Why Solzhenitsyn mattered?

The most famous dissident of the Soviet era, Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, passed away last week at the age of ninety. To my way of thinking, he was a giant, not because I agree with everything he said or wrote, but because he exhibited a rare quality. Solzhenitsyn believed in something beyond his own personal wellbeing and convenience, which is probably a common human trait, but here is what stands out: he dared to give voice to what he believed, no matter what the consequences.  Now granted, most of us live in societies where we can believe and say whatever we desire and there are no negative repercussions. We can think, say and write whatever we want about political and religious leaders; our television networks produce comedy shows that mock anyone who is in the public’s eye; we can picket, demonstrate and shout obscenities without fear of any real consequence. Sure, someone may be detained for a couple of hours but no one is going to jail long-term and certainly no one is going to be shot in a back alley for voicing an opinion.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years in prison and internal exile for life for merely describing Stalin as a tyrant using the metaphor “the whiskered one.” It seems laughable from a western perspective but it was deadly in the totalitarian Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn’s most famous work, the Gulag Archipelago, reads like an encyclopedia of the monstrosity of Communism under Stalin. Solzhenitsyn made a choice to express himself and take a stand no matter what the cost. He wrote in order to give a voice to those who suffered and expose the lies of a cruel regime. When he first came to America he was applauded and became a media darling. That all changed when his voice became critical of western decadence. Eventually he moved back to his motherland Russia.

Solzhenitsyn’s passing causes me to reflect: what things am I willing to stand up for no matter the consequences? What are the causes for which I am able to risk my life? Do I take a stand when I see deception? You’ve heard the saying, “if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” What do I stand for? How about you?

It’s hard to judge ourselves, others may judge us better, and certainly God knows us perfectly. From where I sit it seems that the revelation of the Gospel of the grace of Jesus has made me less tolerant of mystical religion and foolish legalism. It has made me more adamant that the whole world has a right to hear the Gospel. Now that is something worth standing for, worth my interest, my finances and my commitment. Your thoughts?

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