NO ONE likes to be criticized. It goes against the grain. Nations are no different. They don't like a bad press either. And Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn has been very hard on the West. He has scored some rather direct hits on the Western way of life.
The Solzhenitsyn Indictment
If only Mr. Solzhenitsyn would confine his comments to the Communist bloc, responsible Westerners sigh, then there would be no problem. The West would love him. But, no, he has made the mistake of zeroing in on some of the major defects of the Atlantic community. The Western press often has accused him of being arrogant and infuriating. He is castigated for lacking in humor. Some periodicals even refuse to reprint the text of his speeches. Why such hostility to a man the West once welcomed with open arms? The answer lies in the inability of the human psyche to receive unadulterated truth. More than 1,900 years ago, people could not find it within themselves to receive Jesus Christ's message. Yes, they believed in Jesus. They loved His personality. But they did not believe His message! But what has Mr. Solzhenitsyn actually said to so arouse the ire of the press? Read these few excerpts from just one of his most caustic commentaries on our Western way of life: "The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party... political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, perplexity in their statements... even more so in theoretical reflections to show how realistic and reasonable, as well as intellectually and morally warranted it is, to base state policies on weakness and cowardice" (emphasis ours throughout). The present dearth of bold, statesmanlike leadership in the West has been analyzed and reanalyzed by qualified psychologists. Various theories and explanations have been proffered. Disobedience to God is not one of them. It is the duty of The Plain Truth to make plain this missing cause of the decline of the West. Notice the warning of God spoken to. His nation by Isaiah the prophet. It could be — as is — a warning to any nation that will heed. "For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah... the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank... And I will make boys [inexperienced and unseasoned rulers] their princes [leaders], and babes [in ability] shall rule over them" (Isaiah 3:1-4, Revised Standard Version). What a remarkable parallelism with the modern world! The early chapters of Isaiah make it clear that sin — sin is the transgression of God's Law (I John 3:4) — is the real cause of national decline.
The Curse of Covetousness
But lack of leadership is not our only affliction. Mr. Solzhenitsyn continued his indictment: "The constant desire to have still more things and a still better life, and the struggle to obtain them, imprints many Western faces with worry and depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings." The one word-covetousness — seems to sum up the Western affliction. And it certainly does not make people happy. Take a casual walk down your average city street. Do you see joy and contentment in people's faces? Or do you see a people burdened down with fears and worries? This is the age of anxiety — or "the age of uncertainty" as economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it. External forces constantly threaten people's basic well-being and security. Inflation eats away at income. Medical and surgical bills threaten life savings. Western man and woman are continually pursuing happiness — but never quite catching up to it. All of which leads to coveting. But the tenth commandment says: "Thou shall not covet." This commandment covers anything that belongs to your neighbor — and, for that matter, anything that belongs to God! Jesus Himself said, "Beware of covetousness" (Luke 12:15). Our only security in this world is God Himself. Ultimately, He is the only Being who can secure our material well-being. But He enjoins humanity to seek first His Kingdom — and then He will make provision for our physical needs.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn has now resided in the West for about five years. He has had time to come to some sound observations and reflections about the Western character. Our preoccupation with legalism and carrying everything to the extreme limit has not escaped his notice. He commented, "One almost never sees voluntary restraint." Today we want maximum rewards for minimum effort. Almost nobody goes the extra mile anymore. There are very few "profitable servants" in our present evil age. Another manifestation of this peculiar quirk of human nature is "going just as far as you can without slipping over the edge." So many want to go just as far in the wrong way as they dare. But as this magazine's editor-in-chief has written: "God's way is to go, sincerely, wholeheartedly and earnestly, just as far in the right direction as possible. God's way is to do more than is required of you" (Personal from the Editor, January, 1963, The Plain Truth, p. 10). From the onset of his exile Alexander Solzhenitsyn has stressed the view that the major reason for communist inroads around the world is the existence of a religio-moral crisis in the West. The Western world would do well to heed — and act upon — his well-chosen words!