Advancing the Gospel

I enjoy reading books on presidential history.  I suspect I have read more books on presidential history than any other topic; that is, other than theology.

Late in the month of March I picked up a book I tried to read during the Christmas holidays, yet put it aside for another book.  I am glad I returned to the book and completed it.  The book is Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed American 1789 – 1989 by Michael Beschloss (New York, New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2007, pp. 321,322).

The last president Beschloss examines is Ronald Reagan.  I was a big fan of President Reagan for many reasons.  Perhaps greatest was because he was the first president for which I ever voted.  Additionally, I liked the man because my lifelong friend, Ron Ethridge and I once wrote Reagan, and in response to that letter President Reagan sent us a reply with an enclosed photograph.

Reagan professed to be a Christian, and from the account provided below it sure sounded as if he was trying introduce Gorbachev to Christ.  Perhaps when you read this exchange you will see why I love presidential history and presidents like Ronald Reagan.

Meeting with Gorbachev in the Kremlin, Reagan found it was too late in his Presidency to close the deal he had hoped for, cutting nuclear arsenals by fifty percent. (*In 1991, Gorbachev and President George H. W. Bush finally signed a Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty, which drastically reduced the arsenals and delivery systems of both sides.)  Instead he used their private talks to advance his mother’s old wish that the wellsprings of religious feeling be loosed to sweep away Soviet Communism.

Reagan told Gorbachev he had a “kind of personal dream.”  He had been reluctant to raise it, but now he and Mikhail were friends.  If anyone leaked it, he’d deny they’d ever had this conversation.

He asked Gorbachev to “see his way” to let all Soviet citizens attend “the church of their choice.”  Americans had “endured a long sea voyage to a primitive land to worship as they pleased.”

If Gorbachev granted religious freedom, he would bed a “hero” and much of the world’s anti-Soviet feeling would evaporate “like water in the hot sun.”

Gorbachev replied that Soviet society had “evolved” beyond mass religion.  Although he had been baptized, he did not believe in God.  Turning the tables, he asked why Americans did not give nonbelievers their full rights.

Reagan said, “They do.”  In American public schools, “you can’t even say a prayer.”  He noted that his son Ron was “an atheist, although he calls himself an agnostic.”

Reagan told Gorbachev about a letter from a young World War II soldier to his faraway wife.

Although a professed atheist, he wrote that he was praying God would accept him if he died in battle.  The soldier belonged to the Soviet army.  The letter was found on his corpse.

Trying to change the subject, Gorbachev proposed a U.S.-Soviet mission to Mars.

Smiling, Reagan retorted that Mars was “in the direction of heaven,” but not a close as what they’d been discussing.  He said he’d always yearned to serve his atheist son “a perfect gourmet dinner, have him enjoy the meal, then ask him if he believed there was a cook.”

Tired of arguing, Gorbachev said, “The only possible answer is yes.”

The more I read about President Reagan, the more I am convinced the man was a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.


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