Which Way America?
September 26th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM
WHICH WAY AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-26-65 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you have just heard the glorious choir of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the glorious pastor who is bringing a glorious message. The message is partly that; some of it is sort of sad and dreary, but true. The title of the sermon is Which Way America, and it is an address, a message looking at the drift of America against the background of the other nations of the world. We haven’t time, in just the few moments allowed in the presentation of the sermon, to follow in any exegetical way the passage in the third chapter of Joel. But the last chapter of Joel, and the last part of that chapter, is a description of the great final judgment day. And in the description in Joel 3:14 he describes what he saw: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near.” We are in such a judgment now, and we are making these decisions now that shall have their repercussions forever. So let’s look at ourselves and the drift of our national life against the background of the nations of the world.
One of the most startling and amazing things to which I was introduced recently was this: we were told that in order to secure any kind of a place to live in Sweden, you must put your name on a waiting list. And after ten years you may have a possibility of finding a place to live, after ten years. Nor can you put your name on the waiting list until you are eighteen years of age. All of this, and I haven’t time to discuss it, has a tremendous repercussion in the lives of young people, because between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight our young people largely build their homes. But there is no possibility of anyone having a place to live in Sweden until after he has placed his name on that waiting list and has waited more than ten years.
When I walk through Dallas and drive through Dallas there are apartments on every hand. There are apartments to let, apartments to rent; there are apartments everywhere, to lease, to buy. It is amazing to me going out of the free and open and abundant economy of Dallas, and then go through a city like Stockholm which is much larger, and vigorous, and up-to-date, and modern, and yet there’s no possibility of finding a place to live under ten years.
So I asked, “I cannot understand this.” An American businessman in one of the groups said, “You know, if I had the liberty to do it, I’d bring over here an American contractor and an American architect, and we’d build more apartments than these Swedes could fill in a thousand generations.” Well, is it because Sweden has no architects? Is it because the nation has no contractors? No, the answer is very patent. Since 1932 Sweden has had a socialist government, and wherever socialism rules a people and a nation, it results finally in scarcity, and want, and dearth, and lack.
One of those military men in Berlin said, “To me, the saddest thing that is happening in the world is the drift of my country towards socialism.” He says, “We see it everywhere over here in Europe. And it is a sad plight wherever it fastens itself upon the political and economic life of a nation.” And he said, “I fear socialism in America far more than I fear the inroads of communism.” And I heard one of the highest governmental officials we have in Europe say this: he said, “Karl Marx has more to do with the economic and political life of America than he does in the Soviet Union.” And you can think about that for a long time and stagger before it.
Well, I talked at length, ate dinner with, visited with, an illustrious senator in the Parliament of Sweden; a very gifted, and astute, and learned man. He had just had an operation and he was giving an example to me of the blessings of socialism. He said, “I have just had a very severe operation.” And he said, “It cost me nothing. The hospital cost nothing. The nurses cost nothing. The anaesthetic cost nothing. The operating room cost nothing. The doctors cost nothing.” He said, “Had I paid that bill myself, it would have cost me thousands of dollars, but it cost me nothing.” And he was illustrating to me the blessings of socialism.
But there are two things about it that I would like to observe to you. First, do you believe that a man could have a serious operation and it cost nothing? Didn’t somebody pay for it? Didn’t they? Didn’t somebody pay the hospital? Didn’t somebody pay the doctor? Didn’t somebody pay the nurse? Didn’t somebody buy the medicine? Isn’t it a strange quirk in human nature, that we persuade ourselves that if the government does it for us, we get it for nothing?
That is finally, and ultimately, the colossal fallacy that lies in the increase of governmental interference and directive of private life. We think that when the government bestows it upon us, and when the government does it for us, it costs nothing. My brother, the government has nothing except what it takes from you! The government does not create fortunes. The government does not create affluence and wealth. All the government has is was it is able to tax out of its people. And when the thing is sent to the government and comes back to us, it is our own that is being returned. And when that illustrious senator says, “And it costs me nothing,” it costs somebody something. Somebody had to pay.
