Who Was Harry Freeman? And Why Should You Care?

Harry Freeman is not a household name; most Americans have no idea who he was. Why should anyone care? Well, Harry Freeman was an example of just how devoted someone can be to a political party regardless of the drastic changes that might occur.

Whittaker Chambers knew Harry Freeman. When Chambers joined the open Communist Party in America in the late 1920’s, he worked alongside Freeman at the party’s newspaper, The Daily Worker.

Allow me to draw from what I’ve written in my book on Chambers and Reagan:

Freeman was the perfect communist in his responses to the party line. As Chambers relates, “No matter how favorable his opinion had been to an individual or his political role, if that person fell from grace in the Communist Party, Harry Freeman changed his opinion about him instantly.”

Others in the party also shifted their viewpoints to match the leadership, but Freeman was unique because he would do it “without any effort or embarrassment. There seemed to vanish from his mind any recollection that he had ever held any opinion other than the approved one. . . . More adroitly and more completely than any other Communist I knew, Harry Freeman possessed the conviction that the party line is always right.”

Freeman, after he left the Daily Worker, went on to become the managing editor of the American Bureau of Tass, the Soviet news agency. In 1976, two years before his death, he received a special award from the Soviet leadership—the Order of Peoples Friendship. His achievement, according to the Soviet government, was his devotion to strengthening cooperation between the peoples of the Soviet Union and the United States. Freeman’s commitment to the communist cause was total.

Chambers, for all his devotion to communism, could never be a Harry Freeman. He could not stomach the politics within the party, and when Stalin initiated a purge of the American leadership, Chambers saw it for what it was—a power struggle unrelated to whether or not a person was a genuine communist.

“It seemed to me,” Chambers wrote years later, “that the party, of which it had been said in Lenin’s time that it peopled the jails of Europe with philosophers, had simply gone insane. … I thought: ‘The pigmies have taken over.'” He refused to play along with this political game and dropped out of the party for a time. This made him a pariah, someone not to be trusted.

How many Harry Freemans, I wonder, exist in America today? The Harry Freemans of today are those who hold to the party line, regardless of which party, no matter how that party may shift and bend itself out of shape.

The Democrat Party in our day is not the Democrat Party of yesteryear when it had a strong anti-communist center. It never dallied with changing basic morality with respect to the right to life and marriage.

The Republican Party of 2017 has morphed also. It’s no longer the party led by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Its purported leader has little in common with Reagan’s sunny disposition, his devotion to constitutionalism, and his thorough knowledge of the conservative philosophy.

I’m concerned because I see Harry Freemans popping up all over the place. I see supposed conservatives, for instance, jettisoning basic conservative/Biblical principles for pure pragmatism.

My goal in this post is simple: it’s a warning—don’t be a Harry Freeman. Stay faithful to what you know is true and don’t bend yourself out of shape to keep up with whatever the “party” wants you to do. Maintain your integrity.

Principle vs. Pragmatism

This divisive presidential election has brought forth a discussion that has all too often not been as productive as it should be: the issue of what is principled and what is pragmatic and whether there is a line that should not be crossed.

In my courses, I give a definition of principle as follows:

The source or origin of anything; a general truth from which one can deduce many subordinate truths.

Principled people believe in foundational truths that span all ages and circumstances. To be principled is to think and act consistently with those truths and to be willing to stand alone for them, if necessary.

Of course, one must have a proper understanding of what is a foundational truth and what is not:

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Then there is pragmatism, which is defined in this way:

Truth is based on the usefulness of ideas (whatever works is true); truth is a process, constantly changing according to time, place, or personal experience.

Pragmatic people are willing to dismiss foundational truths in order to do whatever seems expedient to achieve some goal.

And then there’s someone like this:

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There is the crux of the problem, in my view.

This election has brought out a lot of pragmatism on the part of those who have decided to go with Donald Trump. Those who have made that decision will say that it is a principled one because it keeps the obvious wrong choice out of power. However, my question is what has been sacrificed by making that decision.

