“The most condemning speech ever given on American soil.” That is what my father called a speech delivered to graduates of Harvard University in 1978. He has emphasized this speech repeatedly and warned: “The West scorned his message. That negative reaction is proving to be a major disaster!”
The speech was called “A World Split Apart.” It was delivered by Russian poet Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
We made it our Trumpet cover story in 1998 and put this bold headline on it: “Fulfilled Prophecy—From a Nobel Prize Winner.” Solzhenitsyn’s warning has undeniable ties to Bible principles and Bible prophecy!
Now that speech is being rediscovered. A couple of days ago, Quillette posted an essay by Sergiu Klainerman, who, like Solzhenitsyn, was a refugee from communism. Klainerman wrote:
Rereading it today, in the fall of the horrible year 2020, I find it truly prophetic. It is now painfully clear that, as Solzhenitsyn was able to discern 42 years ago, the West has been gradually losing the will and intellectual ability to defend itself, not so much against foreign armies as it may have appeared in 1978, but against an army of internal critics determined to demolish everything the West used to stand for.
“Truly prophetic” indeed. Klainerman can see what is happening. Solzhenitsyn could see decades ago what is happening now. And the Bible prophesied what is happening. America needed to heed that speech in 1978. It needs to heed it now!
Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a huge name in modern history. He fought for Soviet Russia in World War ii and witnessed the Soviets committing war crimes. He was later arrested for criticizing the Soviet Communist system and dictator Joseph Stalin. He was sentenced to eight years in forced labor camps, then exile for life within the Soviet Union, then expulsion. But he wrote. His poems, novels and other writings forced the world to see the truth about what was happening within Russian borders, within Russian minds and within Russian character. And even his enemies could not easily avoid the fact that he wrote the truth.
Solzhenitsyn dedicated his life to opposing the Communist Soviet Union and exposing its atrocities. As my father wrote, many people think that he “did more to bring down that system than any other Russian. … Never has such a massively murderous government as the Soviet Union been so deeply exposed by one man.”
His works were mostly banned in Russia, and more than once kgb spies stole his writing notes before they could be published. But people in the West, especially conservatives, were receptive to Solzhenitsyn’s message: They have bought tens of millions of copies of The Gulag Archipelago and his other books. In 1970 he was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature for his “ethical force.”
But Solzhenitsyn wasn’t just exposing Soviets or Russians. He was exposing evil. And for Americans, his message should strike much closer to home!
Here is what my father wrote in that 1998 article:
[T]he West agreed with his conclusions. But it didn’t end there. Solzhenitsyn also exposed America and Britain! And we have rejected almost 100 percent of his severe criticism. That should have made us do some serious thinking about being biased. But it didn’t! His Harvard speech sent shock waves throughout the West. Most of the media turned bitterly against him. This is a chapter in our history that we desperately need to understand.
Americans and the rest of the West heard his message about the Soviet Union, but they rejected his message to us! Now, 42 years later, some people are realizing that he was right. But it’s too late!
Both my father’s article and the piece from Quillette highlight the core of Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard commencement speech:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. …
Political and intellectual functionaries … base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood [means] they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?
How chillingly true this is in 2020!
“He is discussing the death of our nations!” my father wrote. “But that is only a small part of the problem. History also thunders that he is right. So does Bible prophecy” (op cit).
Our nation has lost its courage. Look at the cowardice of our government policy. Look at how our leaders lock everyone down, force people to stay in their homes, deny people’s rights, all to deal with a relatively mild virus. Look at our foreign policy: timid, fearful, ineffectual at dealing with any of the world’s problems.
U.S. President Donald Trump is a notable exception. He is encouraging people to get on with their lives and not be paralyzed by coronavirus. He is dealing with Iran, striking back and killing the mastermind of its terrorist policy. For years everyone else has been too fearful.
Timidity and fear are so widespread in the West that we consider it normal, even sophisticated. And this attitude can rub off on true Christians.
True Christians face challenges: keeping God’s Sabbath, keeping the holy days, standing up for God’s law in our lives and in our families. The spirit of the age is to avoid confrontation, to go along, to roll over, to not stand out or stand up for God.
My father wrote in Malachi’s Message that true Christians desperately need spiritual courage:
In the Laodicean churches, spiritual courage may be the greatest need. Without it, the other virtues are of little value! God’s people can’t cower in fear and still grow in God’s love. God says “the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).
This is true on the personal level and on the national level. In that article about Solzhenitsyn, my father highlighted Leviticus 26:18-19: “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power ….” He wrote, “[T]hat is exactly the way Alexander Solzhenitsyn and others have described Britain and especially America today.”
Our will is broken! You can see that right now in our foreign policy, in our health policy, in every level of government, in every level of society. You can see it in how America deals with factions like Black Lives Matter. Relatively small groups of people are doing egregious things: lying about history, forcing people to lose their jobs, destroying monuments, starting riots, arson, vandalism, police attacks, beatings. Why are overtly destructive factions like these allowed to lie, hurt and destroy? No one has the courage to stand up to them!
But what about you? Do you, individually, have the courage to stand up against evil—even when that evil is inside our own lives and our own minds? Do you stick with what is easy, or do you do what’s right, even when you have to make hard changes?
Solzhenitsyn corrected us for drifting away from God:
And yet in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. …
Two hundred or even 50 years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims. …
The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. … All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century’s moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the 19th century.
