Tortured for Christ: Unbreakable Faith (Documentary Review)

John FarrellBy John Farrell7 Minutes

How strong is your faith? Would you hold firm to your faith while standing face-to-face with your torturer who wants you to deny your love for Jesus Christ? Would you refuse to concede, instead enduring years of excruciating pain and suffering?

Even for one fleeting second, would you consider telling your captor what he wants to hear just to escape? Or would you stand by your conviction that Jesus Christ is the one and only true savior?

For Richard Wurmbrand, renouncing his faith was not an option. Instead, he opted for the alternative: flagellation, foot whipping, mutilation, branding, solitary confinement, and other forms of torture. His only crime? His faith and his unwillingness to abandon it.

In all, he suffered 14 years of imprisonment (three of those in solitary confinement) and brutal torture at the hands of Russians. His wife, Sabina, also spent three years at a labor camp.

Wurmbrand is the focus of the 2018 dramatized documentary, Tortured for Christ, based on his 1967 biography of the same name.

Communist Control and the Congress of Cults

On August 23, 1944, one million Russian troops entered Romania. The Communist regime quickly took over and outlawed Christianity. Atheism became the official language. Church leaders, including Wurmbrand, from different religious organizations were invited to attend the Congress of Cults. At the meeting, Communist leaders tried to sway those in attendance to deny their faith and submit to the new establishment.

Wurmbrand, unsettled by what he heard, interrupted the proceedings to address the audience. He knew that what he was about to say would infuriate the Communist leadership and place a large target on his back, but as a Godly man he found it necessary to speak truth into the situation:

“My friends, we are gathered here today as the holy priesthood of God, to glorify the name of Christ – not the party. Communism has made martyrs of our brothers. How can it be praised? Our duty is not to endorse earthly powers. Our duty is to glorify God the Creator, to glorify Christ the Savior, who died for us on the cross. Jesus was mocked by those who tortured Him. Perform another miracle! You saved others, but you cannot save yourself? The miracle was He looked upon them with love! Jesus looked upon them with love! That is the miracle! What a savior is this Jesus!”

The leaders of the Congress of Cults demanded that Wurmbrand’s microphone be turned off. By the time the power was cut, Wurmbrand had already finished addressing the crowd – predominantly made up of Christian leaders—to uproarious applause. Afterwards, he quickly left the meeting with his wife.

He knew he was a wanted man. His church along with many others who refused to work under Soviet control went underground. Christianity, for all intents and purposes, became illegal. Just proclaiming Christ as your savior was grounds enough for arrest and torture.

On February 29, 1948, as Wurmbrand walked to church for a wedding, he was abducted. His abductors placed a bag over his head and forced him into the back seat of a vehicle. He knew this would eventually happen and where they were taking him because this had become all too commonplace since the Communist takeover.

The Captors and Their Captive’s Prayer

Many of the men who held Wurmbrand and his fellow Christians captive sought nothing more than to cause inexhaustible pain and held no regret for their actions. There was pure hatred in their hearts. In one violent scene as Wurmbrand is having his feet beaten brutally, his tormentor tells him, “There is no God. There is no punishment for evil. I thank God, who I don’t believe in, that I now live to express all the evil in my heart.”

As a result of the frequent beatings on his feet, Wurmbrand was never able to walk normal again. His body was riddled with various scars from all types of torture.

Although the physical pain from the torture was unbearable, the emotional scarring was just as bad, if not worse. Wormbrand tells the story of a pastor named Florescu who would not provide the names of his congregation to the communists. In return, they branded him and locked him in a room with a mischief of rats. When Florescu would not break, they brought in his son, Alexandru, and beat him to death with a lead pipe. Florescu begged the torturer to stop. He would tell them anything they wanted to know.

Alexandru pleaded for his Dad not to give in: “Father, no! I know that you are not a traitor. Speak of Jesus as long as you can.” Alexandru died with the name of Jesus on his lips.

For everything Wurmbrand and his fellow captives endured, they continued to preach and pray. They even prayed for their captors—the very men who beat and branded them on a daily basis. According to Wurmbrand, “Preaching in prison was strictly forbidden. It was never an issue of if you were caught, it was how severely you were beaten when you were.”

The prisoners made a deal with the guards. They would preach and the captors would beat them. That way everyone was happy.

Do you have the unbreakable faith of Wurmbrand and the other thousands of Christians like him who were tortured by the communist regime of the Soviet Union? Would you stand up for Christ? Would you be tortured for Christ?