History & Culture / Politics

Christian Witness Helped Topple the Berlin Wall 33 Years Ago

AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

As most Americans were intently watching election results trickle in this past Wednesday, the world quietly marked the 33rd anniversary of the November 9, 1989, collapse of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of communism in Eastern Europe. Although these two events may seem unrelated, the United States and the West more broadly may still have much to learn from the battle against Soviet tyranny. Specifically, while historians are quick to discuss the failures of Soviet leadership and the successful policies of the Reagan administration, they often miss the essential role that people of faith played in winning what was ultimately a spiritual battle for the souls of millions.

The Cold War was a conflict of two worldviews. One put the human collective and the state at the center of public life. The other acknowledged the sovereignty of God and the dignity of the individual human person in the political, economic, and social arenas.

While the Soviet regime ruthlessly attempted to subvert the Christian faith, small home churches still met in secret to share in fellowship and share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of these churches in East Germany eventually proved instrumental in organizing pro-freedom campaigns and bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

One such story begins in Leipzig, in late December 1982. Three high-school students, Markus, Kerstin, and Stephan were surprised with a small gift of a New Testament after arriving home and emptying their bags. Young people rarely attended church in East Germany, and the church leadership was often an echo chamber of the Communist Party and the STASI (the East German secret police). It is unclear who placed the packages in their bags or how they escaped unnoticed.

The gift would eventually lead all three to become engrained in the local underground church movement, including an association with a clandestine Catholic priest. They were catechized, baptized, and taught fundamental truths about the faith, including how to pray. To mislead the police, the catechisms occurred during outings in the lowlands, swimming in the White Elster or Markkleeberger See, or during the basketball games that sometimes followed a shared dinner.

But as mysteriously as the small group of mature Christians appeared in these three young people’s lives, they disappeared. One summer Saturday in 1985, the students, as always, gathered at a park. But the friends were missing and never reappeared.

At that time, the young people already understood how to defend their souls against Communist slavery through their character of straightforwardness, kindness, and decency – from honesty and diligence in their studies to truthfulness in the minor aspects of their lives. Stephan, Markus, and Kerstin established a small and leaderless network, with every member equipped to lead, as was necessary when the secret police arrested Markus in 1988.

The principles that made all of them leaders were their disinterest in being credited for their actions and their in-depth conviction that they were instruments of God on Earth. They knew their goal was to point other people to the right path in their life and leave them free choice. Their mature Christian friends instructed them how and where to find the truth – including in the U.S. radio broadcasts like Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, or TransWorldRadio.

Less than four years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the three friends listened to an interview with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who said that “believers would triumph over those who try to crush freedom of conscience.” President Reagan assured listeners worldwide that the “Most awesome military machine in history” – referring to the Soviet army – “has no match for that one, single man, hero, strong yet tender, Prince of Peace. His name alone can lift our hearts, soothe our sorrows, heal our wounds and drive away our fears. He gave us love and forgiveness. He taught us the truth and left us hope.” President Reagan was, of course, referring to Jesus Christ.

President Reagan also shared that “the most crucial moment of his day” was his “prayer time in a room near the Oval Office.” This remarkable statement by the U.S. President inspired Kerstin, Markus, and Stephan to reach out to their friends, colleagues, and even to the nearly starving Red Army soldiers and guards at the nearby Soviet military base in Wurzen. They offered homemade meals with an elegantly wrapped mini-size Gospel of Luke in Russian, which they brought from the Russian Orthodox Church in nearby Dresden. These encounters often resulted in tears of repentance by the soldiers, moved by the genuine and selfless kindness they experienced for the first time in their life.

They also responded with compassion to the hostility of the STASI, who would often arrest and harshly interrogate members of the underground churches. For instance, in prison, one man moved the chief director of a STASI station with his testimony of faith so much that the officer found a legal excuse to shorten his four-week sentence to a few days and released him before Christmas. Sadly, this was not the case for everyone, and some underground church leaders were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences far from home.

That distinctive network of like-minded friends motivated and empowered peaceful moral resistance throughout their region of East Germany. It broke the shackles of fear by depriving the STASI of the most dreaded weapon – a power to isolate and throw people into oblivion. By doing their shopping, taking care of children, elders, and the sick, assisting in housework, offering financial help, and acquiring information about the imprisoned, the network built a bond of solidarity within the families of political prisoners.

