The Wall Came Down

Twenty-three years ago today, those of us above a certain age watched West Berliners and East Berliners dance atop the Berlin Wall. We saw champagne corks flying, flags waving, and relatives who hadn’t seen each other for years embracing.

On that day, the seemingly impossible became possible. What only a few years before had been unthinkable was now more than thinkable. It was real. The Soviet reign of terror had come to its end, and Eastern Europe was free once more.

That sight is worth remembering today for two reasons.

First, because it gives us perspective. It reminds that no matter how dark certain days may seem, the darkness does end. Or, at least, it abates. Empires rise and fall. Governments come and go. Seasons change. History is long, and battles lost today can lay the groundwork for wars won tomorrow. The choice is ours. We can take the apocalyptic view of Tuesday’s results, or we can breathe deep and take the long view, trusting that God can bring something beautiful even out of days as ugly as these. Personally, I’m choosing what’s behind door number two.

The second reason to remember that day 23 years ago is because of all that followed the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. The political defeat of the communists was a wonderful thing. But it didn’t bring about the flourishing of Catholic culture for which so many hoped. It didn’t stop secularism from barreling into the vacuum left by the Soviets. It didn’t heal the deep wounds left by atheistic communism. And it didn’t chase away the demons of despair, fear, and corruption that took root in much of the East during the Soviets’ long reign.

It didn’t do that because such change was beyond politics’ scope. It was beyond government’s scope. Laws and leaders can only accomplish so much. For real change to occur, for a true civilization of love to flourish, the culture has to be renewed from within. That’s a renewal that starts in hearts and homes and radiates outward, until the whole of society is transformed.

Politics matter. They do. And all the smart people tasked with framing the conservative message, constructing a better electoral ground game, and recruiting good candidates for office have their work cut out for them in the months and years ahead. We need to help them in whatever way we can. But our task as Catholics is much, much more important than theirs.

Our work is cultural renewal. It’s the New Evangelization. It’s presenting Christ to our hurting, lonely, confused world through both our words and deeds, and bringing about the transformation that, for the most part, still hasn’t happened in the former Soviet Bloc.

That would have been our work had Romney won, and it’s still our work in the wake of Romney’s loss. The culture is no more messed up on Friday than it was on Monday. Our task list hasn’t changed.

It’s a big list. Overwhelming really. But we don’t have to take it on all at once. We can start small—reading a book about a saint, smiling at the crabby clerk in the grocery story, not calling someone a Nazi online. Every little bit helps.

As for me, well, I have a book to finish and two talks to give in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, tomorrow, as well as some house guests to host. I’m moving forward with all the work God has placed before me, same as I would have had my guy won on Tuesday. There’s simply no time for weeping and gnashing of teeth in my corner of the world. I can’t imagine it’s any different in yours.

Before you roll up your sleeves and get back to work, however, take a few minutes to garner some wisdom from what our brothers and sisters from the East have learned about rebuilding the faith in a hostile world. Start here, with reflections from those who’ve been doing the work of rebuilding. Then, read about the organization that’s helping them do that rebuilding. Both stories are in this week’s Our Sunday Visitor and were written after my September trip to Eastern Europe.

Oh, and Happy Feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. How cool is it that we belong to a faith where even buildings get their own feast days? If I weren’t Catholic already, I’d become Catholic for this feast alone I think.

Emily Stimpson is a Contributing Editor to “Our Sunday Visitor” and the author of “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years,” where she dishes on the Church’s teachings about women, marriage, sex, work, beauty, suffering, and more.



  • John son of John

    treating others with kindness.

    good idea. thank you.


    God Bless

  • leogirl87

    Regarding comments about employers not covering birth control: guess what? Any non-essential healthcare service (something that is not for fighting an infection or necessary for the woman to live or be without constant pain) should NOT be free! (The pill is covered for certain conditions, but not as contraception.) How about a world in which women are working and can pay for their own birth control if they choose to?

    When will these entitlements end? First women want their employers to pay for birth control. Then it could move to plastic surgery (“women have a right to feel good about themselves while working; confidence increases productivity; ugly women are discriminated against”) and other things.

