Sunday, May 24, 2015

Live and Let Live?

Raoul Castro was so impressed by his visit with the Pope that he said he may go back to the Church.  This was a person to person moment but it is true that secular revolutions -- even the successful ones -- beget religious counterrevolutions and this can happen as quickly as in one generation.

Michael Walzer, in his book The Paradox of Liberation tries to make some sense of this.  Walzer says that liberators look down on the people they come to set free.  As they overthrow the dictators, the liberators want to "improve" the timid, submissive populations.  They want to create a "stronger man."  In this effort religion is an obstacle to overcome. What liberators underestimate are other powerful qualities of religion:  endurance, solidarity, purpose.  These qualities can also create a "stronger man."

Is religion simply lack of education?  Can rational man and fundamentalist man ever engage?  I though about this recently while attending a funeral at a Catholic Church.  I sat among people who knew exactly what to do.  When to stand, when to sit, the words to every song and prayer.  Submissive?  Yes.  Identity, belonging, community?  Yes to that too.

Walzer says that successful secular revolutions have not finished their work, nor have the religious counterrevolutions that contradict them.  Maybe that's a weak place to land . . . or an invitation to continue pondering the paradox.

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