by Bill Nugent
One of Hollywood’s most noble efforts at portraying the disastrous consequences of evil ideas was the film The Killing Fields, made in 1984. It is based on the true story of New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and his Cambodian interpreter Dith Pran. Schanberg and Pran were separated during the chaos that followed the fall of Phnom Penh in April of 1975.
Western Journalists and other westerners fled Cambodia at that time and left many assistants who were rounded up by the communists and killed or sent to “re-education” camps where many were starved or worked to death during an attempt to create an isolationist agricultural utopia. Whole classes of innocent persons were massacred under the new communist government whose ideology was a blend of Maoism and Stalinism. This was the bloodbath called “Year Zero.”
Schanberg was concerned for Pran’s safety and diligently searched for him with the aid of the Red Cross and various U.S. government agencies. Pran struggled to survive and was cast into the maelstrom of the Cambodian killing fields. It is estimated that nearly two million innocent people were murdered by the communist Khmer Rouge during a two year period in the late 1970s. That was nearly a fifth of Cambodia’s population.
The communists killed everyone even remotely suspected of capitalist sympathies. They even murdered people who wore glasses. Glasses were considered evidence of education and this meant having been educated under the capitalist old order. Pran eventually escaped by walking many miles to freedom in Thailand. His reunion with Schanberg was depicted in the film in melodramatic triumph.
There are many insights and lessons to be derived from this unique film. One thing that stands out is that this film is one of the few, perhaps the only major film, that depicts the communists as brutal oppressors. It is also curious that the words ‘communist’ and ‘communism’ are not spoken in the film.
There are many Hollywood films in which Christians [or pseudo-Christians] are depicted as oppressors or as silly charlatans. Consider such films as Inherit the Wind, made in 1960 and consisting of a fictionalized account of the 1925 scopes trial that made Christians appear ignorant. The film Elmer Gantry was a transparent mockery of a fictional southern evangelist and his decadent double life. It was hailed at the time and was a multi-Oscar winner. The Crucible was a Broadway play that depicted the Salem witch trials of the 1690s.
I’m waiting to see a film set in the Ukraine in the early 1930s when the communist government confiscated the food supply resulting in the starvation of millions. It would be poignant to see depictions of human struggle and triumph set in the USSR of the 1920s during the brutal Stalinist thrust to collectivize agriculture. A similar film could be set in China in the late 1950s when millions more died under Mao.
I guess by now you regard me as a bit of a cynical anti-Communist but there’s a larger lesson here. I freely acknowledge that oppression has occurred by governments under which Christianity was the official civil religion. The difference is that when Christians [or those who claim to be Christians] oppress people they do so in plain opposition to the teachings of Christ. Christianity has an inherent moral code. God is the transcendent moral lawgiver whose laws are given by revelation and written in the Bible.
Communism is a secular (atheist) political ideology and secularism has no inherent moral code. Many secular peopleadhere to a moral code of their own choosing but they can’t reach back to any morality inherent in their secular worldview. Secularism, because it has no transcendent lawgiver such as God, has no inherent morals, hence no real moral restraint. Communism is a form of secular fundamentalism that attempted to turn the whole world into an anthill of totalitarian regimentation.
Christianity gave rise to western civilization. Christian Europe was the first continent to abolish slavery though other forms of oppression did continue. Secular communism, which rejects God and maintains a Darwinist view of life origins, resulted in totalitarian slave states with mass murder as a coercive tool.
Christianity can be called the “green tree” while communism can be called the “dry tree.” If human evil is only partly restrained in the green tree, it is given full vent in the dry tree. While Jesus was carrying His cross to Calvary He said: “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31).
The secular world has often pointed out the flaws of Christian civilization yet communism has shown that people without Christian moral restraint perpetrate much greater evil.