God, Communism, and the 1989 Revolution

One of the most incredible years of political upheaval was 1989:

There have been plenty of horrible tyrannies over the centuries, perhaps none more so than that of godless communism that took up most of the twentieth century. From 1917 onwards we witnessed the rise of many monstrous communist dictatorships. But by the 80s and 90s we also saw the rise of brave and sustained resistance to them. This culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and with it, the collapse of Soviet communism and the Eastern Bloc.

(I should at this point mention that there were of course earlier acts of courageous resistance, including the Hungarian Revolution – or Uprising – of October-November 1956; the 1968 “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia, followed by the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion; and the brave but short-lived Tiananmen Square resistance of 1989.)

But the revolutions that took place in Eastern Europe were nothing short of miraculous. They helped to bring a final end to Soviet communism. Sure, Marxist ideology is still alive and well, especially in Western universities and the like. But the incredible fall of so many evil and diabolical dictatorships during such a short period of time is something we must never forget. It was not just a massive political achievement, but a massive spiritual achievement as well.

A short article can not do proper justice to all of this, and I will need to pen further pieces in the future to offer more details on these stories. For the time being, however, a simple timeline can be offered to put all this into some historical context. I will then say a few further things about this incredible period in recent political history, including the role of the churches.

Timeline

January 1989 Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan
June 1989 Poland becomes independent
September 1989 Hungary becomes independent
November 1989 The Berlin Wall is demolished and East Germany allows unrestricted migration to West Germany
November-December 1989 The “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia
December 1989 Communist governments also fall in Bulgaria and Romania
March 1990 Lithuania becomes independent
May 1990 Boris Yeltsin
is elected President of Russia
October 1990 Germany is reunited
Dec
ember 1991 Yeltsin and Gorbachev agree to the wind-up of all remaining Soviet structures
December 1991 Russia, Belarus and Ukraine create Commonwealth of Independent States and declare the Soviet Union no longer exists as a legal or political entity
December 1991 Soviet President Gorbachev announces his resignation

The key players:
1978-2005 Karol Józef Wojtyla is Pope John Paul II
1979–1990 Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1981–1989 Ronald Reagan is President of the United States

So many incredible events took place within a space of a few short years. And so much of it was due to prayer and the power of God as his people sought him during these terrible decades. And note how three key individuals were providently put into power during this crucial period. I have written about this brave trio before: billmuehlenberg.com/2014/11/08/commemorating-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall/

What happened in Romania is just one notable example of how people power and prayer power combined to bring about an amazing outcome. Let me share just one quote from an earlier piece I did on that miraculous revolution:

The Communists responded with the brute force they had always employed when threatened by freedom seekers. They ordered their troops to open fire on the protestors…. In the confusion of the crowd and the darkness, the savage gunfire claimed hundreds of victims, but the people of Timisoara stood strong. Though shocked at the cost of their stand, they knew there was no middle ground. They had decided to stand for truth against lies, and stand they would. By Christmas 1989, the world reeled with the results of that stand: Romania was free and Ceausescu was gone. The people of Timisoara rejoiced. Churches filled with worshipers praising God. billmuehlenberg.com/2021/12/01/miracles-people-power-and-freedom/

Poland

One of the precursors to these remarkable revolutions in eastern Europe, and an important element of it, was the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland a decade prior. Younger folks may not be familiar with the term, or with names like Lech Walesa, but this was a massive case of people power helping to topple totalitarian rule. So let me offer just a few details in outline form about what happened there.

Poland had been through real hell for so many decades. It was first occupied by the Nazis back in September of 1939. The end of the war in 1945 did not help much: the Soviet Union instituted a new communist government there which lasted until the resistance of Solidarity. So it was under two terrible tyrannies for a full half century.

The independent trade union Solidarity was founded in August 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. Walesa, an electrician at the shipyard, was a major force behind this resistance movement. Its membership peaked at 10 million in September 1981 – around a third of the country’s workers. The union used various methods of civil resistance to push for workers’ rights and social change.

The upshot of all this was genuine legislative elections in 1989 – the first since 1947. In December 1990 Walesa was elected President of Poland, a position he held until 1995. For his earlier heroic efforts, the Solidarity leader was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

The Christian component, and further reading

As I said, the Christian churches were at the forefront of so many of these people power revolutions, as the quote above about Romania indicates. There are many books on this “revolution of the spirit” as George Weigel calls it, but let me mention just four extremely helpful volumes:

Timothy Garton Ash, The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague (Random House, 1990).

George Weigel, The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism (OUP, 1992).

John O’Sullivan, The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister (Regnery, 2006).

