June 11, 2006

Profiles in Subversion

The Strange Career of Donald Grey Barnhouse

Part 2: Apostle of “Liberation Theology”
– Continued from Part 1 –

Donald Barnhouse & Kwame Nkrumah
Eternity Magazine
Best of Comrades: Barnhouse (l) meets with Kwame Nkrumah (r), Communist dictator of Ghana (Eternity Magazine, Feb. 1958).
By endorsing leading Communists and their allies, evangelical leader Dr. Donald Barnhouse was opening the door for a more insidious program: to inject Marxism itself into the doctrinal beliefs of his Christian followers. The first step on that road lay in denying Communism was the enemy.

Certainly he wasted no opportunity to downplay Communist persecution of religion in general and Christianity in particular, actually repeating propaganda — much of it disinformation taken directly from Communist sources — that Communists were easing their anti-religious oppression. Even as Soviet and Red Chinese concentration camps were filled to capacity, often with men, women, and children imprisoned for merely practicing religion, Barnhouse published articles falsely claiming Soviet Christians had freedom of worship, facing no punishment worse than mild discrimination;1 pretending that “the major problems facing churches in the U.S.S.R. today are the shortage of ministers, inability to print religious literature and lack of facilities,” rather than KGB secret police and death camps;2 praising the Soviet Union and its KGB-controlled Orthodox Church for allegedly printing a tiny number of Bibles, without even bothering to check whether those Bibles were ever distributed;3 repeating an unconfirmed report of active, unrestricted church attendance in Red China, without mentioning the ongoing extermination of tens of millions of Chinese, many for having received Western religious influence;4 and describing Communist Syria and Communist Egypt as bastions of religious freedom.5

Barnhouse further painted Communism as being altogether less evil than its reputation. Not only did he implicitly deny Communism was Satanic in nature, he actually portrayed modern world problems as emanating primarily from non-Communist sources, thus pretending the elimination of Communists would not significantly improve the world.6 When minimizing Communist danger was too hard for his readers to swallow, Barnhouse switched tactics to claim that various Communist revolutionaries — such as those in Latin America — were somehow different from the Soviet Communists who commanded them. Or he would describe Communists as nothing worse than slightly misguided idealists, and Communism itself as simply a philosophy rather than an organized criminal underground.7

While excusing Communists for their atheistic savagery, Barnhouse consistently preferred to direct his fury against anti-Communists:

  • He hurled the label “McCarthyism,” a Communist-inspired smear term, at those who try to uncover and stop Communist agents from carrying out their deadly work, and joined the chorus of pro-Communist voices defending known Communist agents as “innocent people” who should not have been exposed by Congressional investigating committees.8
  • Frequently denying that open Communists were, in fact, Communists,9 Barnhouse instead constantly attacked the Catholic Church for its moral, anti-Communist influence that slowed down or blocked Communist revolution in numerous countries. Barnhouse followed exactly the international Communist propaganda line, attributing instability to Catholic anti-Communism while painting the Communist revolutionaries as saviors rescuing the oppressed masses from the church, and shamelessly advocated that evangelicals join forces with the leftists in helping to overthrow the existing governments, or at least provide sympathy.10
  • Barnhouse’s attacks on Catholic influence did not focus on religious doctrines — he barely even raised the subject — but rather singled out Catholic anti-Communism and political conservatism for his wrath. He even blasted the Catholic clergy in Belgium for publicly opposing “Liberals and Socialists” and praised Belgian voters for electing a Socialist government.11
  • In trying to discredit the highly popular Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its monitoring of Communist organizations, Barnhouse resorted to publishing a claim that the Bureau was dominated by Catholics — hoping to foment suspicion about the FBI among evangelicals without openly attacking its work against Communist spies. When FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover publicly responded that the claim was baseless, Barnhouse defiantly ignored him, implied the FBI was engaged in a Catholic coverup, and continued publishing the irrelevant charge in his ongoing smear campaign.12

Barnhouse didn’t stop with defending Communism; he outright called on Christians to assist the Communists and support some of their key goals:

