If you’re someone who thinks Christians aren’t persecuted much in today’s world, I have a challenge for you. Subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs magazine, read three issues, and then let me know if you’ve changed your opinion.
The current VOM magazine (March 2020) provides an excellent reality check for those who believe Communism is on the way out and gives a drill down into recent activities in Communist China. After the cultural revolution (1966-76) that resulted in China being placed firmly in the hands of Communist control, the campaign to stomp out Christianity has now risen to a point where churches are routinely bulldozed, Christians are consistently harassed, interrogated, and imprisoned, and pastors get ‘disappeared’.
Why is it that Communist and Leftist governments persecute and hate Christianity so much? To answer that question, we need to peel back the theological, philosophical, and historical covers to get a better understanding of what motivates these anti-God worldviews, where their humanistic pursuits take them, and their tragic end results.
The theological foundation
Jesus provides a succinct explanation for why these worldviews and forms of governments hate Christianity when He says, “The world … hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil” (John 7:7). He speaks to the same thing earlier in the book of John: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).
When you tell an adherent of one of these belief systems and their oppressive government that their actions or ideas are wrong, it produces an egocentric rage that quickly manifests in authoritarian actions that first move to silence such ‘hate speech’ and then go further to squash the persons themselves. The Bible says we shouldn’t be surprised at this kind of aggression because “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7).
The natural outworking of this, from a governance standpoint, is the rejection and outlawing of liberties and freedoms (especially religious) of the general public. In rejecting God, tyrannical governments and their underlying worldviews suppress the fact that God is a free being, and since we are made in His likeness, we are also free beings who have innate freedoms that naturally flow to us from our Creator.
And for authoritarian governments, that just can’t be allowed.
The philosophical permission slips
Churchill once said that, “the empires of the future will be empires of the mind”. By this he meant worldviews, ideologies, and belief systems power human actions and have consequences. Humanity always looks to some foundation of knowledge or learning to justify what it does, and when we look at the philosophies behind both Communism and Leftism, we find teachings that do everything in their power to reject Christian thinking.
As most know, the philosophy of Karl Marx gave birth to and supports the Communist philosophy. Marx thought religion was a mechanism of control used by society’s elite to manipulate the masses. But he went further to say, “Religion is the self-consciousness and the self-feeling of the man who has either not yet found himself, or else (having found himself) has lost himself once more. This state, this society, produce religion, a perverted world consciousness, because they are a perverted world. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people” (Marx’s original emphasis).
While most understand Marxism, what’s not so well known is the philosophy of Leftist thinking. It was given birth to in 18th century France, with the origination of its mindset being cloaked beneath the cover of the Enlightenment and sheltered under seemingly reputable names like Rene Descartes, Sir Issac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon, and John Locke. Much like Marxism and Communism, it purported to use its philosophy to combat poverty and unfairness.
In truth, the actual set of principles powering Leftist thinking came from Voltaire, a French writer, historian, and philosopher who introduced the common argument against religion of ‘reason over superstition’. He and his lover (Émilie du Châtelet) concluded their formal examination of the Bible by saying it was nonsense. Voltaire and Émilie called Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount “trite, ridiculous, absurd” and His resurrection “comedy”.
Voltaire’s snide and caustic attitude are captured by British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay whose words not only portray the man but also define what is representative of the entire Leftist movement: “He could not build – he could only pull down; he was the very Vitruvius of ruin.”
Other philosophers that aided Voltaire included Denis Diderot who provided a sneak peek into the Left’s use of violence with a quote that is commonly attributed to him: “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” Beyond hostility, another attribute characterizing the origins of the Left was muddled thinking, which is represented well by Jean Jacques Rousseau who complained that people’s woes are the result of society, evidently overlooking the fact that societies are comprised of people.
The gods, priests, and prophets of Communism and the Left
It’s a historically verifiable fact that when you hold God’s funeral, someone will take His place. And that replacement is always one of us.
The deification of man that you see today in Communist governments like China and North Korea are nothing new. Look back to ancient Egypt, and you will find the pharaoh being thought divine and elevated above his subjects, who were expected to deliver nothing short of absolute obedience.
Then came other in-place-of-God rulers such as Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (who assumed the name Theos Epiphanes or “God Manifest”) and various Roman Caesars like Domitian who demanded to be addressed as “Dominus et Deus” (Lord and God).
The interesting thing about emperor worship is noted by historian William Barclay who observed, “The extraordinary fact is that emperor worship was not imposed on the Roman Empire from above; it grew from below.” Romans populations, pleased with their fragile peace and economy, took things too far in the worship of their emperors not realizing the monster they were creating. The exact same thing happened in Nazi Germany.
As the gods of the ancient world had their own priests and prophets, the same is true today. Deified political despots have their enabling politburo members, senators, etc., that the people look to in hope that interventions will be made on their behalf to the current ruler. And the propaganda machines and mouthpieces of the media take the place of prophets with their aim being to serve and glorify their chosen monarch, bury any negative impressions, and proclaim new revelations and insight from on high.