Paul Kengor, A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2017).

Image of The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism
The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism by Weigel, George (Author) Amazon logo

The last three books emphasise the spiritual and ecclesiastical side of the fall of communism, especially the Weigel volume. Let me finish here with just two quotes. The first comes from the end of the O’Sullivan’s book:

In all three cases – Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul – it is a spiritual element that best explains them and their achievements. All three, in subtly different ways, taught and embodied the virtue of hope. John Paul’s sermons and speeches in Poland were injunctions to people not to despair in the face of overwhelming force, but instead to hope in God and trust their fellow man. Reagan preached confidently of a coming age of liberty that would bring about the end of Communism. Thatcher believed in “vigorous virtues” that, once liberated from the shackles of socialism, would enable the British and people everywhere to improve their own lives. In very different styles, all were enthusiasts for liberty.

And my second quote is from the conclusion of Weigel’s book:

The Revolution of 1989 was also a reminder that the Lord of history — the Lord of the final revolution, if you will — is still capable of surprises. Christians believe in faith that the future is, finally, assured: that God will restore all things in Christ, in the Kingdom in which swords will be beaten into plowshares and every tear wiped away. But between now and then — between Easter and the return of the Lord in glory — there is history, and there is the life of the Church, which must ever hold itself open to the possibility of the new, the surprising, and the unexpected. Because of their faith in the promised future, contemporary Christians can say, with St. Paul, “I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13-14).

 

Thus the Christian can never be a fatalist. And that is why Christian faith finally proved more resilient than communism. Communism was, in its cold heart of hearts, fatalistic. Christians, on the other hand, “can be certain that the future will offer to us … the manifestation of a new aspect of the fullness of Christ.” [John Paul II]

 

And so the final revolution will continue. The Revolution of 1989, an expression of this revolution of the spirit, was a reminder that there are still surprises left in history, and that the good guys do indeed sometimes win. As we approach the twentyfirst century, the curious mix of good and evil that characterizes all things human—and especially all things political—will remain. But we may also be sure that the Lord of history has not yet exhausted His supply of wonders on the road to the New Jerusalem.

[1457 words]

17 Replies to “God, Communism, and the 1989 Revolution”

  1. Great article Bill, very encouraging. Our days seem dark but ‘nothing in the world is new’. It’s all happened before and worked out in God’s good time. I am sure history will show that the ‘crises’ of today will follow suit – in God’s good time. In the meantime all we can do is hope and pray and follow Him.

  2. Thank you Bill for such an inspirational history of the world leading up to1989 liberation of many countries, against all odds. Thank you for the research and dates given of each incredible event, which showed God used several world leaders a that time, intercessors across the world, the inspiration of scripture, and the resistance movement to fight the evil bastions and strongholds of Communism.
    It remains a series of miracles to reflect on and we can only stand in awe of God using men and women to pray through, work. as a team to topple evil, to form, the Resistance, to form armies who gave gave their lives to defend their countries freedom.

    This is such a timely message to us – in an era where we have a world ruler (Putin) who was incensed on seeing the changes that occurred in 1989 when Communism fell in so many countries in Europe and Russia and the berlin wall came down.
    Only God can now use intercessors and the courageous fighters (such as those in Ukraine) to keep fighting evil, and use the states around Ukraine to help rescue survivors.
    Our role is to be aware of the times we live in; to pray for those in authority, pray for those fighting for righteousness, giving to those in need and those who want to escape or to make Alleyah to Israel, plus to speak out against evil.
    In all these things God wants us to show faith in Him, and to c ask Him to intervene as ‘God of the impossible’ on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden and those who have already died for the cause of freedom or their Christian faith.
    The spiritual battle cant be under estimated – nor our powerful positions as those interceding for mercy, righteousness and the displacing of those plotting evil.
    May God be glorified as we collectively pray and do what we can to give aid or a voice for the women, children, elderly and young soldiers…many who have faith in a living God and who know the Communist regime is denial God and His word and laws of love, equality and gift of eternal life.

  3. Pastor,

    As a Christian and historian I am please to see a writer acknowledge the key players on God’s miracle in toppling the East European Communist empire.
    However I must differ a bit in perspective, along with Reagan, Thatcher, John Paul II, I have always viewed Lech Walesa of Poland as the “fourth pillar”-a full partner- in this Divine shakeup.

  4. Good article Bill.

    I find the current Ukraine situation very confusing. Putin invaded without any apparent threat or provocation from Ukraine and Russian troops have attacked civilian targets and committed acts of genocide. Yet Putin claims to be a Christian. He has the support of certain Christian groups in the USA, and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has given his blessing to Putin’s invasion, even labelling it a “holy war”.

