Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
A Time to Stand
by Dr. Steve Elwart
We are fast approaching a time when each of us will have to make some decisions—decisions about our life, our relationships, and our worldview.
After World War II, the Communist Party assumed control of Romania. Once the Communists came to power, they proceeded to co-opt the Church. They spoke of love and tolerance, but these words masked their true intentions.
Those Christians (including the clergy) who did not have a strong Biblical foundation were easily deceived and many who did were intimidated into silence.
After the takeover, the Romanian Communists convened a congress of four thousand priests, pastors, and ministers of all denominations in their Parliament building with the proceedings being carried in a national radio broadcast. One by one, the ministers got up and had nothing but words of praise for communism and assured the new government of the loyalty of the Christian Church.
One of the pastors scheduled to speak was a man named Richard Wurmbrand. As he listened and waited, his wife Sabina leaned over to him and said, “They are spitting in the face of Christ. Richard, stand up and wash away this shame.”
He said to her, “If I do so, you lose your husband.” She replied, “I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.”
So Wurmbrand rose and instead of repeating the same thing every other pastor said, he told the assembly how wrong they were and how this flew in the face of Christian doctrine.1
At this point, the broadcast was interrupted and the martyrdom of the Wurmbrands began. Sabina went on to serve eight years in prison while Richard served a total of fourteen years, eight of which were in solitary confinement. As Richard Wurmbrand said,
In solitary confinement, we could not pray as before. We were unimaginably hungry…The Lord’s Prayer was much too long for us—we could not concentrate enough to say it. My only prayer repeated again and again was, “Jesus, I love You.”2
After he and his wife emmigrated to the United States, he was called to testify before the United States Senate, stripping to the waist to reveal the scars of eighteen wounds received from frequent tortures. A reporter with the Philadelphia Herald said of Wurmbrand’s time in prison, “He stood in the midst of lions, but they could not devour him.”
Not all the Romanian clergy were as brave as this. Orthodox and Protestant churches would outdo each other in showing their loyalty to the Communist Party. One Orthodox bishop put the hammer and sickle on his robes and asked his priests to no longer call him “Your Grace,” but “Comrade Bishop.”
The deputy bishop of the Lutheran church in Romania began to teach in the theological seminary that God had given three revelations: one through Moses, one through Jesus, and the third through Stalin, the last superseding the other two.
The Communist coup in Romania was not like authoritarian takeovers in other countries. Rather than the systematic annihilation of their enemies, such as with the Castro regime in Cuba or the Pol Pot government in Cambodia, this coup was “civilized.”
Rather than an outright prosecution of the church, they seduced it. After the seduction came the oppression, but by that time it was too late. The time to fight back was past.
What would you do if you face a situation like the one confronting the Wurmbrands? We all like to think that when the time comes to stand up for our faith, we would be as heroic as Richard and Sabine Wurmbrand.
The truth is if a person has not conditioned himself to resist evil and waits for his “big moment,” he will find himself wanting. If one spends their life compromising their values in small ways, they will continue to compromise in larger ones. In today’s politically correct world, it is easy to find ways to compromise, to rationalize one’s actions. If one subscribes to the idea of relative values, there is no place where you can say, “This far and no more.” Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) once wrote:
What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like, and immorality is what they dislike.
While written almost 100 years ago, this philosophy still defines the secular worldview today. While a Christian defines morality through the lens of the Bible, the World defines it according to the transient whims of the time.
Though Whitehead was raised in a Christian home, he rejected every aspect of Christian teaching. A mathematician and philosopher, Whitehead’s influence was felt on both sides of the Atlantic, as he taught at both Cambridge and Harvard.
Using these universities as his pulpit, Whitehead preached his version of “process theology.” a term used in his time for situational ethics, a philosophy that can be traced back as far as the teachings of Plato. (It is also through the Greek school of thought that theologians began to allegorize the Bible, polluting God’s basic message to us.)
Relativistic morality is pervasive in the world today. In fact, those of us who hold to a Biblical worldview are not only in the minority, we are on the brink of being ostracized.
It is easy to talk about such things in theory, but it is another thing when it happens to you.
A Personal Stand
For this writer, the recent controversy over admitting homosexuals into the Boy Scouts was the event that turned theory into reality.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was founded in 1910 under a charter granted by the United States Congress, one of only two organizations so honored (the other being the Red Cross). The principles of the organization are embodied by the Scout Oath:
The Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
When I joined the Cub Scouts in 1959, the oath was clear and unambiguous. The organization embodied patriotism, a belief in God, the promise to live by the Golden Rule and to live a moral life.
Starting in the 1960s some people began questioning the mission of the Boy Scouts.
Attack from the Atheists
The first attack came from atheists. While the BSA will grant membership to anyone who believes in a “higher power”, atheists believed that the Boy Scouts should not discriminate against them and should grant membership to those who do not have any belief in God.
