The Christian and Totalitarianism
"The Communists do not need to 'bury' us. All they need do is wait a few years and they can have the U.S.A. without firing a shot."
"The view that the U.S.A. is a democratic, representative republic is a farce. The controlling party in the U.S. is the military-industrial lobby."
"Less is more! Big government now controls almost every facet of our daily lives, and it controls more and more as the bureaucracy grows."
"The control of our media is in the hands of a few establishment liberals. They control all the news and most of the printed page and use their control to propagandize the American people."
Remarks such as these are not original, but reflect the fear of many people who live in America that this country will ultimately become totalitarian. Totalitarian government is controlled by one political party usually directed by a dictator. The governing party supports only orthodox party ideology and tolerates no rival views or convictions. The Soviet Union, Peoples Republic of China, and Fascist Spain are modern examples of totalitarian regimes. A totalitarian government can be either "left wing" (usually socialistic, radical, desiring reform through revolution, advocating greater well-being of the common man as opposed to existing forms. Examples: Soviet Union, China, Cuba.) or "right wing" (conservative, opposing change in the established order. Favoring traditional attitudes and practices. Usually advocating forced establishment of an authoritarian political order. Examples: Franco's Spain, Fascist Italy and Germany.)
Factors in the Rise of Totalitarianism
History has shown that there are usually three basic factors involved in a totalitarian takeover: (1) A political party espousing a totalitarian ideology. (2) Social and political turmoil or dissatisfaction which enables the totalitarian group to gain control (3) Circumstances which make possible continued control by the totalitarian party.
Historically totalitarian parties have taken control of government. Seldom if ever have they been voted into control. In almost every case social disorder, public political apathy, and lack of character of those in office has provided opportunity for the overthrow of those in power. Once in power the party completely dominated politics, controlled the media and communications, commanded the military and police, and controlled public thinking and obedience through terrorism. Totalitarian leaders have often displayed vicious personal traits: sadistic, secretive, contemptuous of law, and inflexible, imprisoning or annihilating those who oppose them. They often either use religion to support their regimes, or if there is too much character in religious men, they oppose religion.
The situations that enable totalitarian parties opportunity to seize power have varied from country to country, but generally falls into just a few categories. Fear of enemies has driven nations to accept a totalitarian regime in hope of added security. Nazi Germany rose to power from the fears of the German nation of rising communism. Threats from without drive many Americans to totalitarian concepts because of fear. Communist victories abroad, the weakness and wavering of our allies, the impotence of our defense allies, the compromise of our foreign policy, the growing military superiority of the communist world combined seems to justify concentration of power and reduction of freedom. Fearful people will purchase security even at the cost of personal liberty. Internal disorder has frequently set the stage for a totalitarian takeover. Political and social corruption, economic collapse, widespread unemployment, social class struggle, breakdown of law and order, rapid social change, and family breakdown, cause people to demand peace and security. The party that promises to restore order is apt to be swept into power despite totalitarian ideology. Order is often preferred to freedom when Anarchy threatens. Declining religious morality paves the way for totalitarianism. When personal character, honesty, morality, vigor, faith and discipline crumbles and dissolves, people turn to a substitute. The substitute pseudo-religious movements like nationalism, fascism, communism take the place of personal religious integrity. In America we have seen the rise of the pseudoreligions of ecumenism, nonsectarianism, anticommunist, Americanism, or "social reform" through denominationalism. It is not difficult to replace Biblical conviction and personal faith in God with "party" ideology and action. It is interesting to note that totalitarian governments either use religion or oppose it. If religion cannot be used to endorse the government's actions and policies, then it is opposed as an enemy of the people and the welfare of the state.
After a party comes to power, it must control the people in order to remain in power. Modern totalitarian regimes have and use large central governments with huge armies and police forces, media control, and technology to maintain control of the people. The expanded size and power of the Federal government has always been a potential threat to freedom. The "founding fathers" certainly recognized this when they drafted our Constitution. Power was divided and diluted in three branches of government, each with its own sphere of authority. All powers not specifically granted the central government by the constitution were to remain in the hands of each sovereign state. This concept of "states rights" has fallen on hard times. Today the expression is generally a term of derision identified only with racial bigots, political losers, and right wing visionaries. Our strong central government has made diffusion of power and government among the people an antique concept.
But, it is true that through social welfare programs, Social Security, military contracts, educational and scientific subsidation through grants, civil rights control, taxes, regulatory agencies, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, revenue sharing and conditional state grants and loans, the government controls the lives of almost all of its citizens.
What to Do?
How does the Christian deal with these very real social and political forces in his life that point to totalitarianism? First of all we need to realize the inherent evils of totalitarianism. It curtails individual freedom and hardens human sensitivity. It becomes a blasphemous pseudo-religion that requires unquestioned support and demands absolute loyalty. It is a trial and a burden on any society, and ultimately reaches a point where its sole existence is to secure its own invulnerability. It thwarts efforts to discover truth, and stifles creativity. It will ultimately oppose and attempt to crush all that opposes its excesses. The Christian needs to oppose totalitarianism wherever it is found because of the hurt it brings to human life (Luke 13:32-35).
As a citizen the Christian can demand the enforcement and respect of our constitution by government. Experience in history demonstrates that laws and constitutions, however hoary and ,hallowed, are worthless scraps of paper unless kept and enforced by the government. Our republic has a system of checks and balances designed to operate as they did recently in the removal of Richard Nixon from his office. We must scrupulously preserve these concepts in our government. (When President Ford said to the Congress, "I do not want a honeymoon, I want a marriage," we accomodatively know what he meant, but for our sake and the Constitution's, the two branches of government must remain adversaries).
But, as Christians we cannot seek to change the world through political ends. The child of God recognizes that all power in heaven and in earth is in the hands of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18; Rom. 13:1; Eph. 1:20,21). By living righteously and following Christ's example even in the face of totalitarianism God can work through us to change man and the world he lives in (Mk. 10:42-45; Rom. 15:2-7). The Christian must also realize that he lives in the world. There will never be a Shangrila on earth, an ultimate socialist state, or capitalistic technological utopia. There will be nations rising and falling till the end of time. The U.S. and the present world system is a thing of flux and change. Our government is not here below, but in the Kingdom of God. The message of John's Revelation is that while the beast of political power (Rev. 17:3, 9-17), or the whore of religious apostate power (17:4-6, 18; 18:1-10) may overcome for the moment and shed the blood of the saints, persecute and seduce God's people, ultimately God will be victorious. "The lamb shall overcome them: For he is Lord of lords and King of kings: And they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14).
Jesus, His apostles, and His church lived, died, and remained victorious under the most despotic, corrupt, and long lived totalitarian regimes that has ever existed on earth. The social peace and order brought about by its despotism provided the church opportunity to grow and prosper. It was that same benign totalitarianism that turned rapidly against the church and pursued it, drunk with the blood of the saints, for two hundred years. God's people did not perish from the face of the earth, but were made strong in adversity. God's apostle said, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his promise. . .what shall we say then to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own soil, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? . . . who shall seperate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:28-39).
Brethren, our faith stands not in government good or evil, neither in armaments, nor bombs, nor armies, nor flags, nor political processes, nor constitutions of men. We stand in the Kingdom of God, a relationship of care and salvation; no despotism modern or ancient can take from us. Our prayers are the most potent power on the face of this earth, for we have the ear of God. For this reason "I exhort therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; For kings and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour: who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
Truth Magazine XXI: 39, pp. 619-620