Last night the woman and I heard Lech Walesa speak at the university. He spoke through a translator, so some of the rhetorical effect of the talk was inevitably lost, and the topic (something about "democracy in a global age") was altogether banal. What struck me, though, was that Walesa attributed his success, and the fall of the Soviet empire in general, to divine intervention. Needless to say, such sentiment if passe in academic America (in fact, one audience member actually laughed audibly when Walesa used Reagan's "Evil Empire" designator for his country's old overlord.) But Walesa was dead serious about invoking God in the narrative of Poland's salvation from communism and transition to real democracy. His lapel pin, in fact, was a depiction of the Virgin Mary.

Now, Walesa may be of the older generation. Born in '43, he predates the American boomers only by a hair. But his conception of the role of Christianity in the life of the polity is worlds away. Remember the guffaws when Bush's "God told me to invade Iraq" statement was made public? More to the point, every open-eyed American with any connection to academic circles understands that the Almighty, unless under the knife or microscope, is totally last century.

So here's the question: To what extent is our ability to levy moral judgment on aspects of our society contingent on faith? Was Walesa silly or superstitious to cast the Reds as "evil"? Most of us agree that unchecked relativism is no place to be–Philosophy 101 taught us that much. But those of us with no real stock in Christianity seek another sort of framework, no less objective than devout faith, and no less effective in the zeal it inspires, but just…not Christianity. Not any stylized faith. Classical liberalism, combined with humanism, might be a good fit.

Morgan Hubbard

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