Tuesday, March 12, 2013

30 years ago: Ronald Reagan, addressing the NAE, denounces the evil empire--and other evils

Warning--lengthy post ahead:

For those who have forgotten or are too young to remember, in March 1983 the Cold War was still on, and the U.S.S.R. was led by 68-year-old Yuri Andropov, who was being falsely promoted in the Western media as a "closet liberal" with a liking for the music of Glenn Miller. Mr. Andropov, who had directed the KGB (the Soviet secret police) for 15 years, had taken power after the death of longtime Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982. The Soviets seemed to be winning the Cold War, despite an increasingly futile war in Afghanistan.

On March 8, 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals at their convention at the Sheraton Twin Towers Hotel in Orlando, Florida.

The speech was printed in the Orlando Sentinel, March 9, 1983:

There are a great many God-fearing, dedicated, noble men and women in public life, present company included.

And yes, we need your help to keep us ever mindful of the ideas and principles that brought us into the public arena in the first place.

The basis of those ideas and principles is a commitment that itself is grounded in the much deeper realization that freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted...

...I want you to know that this administration is motivated by a political philosophy that sees the greatness of America in you, her people, and in your families, churches, neighborhoods, communities--the institutions that foster and nourish values like concern for others and repsect for the rule of law under God.

Now I don't have to tell you that this puts us in opposition to, or at least out of step with, a prevailing attitude of many who have turned to a modern-day secularism, discarding the tried and time-tested values upon which our value civilization is based.

No matter how well intentioned, their value system is radically different from that of most Americans.

And, while they proclaim they are freeing us from superstitions of the past, they have taken upon themselves the job of superintending us by government rule and regulation.

Sometimes their voices are louder than ours, but they are not yet a majority.
An example of that vocal superiority is evident in a controversy now going on in Washington.

Since I'm involved, I've been waiting to hear from the parents of young America.
How far are they willing to go in giving to government their prerogatives as parents?
Let me state the case as briefly and simply as I can.

An organization of citizens sincerely motivated and deeply concerned about the increase in illegitimate births and abortions involving girls well below the age of consent some time ago established clinics nationwide to offer help to these girls and hopefull alleviate this situation.

Now again let me say, I do not fault their intent.

However, in their well-intentioned effort, these clinics have decided to provide advice and birth-control drugs to underage girls without the knowledge of their parents.

For some years now, the federal government has helped with funds to subsidize these clinics. In providing for this, the Congress decreed that every effort would be made to maximize parental participation.

Nevertheless, the drugs and devices are prescribed without getting parental consent or giving notification.

Girls termed "sexually active"--and that has replaced the word "promiscuous"--are given this help in order to prevent illegitimate birth or abortion.

We have ordered clinics receiving federal funds to notify their parents such help has been given...

...I've watched TV panel shows discuss this issue, sen columnists pontificating on our error but no one seems to mention morality as playing a part in th esubject of sex.

Is all of Judeo-Christian tradition wrong?

Are we to believe that something so sacred can be looked upon as a purely physical thing with no potential for emotional and psychological harm?

And isn't it the parents' right to give counsel and advice to keep their children from making mistakes that may affect their entire lives?

Many of us in government would like to know what parents think about this intrusion in their family by government. We are going to fight in the courts. The right of parents and the rights of family take precedence over those of Washington-based bureaucrats and engineers...

...I just happen to believe the school children of the United States are entitled to the same privileges as Supreme Court justices and congressmen.

Last year, I sent the Congress a constitutional amendment to restore prayer to public schools.

Already this session, there's growing bipartisan support for the amendment and I'm calling on the Congress to act speedily to pass it, to let our children pray.

Perhaps some of you read recently about the Lubbock school case where a judge actually ruled that it was unconstitutional for a school district to give equal treatment to religious and non-religious students' groups, even when the group meetings were held during the students' own time.

The First Amendment never intended to require government to discriminate against religious speech...

...More than a decade ago, a Supreme Court decision literally wiped off the books of 50 states statutes protecting the rights of unborn children. "Abortion on demand" now takes the lies of up to 1 1/2 million unborn children a year.

