Twenty-two years ago on this day, 9 November, I remember watching the evening news with my parents as the Berlin wall come tumbling down. Though I was only a child, the event had a marked effect on me.
You see, three years earlier, when I had been eleven, my family had traveled to West Germany. One afternoon my dad drove us to see the wall separating West and East Germany. I still remember how ominous the electric fence looked which divided the free world from the “evil empire.”
As we emerged from the car, we were met by a chill, drizzling rain. On the other side of the fence a lone guard stared gloomily at us. The rest of my family had their picture taken about thirty feet from the fence, but I was too afraid to venture near. A few minutes later I plucked up the courage and asked my dad to photograph me next to the terrible barrier, or as close to it as I dared approach.
That was three years before that evening in 1989 when I sat with my brothers and parents to watch the wall being torn down. Communism had collapsed and Eastern Europe was finally free.
A year after these momentous changes, we went back to Germany. This time there was no fence preventing us driving into the Eastern section. We traveled to Berlin where the remnants of the wall still zigzagged through the city like a serpent. In some areas there were portions of the wall still intact. Here and there I saw people dismantling the remains of this hated emblem of totalitarianism.
There was something strangely moving in seeing the broken concrete all over the ground and thinking, “So this is all that is left of a regime that tried to turn the state into God.” I stooped down and collected some big chunks of the rubble, determined one day to show them to my own children.
The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 reminds us that God judges regimes that try to usurp His place as redeemer. Make no mistake, for that is exactly what the communist parties of Eastern Europe did. In preaching that government was the solution to all of society’s ills, in teaching that public policy can bring civic regeneration and utopia, the communist parties of Eastern Europe presented a parody of the true gospel and a false narrative of redemption. The fall of the Berlin wall twenty-two years ago reminds us that government cannot be God, and all attempts to deify the state are doomed to end in abject failure. The fall of the Berlin wall revealed the utter futility of what David Galland recently called the “unblinking faith in an all-caring, omnipotent ‘Godvernment’.”
While the communism of the Eastern block may have failed, idolatrous attempts to deify the state continue.