December 23, 2006

THE GIPPER KINDLES THE FIRE:

Christmas 1981: A Candle That Burned Bright for Freedom 25 Years Ago : It's difficult to explain how much the world has changed in 25 years — and for the better. Those who lived through December 1981 would be well served to pause and give thanks for the differences. (PAUL KENGOR, The American Spectator)

This hatred of religion was imbedded in Marxism-Leninism. Marx had called religion "the opiate of the masses" and said that "Communism begins where atheism begins." His chief disciple agreed: "There can be nothing more abominable than religion," wrote Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, in a letter to Maxim Gorky in January 1913. Religion, howled Lenin, was "a necrophilia," akin to a virulent form of venereal disease. Once he was in power, Lenin resolved to do something about it, ordering "mass terror" against the religious: "The more representatives of the reactionary clergy we manage to shoot, the better," he decreed.

The new man in Washington, President Ronald Reagan, was sure he could reverse this. He had survived an assassination attempt in March 1981, sure that Providence had intervened to spare him for a larger purpose: to defeat Soviet Communism.

Lenin especially detested Christmas. On December 25, 1919, he issued an edict directed at all levels of Soviet society: "To put up with 'Nikola' [the religious holiday] would be stupid — the entire Cheka must be on the alert to see to it that those who do not show up for work because of 'Nikola' are shot."

Fast forward to Christmas 1981, when the Communist world still despised religion. That year in Moscow, "church watchers" retained their regular duties: sitting in the back of chapels taking notes on those "stupid people" (as government propaganda described them) who entered to worship. By 1981, only 46 of the 657 churches operating in Moscow on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution were permitted open, though they held closely monitored and controlled services. In one of the Soviet republics, the Ukraine, the government celebrated the nativity according to Marx and Lenin. Political commissars hijacked traditional Christmas carols and purged them of Christian references. Lyrics such as "believers" were changed to "workers"; the time of the season became October, the month of the glorious revolution; rather than the image of Christ, one song extolled "Lenin's glory hovering"; the Star of Bethlehem became the Red Star.

In fact, the red star replaced the traditional star atop the occasional Christmas tree erected in the Communist world, where the Christmas tree was renamed the New Year Tree. This was part of the secular Great Winter Festival that replaced the traditional Christmas season, celebrating the mere advent of the New Year. Said Ukrainian Olena Doviskaya, a church watcher and a teacher, who was required to report students who attended Christmas services: "Lenin was Jesus. They wanted you to worship Lenin."

The prospects for shining light upon that darkness seemed grim in 1981. The Soviets were on the rise, having added 11 satellite or proxy states since 1974.

The new man in Washington, President Ronald Reagan, was sure he could reverse this. He had survived an assassination attempt in March 1981, sure that Providence had intervened to spare him for a larger purpose: to defeat Soviet Communism. Reagan was especially hopeful that the tide could begin in Poland, the most recalcitrant of all the Soviet bloc states, where the Communist war on religion utterly failed.

And just then, on December 13, 1981, the lights were dimmed again. At midnight, as a soft snow fell lightly on Warsaw, a police raid commenced upon the headquarters of Lech Walesa's Solidarity labor union. The Polish Communist government, consenting to orders from Moscow, declared martial law. Solidarity's freedom fighters were shot or imprisoned. The cries of liberty were being snuffed out in this most pivotal of Communist bloc nations. That was what the world faced 25 years ago this month.

But then came a moment of hope forgotten by history.


Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2006 5:18 PM
Comments for this post are closed.