    Nobody is entitled to anything they cannot pay for themselves. I understand there are a lot of really poor/underemployed and jobless people out there right now, and they do need a safety net to give them basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter, basic health care). But these excessive entitlements will continue to add up. Overtax the rich and middle class and they will stop hiring. Too many unemployed people will mean not many people are working and able to foot the bill for these entitlements. Or we can continue to borrow from China, which is very bad, not only making us look bad as a country but immoral to give our kids and grandkids debt for nonessential entitlements.

  • leogirl87

    I think the problem is that both sides don’t understand the other side’s arguments.

    The people who are for gay rights want to see them be able to get the jobs, health care, property rights, etc. They do not want to force people to marry gays in their churches against their beliefs, teach gay marriage in schools, etc.

    The people who are against gay marriage are generally for other kinds of rights for gays. Only in certain circles where they hate gays or beating up gays is considered good do they not want any human rights for gays. (These are the same circles that are openly racist and posted hate tweets about Obama’s victory… very misinformed groups of people spreading hate.)

    We need to compromise. Seriously. Obama did win, but by a VERY slim margin. A lot of people did not like either candidate and didn’t vote at all. This is NOT a victory for ANYONE. This is the “ripping the country apart and picking up 51% of the pieces” strategy. And not even that because Obama got 50% of the votes and the voter turnout was pretty low (60%). Many people aren’t even registered to vote. So 40% disliked both candidates and didn’t think either of them deserved their vote, 30% voted for Obama and a little less than 30% for Romney, with less than 1% voting for another candidate. Obama saying most people agree with him is far from the truth when only 30% of America actually voted for him… unless they 60% turnout only counted registered voters, then the people who didn’t care are 40% + unregistered voters which makes it that much worse.

    I think there are things most people can agree on. Gays are human persons with dignity and should be treated as such. They should not be denied employment, health care, buying property, visiting each other in hospitals, etc.

    Where it goes too far is when the far left want to force gays to marry in churches (see cases in Canada), close Catholic adoption agencies (see cases in Massachusetts), sue a baker for not selling a wedding cake to a gay couple even though he was more than happy to sell them a wedding or graduation cake. Or when the right want to deny employment to gays or not sell them ANY baked goods (not just a wedding cake).

    As for arguments against gay marriage, there are better ones out there than the ones listed. How about the rights of a child to have both a mother and a father? To know both biological parents? I know this right is denied a lot even among straight couples because of divorce and remarriage, out of wedlock births, and sadly one parent being away for work or even dead. We need to rebuild marriage to be taken more seriously, make mandatory marriage prep classes to find and solve problems before marriage, etc. Also, discourage people from having kids before marriage… you may think he’ll propose or she’ll accept your proposal after the baby’s born, but this is not always the case. I do not think it is good to take a child away from adoptive parents that are already there because it is more damaging to get a new environment, but kids with gay couples should have positive female role models, and lesbians’ kids need to have strong male role models. A big problem is when boys do not know how to be a man (fatherlessness problems; look at the fatherlessness rate among prisoners and you’ll know what I mean), and girls with lesbian parents say they do not know how to relate to men (which can lead to either lesbianism because they feel they cannot relate to men, or female promiscuity at young ages). We also need to remember that most same-sex relationships do not last more than 5 and very few past 10 years without breaking up or bringing others into the bedroom. The heterosexual divorce rate is 50% (which in itself is very bad), but same-sex relationships would be 95+%, which would make even more kids be from broken homes.

  • Misty

    I was thinking of the Berlin wall this week too. Blessed JPII we love and need you. I love his dual dimension of Consecration to Jesus and continuing to consecrate ourselves in Truth by learning it. Thank you for sharing your articles; we need you inspiring us Em to carry on in our each individual call to evangelization. I have been looking forward to hearing about your trip to Russia. I just shared your article with my cuz Ryan in the West and he said it was a good read. Thumbs up Em!

    • Fr. Charles

      Yes, Misty, and also Blessed John Paul’s Consecration to Our Lady: “Totus Tuus.”



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