America and Russian Communism
September 19th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM
AMERICA AND RUSSIAN COMMUNISM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-19-65 8:15 a.m.
I was walking down the Karl Johan Gate, the main street in Oslo, from the palace of the king to the Parliament building, one of the most beautiful streets in the world. And as I came to the Parliament building, there was a large crowd gathered around something guarded by two policemen. I walked over to the crowd, and finally elbowed my way to their object of interest, and I found there before them a garish picture. In violent colors, in the center of it one of these modernistic raised presentations, the broken letters of Vietnam, and indications of violence and war, and the dismembered figure of a child, and the blood of the child pouring out over an American flag. You will see that picture Wednesday night. As I looked at it, un-expecting it in Norway, I just seethed in my soul. I walked around to one of the policemen, and I said, "Can you understand me?" He answered, "Yes." I said, "Is not this the Parliament building?"
"Is not this government property?"
"Yes." Well, I said, "Why is such a thing as this presented on government property?" He said, "Sir, we resent it, I resent it, as much as you do. It’s a blasphemous thing against America. But," he said, "there’s an artist named Schlittermark, one of these bearded fellows, one of these leftists, and here in Oslo once a week the art association presents a picture of their work. And this week it was this picture. We’ve had riots here. Twice men with axes have sought to destroy it. We on the police department have asked the government to remove it. But in the name of freedom of expression in art, as well as in literature and word and speech, the picture stays. So we are here guarding it."
And as I walked away, I remembered that the last conference I had in Dallas was with a mother whose boy had been killed as an American soldier in Vietnam. There is one thing, and only one, that all of the leftists and all of the communists of the world have in common, and it is this: an implacable and undying hatred of the United States and the American way of life.
For two weeks I read the editorials in their English papers and magazines in the Soviet Union. I looked at their cartoons. There is never a word conciliatory toward America; but the papers and the magazines are filled with defamations and violent assertions against America. I haven’t time this morning to go through these editorials I have copied, nor to speak of these cartoons that I tore out of the papers. Just as an illustration, after we had left, something had happened in Los Angeles: the official Intourist agent said to me, "There are more than four thousand placed in prison in Los Angeles, and the American troops have mowed down the people with Tommy guns and machine guns." I just wondered what had happened in Los Angeles. This is an editorial:
There are moments when one cannot remain silent, profoundly shaken by the ghastly treatment dealt out to the Negro in Los Angeles. We express our indignation, bitterness, and pain. What kind of a "great society" is this, where people are shot down with Tommy guns and machine guns? The events in Los Angeles bring to the human mind the barbarous violence of the American troops in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. We can distinguish the same pain and suffering on the faces of the beaten up and maimed Negros in Los Angeles as in the eyes of the Vietnamese children burnt with napalm.
This is typical of the unending defamation of America.
What kind of a land is this, the land of communist liberation, the land of Karl Marx and Nicolai Lenin? First, it is a land of fierce and false propaganda. One of the official Intourist agents says to me, "Russia has never attacked another nation." I said, "What did you do in 1939, when Russia attacked Finland?" And the reply to me officially was this: "Russia did not attack Finland; Finland attacked Russia." I had just been in Finland, a little nation about as big as my hand. I said to him, "You’re kidding. You’re not serious. Finland attacked you?"
"Yes, Finland attacked Russia!" I asked another question: "Why did you build the wall in West Berlin, through the middle of Berlin, why did you build the wall?" And the official answer: "We built that wall because so many thousands of West Berliners were pouring into East Berlin until we built that wall to keep the flood of humanity out." I said again, "You are kidding. You’re joking!"
"No," the answer, "the imperialist papers of the West deceive you, and you never know the truth. This is the truth: so many thousands pouring over that wall into East Berlin, the wall was built there to keep them out."
I say, "Do you know that in America most every family will have a car?"
"We don’t believe it. That isn’t true. And the wealth you have in America is because you have exploited and robbed the people of Latin America." I say, "Did you know that in America we have freedom and democracy, and we can vote, and we can say what we please?"
"Not at all," they answer to me, "not at all. It is run by the rich capitalists, and they buy the votes of the people." There’s no need to answer, their minds are warped by the false propaganda that pours out like a flood from every press, from every agency, from everybody of communication.
