The Wager: God & Tyranny

If the deaths of Kim Jong II, Christopher Hitchens and Vaclav Havel can be surmised briefly it is this:  no mere Machiavellian calculus is sufficient concerning the scales by which men discern the movement of Nations.

The end of the 20th Century permitted a long reprieve from the positivism that has dominated the calculus of disciplines since the Enlightenment captured the minds of Comte and the Jacobian grasp that ushered in both our Imperium and our happiness under capitalism.  Still, the deaths of these three men within days of one another speaks loudly to the mortal clay that binds both men and Imprimus:  the fact that ideas of consequences.

Hitchens was a contemporary Orwell.  I always liked the man, even when I found him overbearing.  An iconoclast to the end, he always had the fortitude and strength of his convictions.  My only reservation was his goaded mien to slay dragons.  His hatred of Kissenger and Mother Teresa was unfounded.  Still, the man fascinated his audience with chain smoking, scotch drinking 1960’s Chronkite behavior.  He embodied an archaic flair not seen for decades.  His hatred of Fascism of any kind is what prompted him to become an American.  His death from cancer was a blow given his stature and propensity for bombast.  I will miss the man.  Christopher Hitchens had intellectual integrity.  Most broadcasting personalities never arrive at where he began:  a fierce love of liberty and human dignity properly understood.  Rest in Peace.

Vaclav Havel’s ‘Letters To Olga’ reveals a man fit to join the ranks of  John Paul II and Lech Walesa.  Yes, I understand the cracks in the facade given the lavishness of his lifestyle after the death of Communism.  But, he remains the finest example of how embodied integrity, fortified by the intellectual heritage birthed by the Church as ‘human dignity’ brought down that concrete wall in Berlin.

I cite his ‘Letters To Olga’ for the simple reason that dissent literature, especially those reminiscent of Solzhenitsyn are simply standard bearers for the rest of us here in the West, fattened from our leisure.  Havel lived the gallows he sought to bring down.

Most human beings never get to clearly articulate the dreams that goad them.  Not Havel.   While awaiting either execution or torture, he wrote letters to his lovely quiet wife from prison.  Havel’s ‘Letters To Olga’ deserves a place in the pantheon of dissent literature alongside ‘The Gulag’ from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.   My guess is that his life in Lisbon with new wife has tarnished the man.  But such is the wagers of the chatter class that dominate television.  I think we owe him more than can be given.  At the least he embodied the very best of Western Christian Humanism.  Not a bad act to follow.  As for me, I can only relish the reality he so lovingly espoused in ‘Letters To Olga’.

How to end a week of uncompromising dread?  Watching the grim Stalinist wake of Kim Jong II, I am reminded of the political and social impact of the Incarnation.  An insight that gave shape to the response that became a Solzhenitsyn, Havel and Hitchens:  the firm belief, given shape in history, that ALMIGHTY GOD HAS WAGERED HIMSELF IN GOVERNING THE AFFAIRS OF MEN.

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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