Lee Grady, contributing editor of Charisma, has recently written on his blog an article about Romanian Pentecostalism, giving Mr. Ioan Ceuta the “prime time” while at the same time distorting the image of mainstream Romanian Pentecostalism in a manner which I find deeply troubling. Had this article been written by Mr. Ceuta himself, I would have had no quarrel with it. But since it is written by an editor who could and should know better, I cannot help writing a response. Truth, given its nature, cannot be imprisoned (in words or otherwise). Seeing the uncanny portrayal of the new heroes of the post-Communist Romania only serves to kindle the “fire in the bones” which features so prominently in the header of Lee Grady’s blog.
“Like so many Romanian pastors who lived through the communist era, Ceuta has walked through fire and emerged stronger in his faith.” So writes Lee Grady about the president of Bucharest Christian Center. Does the author mean what he says? Has he asked Mr. Ceuta anything about what life was like during Communism and how he responded when faced with “communist oppression and intimidation”? What precisely stands behind the Biblical “fire metaphor” out of which pastor Ceuta emerged so strong in his faith? If “ministry was not easy for Ceuta during the dark days of Nicolae Ceauşescu”, what was it like more precisely? In fact, how hard was it for Pastor Ceuta to get a passport and a visa in order to pursue his studies in the United Stated beginning with 1987, at a time when most Romanians leaving their country had to cross the Danube swimming to Yugoslavia and risk being shot?
Does Lee Grady know that last year a solid book written by a young Pentecostal pastor has cast a new (and very troubling) light on the dark Communist regime by showing that the degree of control which the Securitate exerted over the Church surpassed all our fears? Given the publication of this book, aptly titled Redeeming the Memory, to say that “covert government informants strictly monitored all pastors during Ceauşescu’s era” is not only a gross understatement but also a serious misunderstanding and misrepresentation of reality. The infamous Securitate did not only monitor (that was the easy part), it controlled. The informants were not “governmental” in any sense. They were members of our churches, especially leaders from every level of church life. Some pastors were not simply informants. They were agents of the Securitate, trained accordingly and entrusted with well-defined missions, to be fulfilled in Romania or on abroad. The degree in which the Securitate managed to recruit church informants and control the leadership structures of the Romanian churches (or any other institution, for that matter) makes the stuff of nightmare. Those who have spent time poring over the files stored by the Council for the Study of the Archives of the Former Securitate know what I mean when I say this. And there are enough of them for Lee Grady to interview, if so he pleases.
In one of his letters published on the internet after the release of Redeeming the Memory, pastor Ceuta has claimed that his file had been burned. If I were Lee Grady, I would ask Mr. Ceuta: “Were you ever approached by the Securitate with the proposal to collaborate?”, “What kind of files did the Securitate keep about you and why were they destroyed?”, “By what strange preternatural powers were you able to divine the theme researched by Dr. Emanuel Conţac in the Archives of the former Securitate, at a time when this information was not yet public?” and “If it is true, as you claimed numerous times, that the past belongs to the Council for the Study of the Archives of the Former Securitate, why have you sought accreditation with the Council in order to do research in the Archives?” These and many other illuminating questions could have been asked of Mr. Ceuta who, I am sure, has very incredible stories to tell to well-meaning (albeit perhaps somewhat too credulous) listeners.
If it is true that after Ceauşescu’s execution communism fell officially, please note the fine printing. The Communists who ousted Ceauşescu made him the scapegoat for all the evils which they had amply supported in the previous decades and reinvented themselves as the new democrats (in a transition from red to pink, as professor Peter Kuzmič would say). In January 1990, Communism and the Securitate no longer existed officially. In point of fact, as pastor Vasilică Croitor (author of the much debated Redeeming of Memory) well knows, the Securitate, baptized with a new name, unto the same old mission, regrouped and continued to keep its Sauronic eye on the churches.
I agree with Ceuta (as quoted by Lee Grady) that “Romanians had lost hope that we would ever be free” and that “We had accepted slavery like the Israelites did in Egypt”. But I think that both Ceuta and Lee Grady fail to see how these solid facts square with the other realities of that time. If Romanians were enslaved by Communism (which they were), Mr. Ceuta is hard put to come with a plausible answer to the question: “How could the Pentecostal Moses travel so freely between Pharaoh’s palace and the Promised Land (i.e. America) at a time when 99% Romanians were, for all practical purposes, in chains”? Either the Communist Pharaoh was not such a bad guy after all, or the Pentecostal Moses (turned Mordechai lately) was not so revolutionary after all!