What kind of a land is it? It is a land of poverty, and want, and need. I went from the free world into Russia; out of Russia into the free world of Austria; out of the free world of Austria into the slave world of Czechoslovakia; out of Czechoslovakia into East Germany; from East Germany into West Berlin, free; from West Berlin into East Berlin, slave; and back again into West Berlin. I never thought of the itinerary as coming in and out and in and out so many times as we did. And every time we entered in I felt again the drab, dreary, despairing helplessness and hopelessness of this land.
The official Intourist agent says to me, "There are no poor in this land." And I answer, "The reason is because they are all poor." On the collective farm, nobody there but old people: the young people have fled it. And when they take their produce to the market, all of it is taken over by the government, and they are paid just a penance for existence. You can walk down the street of Leningrad; there’ll not be a car in sight. A city of three and a half million people, a city as big as Chicago, in the whole Soviet world I never saw one filling station, not one. I asked a doctor in Kharkov what salary he made. He said, "I make $177 in your money a month." When I was in Kiev, I remarked to the Intourist guide the low wage, $177 a month for a doctor. And the Intourist guide was amazed: "How large it is, for the wage of a doctor in the Soviet Union is $130 a month; and he must add to his salary in some way to make the stupendous salary of $177 a month."
Where the people live – and there’s no room for them to live – there’ll be a family of four live in a room six-by-nine, and six others will share the bath. It is a world of scarcity and want and waste. They queue up everything. So whatever is for sale, there is the queue, and you wait in line. A bar of chocolate costs $2.23; one bar of chocolate candy. A white shirt costs $2.50. A pair of shoes costs $43. The whole earth is filled with inefficiency, and lack, and want, and need, and poverty.
It is a land of the denial of basic human freedoms: political, economic, and religious. It is a denial of political liberty and freedom. The Intourist agent says to me, "We have absolute political liberty in the Soviet Union. We can vote for whom we please. We have the secret ballot and universal suffrage." And when I inquire, it is this: they have the privilege of marking out any candidate they don’t want, but they have no other choice, you take the choice of the Communist candidate or none at all. And they call that political liberty, democracy.
Economic freedom: walk through the great and beautiful city of Prague, the capital of communist Czechoslovakia, every store you see and every place you look upon is owned and run by the state. Fly over the great country of Russia: everything you see below is owned by the state. When you fly over Russia, it looks from the air like the beautiful, rolling, rich lands of Wisconsin and Iowa and Illinois. There is enough resource, there is enough wealth in the Ukraine and in the great fertile lands of Russia to feed the earth, but they starve to death and buy their food abroad. Why? If an American farmer had those rich, beautiful, rolling lands of the Ukraine and of the Soviet Union, they’d have so many surpluses they wouldn’t know where to store the products. But under that system of scarcity and want, they starve to death!
At 10:30 at night in Odessa, there were militiamen there, keeping the people out of the restaurant. In America, you’d go across the street and build another restaurant. But in the Soviet Union, you don’t do anything except by the order of the state that controls and owns everything, everybody, every soul, every piece of land, and every piece of property.
But the ultimate and final and basic deniel lies [in] the denial of the spirit, and of the soul, and of the heart, and of the conscience. You stand aghast at what you see. I ask, "You know, it is amazing to me, there is a church open in Leningrad, there is a church open in Moscow, there is a church open in Odessa, there’s one in Kharkov, there’s one in Kiev, there’s one in all of those cities, why don’t they close them all?" And a man who knew the heavy hand of persecution from Latvia said to me, "If they were to close them all, it would be an apparent lie when they say, ‘We have religious liberty.’ So they leave one church open in these great cities. And if you want to go see it, there it is, that your eyes may behold for yourself that we have religious liberty in the Soviet Union." One church open in Leningrad for three and a half million people; one Baptist church open in Moscow for a city of six and one half million people; one church open in each one of those great teeming cities, and the rest are closed down by governmental decree.
Nor is it possible to have a seminary. Nor is it possible to have a school. Nor is it possible to have a Sunday school. Nor is it possible to have a revival meeting. Nor is it possible to invite people to come to church. Nor is it possible to answer the propaganda of atheism. They placed in our hands an atheistic book denying the Word of God. And we said, "In America, we could answer that book." But the reply of the official Intourist agent was this: "But in the Soviet Union you are not allowed to propagate religious views because religious views are false. And in the Soviet Union, all you can publish is truth."
