And the Wall Came Down

Anyone over the age of forty grew up with the Berlin Wall, which the Soviets built almost overnight in 1961. It was the visible embodiment of what Churchill called "The Iron Curtain," which descended over Eastern Europe in the wake of World War II. Many of us thought the wall was there to stay. Yet, in 1989 -- fifteen years ago last week -- the wall came tumbling down. East Germans were finally free, and the world rejoiced with them. There was talk last week about the wall and freedom, but most observers failed to give due credit to the role Christianity played in bringing down communist governments across Eastern Europe. For instance, in Romania, Laszlo Tokes, the pastor of a Reformed church in Timisoara, boldly preached the truth and exposed the lies of the Ceausescu regime. Alarmed, communist leaders decided in 1989 to send Tokes into exile. But when police arrived to hustle the pastor away, they were stopped by Christians who had gathered around the church to protect him. Two days later, police finally broke through the crowd and dragged Tokes away. Outraged, the people began demonstrating against the communist government. Troops fired on them, but their brave example inspired the entire country. Within days, Romanians had risen up -- and the bloody dictator Ceausescu was gone. A dynamic young pastor helped lead Poland to freedom. Father Jerzy Popieluszko delivered the dynamic messages that stirred Poles to overthrow their communist oppressors. His monthly masses, dedicated to the victims of communist persecution, attracted tens of thousands. Father Jerzy never preached revenge or revolution; he preached the power of good to overcome evil. In 1984, he was kidnapped by the secret police. In churches across Poland, people gathered to pray. Steelworkers demanded his release, threatening a national strike. Then the blow fell: Father Jerzy's body was found floating in the Vistula River. He had been brutally tortured. Yet the gentle pastor had taught his people well: After his funeral, hundreds of thousands of Poles marched through the streets of Warsaw carrying banners that read, "We forgive." They were assaulting evil with good, and under the impact, the communist regime soon crumbled. In Czechoslovakia, my friend Father Vaclav Maly proclaimed the truth against communist lies before half a million demonstrators. Pastors also helped lead East Germans to freedom. Johannes Richter, pastor of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, put it this way: "We didn't encourage disobedience [to the government]. What we did was encourage obedience to God." Mass demonstrations erupted all over East Germany. Soon thereafter, the Berlin Wall was destroyed. Today Christians often despair over culture war battles that we fear we are losing -- like abortion, gay "marriage," and stem-cell research. Some Christian leaders tell us to give up, stay in the churches, and focus on evangelism. But the brave example of East European Christians reminds us that we should never give up on the culture -- no matter how ugly the battles become. As we live as His body on earth, God will use us for His purposes, and walls will fall down. If there were ever a time for the Church to be the Church in the public square, it is now. For further reading and information: Michal Kubicki, "Poland remembers Father Popieluszko -- a hero of the Solidarity movement," Radio Praha, 22 October 2004. William Horsley, "Romania's bloody revolution," BBC Online, 22 December 1999. William F. Buckley, Jr., "Tumbling Down," National Review Online, 24 May 2004. (Part one of five; see parts twothreefour, and five.) Read the text of President Ronald Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate. "Bitterness mars Wall anniversary," CNN, 9 November 2004. "Nearly half of young Germans unaware of Berlin Wall anniversary," Expatica, 8 November 2004. Trudy Chun, "A Legacy of Light: Ronald Reagan's 'City on a Hill'," BreakPoint WorldView, October 2004. Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn, Being the Body (W Publishing, 2003).


Chuck Colson


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