Saturday, October 30, 2004

London Day 2 - Marxinerd?

As many Protestant Christians of my generation seems to be crossing either the Thames or the Tiber (shorthand for becoming Anglican or Catholic), I found it of great interest to do a little swimming in both while in England. So on this Sunday I went to two churches right next to each other, The Brompton Oratory (which produced the Newman statue) and Holy Trinity Brompton (which produced the very popular Alpha course). But more on the differences between Catholic and Anglican London later. The most interesting Sunday experience involved a whole different kind of faith.

More DAY 2-John Updike once said that the problem with communism is that it's so far removed from the natural order that it doesn't work, whereas the problem with capitalism is that it's so close to the natural order that it's cruel. I think he was right, and find myself therefore increasingly committed to supporting capitalism because of its necessary concession to human nature, with the additional (and all too easily forgotten) element of a vigorous Church that calls attention towards and serves the poor. Until I am convinced otherwise I'll maintain that position - but what could be better than the chance to be convinced otherwise on such beautiful Fall day in London?

While in college I attended several demonstrations and marches in Chicago which were populated mainly by hard-core Marxists. At some of them in attendance were even members of (what's left of) the Black Panther Party. So I've had my conversations with the Reds - but never on the scale as I did this Sunday in London. As is well known, Speaker's corner near Hyde Park is a hopping place, and this day was no exception. Amid the throngs of predictable anti-Blair/Bush rhetoric, and fundamentalists of both Christian and Islamic persuasion, I was drawn to an acutely intelligent speaker whom I listened to for quite some time, and even engaged in a little friendly debate (which is welcomed). The speaker was a representative of this website, and make no mistake - this guy (and his significant entourage) are true believers. His basic message: America and England are built entirely on stolen land and slave capital, amounting to disproportionate disbursement of wealth, and it's time the people rise up and get get it all more evenly distributed. Marxism 101. But I really liked this guy, and got to talk with him a bit one on one afterwards. The following are some questions I posed to him publicly, and his very public responses.
Q. So you're saying history was a just dark abyss before Karl Marx?
A. (without missing a beat and very emphatically) Yes.

Q. What is your best case scenario in 50 years?
A. We live in a paradise on earth.

Q. How could that happen?
A. It already is happening in places like Venezuela. It can happen overnight.
Now I know those questions make him sound less than intelligent, but intelligent he was. At least for the regulars at Speaker's Corner, their rhetorical skills tend to be honed not in the safety of a classroom, but on the literal streets with lots of opposition - and the results are impressive. What the answers to those questions highlight for me the is the faith aspect of his commitment. Marxism has been called a secularized eschatology - and whatever your eschatology may be, faith is a necessary ingredient. This is because the essence of eschatology is that you don't see the evidence yet, and faith is "the evidence of things not seen." The man I spoke with converted to Marxism at 17 and hasn't looked back since (he must be about 35). I can safely say that I (and the Church) could certainly learn from, and be convicted by, his passion for justice. But the stumbling block for me in regards to Marxism remains to be the 20th century... because in Russia, China, Cuba, etc. we have, in my reading of history, evidence that certainly is seen.

Among the things which he said which prevented the birth of marxinerd (and there were several) was, and I quote, "Winston Churchill was the biggest [insert British expletive] who ever lived." My walk through the Cabinet Warrooms which I'll describe later left me with a distinctly different impression. Another was when our speaker thought to end on a "light note" he would recite a limerick about a topic as "light" as 9-11, describing the incident with what was for me, a bit too much zest. I never considered that perhaps, for a Marxist, the destruction of such a major symbol of capitalism, the "World Trade Center" was a good thing - But maybe for them it is. Personally, I thought it was a very, very bad thing.

The zinger was when in private I asked him whether violence was justified in bringing about such a revolution... the answer was, this time in a roundabout and qualified manner, but still with conviction... "Yes."