The participants of these underground church networks would refer to this movement as the “cracking of the spiritual Berlin Wall.” This phenomenon almost undoubtedly contributed to the decision of the Red Army not to intervene when the physical Berlin Wall fell as the residents of Leipzig launched their massive peaceful demonstrations for freedom.

People in the West today can only imagine how unbearable life must have been for a righteous person under such an oppressive and morally corrupt system as the Soviets imposed on Eastern Europe. Though Americans thankfully still have the freedom to attend church and share the Gospel, they are nonetheless faced with cultural and government institutions which are increasingly hostile toward their worldview and their faith. Critical Race Theory, radical gender theory, and other left-wing ideologies are designed to isolate individuals and put them in a position of psychological slavery to an all-powerful state.

For Americans who may be disheartened at the results of the elections on Tuesday, they would do well to remember the words of President Reagan nearly forty years ago. No matter the challenges you may face or the seemingly overwhelming tide of cultural forces arrayed against you, prayer and unwavering faith in the power of God to overcome all obstacles are the most powerful tools one can possess.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.


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Ruth
20 days ago

How about we win, and they’ll lose? or Trust but verify? And this one is from his 1989 speech:
I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.

Hal-
20 days ago

Anyone still recall Reagan’s “Tear Down That Wall”? Sent the Ruskie Commie on the defensive.

Joseph
20 days ago

Brilliant article. German Christians’ example is encouraging. But it also shows how American aid was purposeful and beneficial, including funding for international radios. Anyone who questions the value of this strategy is wrong. Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo understand it.

Ruth
20 days ago
Reply to  Joseph

Yes, I am also encouraged.

Julie
20 days ago

I share concerns that the Conservative movement is now extremely secularized, including our press. You hardly find Christian perspectives on political issues on those websites.

We may count votes million times, call to show up, and vote, but everything will stay the same until we understand Conservatism and have it in our hearts.

Reagan’s arrival in the White House was not an accident, as the GOP victory during the 1990s. It was the result of the efforts of many people, including those in churches. But, paradoxically, the Left has stronger faith in Global Warming, and it imposes it on everyone. We are shy of faith in God in public, except for abortion. But America is now where the Communist countries were in the 1980s, and they cried: We want God at school and the public place. I appreciate this historical lesson on Amac. I did not know that Reagan’s involvement in that non-material battle was to such an extent.

Roland J. Brown
21 days ago

Biden represents old Cold War thinking. But he stood at the other side than Reagan. He continues to push for socialism as he has done for four decades, with as much hostile toward Christianity education as it was in the Soviet Union. In this sense, the Cold War did not end. His election brought back that atmosphere to America. But we also have to have clear message like Gingrich’s Contract or Reagan’s vision. If it is somewhere there, it still needs to be successfully promoted.

Mike
20 days ago

Yes, he never changed.

Joseph
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Absolutely. We are still in this conflict.

Hal-
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike

I disagree. I think he will get nuttier and stupider by the month. He is already embarrassing the libcommies because they know his ignorance, bias, and intellect is on the nutty side of things… and it will cost them votes and put their vote rigging operations in much stress.

Ruth
20 days ago
Reply to  Hal-

In my opinion Biden is cunny not stupid, he knows what he wishes.

Lou
21 days ago

I agree with what others said here. One needs to realize it is a battle at a minimum for Western culture, which includes the free market and all paths to prosperity. On a deeper level, as Reagan suggested, it is a moral and spiritual fight. The relevance between our battle and the Cold War is crystal clear. Those who choose willful blindness will lose it.

Joseph
20 days ago
Reply to  Lou

100% agree

Norman
21 days ago

In the mid-80s, a church we attended with my wife was helping Campus Crusade for Christ, which cooperated with the Catholic church in Eastern Europe and Lutheran and Baptist churches behind the Iron Curtain. We financed Bibles, Christian literature, and radio programs aired via short-wave transmitters in Monte Carlo. John Paul II, Billy Graham, and many Christian leaders prioritized evangelization as THE strategy for the countries occupied by the atheistic Soviets.
From testimonies from behind the Curtain, we knew that was THE way to defeat that evil hydra. Reagan knew it well, too, as he said at least once during a meeting with Christian broadcasters. If memory serves well, as Governor, he quoted General McArthur, who asked what he needed in Japan, said: send me missionaries. It is also THE way for our strategy on atheistic China. I strongly believe in it.