  • Perverting the teaching of loving one’s personal enemies into a new doctrine of loving G-d’s enemies, Barnhouse wrote that “The more we hate Communism the more we must love Communists.” Morally equating Communist regimes with normal governments, he continued by demanding that captive populations respect and obey their murderous Communist rulers, calling anti-Communists “narrow, insular people” who simply don’t understand their duty to serve the Satanic aims of their occupiers.13
  • In case he wasn’t being clear enough, Barnhouse spelled out his cold-blooded doctrine in the case of Red China, writing that “I would say absolutely no word against the [Chinese Communist] government… I would proclaim to all Christians that it was a part of their spiritual duty to be subject to their present government, and that any Christian who resisted the authority of that government was resisting the ordinance of G-d.”14 That was the same Barnhouse who regularly supported Communist terrorists in Spain, Latin America, and South Africa fighting to overthrow anti-Communist governments which, unlike Communist ones, were neither mass-murdering tens of millions of their own citizens nor waging war against belief in G-d.
  • Grouping Communism together with the American consitutional system as simply two varieties of “democracy” — in contrast to Fascism, which he declared evil — Barnhouse published articles sympathetically characterizing Communist terrorism as “a revolt against… dictatorships,” Communist atheism as “a rejection of the superstition of the Roman Catholic Church,” and Communist destruction of economies as a “reaction” to “economic exploitation from Great Britain and the United States” (an imaginary concept found only in Communist propaganda).15
  • He called for more foreign aid to Communist-controlled governments or to undermine anti-Communist ones, and even blamed the rising influence of Communist revolution throughout the world on America’s not having given even more aid — completely ignoring that the aid was used to topple governments and bring the Communists to power.16
  • He made perfectly clear he opposed nuclear testing, not by the Soviet Union, but rather by the United States, and accused the U.S. Navy of conspiring to cover up the alleged dangers of such testing (completely ignoring the Navy’s explanation that no such dangers existed).17 He also published articles supporting disarmament, ignoring Soviet violatons of such treaties, and calling for all nations to subject themselves to legal rule by the Soviet-controlled United Nations.18
  • In his magazine, Barnhouse supported the call for a “revolutionary gospel” for a “radical” Christianity that would politically “change the social order.” The true meaning of those terms became evident when the magazine criticized Christian evangelicals for “preserving white supremacy” and “insuring the continuation of a capitalist economy” while it praised Chinese and Indonesian Communist revolutionaries. In other words, Barnhouse and his guest writer wanted to turn Christianity into a form of Marxist Liberation Theology that agitates for black power revolution and socialism. To underline the point, the same article went on explicitly to quote Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto as the ideal to achieve — except through Christianity. The article also portrayed Jesus and the apostle Paul as being essentially the same as Marxist revolutionaries, as representing “the revolutionary cause of Christianity.”19
  • Barnhouse himself advocated the socialist cause, propagating the fantastic lie that Soviet socialism was economically outperforming American capitalism. He cited as his source the Congress for Cultural Freedom, an organization composed of so-called “former” Marxists with ongoing pro-Communist sympathies.20

Throughout his entire preaching career, from the 1920s through the 1950s, Barnhouse promoted the Marxist agenda, sometimes subtly, sometimes more boldly.

But often his Christian followers weren’t so eager to join his leftward drive. So he was constantly forced to find back-door approaches to undermine their religious values and neutralize potential anti-Communism.

– Continued in Part 3 –


1. Lawrence, J., “Here are the facts about Russian Protestants,” Eternity, Nov. 1955, pp. 8-9, 54-55.

2. “This passing world,” Eternity, May 1958, p. 30.

3. Barnhouse, D.G. & Hitt, R.T., Eds., “Window on the world,” Eternity, Nov. 1955, p. 19.

4. “This passing world,” May 1958, Op cit.

5. Ibid.

6. Barnhouse, D.G. & Hitt, R.T., Eds., “Window on the world,” Op cit., p. 18.

7. Woods, S., “What I saw in Latin America,” Eternity, Sep. 1958, p. 35.

8. Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” Eternity, July 1956, p. 13.

9. Barnhouse, D.G., “Peron and the Vatican,” Eternity, Oct. 1955, pp. 8-9, 45-47; Barnhouse, D.G., “A survey of 1955,” Eternity, Jan. 1956, pp. 8-9, 40-43.

10. Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” Eternity, Jan. 1956, p. 12; Barnhouse, D.G., “Peron and the Vatican,” Op cit.; (& many others).

11. Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, March 1958, p. 34.

12. Barnhouse, D.G. & Hitt, R.T., Eds., “Window on the world,” Eternity, June 1956, p. 17.

13. Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” Eternity, June 1956, p. 10.

14. Barnhouse, D.G., Book review, Eternity, Dec. 1955, p. 31.

15. Barnhouse, D.G., “The sky and the weather,” Eternity, Apr. 1956, p. 23; Woods, S., “What I saw in Latin America,” Op cit.

16. Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” Eternity, Aug. 1956, p. 11.

17. Ibid.

18. Barnhouse, D.G., “A survey of 1955,” Eternity, Jan. 1956, pp. 8-9, 40-43; Malik, C.A., “Peace of man and the peace of G-d,” Eternity, Jan. 1956, pp. 10-11, 39-40.

19. Grounds, V., “A revolutionary gospel,” Eternity, Sep. 1956, pp. 12-13, 40-43.

20. Barnhouse, D.G., “A survey of 1955,” Op cit., pp. 41-42.