Goliath’s bullying is almost over. After 53 years, by the good offices of Pope Francis and Canada, and by order of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, the U.S.A. and Cuba are taking steps to normalize relations. At long last, Cuba and we will be neighbors again.
It’s later afternoon in 1979. A 37-year-old minister/college pastor from Wooster, Ohio is mixing with other guests from all over the world at a social hour on the veranda of the residence of the Rev. Dr. Jose Arce Martinez, Dean of the ecumenical Protestant seminary in Matanzas, Cuba.
Thirteen years earlier, the young minister, then a seminarian, had been sent by the City of Chicago Chapter of the Experiment in International Living to live for three months in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. There he had participated in the Christian-Marxist Dialogue founded by Czech theologian and former Princeton Theological Seminary Professor of Theology Josef Hromadka. In Bratislava he had lived with the Schulz family.Mr. and Mrs. Schulz were employed by the Department of Economics and the Department of Justice. Pan (Mr.) Schulz, after welcoming him to their home with a shot of Slivovitz (plum brandy), had said with a a smile, “I’m a whole lot Marxist…but still a little bit Lutheran.”
The 75 international guests at the Matanzas seminary are Christian theologians, bishops, and pastors from Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Peru, the U.S.S.R, East and West Germany, France, and the U.S.A. They’ve been convened at the invitation of the seminary with the consent of the government of Cuba following the Pope’s conference on human development at Puebla, Mexico.
Earlier that day the guests had stood on the lonely beach of Playa Girón, site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, where the air was still heavy from the deaths of the CIA-led invasion of Cuba that had failed. Being at Playa Playa Girón had been chilling. A Cuban Pentecostal minister who lost a leg in the battle at Playa Girón explained the scene of the American invasion to his North America visitor.
That afternoon, they return to the seminary for the social hour where they are joined by a small number of members of the Cuba government. The young minister engages in a conversation with someone named Raúl who asks him what it means to him to be a Christian. He answers that to be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus, and that to be a disciple of Jesus means to give oneself to the Kingdom of God. He tells Raul that Marx’s classless society is borrowed from Jesus’s teaching and that he shares that vision.
Raúl smiles and says that they will have to see whether it is of God or of Man that it comes. Only time will tell. They shake hands as brothers in a common cause to end human misery and agree that only time will tell.
Today Raúl Castro and Barack Obama agreed to pursue normal relations between little David and the giant Goliath.
Thanks you, Barack. Thank you, Raúl. Thank you, Canada. Thank you, Pope Francis. Thank you, God!