Human life legislation ending this tragedy will someday pass the Congress--and you and I must never rest until it does.

Unless and unitl it can be proven that the unborn child is not a living entity, then its right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be protected.

You may remember that when abortion on demand began many, and indeed, I'm sure many of you warned, that the practice would lead to a decline in respect for human life, that the philosophical premises used to justify abortion on demand would ultimately be used to justify other attacks on the sacredness of human life, infanticide or mercy killing.

Tragically enough, those warnings proved all too true: Only last year a court permitted the death by starvation of a handicapped infant.

I have directed the Health and Human Services Department to make clear to every health care facility in the United States that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects all handicapped persons against discrimination based on handicaps, including infants.

And we have taken the further step of requiring that each and every recipient of federal funds who provides health care services to infants must post and keep posted in a conspicuous place a notice stating that "discriminatory failure to feed and care for handicapped infants in this facility is prohibited by federal law."...

...I urge the Congress to begin hearings and to adopt legislation that will protect the right of life to all children, including the disabled or handicapped...

...There is a great spiritual awakening in America, a renewal of the traditional values that have been the bedrock of America's goodness and greatness.

One recent survey by a Washington-based research council concluded that Americans were far more religious than the people of other nations; 95 per cent of those surveyed expressed a belief in God and a huge majority believed the Ten Commandments had real meaning in their lives.

And another study had found tat an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of adultery, teen-age sex, pornography, abortion and hard drugs. And this same study showed a deep reverence for the importance of family and of religious belief.

I think the items we have discussed here today must be a key part of the nation's political agenda.

For the first time the Congress is openly and seriously debating and dealing with prayer and abortion issues--and that's enormous progress right there.

I repeat: America is in the midst of a spiritual awakening and a moral renewal and with your biblical keynote, I say today "Yes, let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream."...

...But we must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man; we know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.

There is sin and evil in the world, and we are enjoined by scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might.

Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal.

The glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past...
...There is no room for racism, anti-semitism or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country...

The commandment given us is clear and simple: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

But whatever sad episodes exist in our past, any objective observer must hold a positive view of American history, a history that has been the story of hopes fulfilled and dreams made into reality.

Especially in this century, America has kept alight the torch of freedom--not just for ourselves but for millions of othes around the world.

And this brings me to my final point today.

During my first press conference as president, in answer to a direct question, I pointed out that as good Marxist-Leninists the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause, which is world revolution.

I think I should point out, I was only quoting Lenin, their guiding spirit, who said in 1920 that they repudiate all morailty that proceeds from supernatural ideas--or ideas that are outside class conceptions; morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war; and everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.

I think the refusal of many influential people to accept this elementary fact of Soviet doctrine illustrates a historical reluctance to see totalitiarian powers for what they are.

We saw this phenomenon in the 1930s; we see it too often today.

This does not mean we should isolate ourselves and refuse to seek an understanding with them.

I intend to do everything I can to persuade them that it was the West that refused to use its nuclear monopoly in the forties and fifties for territorial gain and which now proposes 50-per cent cuts in strategic ballistic missiles and the elimination of an entire class of land-based, intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

At the same time, however, they must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards.

We will never give away our freedom.

We will never abandon our belief in God. And we will never stop searching for a genuine peace, but we can assure none of these things America stands for through the so-called nuclear freeze solutions proposed by some. The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, fo that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength.

I would agree to a freeze if only we could freeze the Soviets' global desires. A freeze at current levels of weapons woul remove any incentive for the Soviets to negotiate seriously in Geneva and virtually end our chances to achieve the major arms reductions which we have proposed.

Insted they would achieve their objectives through the freeze. A freeze would reward the Soviet Union for its enormous and unparalleled military buildup.

It would prevent the essential and long overdue modernization of United States and allies defenses and would leave but aging forces increasingly vulnerable. And an honest freeze would require extensive prior negotiations on the systems and numbers to be limited and on the measures to ensure effective verification and compliance. And the kind of freeze that has been suggested would be virtually impossible to verify.

