Cuba – Finally a Breakthrough

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!


9 thoughts on “Cuba – Finally a Breakthrough

  1. No she’s not prejudiced, it is fabulous! I bet Raul remembers your encounter. To think that this likely would have happened long ago if JFK hadn’t been killed. The haters are having a field day this morning. At least they still have N. Korea to hate so they’ll be OK I guess.
    I assume your recognition of the parallels between a Christian classless society and a Marxist one predate your trip to Bratislava in 66?
    I am a little disappointed that the POTUS, in his tv interview yesterday, still echoed the old view that Cuba is still a one party state, reinforcing the belief that the US doesn’t have a 1 party state and that democracy is the same as capitalism. I know that is a safe position for him but he could have said it differently I think. Anyway its a great day for the US. Thanks for making it even more fun!


    • Gary, In my Middler year of seminar (1965-66) Old Testament Professor Edward F. Campbell, Jr. (“Ted” as he was known with great affection) introduced me to the work of Jurgen Moltmann, whose book (later translated into English under the title (Theology of Hope) he was reading in German. Whereas Scholastic theology (Aquinas and following) was grounded in Aristotelian philosophy, Moltmann’s philosophical interest was Ernst Bloch, the unorthodox Marxist philosopher who argued in Das Princip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope) that the vision of a just, free, and equitable society arises from the light of hope already shining in the human heart. He was typing together eschatology and ontology. To be human is to hope, to be drawn to that future. It was around the same time that I learned of Josef Hromadka, the Czech theologian of the Czech Church of the Brethren (which dates itself to Jan Hus). Hromadka had been teaching theology at Princeton Theological Seminary where, I learned later, he taught my father in 1939. Hromadka returned to lead the Comenski Facultat in Praha and develop a creative, mutually respectful dialogue between Christians and Marxists. In 1966 I applied to be the Chicago Experiment in International Living’s Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. I lived that summer with the Schulz family and discussed the likes of Moltmann and Kafka with students in the student union of the university in Bratislava.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been looking closer @ Bloch. I’ve known a bit about him but not the connection to everything we’re exploring here. This is such a rich vein to tap that another lifetime is needed to digest it all. For a long time I’ve been trying to make sense out of the connection between Marx’s dissertation on Epicurus and the line of thought from him to Marx through Spinoza. Hope and the pursuit of happiness is the common theme, it seems. That’s why I say humor is overdone as the meaning of life when it is a commodity under a “free market fetish” but just fine when it is done in the name of an organic process linking us all together in a bond of hope and happiness. So it is human nature to do wordplay, i.e., humor. Then the phenomenon of Homo Ludens (man the player) doesn’t result in “amusing ourselves to death” but a living in the present for the purpose of creating community bonds/happiness.


      • Gary, You’re blowing me away by the depth of attention you’re giving these posts. I love it. Thank you for paying attention to this little blog and for your food for further thought and conversation.


  2. This post is fabulous. I wonder if your retirement future has anything to do with Cuba…a trip? A project? A conference? At the very least we have the connect with Ed and his connections!… better get your prayers washed off!


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