A decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Grace Effect. If all that I have ever written were to burn—and, I suppose, one day it all will—I would want that book above all else preserved. It contains my heart.

Prior to writing it, I had been trying to find a way to warn my chiefly Western audience of the dangers of socialism, an ideology most had naively dismissed as dead since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The question was, how do I do it? Many such books and articles had been published, but they were almost always written by academics for academics. “Coffee table books,” an old professor of mine used to call them. Most people have handsome picture books, magazines, or plants on their coffee tables rather than scholarly volumes that were given a decorative purpose since they weren’t worth reading, but his point was well taken. I needed the book I envisioned to be personal. It needed, in other words, a face.

Then it dawned on me. Lauri and I were at that time in the process of adopting a ten-year-old girl named Sasha from Ukraine.[1] Abandoned at birth, Sasha had been living in orphanages running off of old Soviet—that is to say, communist, which is to say, socialist, which is to say, Marxist—ideas ever since. The treatment of these children was appalling, and it was a direct result of socialist thought. They were materially, physically, intellectually, and spiritually assassinated by a system that promised Utopia and then proceeded to rob them of everything.

In telling Sasha’s story I was able to tell the broader story of Eastern European socialism and its devastating effects on the lives of countless millions. I would love to say the book sold countless millions, but it nonetheless had a kind of influence that can only come through the Lord’s blessing. Quietly, many readers were moved to adopt other HIV-positive children like Sasha, a ministry largely pioneered by my wife, Lauri. Relief missions to orphanages were launched, ministries founded, and the lives of children changed. To this day, and to our great joy, we still hear of that book’s, well, grace effect.

But that was then, as they say, and this is now. If my intention was to warn Western readers of socialism’s satanic nature and endlessly seductive power—and it was—the message, it seems, was missed. People were too busy reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games. Since then, a generation who have not known war, privation, or suffering in any meaningful sense, have embraced socialism’s undeliverable promises with the certainty that they are victims[2] and that socialism represents truth as immutable as any natural law. So, what was once over there, is now over here. And while the evils of that monstrous system remain the same, the manifestation of it has changed.

Where The Grace Effect focused on Eastern European socialism, I now turn my attention to South America. For the last two months, I have traversed this continent listening to the stories of those people who are the victims of socialist regimes sporting the same fist in the air and noble slogans one finds fashionable in America these days. Yes, while Tim Keller waxes not-so-eloquently on the “nuances” of Critical Theory—i.e., Marxism’s latest iteration—lives are, at this very moment, being destroyed by it.

In the coming weeks, I’ll introduce you to some of them:

  • William, a shoe repairman, and his wife, Milagros, who fled Maduro’s brutal Venezuelan dictatorship with their four children to escape starvation.
  • Valentina, who at 19 knew that she had no future in her native Venezuela and, with the help of her brother-in-law and the Mormon Church, now lives in Brazil.
  • Willie, a barber, who brought his wife and four children out of Venezuela via the trochas[3] where armed Wayuu guerillas demanded money or his wife.
  • Carlos, Willie’s brother, who fled Venezuela because “I spent all I earned on food, and it wasn’t enough, so I had to steal it.”
  • Luis, a catlike young man who, having no money to pay the Wayuu mafia, pitted his athletic skill against their marksmanship, and ran across the no man’s land of La Guajira to seek a new life in Colombia.
  • Danner, a teenage boy who took a “pirate bus” across the continent in the hope of finding work and a university education only to find himself stranded without food by a rockslide in the Ecuadorian Andes.
  • Julio and Paolo, who live in a storage unit in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Colombia with their seven children and pay rent daily or they are evicted.
  • Carlos, a professional driver in Venezuela, who escaped that country but is now reduced to singing on the streets in a sombrero for the pocket change of passersby.
  • Omar, 16, a Venezuelan who braved the trocha with his mother and little sister and now begs on city buses in Cartagena but longs to be a singer/songwriter. (You’ll hear him sing one of his own songs.)

These are just some of the remarkable people I have encountered on this journey. They are the real faces of socialism. Just as words and phrases like “abortion” and “medical procedure” hide the reality of that barbaric act, “socialism” and “Black Lives Matter” likewise hide the reality of a godless system that has claimed the lives of no less than 150 million people.

These are not victims of Stalin or Mao, but of modern governments who insist they are doing socialism the right way. They are people whose lives have been torn apart and discarded like an infant torn from the womb and dumped into the rubbish bin. I hope you will read their stories, share them, and be moved to pray and act, because America, an outlier to these atrocities for so long, is now under socialism’s deadly scythe, and if you, dear reader, are to stop it …

you must know what it is.

[1] Sasha, now 22, our beautiful girl inside and out, is getting married this summer. What an extraordinary journey she has had. The Lord’s blessing upon her life is so very evident.
[2] Speaking anecdotally, very few people who think themselves victims really are. In my experience, real victims don’t want to talk about their victimhood, much less leverage it for gain. It is simply too painful. Sasha is a victim of what might justly be called “crimes against humanity.” But she doesn’t think of herself that way. She doesn’t look back. Compare that to those filling the ranks of Antifa or BLM.
[3] Literally it means a “shortcut” or a “trail,” but its meaning here is much more loaded. The trochas are the illegal passages crossing the borders of South American countries. To cross the Rio Grande into the United States is enter via a trocha.

Larry Alex Taunton is the Executive Director of the Fixed Point Foundation and a freelance columnist contributing to USA Today, Fox News, First Things, The Atlantic, CNN, Daily Caller, and The American Spectator. He is also the author of The Grace Effect, The Gospel Coalition Book of the Year The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, Around the World in (More Than) 80 Days. (Available to order now) You can subscribe to his blog at larryalextaunton.com and find him on Twitter @larrytaunton.

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