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 final installment 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.
V&V: Dr. Kengor, in our previous installment, we looked at FDR, Stalin, and the pro-Stalin propaganda work of Obama mentor Frank Marshall Davis. Concluding this series on the Religious Left being duped by the communist movement, let’s end where you start: The cover of your book features arguably the most famous “born again” president, Jimmy Carter, kissing Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev.
Dr. Paul Kengor: That occurred at the Vienna Summit in June 1979. It’s a metaphor for how sincere, well-intentioned liberal Christians were fooled by communists. In this case, an American president betrayed with a kiss. Mere months later, the Red Army invaded Afghanistan. President Carter was celebrating Christmas with his family when he got the news.
V&V: Carter was surprised by the invasion?
Kengor: Yes, completely. “My opinion of the Russians has changed most dramatically,” Carter told ABC’s Frank Reynolds. “[T]his action of the Soviets has made a more dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets’ ultimate goals are than anything they’ve don e in the previous time I’ve been in office.”
Carter was trusting to a fault. There he was, kissing the leader of the world’s atheist empire—an “Evil Empire,” as Carter’s successor described it. Carter suffered from a terribly naïve faith in the Soviets. The quotes to this effect, listed at length in Dupes, pulled from the official Presidential Papers, need to be seen to be believed.
V&V: You say Carter persisted in such naïveté after the presidency, when he supposedly redeemed himself as a great ex-president.
Kengor: The examples are numerous, unrivaled by any president, Democrat or Republican, from the Cold War to War on Terror. To cite one example, Carter’s statements about Kim Jong-Il after a 1994 trip to North Korea defy imagination. Each time I read them, I stare in disbelief.
Carter was impressed by what he somehow perceived as a pleasant, unique “interest” in Christianity by Kim. Kim, of course, spearheaded a militantly atheistic regime; yet, Carter, a born-again Baptist, found Kim “very friendly toward Christianity.” In truth, as anyone with any knowledge of North Korea knows, North Korea is the world’s most repressive nation, and has been for decades. Christians there are in prison. How could Carter say that?
With Carter, there’s this inexplicable gullibility. It’s an extraordinary thing that I can’t explain.
V&V: Changing gears, tell us how communists sought to divide Protestants and Catholics. You give several examples.
Kengor: Bear in mind that communists were enraged at the institutional Roman Catholic Church, which issued scathing indictments of communism immediately after the publication of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. In a 1937 encyclical, the Catholic Church called communism a “satanic scourge.”
Here’s one example of a closet American communist trying to pit Protestants against Catholics:
Anna Louise Strong was an editor of the flagship publication of the communist front-group, Friends of the Soviet Union, which manipulated “progressives” like Upton Sinclair. In the book, I have photos of Strong and Sinclair from the “Friends” editorial page. A stoic Sinclair vows to “expose the lies and slander” against Joe Stalin.
Anna Louise Strong was a loyal Bolshevik. Later, Congress described her as “one of the most active agents for the Communist International.” She did hideous propaganda work, shamelessly arguing that Stalin had “conquered wheat,” when, in fact, he launched a famine that killed millions. Only the most naïve couldn’t detect her sympathies.
Among the groups Strong targeted were Protestant clergy. One egregious example was a letter-to-the-editor she placed in the October-November 1941 issue of The Protestant. There, she claimed the Vatican was calling for religious freedom in the USSR not because the Soviets were blowing up churches, killing priests, and jailing nuns with prostitutes in special sections of the gulag—the nuns were deemed “whores to Christ”—but because the Church was (allegedly) seeking control of Russia. She claimed the Roman Catholic Church was looking to supplant the Russian Orthodox Church, a perfect parroting of the Kremlin line.
Of course, this was what some anti-Catholics wanted to hear. Not surprisingly, some swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
That letter from Strong was so deceptive and blatant that it was republished by Congress in a July 1953 report.
V&V: There’s much more in Dupes on the Religious Left, but we need to stop.
Kengor: Yes, the duping of liberal Christians by communists is a sad, troubling saga.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."