Reagan knew how strong those words would echo in the Captive Nations, especially in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, with their large Catholic populations. That Reagan, an Evangelical Christian, would be so attuned to the religious vocabulary of millions of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians is itself a tribute to his open mind.
Churchill was certainly no churchgoer. But he, too, recognized evil when he saw it. He knew that Nazi Germany was evil because it sought to murder the Jews. Churchill had the courage to stand up against the Nazis and their Judenhass (Jew hatred.) “Fear God,” he said, “and dread nought.”
President Reagan carried to every summit meeting with Gorbachev a list of Jewish refuseniks unjustly imprisoned in the Evil Empire. He pressed Gorbachev to free those Jews from the Gulag and let them emigrate to Israel.
Today, the Obama administration works with regimes that threaten Jews with extinction and that persecute their Christian minorities. This administration makes little effort to protect religious freedom.
We have seen Coptic churches in Egypt torched. Christian cemeteries in Libya are desecrated. Assyrian, Chaldean, and Maronite Christians huddling in Syria await Assad’s fall.
We should remember this day. Twenty-five years ago, Ronald Reagan had the courage to overrule his own State Department, his own Pentagon, his own advisers. None of them wanted him to “provoke” the Soviets with blunt talk about good and evil. No one wanted him to threaten what they took to be stability. These advocates of realpolitik, however, were proven to be politically unrealistic.
Ronald Reagan had a surer grasp of history and power. What’s the good of having power if you don’t wield power for good? Like Churchill, he would fear God and dread nought. Under the Sign of the Cross that day a quarter century ago, Ronald Reagan took a bold stand for freedom.