November marks the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1989, this symbol of Communist tyranny came tumbling down, marking the end of a totalitarian nightmare. After the threat of Nazism was defeated, Communism turned a third of the world into a police state the likes of which had never been seen.
Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II recognized, in a clear-eyed way not shared by many other academic and political elites, that Marxism’s blood-red banners meant not liberation but oppression. More than this, they saw that Communism was not only something that should be opposed, but that could be. Their collective strategies worked even faster than the most optimistic expected. As that deadly edifice of Communism tumbled down, its fractured walls meant a no-longer-divided Berlin, no more Stasi, no more secret arrests.
In the joy of that moment and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, famed political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History.” He believed that the death of Communism was the final obstacle to the triumph of Enlightenment liberalism and democracy. He was, of course, mistaken.
Though we may not be living in Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World, the abdication of freedom and the embrace of history’s worst ideals continues, and not just in China, Russia, and Iran. In England, silently praying in front of an abortion clinic can get a person arrested. According to a Pew Research report, a majority of young Americans prefer freedom from offense over freedom of speech. In pro-Hamas parades across the West, thousands have proclaimed that violence, oppression, and censorship are acceptable if the “right” groups are being harmed, oppressed, and silenced. The ideals of diversity and dissent have been reduced to slogans to signal our virtue, not realities to live out in practice. As a result, more and more power is granted to state, academic, corporate, and media authorities to “rescue us” from “dangerous” ideas, ironically in the name of diversity and inclusion.
Those people who are tearing down the posters of kidnapped Israeli kids are not replacing them with other images. They are just denying a space to speak. The younger, leftist crowd increasingly thinks of core freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, as questionable at best and as a dangerous excuse for “hatred” at worst. In America, we now debate whether some speech should be coerced. In Britain, though silent prayer can be illegal, calls for genocide are protected. A world in which we are free only insofar as we agree with those currently in power is a world that’s not free at all.
During the twentieth century, the world moved forward on the inertia and inheritance Christianity gave to the West. This momentum, however, only lasted so long. Somewhere, during the long fight against the twin tyrannies of Fascism and Communism, we lost those fundamental beliefs and insights into humanity that grounded our ideals about freedom in the first place. Now, well into the twenty-first century, with this Judeo-Christian foundation stripped from beneath us, nothing remains to sustain the passion for liberty. Without a vision of ordered freedom–what Os Guinness has rightly noted as a “freedom for” rather than just a “freedom from”– the claim to “rights” and “liberties” are reduced to squabbles between various groups vying for power.
President Reagan’s epic call to “Tear down this wall!” will have been for nothing if something better is not built in its place. Western freedom cannot be preserved without a proper understanding of human nature, the understanding that birthed Western freedom in the first place. Only the description of reality offered in the Bible and confirmed by centuries of Christian reflection is robust enough for this task. If rooted only in the malleable ideas of the majority or on the passing fancies of those in power, our most precious liberties will collapse as surely as Communism’s concrete boundaries did.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy Padgett. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
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