In a very successful manner, Reagan compared the ideological conflict being waged between the two world superpowers to a battle between good and evil. Christianity and Christian principles, as he understood, must stand strong in the face of their ultimate socialist foe. The Soviet Union was officially formed in 1922, towards the end of the Russian Civil War. (1) Following the ideology put forth by Karl Marx, the Bolsheviks - led by Vladimir Lenin - overthrew the Russian Empire and established the world’s first communist state. Over the following decades, various nations would follow suit, including North Korea, Cuba, North Vietnam, and Angola. By 1980, communism still seemed to be holding a firm grip on the world.
REAGAN'S POLITICAL ASCENSION
Ronald Reagan’s prominence on the national stage began in 1964, following his delivery of an impressive speech at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California. (2) In this oration, titled, “A Time for Choosing,” Reagan warned of the dangers that would follow if socialism were to be fully embraced by Americans. “So, we have come to a time for choosing,” he stated. “Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual elite in a far distant capitol can plan our lives for us, better than we can plan them ourselves.” (3)
Twenty years later, Reagan would seek God’s guidance as the leader of the free world. The world that Reagan inherited as president was a mess. The American economy was in shambles, Iranian revolutionaries had captured over 50 American citizens and diplomats in Tehran, (4) and communism seemed to be on the rise once more. With the Soviet Union having been on the global stage for roughly six decades, along with the fact that it seemed to be proliferating, Reagan knew that it was time to take a stand. Using his talent for words, he would fight the Soviet Union with ideas, rather than war.
AMERICA'S CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION
On March 8, 1983, President Reagan set foot on the stage at the 41st Annual Convention for the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. (5) This oration, though used to describe the Soviet Union as a threat to Christianity, was also used to proclaim that America was founded on Christian values. Likewise, it was also used to call forth a restoration of those principles. At the beginning of the speech, Reagan stated,
The 1960s and 1970s marked an increase in social progressivism. Issues such as abortion and drugs were now in the spotlight, following the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. Regarding abortion, Reagan stated, “More than a decade ago, a Supreme Court decision literally wiped off the books of fifty states, statutes protecting the rights of unborn children. Abortion on demand now takes the lives of up to one and a half million unborn children a year.”
It is all-too common for a Christian to occasionally get discouraged at the amount of sheer evil that occurs in this world; however, we must always remember that, as Christians, we were called to be unlike earthly ideas. Though evil may reign now, it will not last forever, and Christ’s teachings will always prevail, regardless of what occurs. On this, Reagan said, “Now, I’m sure that you must get discouraged at times, but there you’ve done better than you know, perhaps. There’s a great spiritual awakening in America...a renewal of the traditional values that have been the bedrock of America’s goodness and greatness.”
Not long after, Reagan said, “There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re 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. For example, the long struggle of minority citizens...for equal rights, once a source of disunity and civil war, is now a point of pride for all Americans. We must never go back. There is no room for racism, anti-semitism, or other forms of ethnic or racial hatred in this country.”
Toward the end of the speech, Reagan addressed the largest issue pertaining to global affairs. Sixty-one years after the formation of the Soviet Union, he called out the communist state for what it truly was: an evil empire. Communism and Christianity cannot coexist. Communism is the belief that all things and individuals belong to the state, and the system punishes those who do not fully submit. Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ loves and died for all individuals, and it promotes the fact that people were created for more than submission to worldly government.
In the speech, Reagan remarked that Vladimir Lenin - the first Soviet leader - said that “they repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas - that’s their name for religion - or ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war...Well, I think the refusal of many influential people to accept this elementary fact of Soviet doctrine illustrates an historical reluctance to see totalitarian powers for what they are. We saw this phenomenon in the 1930s. We see it too often today.”
Reagan soon states what all Christian must hold dear: “We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God.” Some were suggesting that the United States impose a freeze on the USSR, but Reagan believed that would not accomplish anything in the long haul, as the Soviets could achieve their goals in the midst of a freeze, and could perhaps even reward them. To him, the USSR must not be compromised with, and it must be brought to its knees. The Cold War officially ended on December 26, 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The fall of the USSR occurred in large part due to Reagan’s firm peace-through-strength initiative. Toward the end of the speech, he ushered in the line that would earn the oration its name. “...I urge you to beware the temptation of pride - the temptation of blithely...declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive 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 and good and evil.” Reagan wraps up, stating, “I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last-last pages are now being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual.”
In 1988, Reagan visited Moscow. (7) Upon being asked if he still believed the USSR to be an evil empire, he essentially said that he did not, as times were changing, and the Soviet Union no longer posed a threat to the world as it did before. Some have said that Reagan won the Cold War without firing a single shot. Today, we must remember Reagan’s words more than ever. May we always stand strong for Christ, no matter which evil empires we face in our midst.
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