Saturday, January 13, 2007

Not to Take Anything Away from Ronald Reagan or Gerald Ford or Anybody Else...

I said, in response to some things Ford said about Reagan, as mentioned over at Ann Althouse's blog, that I thought that Mr. Reagan does get too much credit for ending the Cold War.

I've always felt that he simply pursued a policy set by Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, the policy of containment pursued with varying levels of wisdom by every President in the Cold War period.

That containment policy, I said, had something to do with the demise of Soviet Communism. So too, did the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet system and the financial bankruptcy brought on by Soviet insistence on spending themselves into oblivion on guns and butter.

But, I wrote:
In fact, beyond the obvious factors for the Soviet Bloc's end mentioned above, I have always believed that the prayers of those within and outside the Soviet sphere were far more significant than any military or political policies. Important as such policies are, I agree with Tennyson, who said, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."
That engendered a derisive response from one Althouse reader:
Wow, I haven't read a bigger pile of gibberish on this blog in...hell, I don't know when! What, did all those people praying in the early '40's that the Nazis wouldn't come and run them over, did they screw it up somehow? Maybe they shouldn't have prayed to St.Wehrmacht, patron saint of Panzer Divisions! It's absolutely galling to hear people take credit for their sanctimonious blather when things go well, but when they turn sour? Oh, not us, don't hold us responsible! P-tui! P-tui, again! I have to spit the bad taste out of my mouth on this one! Even people who admire prayer should be revulsed by this.
Hmmm. Here's how I responded:
Ron: As to my "pile of gibberish," you obviously didn't read the rest of what I wrote or simply ignored it. I acknowledged the role of policy and of course, I feel great gratitude to those--led in Europe by Eisenhower--won World War Two and to others who have gone to battle for freedom.

But to simply ignore the role played by prayer in the end of the Cold War is to ignore some intriguing data. [I might add that I think it's intellectually lazy and alarmingly incurious.]

For years, Saint Peter's Church in Berlin, close to the wall, hosted a Tuesday prayer gathering. [I checked that. It was actually on Mondays.] They prayed for an end to Soviet dominion. The numbers involved grew and grew, accelerating and growing as the Soviet bloc began to crumble. When the wall crumbled, hundred gathered close to the church, demonstrators holding up signs that said, "Thank you, church." That was reported in the media.

Several years ago, my son, who has degrees in History and Philosophy, did a paper on "Germany as a Pawn in the Cold War." At one place in it, as I recounted on my blog three years ago, he gave a "...description of the Church's role in the collapse of Soviet tyranny in Germany. He'd interviewed a German emigre to this country who had described some of the long-standing weekly prayer gatherings that took place in East Germany during the repressive post-World War Two era. Those prayer gatherings gave hope to people, connecting them to God and acting as conduits by which God's forgiveness, healing, and hope came to a nation which in preceding decades had been the epicenter of so much evil."

I also personally knew a group of junior high kids who, in the mid-1980s, took it on themselves to begin praying daily for the end of the Cold War.

Tennyson, I believe, was right. So was the English archbishop who said that people dismissed his "answered prayers" as coincidence. "But I have found," he said, "that the more I pray, the more coincidences happen."

Back in my atheist days, I thought such things were gibberish. I really did. But I don't think that Reagan or Ford saw evidence of the efficacy of prayer as gibberish, even though their faith was also matched by work. They had a hardnosed commitment to praying as though everything depended on God and working as though everything depended on us. This is the attitude that JFK voiced in the speech he gave at Fort Worth just before he was assassinated in Dallas. He quoted Psalm 127:1: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain."

Mere presidential rhetoric? Maybe. But I believe that it's true.

God deserves some credit, I think. As do those who prayed. See here, here, and here.

This article talks about how a prayerful Church also contributed mightily to the collapse of Communism through its activities in the face of totalitarianism.

The call is clear: In the face of the world's monstrous circumstances, we are to pray and work in the Name of Jesus Christ. [See here.]

1 comment:

kipwatson said...

Well might your antagonist inscribe the spitting sound.

The single defining characteristic of Socialism is that it is _atheist_ . Right Wing atheists hate to be reminded of this, because it reveals them for what they are. Whether libertarian, or just cynical and amoral practitioners of 'Realpolitik', all Right Wing philosophical movements not grounded in traditional morality -- and in our society this effectively means Christian morality -- are simply fringe factions of the great (and evil) materialist movement we generally call Socialism.

Nazis, Communists, Right Wing social or economic Darwinists, ideological Libertarians -- they may hate each other, but there is no _meaningful_ difference between them.

Also, I agree with you that Reagan was part of a continuity with Eisenhower and Nixon, but not because his contribution to the downfall of the Soviet Empire was overrated, but that theirs -- Nixon's in particular -- was underrated. I don't know if Nixon was a Christian (I wouldn't have thought so), but he nevertheless did something profoundly Christian in turning the other cheek to China and the USSR. He outflanked them with an act of generosity -- he recognised that one must overcome Evil with a Good. The Communists needed a state of extreme hostility for the maintenance of the grand illusion, the hypnotism of their populations, by which their regimes survived.

Likewise, what Reagan did was huge, but it was not Star Wars or medium range missiles that was his biggest contribution, it was the way he so eloquently and accurately expressed things in terms of Good and Evil. We oppose this political entity not because of hemispheric rivalry or conflicts of Great Power interests, but because it is an _Evil Empire_.

..and the the world said 'Amen'!