Western liberals who believe God must be expelled from public life and law in the cause of preserving liberty should examine how a protestant American president and Polish pope explained the final days of an Evil Empire.
Both Ronald Reagan and John Paul II said it was religious faith that triumphed over Soviet communism.
If there was one prophetic moment pointing to that triumph, it came on June 12, 1987. On that day, Reagan was in Berlin and John Paul II was in Gdansk, Poland. But their message was the same.
On his way to Berlin, Reagan stopped in Rome to meet with the pontiff. “Perhaps it’s not too much to hope that true change will come to all countries that now deny or hinder the freedom to worship God,” he told the pope. “And perhaps we’ll see that change come through the re-emergence of faith, through the irresistible power of a religious renewal.”
Six days later, Reagan uttered his famous challenge, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” But almost never quoted in the liberal press is the story Reagan told to conclude his speech in Berlin.
“Years ago,” said Reagan, “before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure — the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today, when the sun strikes that sphere — that sphere that towers over all Berlin — the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.
“As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, the embodiment of German unity,” said Reagan, “I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall — perhaps by a young Berliner — ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs will become reality.’ Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith.”
That same day, the pope said Mass in Gdansk, hometown of the anti-communist Solidarity trade union. It was the climax of his third visit home to Poland.
In his first visit, according to biographer George Weigel, a massive congregation in Warsaw had chanted in response to the pope’s sermon: “We want God. We want God in the family, we want God in the schools, we want God in books.” (They might as well have been addressing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, as well as the Polish Communist Party.)
Before the pope’s first visit to Poland, Solidarity founder Lech Walesa told Fox News this week, Walesa had been able to attract only about 10 supporters to his anti-communist movement. After the pope’s visit, it swelled to 10 million.
The communists responded by outlawing Solidarity and quite likely recruiting the would-be assassin who shot the pope.
But, like Reagan, the pope never cowered before his enemies.
On June 12, 1987, as Reagan called for Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall and pointed to the undefeated cross on the tower at Alexander Platz, John Paul II invoked the forbidden name of “Solidarity” over and over again in his sermon at Gdansk. Lech Walesa sat in the very front row of a congregation numbering a million souls.
The hearts of captive peoples rose up. The wall came down.
In 1991, John Paul II wrote an encyclical letter reflecting on the collapse of communism and pointing to the error at its core that all nations must avoid.
“If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at his disposal in order to impose his own interests or his own opinion, with no regard of the rights of others. People are then respected only to the extent they can be exploited for selfish ends,” he said.
“Thus, the root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights which no one may violate — no individual, group, class, nation or state.”
The signers of the Declaration of Independence would have said, “Amen.” Yet, modern judges labor even now to erect a new wall between this truth and American law. If they succeed, freedom falls.