All right, a second thing I learned that intrigued me: that he had an operation that costs thousands of dollars and yet he paid nothing for it. “It was free.” This is what I learned. I am presuming that because he was the senator, he was immediately admitted and he was marvelously attended. But I learned while I was there that there were people, and people, and people by the thousands and the thousands who wait for years to get in a hospital. And they never have been able to enter one yet. That is government. It takes away. It constricts. And there may be one here, and another one there, and one there, like that senator, that says, “And it cost me nothing.” But there are thousands, and thousands, and thousands up and down the streets and all through the nation who never have an opportunity to enter the hospital because there is not room, and you have to take yourself in line and wait, and the waiting is forever.
How does religion fare under a system like that? Which is the thing that I’m mostly interested in because I’m the pastor of the church. How does religion fare? This is what I learned: religion is as dead, and as decadent, and as disintegrated under socialism as it is under communism; just as much so, just as much so. That was an astonishing thing for me to learn! I never dreamed of it. I never thought of it. I never guessed it. I never imagined it. The atmosphere and the political, and cultural, and national life of a nation like Sweden is decidedly atheistic; vigorously so, violently so, attacktively and offensively so. The greatest newspaper in Sweden is violently anti-Christian and vigorously pro-atheist. And the whole pattern of life is that, and the free churches are dying under that socialistic government. A few years ago we had sixty-eight thousand Baptists in Sweden. Now we have fewer than thirty thousand. There are less than three percent who attend church, and the highest suicide rate in the world is in Sweden.
I cannot describe to you how this thing is by just a little simple conversation. But the conversation represents the life and attitude of the people, and here it is. Here at the bus, seated at a microphone, telling all the folks on the inside of the beautiful, glorious sites they’re looking at, and Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in the world––being ministers, we talked to the guide up there, a brilliant young woman, we talked to her about religion. And her answer is, “I am an atheist. I am just not interested.” Well, we say, “Were you reared in a Christian home?”
“Yes, my grandparents were. They went to church. But I look upon religion as a relic of the past.”
Well, I asked her, “You’re going to get married some day?”
“I hope,” she said.
“And you will have children in the home?”
“I hope,” she said.
Well, I said, “When you marry and have a home and children, will you take your children to church?”
“No sir,” she said, “under no means. I am not interested.”
I said, “Have you ever been in a free church?” I found that one time she had been to a state church at Christmas. I said, “Have you ever been in a free church?”
“No,” she said, “I am not interested. I am an atheist.” And the spirit of that guide and the talking of that guide is not unique, or separate, or unusual. It reflects and perfectly fits the spirit and life of the nation.
There is something about the centering of interest in this life in materialities that destroys the heart and soul of religion. No God, no immortality, no judgment, no future, nothing but now, and here, and what we must do is to try to arrange it that all of us have all of the materialities that we can possess. Then when we die, we die like any other animal. And religion certainly ceases to be pertinent under a materialistic scheme, and program, and system like that. I’m just pointing out to you that it is not only under communism that religion dies, that its back is broken, but wherever materialistic values are exalted—socialism, any other kind of government that is based on materialism—religion dies.
Now I want to give the devil his due. Somebody said of a dear old sainted woman, “You know she finds something good about everybody. She’d even find something good about the devil.”
And the old woman replied, “Well, I can say for him, he’s always on the job.”
Now I want to give the devil his due. I think that there is a colossal, a colossal rupture in the fabric of American life, a tear in it. I think unless something is done about it, I think it will lead to the disintegration of the fabric of the life of our people.
I want to talk now for a moment about crime, and the criminal, and the juvenile terrorist, delinquent, criminal. Crime and delinquency are practically nonexistent in the communist world. They just are not. There are more people in jail for crime in New York City than in the whole outreach of the Soviet world. You wouldn’t dare walk down vast areas of Washington DC at night. Nor would you dare walk down areas of New York City at night, or Detroit, or Chicago, or Los Angeles. And there are many places where a woman would not dare walk down a street alone in the daytime in the great cities of America. My brother, you can walk down any street, any place, day or night in the cities of the Soviet Union by yourself and as a woman, and be perfectly safe. There is practically no crime. It doesn’t exist.