And they lack literature, and they lack Bibles, and they lack the Word of God. A man in Odessa, after the service was over, knelt down by my side. The service had been long, and for me tedious, because I couldn’t understand Russian. And I was seated next to the aisle, and he knelt down by my side. And on his right knee, after he’d put both hands on my arm in a pressure of love and friendship, on his knee he outlined in pantomime a Bible. Then he turned the page, and pantomimed. Then he said to me, as though I might not understand, the word "Biblia, Biblia, Biblia. I want a Bible. I want a Bible." In Leningrad the people so surrounded the car that it couldn’t move, with their hands outstretched, saying, "Biblia. Biblia." We smuggled in a few; but what are a few against the millions and the millions of the Soviet Union? The denial of basic, fundamental human freedoms.
One of the handsome young preachers in Kiev walked with us through the night, up to the streetcar. He had on a big, heavy coat. Isn’t that strange, in September, a heavy overcoat, cold? And in the heavy overcoat, he hid his Bible, the most treasured possession in the Soviet Union, a Bible! We couldn’t understand him. And he showed us the Bible under his arm, and then made the motion, "If it were known that he carried a Bible," then he did that, then he made signs as though or otherwise he would disappear – just having a Bible.
Coming back home, coming to this church, looking into your face, I think of what Mr. Gida of the Dallas Tailor and Laundry Supply Company, a Jew who came out of Russia as a youth sixty-one years ago because of religious persecution, he said to me Friday when he met me on the street and recounted some of the things he had experienced in Russia, he said, "Pastor, for sixty-one years, every night and every morning I bless the name of God for America." Amen! Amen! Amen!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off! Our flag is passing by!
Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off! Our flag is passing by!
["The Flag Goes By," Henry Holcomb Bennett]
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
["The Star Spangled Banner," Francis Scott Key]
God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home!
God bless America, my home sweet home!
["God Bless America," Irving Berlin]
Amen! Thank you.
And what can we do? In the twentieth chapter of 2 Chronicles and the twelfth verse: "O our God, we have no might against this great company that cometh out against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee; but our eyes are upon Thee." I speak briefly what our hands can do, something for our hands to do; and something for our hearts to believe.
For our hands to do: for over forty-five minutes we had a conference with the American ambassador in Moscow, I suppose the most significantly vital of all of the ambassadorial representatives we have in the earth. We asked him, "Those people who came for refuge in the embassy from Siberia; they were evangelicals, Baptists, what of them?" He said, "There was nothing we could do."
We said, "But Cardinal Manzetti was taken care of in the American ambassador’s place, house in Budapest, in Hungary. What about these poor Baptists?"
He replied, "I am not able to speak for Hungary. It was in a desperate war, and they were saving a man’s life. But," he said, "these, about thirty-five, who came out of Siberia, and they were the most pitiful and wretched of all of the human beings I’ve ever seen," the ambassador said. Now he said, "You were in our courtyard; that’s all the space that we have. And they lived in that courtyard, about thirty-five of those poor, hopeless, helpless evangelical Baptists who’d come all the way out of Siberia to find refuge and a haven of hope in the American embassy."
He said, "We didn’t know what to do." He said, "We are strangers in this land. We don’t own this place. We are guests here of the Soviet government." He said, "What would you have done? What would you have done?" He said, "We made appeal to the Russian government. We did everything humanly possible." He said, "If these were to come and found haven here," he said, "there would be millions come in the Soviet Union. We had no other alternative but to send them back home. And we did all that we could to find assurances from the Soviet Union that they would not be persecuted and they would not be imprisoned, but they would be cared for and returned to their homes in Siberia."
I asked, "Do you know what has become of them?"
He says, "We have no idea, and we cannot find, and there’s no way for us to learn."
I said, "Ambassador, God help us, what can we do, if that’s all we can do here in Russia? What can we do back home?"
He said, "Look, listen," he said, "the greatest thing that we can do is to keep America Christian." He said, "Our basic strength must always be spiritual. And if we lose that, we will not be able to confront the Soviet Union or the peoples of the world." Our basic strength is spiritual. Our greatest assignment is to keep America Christian.