How does it start?
The inauguration of the Communist and Leftist gods, priests and prophets that make up oppressive governments is usually done in a manner that resembles the events that took place during the French revolution of 1789. The American Revolution of 1776, we should remember, was motivated by a faith-based view of humanity and desired freedom from governmental oppression. Its aim was to recognize freedom based on innate human worth, absolute truth, and a morality underpinned by Judeo-Christian values that contained checks and balances to prevent any abuse of power.
By contrast, the French Revolution of 1789 chased a different type of freedom – one that was characterized by the pursuit of absolute power and secularism that included a mob-driven and forceful de-Christianization campaign. Discarding God, it was typified by an untrustworthy moral fluidity that expunged the idea of religious moral boundaries and grounded its ethics in pragmatism and ever-changing right and wrong.
The horrifying end results
The outworking of the French Revolution (and others like them) reflect the worst of modern-day slasher films and bear witness to an important truth for those who participate in them: Communist and Leftist movements are cannibalistic in nature; i.e. they eat their own. Their actions personify what novelist Walter Jon Williams once said: “I’m not afraid of werewolves or vampires or haunted hotels. I’m afraid of what real human beings do to other real human beings.”
The two primary weapons employed by these movements are the lie and violence. History has shown that the tongue of Communist and Leftist governments, and their enablers, is forked and patterned after their spiritual father: “Whenever he [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Witness the current COVID-19 lies and coverup from Communist China as just one of countless examples.
In addition to falsehood, violence is another hallmark of Communism and the Left. Again, they mirror their spiritual father who is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).
While these oppressive worldviews have criminal records that wrap around the earth hundreds of times, a tired tactic they employ to take the spotlight off their bloody past is to accuse religion as being the real culprit behind the moral brutality that’s occurred down through history. The only problem with that claim is that it is 100% false.
It’s true that atrocities have been committed in the name of religion (e.g. ISIS, the Crusades, the Thirty Years’ War, etc.), but they barely register on history’s violence Geiger counter compared to the carnage and body count produced by secular governments. Historians Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars shows that, of the 1,763 wars waged over the course of human history, only 123 of them have been religious in nature.  That amounts to an amazingly low 6.98% of all wars being the result of religion.
Further, when wars carried out in the name of Islam are subtracted, the percentage falls to 3.23%, meaning that all religions combined – minus Islam – have been responsible for less than 4% of all humanity’s wars and violent conflicts.
The sobering fact that secular despotic governments account for over 93% of all violence and war in human history is summed up by political science professor R. J. Rummel this way in his book, Death by Government: “Almost 170 million men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed or killed in any other of a myriad of ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. The dead could conceivably be nearly 360 million people. It is though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague. And indeed it has, but a plague of Power, not germs.”
Afraid but not afraid
So why do Communist and Leftist governments and their adherents hate Christianity? “The world . . . hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil” (John 7:7). “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18-20).
Ironically, though, for all its hatred of Christian teaching, Marxist and Leftist philosophy end up abducting God’s first commandment of “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3) and modifying it to be, “You shall not have God before me.”
This anti-God mandate along with today’s prevailing post-truth and anti-Christian thinking of Marxists and Leftists is something that has proven itself to be deadly. Their human condition is summarized well by political researchers Mark L Melcher and Stephen Soukup who speak to the birth of the Left in France: “Their atheism has left them with stunted moral values. Their utopianism has rendered them incapable of assessing the secondary and tertiary consequences of their actions. Their lifestyles provide us with the first glimpse into the sickness inherent in the nihilism that would come to be the progeny of their efforts. Finally, the petulance and outsized egos presage the terrible violence that awaits France.”
However, even in the face of such promised violence and persecution, Christians such as those in China’s Early Rain Covenant Church continue their faithfulness to Jesus. They are afraid but yet not afraid, knowing that God remains sovereign over everything. Theirs is a realism that acknowledges the spiritual evil behind their Communist government’s actions but yet looks upward to pursue a purpose spoken to by their pastor, Wang Yi, before he was arrested:
“The goal of disobedience is not to change the world, but to testify of another world.”
 “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction,” in On Religion, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, tr. Reinhold Niebuhr (Chico, CA: Scholar’s Press, 1964), pp. 41-2.
 Thomas Babington Macaulay, Life of Frederick the Great (American Book Exchange, 1879), 143-4. Vitruvius was a Roman author, architect, civil engineer, and military engineer during the 1st century BC.
 One thing different in the current American media is the shift from news reporting to full biased, opinion-driven communication where, in a very real way, the media are actually trying to govern through their bullying tactics.
 For a PowerPoint presentation on this material, see: http://www.slideshare.net/schumacr/does-religion-cause-war.
 Mark L Melcher and Stephen Soukup, Know Thine Enemy (Murrells Inlet, SC: 2018), Kindle Edition.
 Voice of the Martyrs magazine, March 2020, 7.
Robin Schumacher is a software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.