Such a major effort would divert us completely from our current negotiations on achieving substantial reductions.

A number of years ago, I heard a young father, a very prominent man in the entertainment world, addressing a tremendous gathering in California.

It was during the time of the Cold War when Communism and our own way of life were very much on people's minds. He was speaking on that subject.

Suddenly, I heard him saying, "I love my little girls more than anything"--and I said to myself, "Oh, no, don't. You can't. Don't say that."

But I had underestimated him. He went on: "I would rather see my little girls die now, still believing in God, than have them grow up under Communism and one die no longer believing in God."

There were thousands of young people in that audience.

They came to their feet with shouts of joy.

They had instantly recognized the profound truth in what he had said with regard to the physical and the soul and what was truly important.

Yes, let us pray for the salvation of those who live in that totalitarian darkness--pray they will discover the joy of knowing God.

But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples of the Earth--they are the focus of evil in the modern world.

It was C.S. Lewis who, in his unforgettable Screwtape Letters, wrote:

"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final results. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."

Because these "quiet men" do not "raise their voices," because they sometimes speak in soothing tones of brotherhood and peace, because, like other dictators before them, they are always making "their final terrirotial demand," some would have us accept them at their word and accommodate ourselves to their aggressive impulses.

But, if history teaches anything, it teaches: Simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly--it means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom.

So I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority. You know, I have always believed that old Screwtape reserves his best efforts for those of you in the church.

So in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride--the temptation blithely to declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggresive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.

I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for our efforts, this administration's efforts to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world's nuclear arsenals and one day, with God's help, their total elimination.

While America's military strength is important, let me add here that I have always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might.

The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.

Whittaker Chambers, the man whose own religious conversion made him a witness to one of the terrible traumas of our age, the Hiss-Chambers case, wrote that the crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which the West is indifferent to God, the degree to which it collaborates in communism's attempt to make man stand alone without God.

And then he said, "For Marxism-Leninism is actually the second oldest faith, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation: 'Ye shall be as gods.'
"The Western world can answer this challenge," he wrote, "but only provided that it faith in God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as communism's faith in man."

I believe we shall rise to this challenge; I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.

I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material but spiritual, and, because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.

For in the words of Isaiah:

"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increased strength...But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary..."

Yes, change your world. One of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, said, "We have it within our power to begin the world over again." We can do it doing together what no one church could do by itself. God bless you and thank you very much.
I don't agree with Mr. Reagan's call to change the world (and his citing of the anti-Christian Thomas Paine in support of this), and I think he was overly optimistic in his belief that a spiritual awakening was taking place (and too generous in his views of the intentions of his opponents), but the passage of time has vindicated his comments and policies on the Soviet Union. Mr. Reagan mentioned his desire to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and he achieved that when he and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty in December 1987. I liked his speech when I first read it in 1983, and I like it now, with the exceptions just mentioned.

Unfortunately, some of the evils mentioned by Mr. Reagan--especially abortion--are still with us.

When news of Mr. Reagan's speech reached dissidents in the U.S.S.R., they were thrilled and encouraged that at last there was an American president who was willing to recognize and tell the truth about the Soviet Union. On March 9, The Soviet press agency TASS rebuked Mr. Reagan for his "bellicose, lunatic anticommunism." The reaction from some so-called "evangelicals" in the United States was similar to that of TASS, as reported by Charles Austin in The New York Times, March 10, 1983:

Officials of the National Association of Evangelicals said yesterday that evangelical Christians meeting in Orlando, Fla., this week were too divided on the question of a nuclear freeze to pass a resolution on the topic, despite President Reagan's strongly worded speech to the group.

And some evangelical theologians said they agreed with more liberal Christians who contended that the President's speech distorted Christianity to serve political goals.

No resolution on proposals to halt the development, testing, and production of nuclear weapons went before the 1,100 registrants at the association's annual convention that ended Thursday because, according to Arthur E. Gay, its president, there was too vast a range of opinion within the group. A resolution may be developed by next year, association officials said.

