When I was at Rutgers, I got into the habit of engaging as many of the various nutcases on campus as I could find. At any given time, you could find people from the U.S. Labor Party (Lyndon LaRouche’s outfit), the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Hari Krishnas–you name it, and if they were on the fringe, I was interested.

Anyway, I was taken back to those halcyon days by David Waters’ column at “Of Faith” today, which gave me a good laugh. It appears the Communist Party U.S.A. (the orthodox Commies, the descendents of Earl Browder and Gus Hall) are seeking to recruit “people of faith”:

Good news for Americans of faith who aren’t happy with the Democratic or Republican parties. The Communist Party USA has created a new Religion Commission to reach out to “welcome people of faith into the party.”

Wait. Wasn’t it Marx who said this? “Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand.” And wasn’t it Lenin who said this? “Religion is the opium of the people.” Isn’t communism by definition anti-religion?

This isn’t your great-grandfather’s Communist Party, apparently. “Some of the greatest leaders in our history have been men and women of faith, and our party has been proud to work with them,” Tim Yeager, Religion Commission chairman, Chicago trade unionist and Episcopalian, said in a statement. [Emphasis added.]

In a front-page article at the link for the CPUSA above, we’re further informed that while there have been”conflict” between Communists and religious folk in some parts of the world, that would never happen here:

Yeager acknowledged that relations between some Marxist parties and religious institutions in other parts of the world have been marked by conflict. In tsarist Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church had been an arm of the state, and its leadership was opposed to the Revolution. The Bolsheviks adopted an official atheist position, and for many years waged a struggle against organized religion. Elsewhere, such as in Latin America, Marxist parties and religious progressives have worked together against repressive regimes and imperialist intervention.

“There has been no state church in the United States since shortly after we gained our independence, and we have a tradition of religious diversity,” Yeager said. “The so-called Christian Right in recent years has certainly made progress, but some of the greatest leaders in our history have been men and women of faith, and our party has been proud to work with them. The best known example, of course, would be the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Indeed, they continue to do so in various settings. For instance, Judith LeBlanc, who is “National Vice-Chair of the CPUSA and Chair of its Peace & Solidarity Commission” is currently a member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (though there her CPUSA position isn’t mentioned, and she’s instead tied to United for Peace and Justice, another far-left organization). The U.S. Campaign, of course, also features representatives of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church (whose rep also sits on the steering commitee of UPJ) and the American Friends Service Committee. So maybe the CPUSA’s plan to recruit “people of faith” isn’t so far-fetched after all.