"...DOOMED TO REPEAT IT"
I'm back in CT for a week of rest and seafood. I'm also working on research for a screenplay I will be writing this Fall. The script is set up against the Spanish Civil War, and every day I find the rhetoric and climate of pre-bloodbath Spain to be more chillingly like our own.
The divisions in Spain which set up the war were very complex, but the real crux came down to secularism vs. Christianity. Fueled from the social Darwinism of the universities, the intellectuals in Spain went around for a few decades before the war insisting that religion was anti-modern and an enemy of progress. For many of these folks, "Christian" became a hated adjective, synonymous with ignorant. The greatest fury was directed against the moral authority of the Church. How dare the Church constrain anyone in any way with the outrageous suggestion that some things are good and other things are evil?!
In the elections of 1931, the secular side finally obtained some power, and within days, a disgusting and violent attack on the Church was unleashed. Over 100 churches were burned and gutted. Mobs desecrated cemeteries, convents, seminaries and religious schools. Priests, nuns, and anybody displaying religious devotion were assaulted.
Then, the laws started coming. A call was made for "complete separation of Church and State"...which, on the lips of secularists always means stomping all over the citizenship rights of religious people. The Church was forbidden to operate educational institutions. Church property that was not directly connected to the maintenance of the members of a religious institute was confiscated. No fault divorce was legalized. All cemeteries were secularized. (What is it with Spain and cemeteries? So much of the rage of the secularists was directed at cemeteries. They really got off on exhuming dead nuns and priests and desecrating the bodies. Something in the air maybe? Somebody help me...). There was other stuff too, like suppressing the Jesuits and withdrawing clerical wages.
One of the fascinating things I am finding in my research is how very biased most historians are in relating the attrocities of the War. The Nationalist side is absolutely demonized, and its crimes are minutely detailed. The attrocities on the Right, according to the historians, were premeditated and cold-blooded. (One book I have goes out of its way to constantly refer to the Nationalist side as "the Franco-church contingent.") The attrocities on the Republican side, however, are retold as spontaneous - if regrettable - outbursts of popular emotion.
One book has a photo of the exhumed bodies of some Carmelite nuns being spat on by passing Republicans. A few pages later it explains that these kind of actions by the Republican side were precipitated not by evil but by a kind of understandable exhuberance for justice.
"But the gesture of killing here seems full of passion, of rancor, of punitive terror pervaded by an ancient culture that threw criminals and the damned into hell. Around these deaths is the cry of furor, blind, uncivil but extremely human, that precedes a futile revenge for offenses suffered.. A cry breaking out at moments of helpless suffering, at moments when heaven betrays." (The Spanish Civil War, Gabriele Ranzato, 1999)
The "gesture of killing"? Don't you love it?....
That is, the historians seem unanimous that the Church had it coming. And actually it's God's fault (ie. "heaven betrays"...God exists only when we need Him around to take the blame for something bad.) The murder of 5,400 priests and 10,000 other nuns and religious was, you know, kind of just an outburst of popular expression.
Anyway, my main point here was to say that there is no reason to expect that we today will be any different than the people of Spain in 1936. Every time some celebrity spits out a reference to George Bush as "Christian," it's a red flag. (No pun intended. Some times, I even amaze myself...) If the pattern of demeaning and insulting people for their Christianity continues, we will also eventually have martyrs. Not that there is anything wrong with that in terms of creating a climate for growth in holiness. Just want to be able to say I told you so in a few years.
But the next step in the historical pattern will be changes in the laws to interpret "separation of Church and State" to mean repression of Church. I couldn't help noticing how "separation of Church and State" was listed as a primary issue for the Kerry-Edwards camp coming out of the convention last week. When did "separation of Church and State" become an issue?