Why People Become Communists

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

Whittaker Chambers, in his book Witness deals with the rationale of why many people end up embracing communism. They perceive that the faith of communism will protect them in times of crisis. Of course this never really happens, but then, most people never stop to figure that out.

Chambers notes, on page 192, that “Few Communists have ever been made simply by reading the works of Marx or Lenin. The crisis of history makes Communists; Marx and Lenin merely offer them an explanation of the crisis and what to do about it. Thus a graph of Communist growth would show that its numbers and its power increased in waves roughly equivalent to each new crest of crisis…The economic crisis which reached the United States in 1929 swept thousands into the Communist Party or under its influence. The military crisis of World War 2 swept in millions more;…Communism is never stronger than the failure of other faiths.” One wonders if the apostacy in the churces might have had anything to do with this

Chambers also observed, on page 195, that “The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreallity, because, ulltimately, thouugh I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil. This failure I too, shared with the world of which I was a part. The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century,…” This explains, at least in part, as to why Chambers became a Communist.

I ask myself, in all of this cultural morass, where was the Christian Church? Was it speaking to this situation and no one was listening? If so, then you can’t blame the church if she spoke and no one listened. But what if the church wasn’t dealing with this or was sending mixed messages?

Where was the church in this country in the early 1900s? Remember, we are talking about twenty years, in some cases less, after the publication of the Scofield Bible with its many “notes” explaining what the Scriptures are supposed to be telling us. Scofield was influenced by the Plymouth Brethren and John Nelson Darby. In his book Death of the Church Victorious Pastor Ovid Need Jr. explained what these folks believed. He noted, on page 169 that “In the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, ‘the ideas that went to make up Brethrenism were in the air, and were extensively obtaining embodiment.’ Largely because of this, these groups shared a determinism not to get involved in ‘secular’ affairs, which ‘represented a retreat into the shelter of spiritual monasticism…’ No part was played by them in politics, except the giving of submission and honour to the powers that be, and the offering of prayer for them.’ Thus we see that rather than attempting to convert the nations to Christ through the gospel, the movement reacted by withdrawing. These small groups devoid of spiritual leadership started in the British Isles, and the hopeless faith was brought into the U.S. through immigration. Because they only reacted against sin instead of acting upon the word of God, theirs was a serious over-reaction against all social involvement, an educated clergy, a systematic interpretation of Scripture, and any involvement in civil government–they threw out the baby with the bath water.”

In other words, in the 1800s and early 1900s we had a church in this country that was mostly devoid of anything having to do with civil government and sought to avoid any contact with the real world. Admittedly there were exceptions to this, theologians like R. L. Dabney, who saw the direction the country was headed in and tried to warn those who had enough sense to listen. Unfortunately, most by that time did not want to listen and so what brave people like Dabney tried to warn them about was all but ignored. By the early 1900s we had a church in this country that was mostly in the throes of retreatism. And such a church is not equipped to deal with any real crisis So the Communists steal in and pretend to deal with the crisis that the church couldn’t, or wouldn’t, deal with.

Do you begin to see now why we have had some of the problems with communism that we have had? An informed church could have dealt with much of this. But a church that believed that communism in only a political entity will deal with none of it because they feel it is “of this world” and so is not worth bothering with. The church’s failure to deal with communism as a competing, anti-Christian theology has not been helpful. They have, in fact, conceded this world to the devil as if it were beneath the Lord’s notice. They have apparently forgotten that part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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