« Soul and Sea | Main | Family Meanderings »

November 28, 2006

Living Free When UnFree

Quoting wholecloth from Prof Camille:

Philip Yancey describes my European cousins demonstrating grace in a godless culture–dancing a kind of graceful and irresistible polka amid the ungraceful, goose-stepping soldiers. What would happen if we Christians extended our hand to (instead of waving our fist at) the lost and dying world? What would happen if we stopped viewing ourselves as pilgrims just passing through and started acting as God’s children relishing and sharing His gifts?

For many years dissidents in Eastern Europe met in secret, used code words, avoided public telephones, and published pseudonymous essays in underground papers. In the mid-1970s, however, these dissidents began to realize that their double lives had cost them dearly. By working in secret, always with a nervous glance over the shoulder, they had succumbed to fear, the goal of their Communist opponents all along. They made a conscious decision to change tactics. “We will act as if we are free, at all costs,” Polish and Czech dissidents decided. They began holding public meetings, often in church buildings, despite the presence of known informers. They signed articles, sometimes adding an address and phone number, and distributed newspapers openly on the street corners.

In effect, the dissidents started acting in the way they thought society should act. If you want freedom of speech, speak freely. If you love the truth, tell the truth. The authorities did not know how to respond. Sometimes they cracked down — nearly all the dissidents spent time in prison — and sometimes they watched with a frustration bordering on rage. Meanwhile the dissidents’ brazen tactics made it far easier for them to connect with one another and the West, and a kind of ‘freedom archipelago‘ took shape, a bright counterpart to the darkling “Gulag archipelago.”

Remarkably, we have lived to see these dissidents triumph. An alternative kingdom of ragged subjects, of prisoners, poets, and priests, who conveyed their words in the scrawl of hand-copied samizdat, toppled what seemed an impregnable fortress. In each nation the church operated as a counterforce, sometimes quietly and sometimes loudly insisting on a truth that transcended, and often contradicted, official propaganda. In Poland the Catholics marched past government buildings shouting, “We forgive you!” In East Germany, Christians lit candles prayed, and marched in the streets until one night the Berlin Wall collapsed like a rotten dam.

Early on, Stalin built a village in Poland called Nowa Huta, or “New Town,” to demonstrate the promise of communism. He could not change the entire country at once, he said, but he could construct one new town with a shiny steel factory, spacious apartments, plentiful parks, and broad streets as a token of what would follow. Later, Nowa Huta became one of the hotbeds of Solidarity, demonstrating instead the failure of communism to make just one town work.

What if Christians used that same approach in secular society and succeeded? “In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home,” said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way.


Posted by TulipGirl  |  11:18 PM|  TrackBack (0)  |   Words

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


This is a great reminder of some thoughts that I have been wrestling with recently, but haven't really given much attention... Thankfully, some thinking time is on the horizon.

Can't wait to see you in January!

Posted by: Rebecca at November 30, 2006 09:01 AM

Hi, Could you pls. let Le Sabot know that his site postmodernclog has been hacked? Thanks. I was just by visiting to take a look and saw the damage.

Posted by: Hello at December 1, 2006 11:06 PM

In My Garden
Recently Written
Book Blogging
Friends and Fans
Good Stuff
Blog Goodies