Well, when you come back home, and look at our country, and our free world, there are some observations to be made about it. The first: I think it is a colossal mistake what the Supreme Court is doing, and what the whole fabric of American life apparently is coming to do, to coddle and to pet crime and the criminal. The juvenile is as accountable and as sensitive to right and wrong as the grown man is. I know that because I was a boy one time, and there were things that I did as a boy, and there were things that I was conscious of as a boy. And I was as keenly conscious of right and wrong, and as conscious of doing wrong when I was a teenager as I am to this present moment. And all of us are alike. All of us are alike. It’s not until you become mature that you are conscious of violating law or doing wrong. And we mollycoddle with these so-called psychologists and this so-called new approach to pedagogy.
A boy that is wrong, and a boy that has terrorized, and a boy that has stolen, and a boy that has raped, and a boy that has violated the law is as accountable as any other human being that lives. And he ought to be treated as such. And that’s why, for one thing, in the Soviet world there is no delinquency. It just doesn’t exist. There is a discipline in the Soviet world like an iron hand. And that same thing goes for the man and for the woman. Criminality practically is non-existent. It is not allowed, period. And if the American government and if the American culture and society said, “We will not allow such. It is not to be,” it wouldn’t be. That’s one thing I learned that I didn’t know before. The reason there is crime and the reason there is juvenile delinquency is because the free states of the West permit it, and condone it, and allow it. If it were not permitted, and if it were not condoned, and if it were not allowed, it would not be, period, exclamation point. It just isn’t.
I can illustrate that by pornography and prostitution. You can walk through the cities of Russia; you’ll never be accosted or invited. You’ll never see a dirty magazine. You’ll never see a sex magazine. You will have no thing presented at all that borders on filth, and dirt, and sex. But the minute you enter the Western world you are deluged by a sea of filth. Just walk down the streets of Paris. You won’t go ten feet this way, that way, or that way and not be solicited.
When the bus came out of East Germany, communist, into West Germany, free, the minute—the second that that bus got through the barriers and the barbed wire, the bus driver sent back through all the bus a little leaflet, about that big; on it, a picture of a nude woman, and underneath the date, the place, the price of the ticket, and he was selling them. He would not have dared pass back those dirty leaflets in the Soviet zone of East Germany. He would not have dared. But the minute he came into the free world, there he sends it back.
Now when I spoke about that to an American army officer in Berlin, he said, “Well preacher, don’t think they’re any better over there in their hearts.” He said, “You know what my men do? They take Playboy magazine, and they go to the barbed wire fence, and they can trade an East German soldier out of anything and everything he possesses by trading him Playboy magazine.”
I said, “Yes, I know that. I know that human nature is the same on that side of that Berlin Wall, and that side of that barbed wire fence, as it is on our side. I know that.”
But all I’m pointing out to you is something that I learned. The reason it exists is because the fabric of society and the government allows it to exist. That’s what I’m pointing out. Where a government, and a society, and a culture say, “There will not be crime, there will not be delinquency, there will not be prostitution, there will not be pornography”; where a society, and a government, and a people say that, it does not exist. And the reason it exists is because we allow it and condone it.
In my humble opinion, I think American ought to grow up, and be strong, and disciplined, and discipline its criminal element. I don’t think a rapist and a criminal ought to be turned loose upon society. I think he ought to know he’s going to be dealt with when he violates the law, and that in no uncertain terms, and that quickly and swiftly. And it would cease to exist. And the billions and billions of dollars that we pour into the criminal element of America, you could use to build schools, and hospitals, and a thousand other marvelous things. But instead, in the free world we pour it into the coffers of the pimp, and the procurer, and the pusher, and the peddler, and the dope addict, and the robber, and the thief, and the rapist, and the murderer, and the violent of our society.
Now may I speak of our country and patriotism? I ate dinner with a pastor, and one of his fine young men who was a captain in the United States Army in West Germany. And as I talked to the young captain and his wife, two of the most choice and delightful people you could ever know, I said, “I see you’re a captain in peacetime, which is quite an elevation.” In war time, he’d be a general. “I see in peacetime,” what we would comparatively call peace, “I see you are a captain. Are you a graduate of West Point?”
“No,” he said, “no, I never went to West Point.” He went to such-and-such college. He went to an A&M college.
Well, I said, “That’s unusual. You are a career Army man, are you?”
He said, “Yes, I have chosen to be an Army man, a career Army man.”
