be processed? Build banana carrying organized machinery where it can be exported? Build things to help their people can food, take care of meat? What do they do with the money? They send it to the banks in Switzerland because they don’t have any confidence in the future of their own native lands.
And what breaks your heart, as you look at it, is go to Washington and see the officials of the State Department at their cocktail parties. Watch them land in the capital cities of these nations with those vast foreign aid funds, met there at the airport by a sleek long black limousine, be entertained in one of those palatial houses and turn the money over to that few. Talk about grist for the communist mill! Oh, that we had a government that could see, and that we had statesmen who were sensitive to the poverty that grinds the nations into the dust of the earth!
Brother, if our government would just follow the trail of a missionary! If you’re going to give, say, Honduras money, why don’t you go down there and give those people a pineapple processing plant? And give it to them if that is what the American government wants to do, but give it to the people, and give them jobs. And let them raise pineapples around it, and let them process it, and then export it; change it for cotton cloth, or for a wool jacket, or for something—a utensil to cook with, or for a nail to drive in the wall.
Our problem is there are too few with fine beautiful swimming pools, and millions and millions that don’t have water to drink. There are millions of acres in the hands of a few, and the millions don’t have a few acres. There are tens and hundreds of millions of poor in this earth and in Latin America who live on less than one hundred dollars a year. Fred Lange, there’s no syllable of this you don’t know up and down, back and forth, as you go and look and see the staggering, appalling poverty of this earth and the few rich who live in islands to themselves, to whom so much of our foreign aid is regularly given; handles of the communists.
I got an idea of their psychology looking at the Panama Canal Zone. It is a model of efficiency and beauty, it is a magnificent display, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And out of poverty, and stench, and superstition, and darkness, and want, and disease on every side, there is that little strip of America. And yet, that little strip of America is hated beyond anything in this earth. Why? Just because it’s there. And that hate of the communist propaganda machine never lessens. Hate just because you are you; no reason at all, nor any way to reason about it. “You’re rich, and we’re poor, and you’re to blame because you have something and I haven’t; therefore I hate you.” It is an appalling psychological turn of mind.
The missionary and I were walking down La Palma, which is that way toward Columbia, a river town. And just walking down the street talking, a little ragged girl, the least little old girl I think I ever saw that could talk, she stepped over in front of me and pointed her finger up and said, “Gringo!” She stepped over in front of the missionary, she pointed her finger up and said, “Gringo!” I said to the missionary, “Am I supposed to be insulted?” He said, “That is the dirtiest word that little child has been taught in her home.” I am a gringo. I’m to be hated and despised!
In Colon, the town on the—in Panama on the Atlantic side, in Colon, I was in a shop just looking around. And while I was standing there at a counter looking, there came in a black Panamanian, and he laid down in front of me a sheet of lottery tickets. Now, you know what I think about lottery tickets. I said, “No,” and I pushed them over. He pushed them back, “Oh, this is a sure thing!” I said, “No.” Then he began to talk some more. I said, “No,” and I put my hand on his shoulder: “My friend, no! I don’t buy those things.” When I touched his shoulder it was as though you had stuck your finger in a light plug. He drew up to his height and began to curse me in every vile, dirty, filthy word, some I haven’t heard since I was a small boy. And when he got through cursing me for all I was worth as a North American in English, then he started over again in Spanish, more eloquently and more euphoniously to listen to. I stood there and admired him for his ability in both languages, man, to cuss! After that went on about five minutes, he went outside, and I want you to know in about three more minutes he came back in and started it all over again in English and in Spanish; an astonishing thing to me! Why? Because I am a North American! And that hatred and that bitterness, that antagonism, is nurtured and cultivated and fed by the communist regime.
My time’s already passed. Will you suffer me to close the address out of a few words chosen from a thousand and ten thousand I’d like to say? This battle I began with will ultimately be fought by words, by ideas, by capturing the devotion and the loyalty and the souls of men. Don’t you wish you could kill an idea with a bomb? Don’t you wish you could shoot it down with a gun? Don’t you wish you could march an army against it and destroy it? Man, we’d overwhelm the kingdom of power of darkness overnight.
