A Christian Declaration on Communism and Anti-Communism (General Conference Mennonite Church, 1962)
Christian Declaration on Communism and Anti-Communism, A (General Conference Mennonite Church, 1962)
The aggressive program of Communism in the world today, the strong anti-Communist agitation this has stirred up in the United States and Canada, and the challenge of all these developments to our nonresistant conviction make it imperative that we as Christian believers clarify our position.
We are grateful to find ourselves in wholehearted agreement with the statement adopted by the (Old) Mennonite General Conference in its sessions of August 23, 1961, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In unity with this body of Mennonites, we as representatives of the General Conference Mennonite Church affirm our Christian conviction in the following statement.
- Our love and ministry must go out to all, whether friend or foe.
- While rejecting any ideology which opposes the gospel or seeks to destroy the Christian faith, we cannot take any attitude or commit any act contrary to Christian love against those who hold or promote such views, but must seek to overcome their evil and win them through the gospel.
- If our country becomes involved in war, we shall endeavor to continue to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty and avoid joining in any wartime hysteria of hatred, revenge, and retaliation.
For the present situation we take this to mean, positively:
- That we inform ourselves thoroughly and intelligently on the evils of all atheistic ideologies and practices and all materialistic philosophies of whatever character.
- That we must be faithful and effective in our witness against these ideologies and philosophies: (a) through the truth of the gospel and (b) through works of mercy which demonstrate the way of love that the gospel proclaims, even the feeding of our reputed enemies.
- That we accept our obligation and privilege to bring in love the saving gospel to Communists everywhere as well as to all men and to win them for Christ.
- That our hand of love, encouragement, and help, and our prayers must go out to Christians in all lands, specially to those who suffer for Christ behind the Iron Curtain.
- That we must courageously proclaim all the implications of the gospel in human life even at the risk, if need be, of being misunderstood and falsely accused.
- That we urge upon governments such a positive course of action as may help to remove the conditions that contribute to the rise of Communism and tend to make people vulnerable to Communist influence.
Negatively, we understand our commitment to mean:
- That we recognize the incompatibility of Christianity and atheistic Communism and the challenge to the cause of Christ which the latter represents.
- That we recognize that atheistic Communism can ultimately be overcome only by the witness of Christian truth and life, and not by force or violence.
- That the nonresistant Christian witness in this matter must be clearly and unequivocally divorced from any and all advocacy of force and violence, either physical or intellectual.
- That we cannot equate Christianity with Americanism or with any particular economic, political, or materialistic system. Accordingly, we cannot accept the view that to be anti-Communist is therefore necessarily to be Christian, or that to exercise love toward Communist persons is therefore necessarily to be pro-Communist.
- That although we teach and warn against atheistic Communism, we cannot be involved in any anti-Communist crusade that takes the form of a "holy war" and employs distortion of facts, unfounded charges against persons and organizations, particularly against fellow Christians, promotes blind fear, and creates an atmosphere that can lead to a very dangerous type of totalitarian philosophy.
- That our word of warning must therefore go out against using the pulpit, the radio, television, and the religious press in the name of Christianity in ways and for purposes indicated above.
Believing that world Communism today has been permitted by God as a judgment upon an unfaithful Christendom, we confess our own past failure to proclaim as we ought the whole truth of the gospel by word and deed. We urge the brotherhood to be more concerned to live out the gospel fully in all areas of life and to give itself to prayer to the end that the providence of God may overrule in the affairs of nations, that peace may prevail. And we pray for the direction of the Spirit that we may faithfully perform our mission as effective witnesses for Christ in a world replete with economic greed, hate, and warfare, struggling with competent ideologies and remembering that we are pilgrims here whose citizenship is in heaven and who are looking for the consummation of all things in the return of our ascended Lord and in His ultimate eternal kingdom.
Context of the Statement
The statement was presented by the General Conference Mennonite Church's Board of Christian Service at the instigation of its Peace and Social Concerns Committee. The latter ten-person committee included two Canadians -- David Schroeder of Winnipeg, Manitoba and John Sawatzky of Toronto, Ontario.
The 1961 statement by the Mennonite Church General Conference noted in paragraph 2 was The Christian Witness to the State, an updated statement on how the church should address government on matters of concern.
This statement came at the height of the Cold War, in the shadow of the failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and only two months before the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In a ballot vote, the delegates approved the statement by a vote of 1253-43.
Minutes 1962, General Conference Mennonite Church (Newton, Kan. : The Conference, 1962): 12, 29-30.
"Communism and Anticommunism." The Mennonite 77 (June 5, 1962): 370-371.
"Must the church choose sides in the Cold War?" The Mennonite 77 (June 5, 1962): 372-375.