Captain John Birch: Wise as a Serpent, Harmless as a Dove

By Reverend Steven L. Craft

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10: 16)

The words of Jesus Christ to his disciples were an exhortation to be prepared to face persecution and death in carrying out their mission to evangelize the nations. This charge exemplified the life and death of Captain John Morrison Birch, an ambassador of Christ to the Chinese people.

Birch was a Baptist missionary and U.S. military intelligence officer who was murdered by the Chinese Communists in August, 1945. He was born in India and grew up in Macon, Georgia. As the flames of World War II were bursting fourth in both Europe and the Far East, he went to China and served as a Christian Missionary, preaching in territories occupied by enemy Japanese forces. In April 1942, he helped rescue American pilots in the bombing raid led by Major Jimmy Doolittle. He was commissioned and served as an intelligence analyst for the Office of Strategic Services. Promoted to Captain, he was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1944 and worked in China spreading the Gospel. After the war ended and while he was on an official mission, he was taken prisoner by Chinese Communists on August 25, 1945 and brutally executed.

At the young age of seven, John Birch experienced the call of God to the mission field. Upon learning of the suffering inflicted upon missionaries in China, he sensed God’s Spirit beckoning him to go there. His pastor warned him of the danger involved, but John replied: “I know the enemy is communism, but the Lord Jesus Christ has called me. My life is in His hands, and I am not turning back.”

Birch’s missionary ministry in China commenced in 1940 during the perilous time of war with the Japanese military. After Pearl Harbor, he dyed his hair black, wore Chinese clothing and learned the language. He truly became “one” with the people in order that he might win them to Christ. The fact that John Birch was a member of the Army and also a missionary added to his prestige and gave him great favor and influence among the Chinese people.

When the story of John Birch’s death as a martyr was uncovered by Robert Welch, he noted in his biography entitled The Life of John Birch: “If we can discover spiritual values and principles in the life of John Birch and recharge from the spark of his courage, while learning essential truths about the viciousness of our enemy, then his death was not in vain.”

He set an example for us today to follow Christ fully, even unto death. He expressed it this way in a letter to his sister: “Often, I feel that the barren years I spent were my God-given apprenticeship. A message of freedom is being formed within me, that will one day burn its way out and across man-made barriers, and into the very souls of men. I believe God is preparing me to withstand privation, pain, isolation, fatigue, and physical danger. To what end? That I might learn to trust Him fully in life and in death.”

God is faithful to keep His promises. John Birch went to China to preach the Gospel of Grace to the Chinese people. He was a true ambassador for Christ and gave his life as a martyr to serve God and the Chinese people. He was truly “wise as a serpent in respect to his military career, yet harmless as a dove in his calling as a missionary.

Christ declared: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12: 24).

John Birch was that “grain of wheat” that fell to the ground and died, but in so doing, he inspired our founder Robert Welch, who started in 1958 the John Birch Society which to this very day has produced the greatest fighters for liberty, justice, and freedom in America!

Therefore, patriots, let us stand strong in the fight against tyranny, slavery, racism, and hatred and the false allegations heaped upon our great John Birch Society, knowing that our hero gave not only his life but his sacrificial death in the fight against communism in America and around the world.


Reverend Steven L. Craft holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a Doctoral candidate at Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is the founder of Christian Citizenship Ministries, Inc. and is a motivational and inspirational speaker and author. He is co-author of the book Virtue and Vice: A Fascinating Journey Into Spiritual Transformation. He speaks on issues involving faith and culture, alcohol and drug prevention, crime, youth development and morality.

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