On a Moscow subway, hanging to a bar in the crowded coach, right seated in front of me was a Russian mother, and by her side was a little freckled-face boy, age six, seven, or eight. Pravda is the daily newspaper of the Communist Party, called Pravda, "truth." And that mother, seated there on that Moscow subway was reading Pravda to that little boy, no much older than six or seven years of age. As I looked at her and watched her as I rode along on that subway coach, I thought, "I wonder how many mothers in America are reading the Word of God or great pronouncements of faith, and religion, and hope, and freedom, and liberty to their children?" Our basic strength must always be spiritual – something for our hands to do; something for our hearts to believe.
I was seated in the Intourist agency in the Ukraine Hotel in Moscow. I was never more depressed, never felt more defeated and frustrated in my life as I sat there in that chair in the Ukraine Hotel. The defamation of America, and the falsehoods of propaganda, and the wrenching of truth, and the death, it seems, of religious faith in the whole socialist world, even in the free world of the Scandinavians. The church, the pastor, it’s almost broken. And as I sat there in that chair, I felt the end of the world had come. There’s nothing left, I felt, but despair, and defeat, and the death of everything we’ve ever loved and known. And while I was there, there came to my soul – I had just been through Lenin’s tomb and looked on that dead face, and I began to think about their leader and their savior and their messiah, dead in that tomb, and the people passing by, the thousands and the millions looking on his dead face. No future, no hope, no life, just death, and decay, and despair, and destruction. And then I began to think of a thing that had happened in Oslo.
Passing along in the car by the beautiful harbor, across the harbor on the other side, the summer palace of the Norwegian king, and I said to this godly layman, I said, "Isn’t that excess baggage? So much medieval appendage, to have a king?" He replied, "Oh, sir, no. Oh, sir, no!" He said, "He represents for us all that we love and hope for in Norway. For example," he said, "in the days of the Hitlerian Nazi occupation, for five long years we lived under that awful heavy and ruthless and merciless hand; for five years we lived under it, that awful occupation." He said, "I have in my home now, and I play it now once in a while. There came a plane over Oslo, and the leaflets dropped from the plane, and each one was a little disc. And on the disc it was our King Haakon’s voice. And the disc said, ‘Be of good courage. Never give up. Our cause is right. We shall triumph, and I shall come back! I will see you again.’" He said, "In the darkness of the night, and with the windows closed where nobody could hear, I played that record again and again and again. ‘Be of good courage. Don’t despair. I’m coming back. I’ll see you again.’" And by that time, the car had come to the head of the harbor, and that godly laymen said, "See, that spot there?" He said, "The day came when our king put his foot on our soil, in this place." He said, "We were there by the thousands and the thousands and the hundreds of thousands to receive him." And he said, "We shouted, and we cried, and we wept, and we clapped our hands, and we hugged one another, and we kissed one another, as we said to one another, ‘The king is come! The king is come! He is here. Our king has returned.’"
And seated in that chair, I lived through that again. The whole socialist and Soviet world says, "This thing of God, and of religion, and of the church, and of Christ, and of the faith is just so much excess baggage; it is so much medieval superstition." But we have a letter from Him, and it comes from His throne in the sky, and He says, "Fear none of those things. Ye shall have tribulation; but be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" [Revelation 2:10]. "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly" [Revelation 22:20]. And some glorious day, some heavenly day, some incomparable day His feet shall stand upon that place, and we shall gather round Him by the uncounted thousands, and we shall rejoice, and we shall weep with gladness, and we shall cry, "The King is here! Our Lord has returned!"
Oh, holy and triumphant and blessed commitment. They have their dead messiah, and their faith of despair; we have our living hope!
I want you to know, I stood up out of my chair, I walked through the lobby of that hotel, I walked down the steps into the street, and I felt the victory is already won. It may be dark, and we may have tribulation these ten days, and we may face insuperable odds; but our King liveth, and God is on His throne, and someday the victory shall lie in His precious and blessed hands. Oh! the glory and the blessing that comes to us in the faith and in the name of our blessed Lord Jesus! "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." [Revelation 22:20] Amen, Lord Jesus.
While we sing this song, 125, while we sing this song, somebody you give himself to Jesus, a family you coming into the fellowship of the church, a couple, one, as God shall lay the appeal upon your heart, make it this morning, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it today, and welcome. In the faith, in the name, in the glory of Jesus, welcome, while we stand and while we sing.