That was in 1978. Think about how much more we have drifted from God in the 21st century? Now, when someone is nominated for the Supreme Court, leftists portray her as a rabid radical because she believes in God! In the 18th century, it was unthinkable to our Founding Fathers that someone would be on the court who didn’t believe in God!
But we have no trust in God: We trust completely in man. “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5). My father wrote, “Because we have placed our trust in man, we are under a dreadful curse. The evidence is all around us!” He also wrote, “Mr. Solzhenitsyn questioned our ‘manhood.’ And he was correct to do so. Women rule our families. Our boys lack strong, masculine role models. Our society is becoming more effeminate and female-dominated.”
The Bible specifically prophesied this! “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isaiah 3:12).
Families are the building blocks of society, and they are breaking apart! Parents don’t discipline their children to confront their evil human nature. Parents divorce and divorce again. Society tells us families don’t even matter—a “family” can be whatever you want it to be. Society tells us to just indulge in what we individually find fulfilling and gratifying. Solzhenitsyn said:
The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. …
This tilt of freedom toward evil has come about gradually, but it evidently stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man—the master of the world—does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected. …
Voluntary self-restraint is almost unheard of: Everybody strives toward further expansion to the extreme limit of the legal frames.
My father agreed with this critique. He wrote:
We are talking about thinking that makes or destroys individuals and nations!
Here is why. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This is the evil in man that Solzhenitsyn discussed. The human mind “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” And yet, in America and Britain, we usually reason that human nature is good. That diabolical philosophy is destroying our nations!
Imagine what our evil minds would do with no obligations and no laws in society. As it is, there is usually no teaching of character to control our thinking. We live in a world of fantasy and illusion. As a result, our society is falling apart. The mind of man—human nature—is “desperately wicked.”
So evil is allowed to run amok, and we have no courage to confront it, in our world, in our nations, in ourselves.
My father wrote that this nation-destroying ignorance is, in part, loss of knowledge of history. He wrote:
Today we are lost in the present—rejecting the past and blind to the future! We have lost the big overview. Our nations are like the Titanic, speeding into the darkness, as we ignore the warnings from history and prophecy.
At this advanced stage of malignant ignorance, powerful forces in our society are not just failing to learn from history and not just ignoring history, but they are actually changing it, elevating certain figures who fit their agenda and erasing others who don’t. Our news media is also affected. Solzhenitsyn corrected us on this as well. He was speaking 42 years ago. My father was writing about this 22 years ago. But look at how up-to-date Solzhenitsyn’s warning is:
Hastiness and superficiality—these are the psychic diseases of the 20th century, and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.
Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Yet one would like to ask: According to what law has it been elected, and to whom is it responsible?
Executives in news and technology are more powerful than government leaders. And they hold themselves accountable to no one! They use their power to benefit themselves and advance their ideologies. In many ways, they run the country! My father wrote:
We are not truly ruled by those people we vote into office. The press has the greatest power. But this is a symptom of a far deeper problem.
Ancient Israel—our forefathers—usually came to this same condition just before they collapsed and were conquered by an enemy.
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The press had the most power then too—not the elected officials. And soon, every person did what “was right in his own eyes.” There was no real leadership. And there is almost none today. It is a terrifying reality!
Solzhenitsyn went on to talk about our collapsing morals, how we exalt freedom to sin above everything:
The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals ….[D]estructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society has turned out to have scarce defense against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. This is all considered to be part of freedom.
Do you see what Solzhenitsyn saw? Do you realize what my father was showing us from that speech and from the Bible? It’s not just communism that is evil and fatally flawed. It’s not just socialism. It’s not just radical liberalism or traditional liberalism. So is democracy! So is republicanism! So is conservatism! So is every human government apart from God.
The East, the West and human history as a whole are so evil, purposeless and tragic because the fatal flaw is within us. Jeremiah warned us that it’s in our very hearts! That flaw is sin against the law and government of God. Yet even devout Christians believe that God’s law was something bad or impossible or at least antiquated, and something that was certainly done away by Jesus Christ. Because of this, they dislike and ignore passages of the Bible itself, like James 1:21-25:
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
God’s law is the perfect law of liberty. It’s the only replacement for our humanism, materialism, superficiality, sensationalism, hastiness and our tilt of freedom toward evil. It’s the only solution to our lack of courage, our wandering in the present, our boundless, purposeless, destructive “freedom.”
Human beings were created by God. And as Solzhenitsyn insisted, we were created for something far higher than pointlessly satisfying our own whims. But only our Creator can show us the way to that higher purpose. He does it through His perfect law, His Ten Commandments. We are responsible and accountable to keep not only human laws but also the higher laws of God.
God made us responsible for keeping His perfect commandments. Those Ten Commandments show us where we are in bondage, if we will let them.
God tells us in 2 Peter 2:19: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”
This is our world today.
“He has suffered as few have in this modern world,” my father wrote of Solzhenitsyn. “And he learned some profound lessons in the process.” The Bible gives many of these same profound lessons. Forty-two years after his “speech that shocked America and Britain” we still haven’t listened, and we still won’t listen. What suffering must happen to our nations, must happen to you individually, before we will say, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened”?
Some few now acknowledge that Solzhenitsyn’s speech was indeed “prophetic.” But who among us will agree with what he said and do the hard, humbling work of acting on it? Will you?
Listen to Stephen Flurry’s Trumpet Daily Radio Show episode “Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Truly Prophetic’ Warning.”