    I struggle to make sense of the situation.

  5. True quite a time. But today we must remember God works in ways we don’t always understand and the victory he gives may not look like what we wanted it to look like. His will is to be done. Sometimes a victory may even appear at first to be a defeat but if one looks at it properly one sees the victory God has given. Sometimes burdens aren’t burdens but opportunities. He might make a move you aren’t expecting or asking for a move you consider a GREAT burden but in truth it is a GREAT opportunity a victorious move on his part. You simply have to see it. We can’t force God to work ONLY in ways WE want or WE find acceptable we must allow him to work how HE wishes and see what he is doing and CARPE DIEM!!!!!!!

  6. I hope this helps clarify the issue of ‘Christian’ political leaders. (re James Thurgood’s comment was about whether Putin could be a Christian and Bill replied).
    It is interesting that Hitler also claimed to be a faithful catholic and the pope and also lead Imam met with him and made an agreement.
    Scripture whos that sometimes those who pose as ‘an angel of light,’ or a worldy ‘saviour’ are but false impersonators…They don’t follow the way of the Bible or Christ but may use the name of God and carry out terrible acts of cruelty or genocide (such as Hitler did and others after him.)
    I think we need to be aware of false ‘prophets’ in all areas of life – including those standing in Govt.
    But we also have to live knowing they will come and they will rule for a time… In Jesus day the Roman Empire ruled and treated Christians harshly. In Paul’s day Nero came to power and arranged Paul’s death.
    In Daniel’s day he was thrown into the lions den (due to those betraying him for his faithful times of prayer three times a day…yet God delivered him)
    As the End times draw closer we can expect more false prophets, leaders, and impersonators. Only time and God will show their true motives.
    We are warned about these things so we are aware and careful. It is to be expected but we have a role in fighting back in prayer and asking to raise up righteous leaders and to put down the wicked…That may take years to answer and much blood shed may occur but God listens to the prayers of a righteous man and they avail much.
    Meanwhile we are to still pray for and help the victims also of oppression eg the ones fleeing Ukraine and to be aware of tactics used by the enemy such as misinformation in much mainstream media or planted there by foreign powers (sometimes the media is owned or influenced by those with vested interested in other countries with a political bias.)
    My take on it is that God wants justice and mercy but most of all the gospel still to go out whether in times of favour or of oppression, and he wants us praying for the Govt at all times too (as Paul said to Timothy ‘First of let supplications, prayers and intercession be made for those in authority)

  7. Thank you Bill for the excellent article on the fall of the Soviet Union. I will always remember the poor little children in a Rumanian orphanage discovered after Ceaucescu was murdered. Conditions were truly horrifying! I remember the lady reporting on it. Her exact words were ”we haven’t seen anything like this in our lifetime.” I think she may have been a doctor. One little boy was in there just because he had big ears! Another little boy had a stiff leg at such an angle he could only shuffle along on his bottom. These poor little souls had been abandoned by an evil, godless system and were neglected and forgotten with just one or two women trying to look after them with few resources. It was a programme heartbreaking to watch.

    Godless Communism must be the most evil system known to humankind in the whole of history. That and fascism.They say politically there isn’t much difference between them.Heaven knows other more moderate political systems are not perfect but they are preferable to those which treat human beings worse than animals.

    Some of the dreadful things which have been ordered by the communist government of China does not bear thinking about either.The poor people of Shanghai during the ghastly lockdown have suffered terribly. We won’t know the half of it. Scenes such as a poor man being taped from head to foot and a number of toddlers being wheeled away in a cot after being taken from their parents who have tested positive will live in the memory forever. One wonders if these poor little souls will ever see their parents again.

    Our MSM and governments let us down badly during the pandemic because human rights have been ignored here too.Vaccination mandates to keep your job and incidents of police bullying should never have happened. Perhaps it was not as bad as China but the MSM have played these incidents down or ignored them altogether and the governments have allowed it which is not what should happen with a free press and a liberal government. Real reporting has been left to the alternative media.

    Australian society is mostly godless also although there is still plenty of goodwill evident. There is a desperate need for a renewal of faith which includes fervent prayer. Has there been a call for a day of prayer such as Winston Churchill called for during World War Two by any political or religious leader in Australia? If there has I have missed it. Christianity needs to put its differences aside because this evil will continue unless we get on our knees and beg God to help us. The last two years has destroyed my belief in Australia as the ‘lucky country’. It is on the road to ruin if it continues the way it is going.

