On the east side of Lake Baikal and north of the Mongolian border is the Siberian city of Chita. In 1991, my two brothers and I visited the area. It was just two years after Russia abandoned communism. As we traveled outside of the city, our host pointed out some large towers not far away.
“Those were placed strategically to jam radio signals which had been broadcast from the west,” he informed us.
We recognized similar towers as we traveled near other cities in Russia. The Soviets had been serious about keeping their people from hearing information that did not fit in with their atheistic world view.
The communists had been blocking radio signals for a long time. In the early 1950s the Far East Broadcasting Company, transmitting from Manilla, learned that their programs were being monitored by the communists in both Russia and China. Christian programmers learned that often music was not blocked, but when the speaking was broadcasted, the jamming began. A loud buzzing noise drowned out the program. So the Christians ingeniously interspersed short segments of talk between longer musical selections, making the job more difficult for those who monitored the broadcasts to jam the teaching.
On the receiving end, small groups of Christians would meet together in the homes of those who had radios. Without trained pastors, often without Bibles, often with no church to attend and few others with which to fellowship in their area, the Christians relied on radio broadcasts. The programs were the only link these believers had with other Christians. The broadcasts were their lifeline to the body of Christ.
These Christian programs proved to be a blessing to hosts of Christians who lived in repressive regimes. Many people came to faith in Christ as a result and the faith of others was strengthened. My uncle, Constantine Lewshenia, had been a Christian broadcaster for decades recording programs for HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. When he and my aunt Elizabeth visited Russia and met with Christians in the 1980s, the people recognized, not their faces, but the familiar sound. “It’s the voice,” exclaimed one man. “The very same voice!”
Not only did the communists go to great lengths to block the signals, but they also searched for those in their countries who might have had a radio receiver and listened to the foreign programs. When the authorities found them, the radios were either confiscated or destroyed. The owner likely faced arrest and the group threatened because they were meeting illegally. Sometimes only one member of the family would listen to the broadcast, often under cover, for fear of being found out or betrayed.
Do not think such activities are a thing of the past. Many believers even now in nations unfriendly to the gospel fear for their lives that they might be discovered reading a Bible, listening to a Christian broadcast, or visiting a Christian web site. Some literally read under their bed covers to keep from being caught by a fanatical relative.
What is it about the gospel that creates such enmity? John Broger, at an evangelism conference, made this observation.
“[This hostility] illustrates in almost every phase of its conduct a mockery and derision of every sincere thought or noble action. The leaders of these opposing forces have consistently followed a course evil in design and treacherous in action.”
The above quote could be about much of the faculty at our major universities. Or it could address large segments of the present political elite that have entrenched themselves in powerful positions in government or in the liberal media, including the press, broadcasting, and even among leaders of the FCC. However, the quote is from a conference sponsored by the Far Eastern Broadcasting Company in 1951and Broger was specifically addressing the threat of communism in its opposition to the west.
How far have we come since then? We don’t need the communists to lead in the opposition to the evangel. The same spirit of anti-Christ is alive and very active all around us. “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 1:7).
Humanists, secularists, post-millennials, and other moderns have proven themselves to be just as hostile to the gospel as were the communists. We Christians in our place and time must be careful not to go under cover because of the negative adversarial atmosphere that can dominate the marketplace of American ideas.
The idea of creating “safe spaces” so that people will not be somehow made to feel badly because of what somebody says has been around a long time. Consider that for over fifty years the church in America has been effectively muzzled by what is known as the Johnson Amendment. It threatens pastors and ministries with loss of tax exemption if they stray into political matters and advocate for certain candidates or policies. Why must the church be a place where certain topics are off limits?
Why do students and teachers in government schools lose an element of freedom of speech, effectively shutting down Christian answers to questions because of the threat of legal action? The concept that a Christian teacher in a largely Christian school district cannot openly state Christian convictions is absurd. Yet the “safe space” concept has dominated for decades. It has been another way of trying to keep the gospel message under cover. The argument is that the school should be neutral. But that is not possible. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Lk. 11:23).
Examples of gospel jamming are numerous. Let’s consider one. The standard prayer said in public school when I was in the elementary grades was this short poem.
“God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. By His hand we all are fed; give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.”
In this petition God was acknowledged. And He was thanked. There was a daily connection in our public schools with the early settlers of the nation who had set aside a special day for thanksgiving. But where has that prayer gone? It has been jammed by the voices of a people who are more closely aligned with those hostile forces John Borger spoke of in 1951 than with the public school teachers I had in the mid-1950s. And the nation largely has lost its connection with the Pilgrims who gave thanks at Plymouth Rock.
Whether the nation will come back to acknowledging God as the Lord will only be known in the days to come. However, God’s people need not stay under cover. Even in the darkest days of communist rule, Russian and Chinese Christians continued to share the Good News. They stand out as great examples for us to proclaim the gospel, sometimes creatively, sometimes quietly, but always with thanksgiving. We can raise our voices above the efforts of the enemy to jam the gospel.
“Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices…”