Saturday, March 7, 2009

Did Reagan Save Gorbachev's Soul?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece that documents President Ronald Reagan's secret attempts to proselytize former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

At a 1988 summit in the former U.S.S.R., Reagan brought up the human rights issue of freedom of religion. The converstation then became more personal.

He told Gorbachev that what he was about to say would be considered entirely secret. According to the notetakers, Reagan told Gorbachev that "if word got out that this was even being discussed, the President would deny he had said anything about it." To emphasize this point, Reagan said again a few minutes later that "if there was anyone in the room who said he had given such advice [to Gorbachev about religion], he would say that person was lying, that he had never said it."

. . .

The president said he had a letter from the widow of a young World War II soldier. He was lying in a shell hole at midnight, awaiting an order to attack. He had never been a believer, because he had been told God did not exist. But as he looked up at the stars he voiced a prayer hoping that, if he died in battle, God would accept him. That piece of paper was found on the body of a young Russian soldier who was killed in that battle.

Gorbachev tried to switch the subject. Perhaps the United States and the Soviet Union might open the way for greater cooperation in space, he told the president. But the president wasn't to be diverted. According to the transcript, Reagan told Gorbachev that space was in the direction of heaven, but not as close to heaven as some other things that they had been discussing.

As the meeting ended, Reagan became even more direct and personal. He noted that his own son Ron did not believe in God either. "The President concluded that there was one thing he had long yearned to do for his atheist son. He wanted to serve his son the perfect gourmet dinner, to have him enjoy the meal, and then to ask him if he believed there was a cook."

A member of the clergy told me a few years ago that Gorbachev was a Christian, a fact Gorbachev revealed at considerable personal peril. I don't know the date of that profession (and will try to find out).

We don't know if when Reagan took the Great Commission to Russia, he was preaching to the choir, so to speak; Reagan had long suspected that Gorbachev believed in Christ. If so, how much comfort that fellowship must have brought Gorbachev, who for all his vast power could not worship freely.

Even more remarkable, Reagan may have helped bring Gorbachev to Christ. Winning the Cold War, restoring American supremacy after the disastrous Carter administration, saving our economy -- Reagan could take credit for all these feats. But none of these accomplishments compares to the value of one man's soul.

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