  8. And remember Patricia those acts are always sold to there own people as acts of compassion, acts of love. Here in the States Democrats tell minorities how much they love them and how compassionate they are BUT a look at their actions shows different. These type of people are always good at doublespeak at selling lies to you. They sell genocide of unborn CHILDREN as a good thing. And. If the unborn child is disabled in anyway they sell it as the loving compassionate thing. They’re masters of linguistics but truth when witnessed has a way of breaking through all linguistic barriers put up to hide it.

  9. I know I said I would post this on the 15th but I have for 3 and 2/3 years been having walking issues and for the past year it has been getting worse and tomorrow I see a neurosurgeon about a narrowing in the canal that houses the spinal cord specifically at the C4-C5 level for those familiar with anatomy or at least spines for those not it is in the neck. While I have never seen a drunk person walk, and while I might have a glass of wine at thanksgiving, Christmas and a glass of champagne at New Year’s Eve I don’t drink so I have never been drunk, I have seen acting on tv and movies of drunk walking and if you have too that is what my walking has come to be. Unsteady, wobbly, all over the place, bang into things. I can’t go out without a cane to prevent falling, which hasn’t happened yet, but I fear I am closer to falling than 3 months ago. I have a evaluation tomorrow and surgery is very likely not sure how soon. They may see me walking and decide to do it this week I don’t know. Given it’s location there obviously is risk of possible paralysis if something went wrong so I thought posting this now would be better in case I can’t move or move well later. If you wish to put this in an article separate from this that is fine I just want this out here for you and others to see. I will follow replies here or on a separate article if you make one. I value your opinion, your insights, your book recommendations and your friendship if I may call it that. (Some people don’t like to call what they have with people over internet friendship. But I do. Especially because I have no in person friends and haven’t for decades!)
    Paul Wilson
    Servant of the Lord

    It is the 15th of June 2022 just prior to midnight starting when I go to bed tonight, which will be the 16th officially since it will be after midnight, I will begin nightly praying for God to bring his righteous judgment upon my nation America. I do NOT take this action lightly. I love my country I am a patriot. But I see the signs and portents all around us. The handwriting is on the wall if you will.

    For at least 120 years God has been trying to get the attention of the church and through her the nation through small judgements little things that changed that nation and society and even the church. These judgments when unheeded as the were became more severe the worst so far was 9/11. But how did the church, as a whole mind you not individually, respond????? By becoming therapists offices with pews for couches!!!! We offered comfort but didn’t say WHY this happened. Many churches for weeks or months saw full houses more people than they had EVER seen before. And did they tell that captive audience seeking understanding the truth?????????? NO!!!!!! They told the sweet platitudes of comfort and watched the collection plates fill up. Cha-Ching!!!!!!! Since then the nation’s demise has accelerated. It took about 100 years to get to that point but only 21 to get here – the end of the line!!!

    Even in the 1870’s signs were there that problems existed the church had to address.

    “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. Is Satan
    derules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren, but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of the nation.”

    Charles G. Finney Dec. 1873

    I know MANY want a revival a 3rd great awakening but they want to skip the pain need to bring it about. We have NOT been going out and protesting, holding rallies and preaching to bring this nation back. Some have done things but we needed a D-DAY style offensive and a sustained one at that. Those doing satan’s bidding, even if not actual satanists, are out there with sustained D-DAY offensives changing everything to his liking but we only go to the ballot box. We WED ourselves to political power as the answer. That if we just elected the RIGHT people in to office we could turn this country around. POLITICS, ECONOMY, SOCIETY, AND CULTURE are the SYMPTOMS of the underlying SPIRITUAL DISEASE!!!!!!!! Yes treating them IS important BUT if you don’t treat the disease AS WELL it is fruitless!!!! It is like a patient with a bad headache from a brain tumor YES you treat the headache BUT YOU ALSO treat the tumor!!! Otherwise treating the headache does nothing of value for him!!!

    While this next part isn’t a perfect comparison it helps illustrate things. While I am praying for God’s righteous and thorough judgment a very devastating destructive judgment I believe AFTERWARDS whatever is left will have to opportunity to turn to God and rely on him for survival and help. America will cease to exist but new nations will pop up in her place dedicated to God and will receive his blessings. In the garden of gethsemane Jesus prayed for the cup, the death on the cross, to pass if at all possible but only if it be the father’s will. If there was ANY OTHER WAY to save human he would’ve preferred it. But of course there wasn’t. The cross the killing of a innocent man a perfect man the greatest horror mankind has ever seen was the ONLY WAY. The tragedy was the triumph of good over evil the path forward to reconciliation with God for so many that would not have had that path open to them. The cross was the end of one chapter of humanity and the beginning of another. So too will the horrific devastating destructive judgment be the end of one chapter for America and the beginning of another.