Those attending the meeting did take part in a two-hour debate on the subject of a nuclear freeze. But that discussion took place after the main business session of the four-day convention were completed, so that the 1,000 delegates were unable to act on specific proposals...

...In general, [Mr. Reagan's] speech was well received by the evangelical delegates, who interrupted often with applause and accorded the President a standing ovation.
But his remarks on the Russians and the nuclear freeze later drew sharp criticism from more liberal church leaders and from a spokesman for Evangelicals for Social Action, a group of conservative Christians that endorses nuclear freeze proposals.

In the last year some conservative Christians, including the evangelist Billy Graham and Senator Mark O. Hatfield, the Oregon Republican, have spoken out in favor of a reduction of nuclear weaponry.

Robert Dugan, head of the Washington office of the National Association of Evangelicals, said he believed that about one-fourth of the evangelicals who had formed an opinion on the nuclear freeze would disagree with the President.

Two days after Mr. Reagan's speech, Dr. Ronald J. Sider of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary debated the nuclear freeze at the Orlando gathering with Dr. Harold O. Brown of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Dr. Brown said nuclear pacifists who would rather be "Red than dead" are not following the teachings of Christ. "The Christian can never accept the contention that physical death is so great an evil that anything else is preferable to it," he said.

Dr. Sider, who heads Evangelicals for Social Action, said evangelicals could not ignore the issue forever since it was the "greatest moral question of our time." He later described the debate, which was followed by an open forum, as "very open and friendly" and said support for nuclear disarmament was growing among evangelicals.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Sider was critical of Mr. Reagan's speech to the conservative Christians. "It is intolerable to suggest that good citizens in favor of a freeze are duped by the K.G.B. or by Satan," the Baptist theologian said, describing as "heretical" the idea of "some kind of special divine connection between God and the United States," a view he ascribed to Mr. Reagan.

By Friday, several church leaders had criticized the President's speech not only for the policies it advocated but also for the theological justification for those views. Much of this criticism focused on Mr. Reagan's characterization of the Soviet Union as the "focus of evil" and his use of language some consider sectarian and divisive.

"The American people need to realize that we and the Russians, if not one in love, are at least one in sin," said the Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin, senior minister at Riverside Church in New York, who said national self-righteousness was an obstacle to peace.

He and Dr. Donald W. Shriver Jr., president of Union Theological Seminary, said at a news conference Friday that they believed the President, who has also been critical of the pastoral letter on nuclear arms being prepared by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, was engaged in a "calculated effort to undermine the human and moral leadership of the religious community in this country."

Several American Jewish leaders also charged that Mr. Reagan wanted to bend religious concepts to partisan politics. "The President has no right to stigmatize those who disagree with his brand of 'civil religion' as succumbing to the temptation of pride," said Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger, president of the Synagogue Council of America
I think Mr. Reagan's critics would have a good point in questioning the propriety of a Christian organization inviting a political leader to address them and seek their support for his agenda. However, I noticed that Ronald Reagan's liberal critics didn't consistently follow this policy when Bill Clinton was President of the United States. Ron Sider's friend and colleague Tony Campolo boasted of his closeness to Mr. Clinton (not close enough to be aware of his sexual sins, however, according to Mr. Campolo), and was often seen in his company.

It should be noted that what is now Eastern University, home of Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, is associated with the American Baptist Churches, formerly the Northern Baptist Convention. These are liberal Baptist churches, affiliated with the "usual suspects":

The American Baptist Churches will remain in the National and World Councils of Churches. By an overwhelming vote of 160 to 5 with one abstention, the General Board of the ABC made this decision at its December 1988 meeting where it also voted to become an "official observer" in the National Association of Evangelicals. The latter step was undoubtedly taken in an effort to placate those few ABC churches which have called for the ABC to withdraw from the NCC and WCC, but the fact remains that any Christian who retains membership in an American Baptist Church is related to support the apostate ecumenical movement. God days, "Come out!" Foundation, January-February 1989, p. 25

