Editor’s Note: The “V&V Q&A” is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. This is the third in a series of weekly interviews with Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of political science and executive director of the Center, on his latest book, “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.” This series focuses on a dominant theme of the book: the Religious Left. Click here to read parts one and two.
V&V: Dr. Kengor, picking up from last week, what were some of the communist campaigns that successfully duped liberal Christians?
Dr. Paul Kengor: The most tragic example was the World War II front-group, the American Peace Mobilization, which—led by secret communists—publicly pushed President Franklin Roosevelt to accommodate Hitler, because Hitler had signed an August 1939 non-aggression pact with Stalin. This group angrily demanded no Lend-Lease money to the British, as the Brits were being savaged by Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. How could the American Peace Mobilization—or at least its communist ringleaders—take this position? They did so because it was Stalin’s position, at least from August 1939 until June 22, 1941, when Hitler betrayed Stalin and invaded the USSR.
Once that betrayal took place, the American Peace Mobilization became, literally overnight, the American People’s Mobilization, and suddenly became fanatically pro-war, pro-British, pro-Lend-Lease, you name it. This group took its orders from Moscow.
V&V: The switch was that blatant?
Kengor: Yes, and Congress certainly noticed. Congress later dubbed the American Peace Mobilization “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States,” “one of the most notorious and blatantly Communist fronts ever organized in this country,” and an “instrument of the Communist Party line.”
And yet, the American Peace Mobilization had more success with peace-loving, turn-the-other-cheek Christians than any other group. Some did learn, but many did not.
By the way, also taken for a ride here, as usual, was The New York Times. In one 1940 article on the American Peace Mobilization, the Times described the group not as a communist front—the word “communist” never appeared in the article—but as a “group of clergymen.”
V&V: Fast-forwarding to another war, tell us about the communist campaign regarding the Vietnam War.
Kengor: Moscow, of course, wanted U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, because it wanted a communist Vietnam. So, this was ideal for another Soviet-led “peace campaign.” The communists again, from the USSR to those operating in the United States, looked to anti-war Christians to enlist in marches, petitions, and whatever else.
Most striking, communists within leadership positions of groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) never dared express their true sympathies and intentions to the liberals in their ranks. That was especially true for the Marxist radicals who set fire to cities like Chicago.
As these folks descended on Chicago in 1968-69, for instance, with no money but lots of drugs and other things—including arrest warrants—where would they be housed? The answer came from clergy in the liberal mainline denominations in the Chicago and Evanston areas. A special clergy group was established for the purpose of finding housing for the young folks. Or, as put by Mark Rudd, a dedicated communist and the face of SDS, who shut down Columbia University in the spring of 1968, they found “churches loaned to us by sympathetic clergy.”
According to the official Congressional investigator—by the way, the congressional committees who held hearings were run by Democrats—the revolutionaries were accommodated in Evanston at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Covenant Methodist Church, and Garrett Theological Seminary. It was at Garrett that a police officer was beaten. In Chicago, they stayed at University Disciple Church in Hyde Park.
V&V: Couldn’t the clergy see the chaos this would cause?
Kengor: You would think so. Interestingly, the liberal clergy had laid down one condition for the dope-smoking, weapons-toting militants: no dope or weapons in the churches. That simple rule, naturally, obviously, was violated. Much like how the Vietcong had used “sanctuaries” in Cambodia to launch attacks on American troops inside Vietnam, the radicals used these literal sanctuaries to stage assaults on their domestic enemies: the “pigs,” as they called the police, that had always protected these churches and their congregations.
V&V: What did the folks in the pews think about all this?
Kengor: They weren’t exactly thrilled when they caught the news. In no time, members of the congregations and people from the surrounding community were demanding that the liberal preachers expel the extremists from their houses of worship. Fighting the fight for “social justice,” some of the good reverends sided with the marijuana-smokers.
In one case, the police were forced to enter a church with warrants to arrest those who had engaged in violent action. There, the minister complained that the police broke down the door. Quite the contrary, as the Congressional investigator calmly explained during hearings, “They broke the door down because the Weathermen had barricaded the door of the church and had refused to let the police serve the warrants.”
The pastor was shocked at what was happening in his church—shocked, that is, by the behavior of … the police.
Editor’s note: Join us next week for the fourth installment in this series, as Dr. Kengor discusses FDR’s assessment of a “Christian gentleman”—Joe Stalin. Kengor also looks at Frank Marshall Davis, a Hawaii mentor to a young Barack Obama. Davis, too, targeted the Religious Left. If you’d like to reach Dr. Kengor to discuss this book, contact him directly at [email protected]
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