    While I have NOTHING to do with astrology I like astronomy and know God uses the heavens for signs. Pluto is a strange planet it takes almost 2 and one half centuries to get around the sun. Twice it was spotted in the Roman Empire once as thing started to decline in early 200’s AD and again 8 years before collapse. 3 notable sightings in Britain include the great famine in 1300’s, the start of the Elizabethan era and most recently the beginning of the formal creation of the united kingdom in 1801. So not exactly a great sign to see but could be hopeful. Pluto was seen in America on July 4th 1776 at the birth of America and THIS YEAR in February on the 22nd it was seen from America again. Just before America’s 246th birthday. Perhaps her last.

    I see no other option for America, no way this cup can pass her. She has done to much wickedness, shed too much blood, and aided in others wickedness through export and government extortion she can’t escape her fate. We can ignore this and keep telling people about that revival that is “just around the corner”, and has been for at least 40 years, OR we can prepare people for this get them ready so IF they survive, as it rains on the just and unjust alike especially since we are all mixed together in our living arrangements, they can help themselves AND others. Food, water, weapons of some kind (guns, knives, axes, rifles, swords, spears, anything to fight with) fuel for fires for heat and for cooking. Generators, especially solar as they wouldn’t need gasoline. Maybe some gasoline for cars. If you have pharmacies near by see if they have any penicillin or antibiotics. If close to a doctors office or hospital also check for penicillin and antibiotics. If an EMP happens many if not most electronics will be useless but there are ways to protect stuff from EMP attack. A small refrigerator/freezer you can protect can be very useful especially in storing penicillin and antibiotics. Herbal medicine books would be very helpful. Anyone with knowledge of pharmaceuticals like basic antibiotics and penicillin and how to make them would be a great contact. Survival seeds for gardens and herb gardens would help too. If you are near anyone w chickens or near a farm even better. Craft and hobby books can help so you have something of value for trade. Woodworking, sewing, painting, drawing, tailoring Etc anything that could be wanted by someone or be a useful skill. In case of an EMP newer cars may become junk with all the electronics on board as it basically is a computer attached to a combustible engine. But older cars might still work so some gas on hand would help as gas stations most likely won’t be able to pump gas. I have prepared for this and hope I and my family and others, I didn’t just prepare for us, can weather this but we need to get people prepared. We WISH it hadn’t come to this, we WISH there was another way. But wishes don’t mean diddly poo!!! We need action or we may one day have to answer to God why didn’t you warn them???? Why didn’t you prepare them????

    We blew all our chances and EVEN THE REPRIEVE we begged God for, Trump, we squandered!! We all either know or heard of DEEP sleepers who sleep so deeply that no amount of noise seems to wake them. It seems like a bomb could go off outside the window and they wouldn’t budge. Or even a gun could be fired next to them and nothing. The ONLY way to wake them is to do it yourself by grabbing them and shaking them and sometimes even slapping them. Well the American church, and I fear the western church as a whole, IS such a DEEP sleeper that God himself will have to take hold of her and shake her awake.

  10. I got back from the neurosurgeon I apparently had misunderstood the narrowing it was on the portion where a large nerve come out of the spinal cord and passes through a canal to get past the spine not in the canal with the cord. However they told me three things: A) the nerve affected wouldn’t be the cause of my drifting and B) they don’t need to operate and C) they don’t know the cause of my drifting. So be it. I am fulling willing to suffer if that is what the Lord has for me. My life has often been suffering of some sort so I used to it. I trust the Lord and one day I will understand why as I understand the suffering of my childhood now decades after the fact. My body may not allow me to get around much but I still have my mind and the ability to use it and through my tablet express my thoughts. My body doesn’t work great but my mind is sharp. I AM a servant of the Lord and will do his business however I can!!!!!!

  11. Hi Paul…I will be praying for your health and God to bring you through hard times and to give you favour and blessing daily. may god bless you and keep you in Hs care and love.
    Later on we will all meet in heaven and be ‘well’ with no health issues, huge challenges or sorrow. Amen

  12. On Putin.
    There are probably many reasons’ for his power play, ego, domestic politics, for example. But the geo-strategic issues are obvious, to my mind. NATO is a threat. Biden looked weak and the US military to outsiders looks like a glen of fairies (thanks to Milley). With Russia’s population reproducing at lower and lower rates, it is running out of future soldiers, as are Western nations. This was possibly the opportune time for him to seek to secure the most vulnerable of Russia’s historic ‘avenues of invasion’.

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