The Rev. Michael Moller was ambassador for an hour. At least that's the way it seemed to the East German Lutheran pastor who was appointed last May to represent his country as ambassador to the United States and had everything but final State Department approval.
With the reunification of East and West Germany this week, Moller is out of that job, and gladly. The new Germany was a dream that inspired him to hide contraband T-shirts in his church study, to lead demonstrations when other pastors were encouraging their flock from behind church doors. Sustained by a faith that told him good would eventually triumph over evil, Moller knew reunification would happen; he just didn't know how quickly.
Moller, at age 33 one of a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders in Eastern Europe, celebrated this week's events in a service at the Washington Cathedral. Before returning to Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he has accepted a teaching position, he talked about the remarkable change he has seen in Europe and the spiritual forces behind that change.
He grew up in a small town near the Polish border and as a Lutheran pastor's son, endured the taunts of his school classmates. He was the only one in his high school class not to join the local communist youth club, and though he made excellent grades, was asked to leave the school after the 10th grade. He took a job in construction.
A friend persuaded him to try seminary in the mid-1970s, and he was admitted to a school in Leipzig after passing a special examination. He eventually managed to get into the university there and received his PhD in theology and anthropology.
While in seminary in 1981, Moller was arrested, convicted and fined for distributing anti-state literature. By January 1988, he was a pastor at a Lutheran church on the Baltic coast and still a visible opponent of communism.
When students in East Berlin were expelled from school after objecting to military service, two members of Moller's congregation printed about 100 T-shirts expressing solidarity with the students. They went to Moller to ask whether they should march around the market square wearing the T-shirts.
"I said, 'We can make this thing public, but you're the ones who will be in prison.' " The next day, the two young men stood outside in their shirts for about 30 seconds before being arrested.
They eventually were released and Moller was warned to stop any future revolutionary activity. Moller and some members in his congregation began simply congregating in the square after Sunday worship, no picket signs, no belligerence. As the numbers of demonstrators grew from five to 50, "the security police didn't know what to do," he said.
In early 1989, Moller was asked by his bishop to leave the country, and he reluctantly agreed. Recently released documents show that late that summer, the East German government made plans to arrest about 1,500 activist clerics. Moller probably would have been in that group.
Moller and his wife, Fotina, an Ohio native and a Greek Orthodox, moved to Nebraska, and he started teaching at a Lutheran seminary. About six months later, the Berlin Wall came down and he went back to East Germany to help advise the Social Democratic Party and later, the temporary coalition government.
Moller believes the revolutions in Eastern Europe were driven by people's unstoppable desire to decide their own destiny. It took his post-World II generation to get things started, he said, because the war left the previous generation poor, depressed and with little self-esteem. But the older generations were crucial to the revolution's success, he said, because once they signed on, they were energized by the idea of being given a second chance at the good life.
Moller said it is "easier and better" for his family if they remain in this country while the two German societies work through unification. Here, he has a certain job; there, he wouldn't. "What they don't need is someone else looking for work," he said.
Moller, who keeps up his contacts in most Eastern Bloc countries, believes that anticommunism might not have swept Europe so quickly and so successfully were it not for the spirituality of several opposition leaders.
"Our faith provided us with a value system which gave us a lot of security about ourselves," he said. Threatened with sanctions, those whose faith wasn't strong dropped out, and those who stayed "were all pretty self-confident. If we hadn't been, we couldn't have survived."