Well, I said, “Why? Most young fellows pull away, fall away from military service, and yet you choose to put your life, all your life into it.” I said, “Why?” He didn’t answer. I thought, “Well, that’s strange.” So we continued our dinner. I thought, “Well, he just doesn’t want to say.”
But as we continued to eat, well, he looked across the table at me and he said, he said, “Preacher, you asked me a question a while ago about why I chose to be a career Army man, and I didn’t answer. I didn’t answer.” And he said, “I hesitated to answer because when I give the reason, I’m ridiculed, and mocked, and scoffed at. But,” he said, “you’re a preacher, and I’m going to tell you why.” He said, “I am a career Army man because I love my country, and this is the best way that I knew how I could serve my country.”
I said, “Fella, do you mean to tell me that you don’t say that anymore because when you say it you are ridiculed, and belittled, and scoffed at?”
He said, “Yes, I don’t ever say it anymore.”
I said, “Who scoffs, and who ridicules? These Berliners? These West Germans? The communists over there? Our enemies? Who scoffs?”
And he replied, “My fellow Americans. They scoff. The Army people, they scoff. They think I’m idealistic, and visionary, and maybe unbalanced, because I’m a career Army man out of the love of my country, and this is my way to serve it.”
I don’t know what will become of a nation who cannot be proud of its flag, and proud of its destiny, and proud of its inheritance, and proud of these young men who offer their lives in blood to shield and to protect the liberties of our nation. I was aghast. I was amazed. So he keeps it to himself, “I’m an Army man, because I love my country.”
I speak now of education, of education. Samuel Palmer Brooks was the president of Baylor the four years I attended the school, and died at commencement time when I was graduating. He said something in a chapel program one time when the campus had an interest about heredity and environment. And he made an address about it, and in that address he said this: “I am not saying,” he said, “that environment is everything. But I am saying this: that when a little child is placed in your hands, whether that child is an atheist, or a Catholic, or a Baptist, or a goose-stepping Russian, or a Democrat, or whatever, is due to his environment, to his education.”
And what Dr. Brooks said reverberated through my mind as I saw everywhere in that Soviet world the tiniest little tots, little, little children, taken from their fathers and mothers and placed in the kindergarten. Then when they get to be seven years of age through nine, they belong to the Octoberists—the October revolution of 1917—and they wear a red, red star. Then from the ages of nine to thirteen, they are in the Young Pioneers, and they wear a red neckerchief. Then from the ages of fourteen to twenty-eight, they belong to the Komsomol, the young Communist league.
And those people, those communists, have that child from the time it is born until they are twenty-eight years of age. And through the years of that training, they are taught anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-church, anti-heaven, anti-immortality, anti-everything that is dear to the child of God. And the fruits? look around you, look around you, look around you.
On a bus going through East Berlin, the guide said: “This,” he said, “is where Karl Marx lived,” turning over to the side. “And this,” he said, “is where Karl Marx went to school.” But he didn’t say “This and this is the fruit of Karl Marx education: as far as you can see, death, and destruction, and despair, and woe; great buildings leveled to the ground, great areas of a once proud city now fields. And those jagged saw-toothed buildings, after twenty years, monuments to the awfulness of that terrible destruction between the two totalitarian systems of fascism and communism. This is where Karl Marx lived, and this is where Karl Marx went to school, and this is the Marxian fruit.”
Another: we said to our Intourist guide in Odessa, an avowed atheist, communist, “The day may come, the day may come when in distress, and death, and despair you want to call on the name of God, call on His name, and He will answer.”
She said, “I will never call, never.”
“Oh, but,” I said, “the day may come when in distress, and despair, and death you may reach upward.”
She said, “Never. I would never call, never, never, never,” and emphasized it. And those were our last and farewell words when we got on the plane and left for Kharkov. Oh, the power, the power of the training of the young.
I have but a minute or so left. May I speak of the remnant? One of the glorious doctrines of Isaiah was the doctrine of the remnant [Isaiah 10:20-23]. He faced an awesome time; the destruction of the temple, the laying waste of the Holy City, the captivity of the people of God. “Yea, by the rivers of Babylon, we sat down, we wept when we remembered Zion” [Psalm 137:1]. And out of the darkness and blackness of that night, this incomparable prophet arose to preach and to announce the doctrine of the remnant. That is, “The foundation of God standeth sure,” as the apostle Paul said it, “having this seal. God knoweth them that are His” [2 Timothy 2:19]. There is a remnant, a faithful remnant, in every age, in every land, in every people and nation, God has His own, and how amazing when we run into them. In those out of the way places, walking down the streets of Stockholm, a woman stopped in front of me, coming toward me, stopped in front of me, a plainly dressed woman, but a woman with a fine face. She said to me, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” I said, “No.”
