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The Sickle or the Cross

The Sickle or the Cross(1949)

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As Communism spreads throughout the world, closing churches and forbidding worship, a group of American Christian laymen, headed by businessmen Tim Matthews and James Johnson and World War II veteran George Hart, learn that the Rev. John Burnside, who has been a missionary in several countries for twenty years, is returning home to America to lecture on the evils of Communism. They decide to ask him to head a nationwide anti-Communism campaign they are planning. Unknown to the others, however, Johnson is also a prominent member of the local Communist party and, at a meeting attended by comrades Morse, Borum, Pakin and Dr. Short in the office of Mrs. Borum's bookstore, he tells them of the laymen's plans. They advise the authorities in northern China, where Burnside is currently working, and he is imprisoned. The Chinese take his passport and send Comrade X-14, who ressembles him and has studied his speech patterns and mannerisms, in his place. In America, the false Burnside is accepted and welcomed by all. He moves in with a Christian family, Walt and Martha Deems and their children Betty and Tommy, and meets Louise Canon, Martha's sister and formerly Burnside's sweetheart, who tells him that he has changed a great deal and is like a stranger to her. Prior to a major radio broadcast, the laymen arrange for "Burnside" to appear in front of many large audiences across the country and he gains a reputation as a fearless anti-Communist. Meanwhile he is being rehearsed by Johnson and the others to sabotage the broadcast and promote Communism. On one of his tours, Comrade X-14 is obliged to visit Burnside's blind mother, but is able to convince her that he is her son. The Christian environment in which Comrade X-14 now finds himself, however, begins to raise doubts in his mind about the merits of Communism. After Tommy reads and explains his Sunday School homework to him, the impostor faces another challenge to his beliefs when, in the absence of the local pastor, he has to minister to a dying man. The laymen's campaign culminates with the radio broadcast, which is to be transmitted not only to America, but also to many other parts of the world. The Communists have arranged for it to be heard in all of their countries and, even in his prison in China, the real Burnside will be able to hear it. Comrade X-14 has been primed by Johnson and his comrades to deviate from the planned message and begins his address by stating that Communism has been misunderstood and is really a friend of the Church. Then, however, inspired by his experiences in America and understanding the significance of religion, Comrade X-14 tears up the script and confesses that he is an impostor, sent to undermine the Christian faith. He then states that Communism, of which he has intimate knowledge, is the most dangerous threat in the world to Christianity. He warns that Communists destroy individualism and faith in God and ends by stating that Christianity makes men strong and free and that his listeners must guard their faith with their lives. In his cell in China, Burnside is exultant as he listens. Johnson and his comrades, who have been listening at the bookstore, rush to the radio station to try to interrupt the broadcast, but fail in their attempt to kill Comrade X-14 and are rounded up by the police. Louise and the reformed ex-Communist pledge their lives to serving God.