Fulbright Blessing

Fulbright Blessing

In the former Czechoslovakia, during the communist rule (1948-1989), conditions for Christianity and other religions were not favorable. The official and only reputable philosophy in the country was Marxism-Leninism.

Basically, it is a pure materialism. All the schools taught it, from basic schools to graduate institutes. Religion was considered an “opium of mankind” (Karl Marx), used (abused) by rulers to rule, or more generally to exploit men. Religion was counted an obstacle to progress and a potentially dangerous tool to control public thinking.

However, since there were still many Christians, and communist leaders could not dissolve the churches, they put religion under state control. The government nationalized major churches, forced priests to become state employees and spied upon high religious officials.

Ordinary people were scared to exhibit freely their belief in God because children of believers were sometimes barred from the high school or university of their choice.

I lived in this environment for twenty-five years. Within my family, only my grandparents on my mother’s side were believers. In the spring of 1989, I passed my last exam in Marxism-Leninism, which was required to obtain a Ph.D. degree. Six months later, the Prague Velvet Revolution freed our society from Communist rule, but the materialist thinking endured.

All these facts do not excuse my former way of life. I cite them to testify to God’s great love and grace which led me away from the crude materialist world to a new life in Jesus Christ.

Though I did not know it, my way to Jesus started quite a long time ago. Early on I realized that the believers whom I knew held a consistent world outlook — not less consistent than that taught at school. A key question for me then was: “What is good and what is evil?” or “How can we judge an action as good or evil?” For me, good and evil were relative concepts with meanings to be determined by the average opinion of a group of people. However, for believers, “good” and “evil” had unchanging meaning, independent of the human factor.

One Christian friend gave me a satisfactory definition of these concepts without using the word “God” (or any synonym). This helped me greatly because back then I could not accept anything by heart, which my mind had not first accepted– especially because I am a mathematician.

Now everything is different, and I believed in God even though He is supernatural and His intentions are sometimes hard to understand here on Earth.

After this talk, I felt that I should no longer live only for myself or for science and mathematics; I doubted if the science that I did could really help mankind.

So, inspired by some other friends, I began to work with children. After a while I realized I did not actually know what the children needed nor what to teach them, so I joined my small group of children to a scouting group.

Scouting’s main idea is expressed in the scout oath: “I promise on my honor to serve the highest Truth and Love and at all times to fulfill all my own duties and obey the scout law, and in my body and mind to be always ready to help those around me.”

I enjoyed the group and especially my times with a scout leader named Martin. The ideal scout, he divided his time between work and university studies, the scout group, his parents, and self-improvement. He seemed to waste not even a minute.

When I married, I had to leave the scouts — it consumed too much time. But even more,compared to Martin, I was not talented, filled with the same spirit, nor as able to bear the responsibility of leading such a scout group. Also, there was no more theory that I could learn from scouting.

Looking to improve myself, I read such books as “How to Make Friends and Influence People”, “How to Get Off Anxiety and Start to Live”, “Be Your Own Psychologist”, “Assertiveness”, etc. I learned many partially useful things, but was not satisfied.

I thought that I must find a Teacher for me.

My search for God has not always been straightforward. I started to study Dianetics, led by some people who had experience with it. In short, Dianetics claimed to offer a reliable “religious technology” to remove all problems of the mind, so as to improve human health, increase IQ, etc. The theory seemed to have great features, but sin is not recognized as a problem, and hence Dianetics does not lead to salvation. In general, Dianetics accords well with the widespread, but false belief that man with his science and technology is able (or will be able in the future) to solve all people’s problems on Earth without the Creator’s help.

Finally, by the Lord’s grace, I received a Fulbright Fellowship and came to New Haven, far from my home. In America, my wife and I were almost isolated from Czech culture, and because of the language barrier, we were also isolated from American culture.

The change helped me break old patterns and habits and gain a new perspective. I decided to look for wisdom in the Bible. I knew from Christian friends that there was wisdom in the Scripture, but until then I had no intention of reading it. I thought the Bible might be hard to read, so I looked for a Bible study group, and began to attend one at Yale.

So far, I did not think that I could become a Christian, nor believe in God. How could I pray for belief when I did not believe that someone might listen to me? It was an endless circle. I did not know what I missed.

The reason for the circle was that I was starved for wisdom–the wisdom of God which was the way out. But while seeking for wisdom, I have found much more.

At my first time at Bible study, I learned that one can know the whole Bible — each and every sentence — and work to obey each of God’s commands, and still do all this in vain, like the Pharisees of Bible times.

A person must accept the teaching at the very heart — otherwise it makes little sense.

I also learned I could start to believe in God that evening and pray to Him.

I thought about it the whole evening, and during a partly sleepless night I had a dream where I realized that I wished to understand the Bible, I wished to believe in God and then, that I already did believe in Him so I could start to pray and praise Him. I experienced an immense relief and peace after that. I do not remember many details from the dream — I only remember the smile of my brother who had become a Christian years before I had, and who was obviously very pleased by my conversion, and even made a joke about it.

Thus began my new life following Jesus. Praise the Lord!

Petr Tichavsky
© 1995 The Yale Standard Committee