Joseph
20 days ago
Reply to  Norman

I wonder when our next President will have such an intelligent, winning strategy – this time for China.

Patricia
21 days ago

I am also a registered Independent since Clinton’s era and have voted Republican. But I saw a fall in the moral standard of our politicians. Do you remember Reagan’s National Security Adviser resignation based on the allegation of corruption, although dismissed by the Reagan White House? And then the Clinton era filled with China’s corruption scandals combined with his character troubles? But on the Republican side, it does not look good either. We must strengthen a candidate’s requirements to win approval in polls. We need more believers like Reagan and his people.

Mike
20 days ago
Reply to  Patricia

Yes. Correct.

Emma
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike

I also agree. The character must count in our choices.

Joe
21 days ago

I was in Ramstein in 1989 doing maintenance for F16s. That experience of seeing the last years of the Cold War left me without a doubt about the power of prayer.
I am glad Amac is publishing such articles. I find it depressing that our Conservative media has become more and more secularized compared to what we had in the 1970 and 80s. This type of article reminds me of good ol’ Human Events. We were getting it in Germany.   
 I became Independent after Reagan left. But since 9/11, I have voted Republican.
Thank God, I can still find genuine believers on our side who believe that it is a moral battle rather than a military or political one in the first place.

Bob
21 days ago

At that time, I was with Texaco in Vienna. I remember the reaction of both enthusiastic German Catholics and Protestants in the late 1980s to John Paul II’s sermon on the defense of the freedom of conscience like the heroic soldiers in Danzig’s Westerplatte.
It was the day or after the day when Reagan called on Gorbachev to open the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall. In Germany, it coincided with “Die Kirchentag,” which was the ecumenical week of prayers for the unity of Christians and the freedom of faith. Yes, I can confirm that it was visible that the months preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall were a time of prayer and reconciliation in truth. For instance, they clearly stated that those who served the evil regime must admit to it, apologize, and then they would be forgiven. But without such a public confession, forgiveness was impossible. It coincided with the circumstances of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission in South Africa which was modeled on the German experience.

AlCRobert
21 days ago

Dismissal and diminution of faith in politics will have serious consequences, especially on our side. We started to see some of them in social media – all of that aggression, brutality, and personal attacks are the result. If people don’t allow Bible to influence their relationships, then other influences will dominate. President was correct in emphasizing the paramount role of spirituality in that battle.

Emma
20 days ago
Reply to  AlCRobert

Absolutely. I can’t agree more. It is not by chance that Ronald Reagan is called The Great. Rush Limbaugh, a voice of reason and heart, greatly respected him.

George
21 days ago

And we wonder how to resist and defeat the woke culture. We have example right here. Secondly, we need to think more about the agile, leaderless groups like those in Germany. Last but not least, faith is crucial in that battle.

Hope
21 days ago

At that time, America was more focused on Providence. We are at war with spiritual (intellectual and moral) forces that cannot be defeated only by the natural. Our political philosophy always required authentic people of faith. It is a good reminder that once our President gave this advice to the freedom fighters behind the Iron Curtain.

Bill
21 days ago

People are usually left speechless reading such a report. It is encouraging and uplifting food for thought – what I needed after this election.
I agree that all evil, including Critical race theory, has the same roots as the one that built the Berlin Wall. But Reagan was right – “believers would triumph over those who try to crush freedom of conscience.” Thanks amac.

Hannah
22 days ago

Wow once again another elegantly written and Inspiring article by Mr Solis, about Courageous and Humble Christians doing Good simply for God’s glory!! 

Some of our politicians from Both sides should take a “leaf out their book”.  More work could be done for American citizens/voters if there was less big egos and fighting for credit. 

Thank You Mr Solis for also reminding us about the Wisdom and Humility of the late Great President Reagan, who Faithfully listened to and sought guidance from his eternal “Commander in Chief”  :) :)

Mike
20 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

I fully agree with that opinion.

Joseph
20 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

Yes, I also think, Reagan’s example must be followed if we want to end conflict with China peacefully.

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