Ned B. Stonehouse
The political atmosphere is nearly saturated with the subject of communism. To the western world the question of questions is how communism is to be combatted, its sphere of influence restricted, and its threat of world-domination overcome. How shall we prepare for military eventualities? Shall the United Nations be recast or modified, with or without Russia, to open the way for effective handling of world problems? Shall the Communist party be outlawed, or shall the revolutionary strategy and tactics of the communists be counteracted some other way? These are all questions of urgent concern. To the extent that they are political, they do not concern us directly here. Since, however, they have profound implications for Christianity, we must take account of them. It is of especial timeliness that as Christians we shall ponder the deeper issues that are raised by the encounter of Christianity and communism as two completely irreconcilable ways of life.
How shall we as Christians more effectively combat communism? In the first. place, it is important that we become better acquainted with its real character, and understand its inwardness. The international problem is one of power politics. The internal political problem posed by the foreign allegiance and the program of the Communist Party involves constitutional questions regarding protection of liberty of minorities and restraint of treason. But back of these is the deeper problem of communism as a social philosophy and way of life which cannot be kept behind an iron curtain nor legislated out of existence. Communism is not intelligible unless we take account of modern social conditions, oftentimes harshly inequitable social conditions, in which it took root and thrives. But it did not just grow in this soil; it is not the product of spontaneous conception. Rather it is specifically the consequence of a purely materialistic and secular view of life combined with the revolutionary technique of class-warfare. Those who are imbued with such a view of life, and use such a technique to attain their ends, while sometimes paying lip-service to democracy, actually can have in view only a tyranny of class over class, or the obliteration of all but one class, and can perpetuate their government only by the most ruthless secret-police methods.
When Communism is viewed in such terms, it is plain that its menace is not confined to that of the aggression of a foreign power or to that of the threat of a political party. Its menace is due to the fact that it constitutes a godless and violently anti-Christian way of life which cannot be thwarted or subdued by armies or by legislation. It is a way of life that may take on various forms: it might take on the specifically American form. Indeed, in view of the strength of America, it would most certainly take on a distinctive color, and so might be embraced by millions who are violently anti-Russian.
When we get down to the facts, is, it not evident that within our own so-called American way of life there have emerged all or most of the basic ingredients of the communistic pattern. No one can overlook our pervasive materialism, our determination of issues in terms of profits and wages, our feverish pursuit of financial security. There is also our worship of science. As someone has put it, science has become the opiate of the people. Moreover, one only needs to read the daily papers to observe how class distinctions and class warfare are cultivated studiously and effectively by certain spokesmen for powerful segments of our population. We must deplore the complacency with evil and injustice shown on the one hand, but we must also combat the tendency which has grown apace in our national life to view all issues in terms of the advantages to one's own political group. Pork-barrel legislation, the power of lobbies, catering to powerful voting groups in the present political campaigns all these give abundant evidence of the truth of this observation. But deeper than materialism and class hatred is an underlying godlessness and lack of moral standards. Religion is being watered down so rapidly that it is an understatement to speak of it as weak and beggarly so far as its impact upon our national life is concerned. And leading teachers of ethics are advocating openly and belligerently that ethical standards be derived from human experience, and that consequently such standards as the Ten Commandments and the laws of Christ be repudiated or relaxed.
Our easy going attitude toward religion and ethics, engendered by and itself promoting a basic secularism, are no foundation for the preservation or establishment of a sound social and political life. It is in such an environment that a way of life in no way basically superior to Russian communism may come to fruition. Combine that with our typically American crusading spirit and we may well consider it our mission to conquer the world for such a new Americanism!
Our eyes are not closed to the greatness of America. Nor are we oblivious to the strength of Christian conviction which still exists. But we should be aroused to the danger of our being engulfed by a tidal wave of godless materialism. The Church has its own distinctive way of combating communism. May it again be a mighty host armed with the panoply of God.
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