Here’s my rule of thumb:

A compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.

In supporting Trump, are we led closer to our principles or are we instead pulled down into unrighteousness? Some have answered that by keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House, we maintain our principles. While I understand that reasoning to some extent, I cannot accept it.

For me, putting Donald Trump into the White House rather than Hillary Clinton only gives us another model of unrighteousness in the highest office in the land. By supporting him, I believe I am compromising a principle of Christian character.

Now, those who disagree with me respond that I am promoting unrighteousness by allowing Hillary to take the reins of power. No, I see both options as unacceptable; both are deplorable, despicable, corrupt individuals who should never be in any position of authority.

Consequently, supporting either one would be, in my opinion, a compromise with principle.

There is no Biblical mandate saying I have to vote for one of those two. The Biblical mandate is to stand up for righteousness. That’s what I believe I am doing.

I will never question the genuineness of anyone’s Christian convictions if they decide to vote for Trump. I will critique that decision as unwise, but I will not challenge their Christianity.

It would be nice if those who question my decision would do the same for me.

Let’s keep our attitudes right toward one another. This election will soon be over and we will have to move forward together without sacrificing Biblical principles. I only hope we can agree on how to do that.

A Warning

Jesus exhorted His disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They are supposed to reflect His heart and carry out His mission. That’s hard to do when those who call themselves Christians may not be Christians at all.

The Barna Group recently conducted a study of those who claim the name of Christ. A summary of the findings shows the following:

  1. The Christian church is becoming less theologically literate. Basic Biblical concepts are fading, especially among young adults. Only a minority of those surveyed associate Easter with the resurrection of Christ, although they do know it’s a religious holiday. [This is an indication that those interviewed are probably from all denominations, and not those considered to be more evangelical/fundamentalist in nature.] A majority don’t think of the Holy Spirit as an entity, but merely a symbol of God’s power. Very few believe their faith [such as it is] should be integrated into every aspect of their lives.
  2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented. They are more isolated from unbelievers [although I’m not sure there’s much difference between the majority of those surveyed and those who are self-identified unbelievers]. The emphasis on religious pluralism they receive through their education makes them less inclined to get involved in faith-based conversations.
  3. Growing numbers are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life. For both young and old, life accomplishments are more important than faith. They don’t want to take time for spiritual reflection and they compartmentalize their lives, not allowing the spiritual to interfere with what they deem “the practical.”
  4. Interest in participating in community action is escalating. On the surface, this would appear to be a positive, but that is surface only. What it really indicates is the ascendancy of the liberal worldview’s concept of social justice, which is usually disassociated from a vibrant faith that focuses on the foundational truths of Scripture. This community action is more geared toward government programs than personal self-sacrifice.
  5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian church. We now fear being labeled judgmental. As a result, we don’t take strong stands against immorality and philosophies that lead away from Biblical truth. Only a minority of those surveyed believe that the Scriptures dictate moral absolutes.
  6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible. The media treatment of modern Christianity tends to point out the faults rather than the contributions. Lacking sound judgment and the desire or ability to probe beneath these negative portrayals, those surveyed don’t think the church does much good in society.

Depressed yet? Well, keep in mind that these results are drawn from a broad spectrum of American Protestantism, and most of the mainline churches have departed from Biblical teaching for decades.

It’s still sobering, however, simply because this is the public face of American Christianity. This is what observers consider to be the real thing. What they don’t realize is that this represents more the watered-down, liberal church. The true Body of Christ exists within the overall “church,” but most of what passes for the church today is not the genuine article. How about this for an illustration?

From my own experience, though, I do want to warn that there are serious inroads being made within those denominations and movements that still hold to Biblical foundations. Attempts to erode those foundations are evident, and we need to speak out against them. Is that too negative? Tell that to the apostle Paul and others who gave stern warnings to the believers of their day. We must follow in their footsteps.