“Oh,” she said, “American.” Then, she gave me this tract. I read it. “The Youth of the World for Christ”; it is a tract telling how to be saved—mostly Scripture—one of the finest that you could read. And I turned to the end of it, and there’s a man there somewhere named Jay Peterson, in Stockholm; then he says, “A member of an assembly; there the message of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-42], as before in the days of apostles, also now have that same mighty power.”
I could tell by the construction of his language that he wrote in English as though it were a foreign tongue. But he quotes the Holy Word of God. And there in that nation where so few call on the name of the Lord, on a street is this woman. And I looked in her hand and here was a little bundle of tracts for the English speaking, and here in her hand another little bundle of tracts for the Swedish speaking, and another little bundle for the Finnish speaking, and another little bundle for the German speaking. And as she walks up and down the streets, she gives out tracts pointing to Jesus. God has His own.
Seated in a meeting in Leningrad, I was next to a young woman from Canada. I was amazed; she was by herself going through that country. And as I talked to her in a low whisper, she finally said to me, but confidentially, “I am a Wycliffe missionary, and I have come to Russia to see if I could enter a tribe in the far north whose language has never been reduced to writing. I am a Wycliffe missionary.” She never dreamed that I had ever heard of a Wycliffe missionary.
In London, as I always have, I made my way to Westminster Abbey to stand once again at the grave of God’s great missionary David Livingstone. And as I stood there, and thought through his life, and what he had done for the kingdom of God in the earth, I thought, “You know, I’m going to copy down again, though I’ve memorized it a dozen times, the words on this tomb.” There in the nave, just this side of the Unknown Soldier, in the great shrine of English posterity, I looked around, didn’t have anything to write on. I found that little card. So I took that little card and I wrote down the inscription on his tomb: “Brought by faithful hands over land and sea, here rests David Livingstone, missionary. Died May 1, 1873, at Chitambo’s village, Ilala,” and then the Scripture: “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice” [John 10:16]. I put the little card in my pocket and then in my briefcase––never looked at it again until I got home.
And when I looked at it again here at the house, I turned it over on the other side, and the card is the card of the Moscow Baptist Church with the church address and the names of the pastors. And I reviewed it: “Chitambo’s village,” where’s that? “Ilala,” where’s that? Moscow, in the heart of the Soviet world; God has His own. In the heart of Africa, in the Soviet Union, on the streets of Sweden, the Lord has His own––the doctrine of the remnant [Isaiah 10:20-23].
And my heart turned to the days of Elijah. “Why, Elijah,” said God from heaven; “Why, Elijah, you say you are the only one in the earth. Why, Elijah, I have reserved for Me seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal” [1 Kings 19:18]. And in that heavenly throng we are numbered. “Them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice” [John 10:16]. God’s people in the earth, bless them wherever they are, and bless us here in this sacred place.
Our time is far spent. On the first note of this first stanza, if the Holy Spirit bids you come, make it now. Make it now. Come this morning. “Pastor, today I want to give my heart to Christ [Romans 10:8-13]. Pastor, today we want to come into the fellowship of the church” [Hebrews 10:24-25]. A family, a couple, one somebody you, while we sing the song, make it now. When you stand up, stand up coming; a stairway on either side, in the balcony at the front and back, into the aisle, down here to the front; make it this morning. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Housing in Sweden
B. The fallacy of governmental
increase and interference
C. Is it really free?
A. As dead under
socialism as under communism
B. Drift of life,
politics, government in Sweden is atheistic
C. Religion ceases to
be pertinent under a materialistic scheme and program
A. We pamper the youth
B. Pornography and
A. “Because I love my country.”
A. Communists have
child from birth to twenty-eight years of age
B. The fruit of Karl
VI. The remnant (Psalm 137:1, 2 Timothy
A. In every city, in