Shirtless Before the US Senate: A Flashback in Man’s Struggle Against Tyranny
By David Stuckenberg, ALPF Founder & Chairman
Homer noted, “History is the Oracle of Truth.” He was right. His concept of history taps a thread so fundamental to human existence that it influences almost every aspect of life and society. From insurance rates and educational opportunities, to legal proceedings and science, we can’t escape the pull of history.
For thousands of years, mankind has understood we must capture and remember what was so we consider what may follow. History also demonstrates when people study the past they become masters of the present. Conversely, things we ignore often ironically remind us of what we must not forget.
Against the backdrop of a world that ignored the dangers posed by the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich, in 1950, the US Senate formed the Subcommittee On Internal Security. The Subcommittee was formed to investigate subversive activities that may result in the overthrow of the United States. The fundamental threat? Communism.
With a mandate to brainwash millions, Communism sought to eliminate academia and the “myth” of religion by supplanting and converting institutions into propaganda outlets. Under the Communist scheme, Marx, Lennon, and Stalin became patriarchs of a new religion – the state as God.
In this religion, the government had absolute power. From morality to economy, every aspect of life and knowledge was subjected to control and exploited for the collective. According to Marx, ideas out of bounds were considered “an opiate to the masses”; freedom was a crime. By 1966, one man’s courage to stand-up for freedom would captivate a generation of Americans. His name was Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, and he would share his incredible story with the world – shirtless.
Wumbrand was an influential pastor and leader in Romania. After the Communists took power, they believed securing his cooperation was key to controlling citizens. In spite of pressure to support Communism, Wurmbrand refused. He would later relate the idea of mingling God with totalitarianism was an absolute contradiction. He would pay the price for his position. Wurmbrand was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison. For 14 years, he would endure unthinkable tortures while remaining committed to truth and liberty.
Broken and bankrupt by a failed system, Romania sold Wurmbrand for a ransom of $10,000 (USD). His ransom was raised by Americans who learned of his story from refugees. After arriving in America, Wurmbrand would tell of Communism’s ills first-hand. After removing his shirt, he displayed his scars to the Senate, noting:
Every freedom loving man has two fatherlands; his own and America. Today America is the hope of every enslaved man, because it is the last bastion of freedom in the world. Only America has the power and spiritual resources to stand as a barrier between militant communism and the people of the world. It is the last dike holding back the rampaging flood of militant communism.
If it crumbles there is no other dike, no other dam; no other line of defense to fall back on. America is the last hope of millions of enslaved people. They look to it as their second fatherland. In it lies their hopes and prayers. I have seen fellow prisoners in communist prisons beaten, tortured, with 50 pounds of chain on their legs praying for America, that the dike will not crumble; that it will remain free.
Today, we benefit from freedoms hard won and enshrined by our constitution, laws, and the goodwill of our fellowman. At the same time, in Sudan, Iran, China, Syria, and other states around the world, millions still live Wurmbrand’s story. But even in the face of death, these human spirits refuse to bend to tyranny – proof freedom is hard-wired into our DNA.
While the world continues to confront tyrants and their regimes, we should remember to value truth, freedom, and those who, like Wurmbrand, love liberty. We should remember those still suffering and always ensure America remains a place where lovers of freedom can put their hope and find harbor. If we ever forget, rest assured, history will remind us.