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Religion & Liberty: Volume 24, Number 1

Charles Malik

    From 1906 to 1988.

    The greatest thing about any civilization is the human person, and the greatest thing about this person is the possibility of his encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.

    Lebanese academic, philosopher, theologian, and diplomat Charles Malik served as a drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as president of the thirteenth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. His life's work emphasized the centrality of individual rights over collectivism, that humanity's most treasured possessions are the mind and the conscience.

    For Malik, freedom included the right to become in addition to the right to exist. It was on this basis that he defended freedom of conscience, significantly including religious adherence and conversion, attributing this, in part, to the influence of the long history of religious tolerance in his native Lebanon in the Levantine Middle East.

    Malik called the "leaders of industry and finance" in the United States "the creators and stewards of the greatest economy the earth has ever known," emphasizing their vocation to use their gifts for the common good. While Malik had some optimism about U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society efforts, as a devout, Eastern Orthodox Christian he emphasized the priority of "the gifts of the spirit," which "are attitudes of the soul which even the cleanest neighborhood, the most wholesome school surroundings, the finest educational equipment, the most immaculate cities, the most prosperous economy, the most secure financial status, the most just society, nay, even the greatest of Great Societies, cannot by themselves ensure." Indeed, his resolute rejection of materialism was also one of the most salient features of his adamant efforts against Communism.

    At the 1960 Founder's Day commemoration at Saint Louis University, Malik delivered a speech titled, "The Tide Must Turn." Materialism, collectivism, and secularism, he claimed, blaze the trail to Communism, which is characterized by "emphasis on human desire," "derivation of all ideas and all norms and all valuations from the sheer economic struggle," an "interpretation of history as the product only of conflicting class interests," inciting "all that is primitive and elemental and unformed to rise against all that is more perfect, more developed, more sure of itself," and "its doctrine that in the end there is nothing, nothing, nothing, save atoms in motion."

    On the other hand, Communism cannot rise where "the sacredness of the individual human soul" is recognized," he declared. "The Communist state is everywhere a police state." The people depend on the state for social, cultural, political, and spiritual information, formation, and orientation, "upon food conceived, concocted and administered by the state alone."

    Communism, to Malik, has eight chief markers: (1) State control of education for Marxist indoctrination; (2) strict atheism; (3) domination of all political rhetoric by economics and the class struggle—the workers will revolt and win; (4) cold, hard collectivism; (5) stern totalitarianism of the Communist Party; (6) imperialist worldwide ambition; (7) advancement via brutal force; and (8) "a military-nucleareconomic- political might second to none."

    To defeat Communism, one must believe that war is unnecessary, combat only the Communist Party rather than the people themselves, and provide real alternatives to Communism. "Not to believe in the possibility of such genuine alternatives," wrote Malik, "is to believe that Communism … is here to stay; to believe that the rollback is either impossible or undesirable; to sit back and accept the sham of peaceful coexistence; in short, to betray the cause of freedom by believing and acting on the belief that not all men are fit to be free."

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