In my youth, I was an anti-Vietnam War activist and a Marxist. Here’s how I came to faith in Christ.
The following is an excerpt from Kurt Mahlburg and Warwick Marsh’s latest book, Jesus: The Centre of It All. Buy the book here.
My Anti-Vietnam War and Marxist Activism
It was the late 1960s and protests against the Vietnam War were in full swing. I had long hair and I was part of what people termed the counterculture. Some called us hippies. We listened to groups like Deep Purple, Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. Music played an important role in the revolution.
You could get expelled from school for wearing moratorium badges in protest of the war. We wore them anyway. You could get expelled for associating with radical groups like the Students for a Democratic Society. We did it anyway.
I can remember as a teenager going to demonstrations at Sydney University and listening to political activists like Hall Greenland speak on the front lawn of the campus. Often, famous Australian bands like The La De Da’s, Tamam Shud or Black Feather played at the ‘demos’.
My best friends were never ordinary communists. They were Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, or simply anarchists. Those were heady days. We all thought we could bring about peace on earth by singing protest songs and chanting expletives at the police.
A Vietnam War in My Own Home
Underneath these well-meaning endeavours, however, I was insecure and sad. I had a wonderful mother and father but they just could not get along. At times it was like the Vietnam War in my own home. I could not understand it because both of my parents professed faith.
Dad had a strong faith in Christ, and at the same time, he brought me up to question everything and to think for myself. He himself was a conscientious objector during World War II and he supported me in my stance against the war in Vietnam.
Approximately half of the first twelve years of my life, I grew up apart from Dad because of the ongoing conflict. I never saw my father hit my mother, but I did see my mother draw blood from my father’s face. I can only presume it was not an isolated occurrence.
I even contemplated suicide in moments of dark depression. I did not realise it at the time, but I had a ‘father wound’ and a deep spiritual void in my life. As John Lennon sang, “One thing you can’t hide is when you are crippled inside.”
The Billy Graham Sermon That Changed My Life
It was about this time that I heard the famous evangelist Billy Graham preach the gospel on television. He was talking about the need for everyone to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He shared how we all had a perfect Father in heaven and that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son Jesus on a daring rescue mission—to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of the whole world.
One part of Billy Graham’s sermon stood out to me in particular. He explained that as Jesus was being crucified with a nail driven in each hand, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). All around, people mocked Jesus, including the soldiers, religious leaders, the onlooking crowds and even the criminals who were crucified either side of Him. But then one of the two rebels hanging next to Jesus realised his error and, turning to the Saviour, he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ reply to this despised and forgotten thief filled me with hope: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).
That night in 1969, I knelt beside my bed and gave my life to Christ.
How Jesus Christ Turned My Life Around
Soon after, I read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand—a powerful book about followers of Jesus facing persecution at the hands of the communists in eastern Europe. That story, more than any other, shook my faith in the Marxist doctrine and I began to pull away from majoring in political change to focus on my own much-needed heart change.
I became the youth leader at my local Baptist church in the Blue Mountains near Sydney and began using my musical skills to share the message of Christ. Almost five decades later, I am still in full-time ministry. I have served as a musical evangelist, a missionary, a prayer leader, a cultural reformer and a champion of Christian values. My most important ministry of all is to my wife, my five children and my ten grandchildren. I have learned that family is the prize.
In the pages that follow, my co-author Kurt will share parts of his own story of faith. The gospel has transformed both of our lives. We are convinced that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was the turning point of history. And we can testify from personal experience that Jesus is the answer to all of life’s big questions and the deepest yearnings of the human soul. Simply, we believe that Jesus is the centre of it all.
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