April 12, 2012

THE AMBASSADOR:

Two Faiths: The Witness of Whittaker Chambers (Richard M. Reinsch, Religion & Liberty)

Calvin Coolidge remarked that, "Great men are the ambassadors of Providence sent to reveal to their fellow men their unknown selves. To them is granted the power to call forth the best there is in those who come under their influence." To Coolidge's treatment of greatness, we might add the transcendent voices of certain writers who encapsulate in almost lyrical form the creative ideas, passions, and tensions within themselves, as measured by the period's conflicts they were providentially hurled against. These voices speak to the heart of man from the center of the writer's soul.

One such writer was Whittaker Chambers, whose autobiography Witness, published in 1952, details his life as an agent in the Fourth Section of Soviet Military Intelligence from 1932 to 1938, where he coordinated espionage activities with high-ranking United States government officials. Witness also movingly explains Chambers' departure from Communism and his conversion to Christianity. From his conversion, Chambers grasped that revolutionary ideology lied about the nature of man and the source of his being. The sources of Chambers' ascent and the witness he made are worth recalling in our own period of late-modern anomie.

One morning in 1938, shortly before leaving the Communist Party, while feeding his young daughter, Chambers concluded that the shape of her ear could not be explained by Marxist materialism. Something this beautiful and unique, Chambers observed, implied design, which implied the existence of God. Understanding the divine gift of his daughter Ellen, also strangely related to the horrific irruption within Chambers of the "screams" from Communism's suffering victims. He writes "[O]ne day the Communist really hears those screams. [The screams] ... do not merely reach his mind. They pierce beyond. They pierce to his soul." A soul in agony, in this case, a person under persecution by Communist authorities, has attempted to communicate with another soul through memory and across time. The crucial significance of both episodes rests in Chambers embracing the presence of his soul, thus denying the false materialism of Communism and the darkness it had covered him in. As Chambers observed, "A Communist breaks because he must choose at last between irreconcilable opposites--God or Man, Soul or Mind, Freedom or Communism."

Chambers' conversion inspired him to atone for his past betrayal of his country.



Posted by at April 12, 2012 6:02 AM
  

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