I think it's questionable to label Billy Graham and Mark Hatfield as "conservative," and it's ludicrous to apply that label to Evangelicals for Social Action, a more accurate name for which would be Evangelicals/Liberals for Socialism. As for Ron Sider, I've never believed that he's a Christian. He boasted about his participation in the "Witness for Peace" program that supported the Marxist Sandanista government of Nicaragua and opposed the Reagan administration's policies on Nicaragua. The Sandanistas persecuted Christians--see the book Breaking Faith by Humberto Belli, published in 1985--which Dr. Sider admitted, but it didn't seem to bother him too much, leading this blogger to wonder just whose side he was on. "One may always question the sincerity of those who advocate policies that go counter to their avowed values." (Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 1983, p. 83).

The July 15, 1983 issue of Christianity Today covered a conference in Pasadena, California sponsored by Fuller Theological Seminary, the NAE, and 39 other evangelical organizations on the theme "The Churchand Peacemaking in the Nuclear Age." According to the article:

He believes the U.S. should embark on a fundamentally different path. That new path is civilian based defense. He proposes that the U.S. channel money now being spent on nuclear arms into a massive program to educate its citizens in the methods of non-violent, non-cooperative self-defense--principles espoused by Gandhi...

...Sider, who identifies Soviet totalitarianism as a "ghastly evil," believes that if the U.S. would disarm, the Soviets would almost surely invade and thousands would likely be tortured and killed. But, he says, "If hundreds of thousands of committed, praying Christians died in a [non-violent campaign], I predict we would see the most rapid expansion of the Christian faith the world has ever known.
The people of not only the United States but those in the late Soviet Union and the rest of the world should be grateful that the American government implemented the policies of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s rather than the policies of Ronald Sider.
Thomas Dixon, this blogger's favourite politically-incorrect author, wrote a novel titled The Fall of a Nation (1916), in which the United States is invaded as the result of a conspiracy by the old European monarchies. There's a character in the novel named Plato Barker who bears an amazing resemblance to Ron Sider:

His last proposition was evidently his favourite. He dropped his voice to low persuasive tones:

"Even supppose the unthinkable thing could happen. Suppose that some misguided nation in an hour of madness should send a hundred thousand soldiers across three thousand miles of sea and attempt to invade this country--what then? This country, mark you, peopled by a nation of vastly superior numbers, equal intelligence, mechanical genius and political organization--"

He paused and thundered:

"What would happen?

"Those hundred thousand invading soldiers would never see their old homes again--"
Tremendous cheers rent the air.

"And what's more, dear friends, they would never desire to see their homes again. We would march out to meet them with smiles and flowers. We would bid them welcome to our shores. We would give to them the freedom of our city and greet them as brethren!" (p. 46)

How vain this Socialist symbol of the common red blood that pulses from every human breast! How pitifully tragic their failure in the hour when the war summoned the world to the national colors. The red flag faded from the sky. It was all talk--all wind--all fustian--all bombast--all theory. Men don't die for academic theories. Men don't die for what they believe. And yet these American Socialists were as busy with their parrot talk as if nothing had happened in the world since that fatal day in July, 1914, when old things passed away and all things became new. (p. 47)
Later, after the United States has been invaded and captured by the armed forces of the European monarchies, the pacifist appeaser Plato Barker is one of the first people imprisoned by the invaders:

The Honorable Plato Barker, for reasons deemed sufficient by the Governor-General, was placed in the United States penitentiary at Albany. In spite of his mania for peace, Waldron thoroughly mistrusted him. His passion for oratorical leadership he knew to be insatiate. What fool scheme he might advocate in secret could not be guessed. In vain Barker offered to take the iron-clad Imperial oath. Waldron was deaf to all entreaties even when the petition was borne to him by the officer of the army who had captured the silver-tongued leader and made hima scullion. Villard, the Commanding General, had allowed Barker to deliver Sunday lectures to his soldiers on harmless themes of Chautauqua fame. The Commander had grown to like the orator as a harmless sort of court jester. He was particularly fond of his illustrations and jokes. He declared that Barker had missed his calling--he should have been an evangelist or a clown. (p. 330)

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