The shape of things to come?:
‘Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) was constantly battling an [oppressive totalitarian] Polish government that was seeking to harass the Church and reduces its influence over the Catholic population of Poland.
[…] Priest were taxed excessively, and often followed and beaten up; students were denied admission to universities if their parents were churchgoers; permits for the building of churches were withheld when new towns developed;
the state abolished old religious holidays and invented ersatz national ones; and there was a constant ideological compaign of lies in the media designed to weaken religion and reduce it to an expression of patriotic nostaligia. Wojtyla resisted all these pressures by evading them inventively as much as by challenging them boldly.’
(O’Sullivan, 2006. )[i]
Czech playwright, poet, President, and political dissident, Václav Havel:
“Anything that in any way opposed the vision of the world offered by Communism, thus calling that vision into question or actually proving it wrong, was mercilessly crushed. Needless to say, life, with its unfathomable diversity and unpredictability, never allowed itself to be squeezed into the crude Marxist cage.
All that the guardians of the cage could do was to suppress and destroy whatever they could not make fit into it. Ultimately, war had to be declared on life itself and its innermost essence.
[Having come from a country once ruled by Communism] I could give you thousands of concrete examples of how all the natural manifestations of life were stifled in the name of an abstract, theoretical vision of a better world. It was not just that there were what we call human rights abuses. This enforced vision led to the moral, political and economic devastation of all of society.”
(Havel, 2002) [ii]
What should our response look like?
“Be as wise as a serpent, & as gentle as doves” (Mt.10:16)
“God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded. He is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (MLK, 1963) [iii]
Never give up.
Even when they try to kill you:
P.J.P II: assassination attempt, St. Peter’s Square, 1981.
Reagan: assassination attempt, 1981, Washington D.C.
Thatcher: assassination attempt, Brighton, 1984
‘[In the 1970’s] All three were @ or near the peak of their careers. All three were handicapped by being too sharp, clear, and definite in an age of increasingly fluid identities and sophisticated doubts. Put simply, Wojtyla was too Catholic, Thatcher too conservative, and Reagan too American.’
(O’Sullivan, 2006. ) [iv]
[i] O’Sullivan, J. 2006. The President, The Pope & The Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World Regnery Publishing, (p.14)
[ii] Havel, V. 2002 Preface to Karl Popper’s ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’, Routledge
[iii] King, M.L. 1963. Sermon: A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart; A Gift of Love, Beacon Press
[iv] O’Sullivan, ibid, 2006. (p.2)