We don’t know his name, nor what happened to him.

Instead, in the 35 years since that June day, the lone, solitary civilian standing in defiance before a convoy of 18 military tanks bearing down on him in China’s Tiananmen Square has become known as “Tank Man” – a symbol of courageous resistance.

Photographs and video of the incident, a small portion of a large pro-democracy protest in China that year, were nominated for all kinds of awards. The broader uprising in June of 1989 was deadly. Nobody knows how many unarmed protestors were killed that week, but some have suggested it was in the thousands, including many run over by tanks.

Footage of the stunning confrontation was smuggled out of the country. Although the incident occurred on June 3, the world didn’t see evidence of it until June 5.

CNN’s Richard Roth, who was covering the escalating story, asked a poignant question in the report he filed:

What moved a man to just stand still? Is it courage or outrage or madness? We can’t tell what was on his mind, and we can’t forget what he did.

There are no physical tanks staring down American citizens on United States soil, but there are ideological ones lining up on a daily basis that are designed to intimidate and silence those who dare disagree.

There are tanks of religious bigotry, telling Christians who want to care for children in foster care to sit down unless they bow down to the popular spirit of the age, furthering the sexual confusion of boys and girls.

The guns of the radical abortion movement are fixed on codifying a so-called right to abortion in every state.

The tank’s caterpillar tracks are poised to run over the innocence of children by indoctrinating them in all kinds of poisonous propaganda that masquerades as school curriculum.

Culture’s armor seems impervious to our objections, which are often dismissed as relics of another era. Its stoutness seems impenetrable.

Yet, like “Tank Man,” Christians are called to stand up against the forces of evil and wickedness.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm,” wrote the apostle Paul (Eph. 6:13).

It’s interesting that after all these years we’ve never learned “Tank Man’s” name. It could also be argued that his stand was ineffective. Yes, he stopped the brigade’s march, but only temporarily. China is still communist, and its people still aren’t free.

Christian believers are not judged on their success but rather on their faithfulness. It doesn’t matter if the world knows their name, what matters is whether their name is in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3).

We’re all the “Tank Man” now, resisting the evil and wickedness of radical and damaging ideologies: opposing the normalization of a pro-death culture, objecting to the sexualization of innocent children, defying the inanity of gender fluidity, resisting language police who tell us to lie, dismissing the supremacy of government over religious freedom, protesting the redefinition of the family, all buttressed and supported by standing up for the Truth of God’s Word.

And like the “Tank Man” – standing alone, if necessary.


Image credit: Associated Press