September 15, 2003
In his best-selling and still-riveting-after-50 years autobiography, "Witness," Whittaker Chambers details his experiences in the American Communist Party and the Communist underground, his break with Communism and his efforts to help defeat it. He joined the Communists because in his despair at the "crisis of history" following the 19th century and WWI, he believed Communism was the answer.
After he saw that it was not only capable of unprecedented evil, but inevitably driven to such evil, he left (How? Very carefully...). When he left the Communist underground, he told his wife they were leaving the winning side for the losing side.
Why did he leave and eventually sacrifice a brilliant professional reputation and his livelihood to his fight to defeat Communism? Because he saw it as a moral imperative and, though he doubted that the West would find the will to resist Communism, he needed to try. When Whittaker Chambers talks about the great struggle of the 20th century, he does not say it was between Communism and capitalism. He does not say it was between Communism and democracy. He says, repeatedly, that it was between Communism and God.
Communism was the religion of its followers and human reason was their god. They believed that men of sufficient intelligence and good intentions could devise a perfect society free from want and conflict. Their enemy was the God of Christianity and Judaism.
Fifty years ago it was easy to understand what Chambers meant when he said the struggle was between Communism and God. The United States of America, after all, considered itself a God-fearing country. It was founded upon specific understandings about the Creator of the universe. Its founders prayed for divine guidance in ordering the affairs of the new nation. When they opened their legislative sessions they did so by invoking God's guidance. When they coined money, the money said In God We Trust. When they took the oath of office they said, "So help me God." When they testified in court, they swore on the Bible to tell the truth. When they wrote and spoke about their hopes for the nation they were creating, they acknowledged that a republic would not work unless the people were religious and God-fearing.
Right around the time Chambers published his autobiography, the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance and it was not controversial. The words "under God" were to remind us that as human beings we are not equal to God, but less than God and answerable to God.
Our Constitution is clear and the intent of its authors is known. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." And so Congress made no law establishing a religion. The authors' intent was to avoid a situation such as England's where there was a state church from which, some 170 years prior, the Pilgrims had fled.
How did "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" morph into, "You can't invoke God at public high school graduations"? Through judicial activism: Fifty years of judicial activism have come between our Constitution and us. What can you do about that? It is there and we can't wave it away with a magic wand.
The recent ruling that a courtroom cannot display the Ten Commandments, which are the foundation of the legal system of this and every other western nation, appears to be perfectly in line with precedents set in one decision after another starting around 1960. We have every reason to expect that this trend will not end until God's name has been erased from our coins and the Bible removed from every public place, including courtrooms.
Where did this judicial activism come from? Where did this hostility to religion come from, a hostility so alien to our beginnings and our first century and three quarters? It came from Marxism, cultural Marxism. The Soviet Union is no more but, starting many decades ago, Marxian ideas sprouted up like weeds between the cracks of our culture and as a result it would now appear that Whittaker Chambers was right: He left the winning side for the losing side.
(For a brief explanation of cultural Marxism, see the text of Bill Lind's lecture on the Origins of Political Correctness at www.academia.org.)
Margaret L. Snyder is an adjunct professor of foreign language at Moravian College.
Read this article on the Opinion and Editorials website. Reprinted with permission of the author.