This issue seemed to be settled when in 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower federal court ruling on the issue. The case at hand was whether the Boy Scouts of America could deny membership to atheists and agnostics without violating federal anti-discrimination laws. The U.S. appeals court in Chicago concluded that the federal law forbidding discrimination in “places of public accommodation” did not include private groups such as the Boy Scouts. The ruling dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of a seven-year-old Illinois boy who refused to make the required Boy Scout pledge to “…do my duty to God and my country.”
As a result, while the BSA could maintain their policy on atheists, they were barred from many schools and other public buildings because of their stance on this issue.
The next group that challenged BSA policy was the homosexual lobby. They sued the BSA over the policy barring homosexuals from being Scouts or Scout leaders.
This issue was supposed to be resolved with the 2000 landmark Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that ruled that as a private organization, the BSA could exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”
Even with a loss in the courts, the homosexual lobby then took a different tack—they went after the money. Those who wanted homosexuals in the BSA began to put pressure on contributors to the organization to withhold funding to effect a change in the rules.
The Current Controversy
In response to growing pressure to change its membership policy, in July 2012 the Executive Committee of the BSA’s Executive Board released a statement revealing that an “11 person committee” convened since 2010 by the BSA conducted a two-year review and reached a “unanimous consensus” recommending retaining the current membership policy.
Still not satisfied with the outcome, those that wanted a change continued to put pressure on BSA’s large contributors. In February of this year, UPS and Intel both announced that they would withhold their funding until BSA changed their membership policy.
In response, BSA announced that the Executive Board would vote again on the membership issue even though they voted to retain the current policy just seven months before. This decision caused an uproar within the BSA rank and file. Many felt that it was a betrayal of the leadership, caving in to money interests.
The Executive Board then reversed themselves yet again and announced that they would postpone their vote until the upcoming annual meeting, scheduled for next month.
Rules for Radicals
What is happening to the BSA is becoming a common occurrence in today’s society. An organization that used to be viewed as being synonymous with American Values has slowly become vilified and is now being projected as anti-American.
The tactics that were used to maneuver BSA to such a state come right out of a classic book written by Saul Alinsky titled, Rules for Radicals. Rule #13 in his book is, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Alinsky codified a technique that has been used for years for people and groups to push through a particular agenda.
In this case the Boy Scouts were the target. Their position on homosexuals in Scouting was “frozen” in place and “personalized” in the persona of a Boy Scout who was expelled from Scouting for announcing that he was homosexual and a Cub Scout Leader who announced she was homosexual as well.
As a result, BSA found themselves “polarized.” They were polarized from much of America. They went from being held up as model for good citizenship to being booed during the opening flag ceremony at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
They have also polarized their membership. The policy the BSA Executive Board has decided to vote on is the worst of all worlds. The new motion would allow local units to decide for themselves whether or not to admit gays into their troops and packs. The Board argues that the units would not have to associate with homosexuals if they chose not to. In this regard, they are being disingenuous at best. Scouting units come together for larger activities involving multiple troops and packs.
The only way to be sure a unit would not associate with homosexuals in Scouting would be to isolate themselves completely from all other Scouting groups and activities.
In the name of tolerance, homosexual advocates have moved the BSA from mainstream to almost a fringe group.
But that is not enough for these activists. They have stated that they will not rest until BSA endorses the homosexual lifestyle.
While the tolerant attitude would be to “live and let live” and start their own scouting organization, they have decided to forcibly impose their values on others. They decided that they cannot tolerate intolerance.
This leaves the Christian Scout Leader or parent on the horns of a dilemma. It is very similar to one facing many people in conflict with their church. The question for them is “Do they stay in the organization and work within or do they leave that organization?”
For many leaders the only answer is to leave. To stay in the organization is to give a tacit endorsement to the policies they espouse.
What is happening to the BSA and their leaders is a microcosm of a larger secular war being waged on several fronts. The concept of Freedom of Religion is slowly being replaced with Freedom of Worship, relegating one’s faith and beliefs to the four walls of a building. God-given rights are being replaced with “rights” granted by the state, Freedom is being replaced with “fairness.”
We are fast approaching a time when each of us will have to be make some decisions—decisions about our life, our relationships, and our worldview.
The first thing we need to do is be strong in our faith. Are we secure in Him?
Next, we need a firm hold on our worldview. A worldview is the framework that we hang our life decisions on. If one believes that there are moral absolutes, then the decisions we make every day become easy. If our worldview consists of moral relativisms, then every decision and life choice is studied, considered, and worried over.
Ephesians 6 is one of the best instruction manuals for preparing for the coming battle. It teaches us to put on the Full Armor of God and to put it on before the battle is joined.
But we also must act. Before his death at the hands of the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
Each of us has a part to play in the battles to come. The question is: will we stand tall with Christ as Richard and Sabine Wurmbrand did, or will we spit in the Face of Christ?
This article was originally published in the
April 2013 Personal Update NewsJournal.