We now have the ability to do it, but if you were to go to war and if you were to destroy our enemies, you’d have that same poverty, only more so. And you’d have that same need and that same lack, only a thousand times heightened. It’s a war for the heart, for the loyalty, for the mind, for the devotion of men. That’s why a man could stand up in any pulpit on any spot in this earth and proclaim with wonderful assurance and heavenly unction the good news of the converting faith and the transforming power of the Son of God.
I talked to a university student, a brilliant lawyer who had been converted and was a faithful member in his little Baptist church. I said, “How is it that you turned?” He said, “There came to our university three BSU students from Texas University,” and he said, “We talked, and we listened, and I never heard such. Oh!” he said, “that more Christians would come from the states and visit our universities and talk to our students. We’ve never heard it like that; we’ve never seen it that way.” Well, he said, “I was introduced,” then he said, “my sister became desperately ill, my little sister. And the pastor of this church found that she was ill, and he came to our home, and he came back. And in his praying, and in his devotion to us, and in his wonderful kindness, and finally in his teaching us the way of God, I found Christ, and I was saved.” He said, “This is the answer.”
I was preaching in Tetelcingo, an Aztec village. My interpreter was a Spaniard who interpreted in Spanish, and then the Aztec preacher interpreted in his language. The Aztec preacher was the mayor of the city. He had been a vile and a violent man. He had twenty-eight different wives, by groups and one at a time. And he was a vicious man. He had the scars of I don’t know how many battles and fights. He was miraculously converted, and he wrote a letter to his three chief enemies and said, “God has forgiven me my sins. I ask your forgiveness for my sins.” He said, “I made peace with God. Let us make peace with one another.” And it was a new day for the village, and they have a marvelous church there even now. One of the missionaries in a session stood up, and, in her testimony, quoted Ephesians 4:32: “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” She says, “I quote that because in my village heretofore, there has been such hate and savagery and murder, but now in the gospel of Christ there is peace and light and the glory of God!”
I went to the little church in Santa Catarina. I haven’t time to describe the awful savagery and bloodshed in that little town! You never saw such spirit, such gracious gentleness among the people in the church. And this is the way they address each other: “How are you, my brother?”
“I am just fine, my sister.”
“God bless you, my brother.”
“The Lord be with you, my sister.” And to me, “Welcome, my brother, in the name of the Lord.”
It’s the idea; it’s the heart’s devotion, and if a gun could do it, if a tank could do it, then we would, we would fight. But there is no ultimate victory won; just more death, and more hatred, and more poverty, and more want, more disease, and more suffering, more widows and more orphans. It’s the idea, it’s the message; it’s the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, it’s the announcement of the good news. “O isles of the sea, hear” [Isaiah 49:1], said Isaiah, “All ye earth give ear” [Isaiah 1:2].
“Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” [Isaiah 1:18]. “Call upon the Lord while He is near” [Isaiah 55:6].
God bless us, the Lord sanctify our efforts. The Lord grant to us an increasing devotion to the message we bear and the light we bring. Lord, bless our missionary, Lord, bless those little churches. God bless those poor people. And the Lord bless us as in Christ’s name we hold up the hand of the Lord’s emissary, wherever a man has it in his soul to name the name of Jesus.
We’re going to sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a precious couple, a young man, a child; as God shall say the word, as He shall speak to your heart, if you love our Lord, come. If you would love to be with us in the fellowship of this prayerful, God blessed congregation, come. If today you would give your heart in trust to Jesus, come. As the Spirit of Christ shall open the way, shall speak to your heart, I can’t make the invitation—as God shall say it, come today. Give the preacher your hand, stand by him: “Here I am, preacher. As God is my witness in heaven, I give to Him the whole strength and issue of my soul and my life, and here I come.” Would you today? On the first note of this first stanza, “Here I come and here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.