The point of the unfinished autobiographical series I’ve written is to show God’s mercy, unmerited by me. I deserved punishment. I received grace.
Here’s what I wrote about what happened 40 years ago today, on All Saints’ Day, 1973:
“On Nov. 1 I stuck another monthly dues Lenin stamp onto my Communist Party card. (Yes, there were still card-carrying Communists.) That afternoon I sat in a chair in my room reading Lenin’s famous essay, ‘Socialism and Religion,’ in which he wrote: ‘We must combat religion—this is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently Marxism.’ Lenin’s hatred for the ‘figment of man’s imagination’ called God was not new to me—but some surprising thoughts began battering my brain: What if Lenin was wrong? What if God does exist?
“Other questions flitted by. Is America really Amerikkka? If not, why am I turning my back on it? Why was capitalist desire for money and power worse than Communist desire? I had embraced treasonous ideas: Why? But the central question concerned God. Why was I heading down a dark corridor and refusing even to open a door to a room that could be filled with light?
“I pondered this hour after hour, suddenly thinking that I had done something very wrong by hugging Marx and Lenin. When I sat down in that chair at 3 p.m. I was an atheist and a Communist. When I got up at 11 p.m. I was not. I was not doing drugs. I was not sleeping. I remember hour after hour looking at the clock, amazed that I was still in that chair. I had no new data. I had, through a process I did not understand, a new way of processing data.
“At 11 p.m. I got up and spent the next two hours wandering around the cold and dark University of Michigan campus, crying out to … Someone. During the next three weeks I stopped doing my coursework and read works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov, and other Russians, along with Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and essays of ex-Communists in The God That Failed. Part way through this process I still didn’t know what I was, but I knew I was not a Communist. Visiting the law school tough guy, I told him my thinking had changed and tore up my CP card.”
I continued and continue to mess up in lots of ways. This change was not the end of the story or even the beginning of the end, but it was the end of the beginning. Thanks be to God.