Essays

The business of religion, to use that unfortunate turn of phrase, is to change the world. The theo-political implication of radical democracy is that we cannot wait for a God to save us. If democracy indeed is the political instantiation of the death of God, then this is a task that is ours alone.

It’s easy to see why Santorum might appeal to some culturally conservative Catholics and moderate evangelicals who are wary of Democrats but also turned off by the Republican Party’s cozy embrace of economic libertarianism and tireless defense of struggling millionaires. Santorum is more comfortable with communitarian language, has been a strong supporter of foreign aid to impoverished countries and connects with personal stories of his blue-collar upbringing. But it’s a political delusion to think Rick Santorum is a standard-bearer of authentic Catholic values in politics. In fact…

A common impression of Christianity in the DDR (East Germany) is of the persecution of the church. Given the atheistic basis of communist states, the very act of confessing that one was a Christian was enough to land one in prison. Faithful ministers were persecuted, church buildings were ransacked, and the Christian churches went through a dark period comparable to that of the early church. Those who worked with the state or even – God forbid – dared to support communism were merely Stasi agents who had compromised the ‘true’ faith.

In order to offer very different perspective, I would like to tell the story of Dick Boer. In 1984, he was called to be a minister in Dutch Ecumenical Congregation in the DDR (Niederländische Ökumenische Gemeinde in der DDR). He was minister for eight years, until 1990, after the fall of the wall and the end of the DDR.

Today, speaking in tongues and prophecy are more apt to be equated with personal piety than political resistance. This too represents an incomplete understanding of Christ’s ministry and mission.

As the Iowa Caucus approaches, increased attention is being paid to the religious affiliations of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Much of this discussion has centered upon Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, but the media has also paid a significant amount of attention to Newt Gingrich’s Catholicism. The latest round of controversy in the mainstream media began with Laurie Goodstein’s New York Times piece, in which she speculated about whether Gingrich’s 2009 conversion to Catholicism fits into a broader shift towards the right for Catholic participation in American politics in the post-Kennedy era. Likewise, Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s NPR piece narrated the details of his conversion process, highlighting the pivotal role of his current wife, Callista, as well as his attraction to the intellectual tradition of the Church.

Given the important role played by American Catholics in determining the outcome of presidential elections, many commentators have speculated that Newt Gingrich might be the one to capture the prized Catholic vote.

For Gingrich’s campaign, his recent conversion from Southern Baptist to Roman Catholicism almost functions like the makeovers of popular reality TV shows. His past record of “double spousal abandonment” and congressional ethics violations, we are told, are sins of a previous life that are irrelevant for the newly made-over “Catholic Newt.”

In late November, Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, surged in the polls to become the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential election. In recent days Gingrich’s poll numbers have faltered, but he retains a slight lead over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in national polls.

Having converted to Catholicism in 2009, Gingrich is one of two Catholics running for the nomination. He has not made his Catholicism an important part of his campaign rhetoric, although he has not hidden it, either. At many of his campaign stops, he shows the film Nine Days that Changed the World, a documentary on the role of Pope John Paul II in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe produced by Gingrich and his wife Callista.

So far, discussions of Gingrich’s faith have focused on his personal character, but less attention has been given to the influence of Catholicism on his political views…..

Without a Vision

Without a vision, the people perish. Let your young men see visions and your old men dream dreams. Those words sound particularly hollow at the moment, and yet they resonate with what is lacking and remind us of what inspired the original followers of Jesus and also the hopes of those who greeted his arrival. Where are the visions now, and what do we have to guide us through what may well be a dark period?….

‘In certain respects, a revolution is a miracle’ (Lenin 1921 [1965]-a: 153). Revolution = miracle; революция = чудо: this is the arresting formula I wish to explore. This formula is by no means an isolated occurrence in Lenin’s texts. So let us see how Lenin deploys the term, thereby enriching his sense of miracle.