CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Lessons From the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Nov 3, 2009

As things continue to decline spiritually, morally, culturally, politically and ideologically, we need more than ever men and women willing to stand up, go against the tide, and provide some hearty resistance. We need, in other words, men and women with some backbone.

But such is often not the case, even among God’s people. We see believers everywhere cowering, wringing their hands, and opting out of the struggle. We see believers who would rather run than fight. We see believers who have simply hoisted the white flag of surrender, without even firing a shot.

In a war this is just not good enough. Indeed, it is treasonous. No one has the luxury of sitting on the fence in the face of battle. To seek for some sort of neutrality in a time of war is really to go over to the enemy side. ‘He who is not for me is against me.’

The Bible of course speaks often and clearly about such themes. Courage is enjoined upon God’s people throughout Scripture. Moses could exhort the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of [your enemies], for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

Jesus often told the wavering disciples to “fear not”. Or as Paul reminded us, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). Our courage of course comes from the Lord, yet we are constantly commanded to be courageous and not fear.

Indeed, this is a serious matter: fearfulness is in fact sinful. One very sobering passage in this regard is Rev. 21:8. There we have a list of the sinful who will be consigned to a lost eternity. At the very top of the list are “the fearful”.

The previous verse helps to put this into context: “He that overcomes will inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he will be my son”. The question is, are we overcomers? Or are we underachievers? Do we have the requisite backbone to make a difference for Christ and His Kingdom, or are we wallowing in timidity, self-pity, and fear?

Remember, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). In these very dark days we need to rise up in that power, and take on the many challenges facing us. Now is not the time to retreat, or to opt out with a negotiated settlement.

And if courage is desperately needed in the church today, it is especially needed among its leaders. We have too many timid and compromising leaders who would rather earn the praises of men than the approval of God. Too many religious leaders simply want to live a comfortable life, not rock the boat, and not make any enemies.

As A. W. Tozer reminds us, “It is true that the church has suffered from pugnacious men, but she has suffered more from timid preachers who would rather be nice than right. The latter have done more harm if for no other reason than that there are so many more of them. I do not think, however, that we must make our choice between the two. It is altogether possible to have true love and courage at the same time.”

Courage and the collapse of the Berlin Wall

Twenty years ago (on November 9) the world witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was the very powerful image of the defeat of the evil empire: godless Communism. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe finally came undone, after seventy-plus years of tyranny and oppression.

Four men and women of courage, vision, commitment and perseverance can be mentioned as in large measure being responsible for the death of the Soviet colossus: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa.

These four deserve a world of credit for their role in bringing down the Iron Curtain, and liberating millions of oppressed peoples. They lived in tough times, but they responded with a toughness and a resolve that put many of us to shame.

But because of their courage and determination, they helped to bring an end to one of the most monstrous regimes of human history. We can all rejoice that they held the course, fought the good fight, and did not let the word “surrender” enter into their vocabulary.

Each one could be singled out for honourable mention. Let me just briefly mention US President Ronald Reagan, and share a few words said about him at his funeral by Margaret Thatcher:

“As prime minister, I worked closely with Ronald Reagan for eight of the most important years of all our lives. We talked regularly both before and after his presidency. And I have had time and cause to reflect on what made him a great president. Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles – and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly, he acted upon them decisively.

“When the world threw problems at the White House, he was not baffled, or disorientated, or overwhelmed. He knew almost instinctively what to do. When his aides were preparing option papers for his decision, they were able to cut out entire rafts of proposals that they knew ‘the Old Man’ would never wear. When his allies came under Soviet or domestic pressure, they could look confidently to Washington for firm leadership. And when his enemies tested American resolve, they soon discovered that his resolve was firm and unyielding.

“So the President resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of these pressures and its own failures. And when a man of goodwill did emerge from the ruins, President Reagan stepped forward to shake his hand and to offer sincere cooperation.”

The world desperately needs such men and women today. But many of our political leaders are into appeasement and political correctness. In fact many of them seem intent upon undermining their own nations. And sadly, many of our spiritual leaders seem to be into personal empire building, wealth accumulation, making a good name for themselves, and winning popularity contests.

Jesus of course offered a different path. And that is a path we all must recover today. The challenges are too great, and the attacks on our faith too many to do otherwise. We need resolve, we need firmness, we need principle, and we need courage.

This does not mean that the battles won’t seem overwhelming at times. And this does not mean that we will win every battle. As Winston Churchill rightly said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Let us all pray for the courage to continue.

[1153 words]

12 Responses to Lessons From the Fall of the Berlin Wall

  • Dear Bill
    I think you may find some interesting information if you Google ‘Lord Monckton climate change’. It has to do with The Copenhagen Internation Treaty which I believe is set to form a new world government that will override elected governments.
    Yours faithfully
    Jillian Lister

  • Thanks Bill, you are such an encourager.
    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • Thanks Jillian

    Yes I have mentioned him a number of times already, but he is always worth plugging yet again. Here are a few key links:

    The 4-minute conclusion:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMe5dOgbu40

    The full speech:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=stij8sUybx0&feature=player_embedded

    The accompanying slide show which is found here:
    www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/monckton_2009.pdf

    The Alan Jones interview:
    2gb.com.au/index2.php?option=com_newsmanager&task=view&id=4998

    The Glenn Beck interview:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xy5_L1vJKQ
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY5msesd-2c

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Stuart

    Yes in these dark days we all need to encourage one another to keep fighting the good fight and not to despair.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The interesting thing about that passage from Deuteronomy is that Moses was told by God that Israel was going to reject God after entering into the promised land. In Chapter 32 he sings them a song which describes their future failures and God’s response to that. All this in the context of Moses not getting into the promised land due to his own failure at Meribah. (Num 20) The best he was going to get was a distant look just before he died.

    How discouraging! No matter. Moses continued his work to completion, trusting that God was in control. He understood by then that it was not about him. And there was indeed a great deal of work that took place before Jesus the Messiah finally did arrive. And still God’s plan unfolds!

    In regards to the Berlin Wall, I grew up during the era of Reagan and Thatcher. I was completely under the impression – based upon my indoctrination by the mainstream media – that both of them were incompetent and drunk with power. I since have learned at least two lessons here:
    1. Don’t rely on the mainstream media.
    2. Decisive leadership based upon fiscal conservative principles is almost never popular, but unlike alternatives to the left of the political spectrum, it actually gives ordinary people the freedom to succeed and to fail. But in both cases, freedom.

    My mum happened to be in Germany when the wall came down and my father later brought back a couple of small pieces which I held with wide-eyed astonishment. For both of them, having grown up in wartime in a previously unified country, it affected them greatly. The association between standing up for principles that work even when opposed and seeing fruit from that courage, is clear. It’s not without reason that God constantly reminds us to not be afraid. We are too easily governed by sight rather than faith in His unseen eternal power. Thank you, Bill for this post.

    BTW, in a way, Moses did enter the promised land, standing with Jesus and Elijah at the Transfiguration! (Matt 17).

    Mark Rabich

  • Yes, far too many cowards at the top, Bishops, moderators, etc. However there is no doubt in my mind that parishoners are too often far more anxious about rocking the boat than those at the top.
    Stan Fishley

  • Dear Bill

    Courage to continue as we have God on our side.

    Be encouraged as you encourage others.

    Mrs Judith Bond

  • Hi Bill,

    Have you read of Hilary Clinton’s speech to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall? She praises everyone she can think of, but can’t bring herself even to mention Ronald Reagan!

    She saves her praise for another president, Obama, who “represents the fall of different kinds of walls – of walls of discrimination, of stereotype, of character” but who couldn’t even be bothered showing up in person!

    blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/nilegardiner/100016373/hillary-clinton-scrubs-ronald-reagan-from-history/

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Thanks Mansel

    I only heard snippets of her talk on the news. But you raise a very good point indeed. Lefties like Clinton were often the ones fully opposed to the policies of people like Reagan, including putting cruise missiles in Western Europe, which greatly helped to bring down the evil empire.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    interesting article, though very familiar. What you seem to overlook, though, is that whilst bringing down the Iron Curtain, Reagan and Thatcher were unable to hold back radical cultural changes at home, which I imagine you believe to have negated the fall of Stalinism.

    In spite of their free-market reforms, the late eighties and early nineties was culturally an extremely radical, indeed libertine period.

    Nihilist thrash, rap, grunge and industrial bands like Slayer, Pantera, N.W.A., Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails, aided by touring in support of a largely working-class male audience, became a pivotal force towards a culture that completely rejected religion in favour of the view that life is meaningless and that there is no difference how we behave. Except for the rap groups, these bands were generally apolitical in their lyrics, so that how far left their ideals really are was not generally discussed much. However, with age it is impossible to accept that thrash, grunge and industrial are anything except far left.

    Julien Peter Benney

  • Thanks Julien

    Two responses. It is a bit rich to say that because leaders such as Reagan and Thatcher did not bring heaven to earth in every area, then we should just dismiss the great good they did re Communism. That is like belittling Michael Phelps and his world record 8 gold medals in swimming, because he also did not also win medals in archery, or the shot put.

    If I only had the fall of the Berlin Wall to put on my CV, I think I would be quite content with, and very proud of, such an achievement.

    Also, one can challenge your claims that they basically failed on these other fronts. I think they did a lot of good in these areas, and one can ask how much worse things would have been if they were not around. And it is somewhat silly to expect any world leader to be able to hold back all the forces of cultural and social change that are bound to take place in modern Western societies..

    So I beg to differ here, but thanks for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, I can very much accept your perspective that Thatcher and Reagan did not fail completely to stem the cultural nihilism stemming from punk and heavy metal in the late 1970s.

    In the case of Britain, extreme radicalism reached its apogee as much in the punk era itself, when there were violent riots, as at the time Communism fell. (However, A.N. Wilson does point out that attitudes toward religion even in Britain were not the same in the 1980s as they are today, so that cultural change in the late eighties and early nineties was necessarily very significant).

    In the case of America, commercial radio and the record companies were during the Carter Era extremely effective at shielding the culture from punk. However, data on things like sexual behaviour clearly show how the Reagan Era was in no way a conservative period, whatever election results suggest. It was inevitable that this radicalism would surface, and the Parents Music Resource Center, the only counter-effort, was a failure because it did not understand the culture behind the appeal of such violence.

    However, as much as politicians are to blame for this, it would be Bush Senior rather than Reagan who would be to blame in the case of the US, and Thatcher’s predecessors in the seventies in the case of the UK. I am sure, though, that many factions of the Right think that greater focus on cultural radicalism at home would have been the correct decision. Judging by the fact that the most significant conservative intellectual growth since WWII occurred when Clinton was in power, such factions have a point.

    Julien Peter Benney

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