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.



  • Jen

    It’s frightening how emboldened the trolls have become. If civility were lacking before the election, it’s seems they now feel it’s almost a jack-booted right to throw their weight around screaming “In your face!” . Yes, it is indeed a dark time for the republic.

  • Chris


    Pay no attention to the negative comments. I started reading your posts about 8 months ago and have found great inspiration in your message. Keep up the message of love. I’m proud to call you my sister in Christ.
    We shall claim victory in our generation yet.

    God Bless,
    Chris S

  • Paul Davis

    Perhaps you don’t understand something about your analogy. YOU ARE THE COMMUNISTS AND THE WALL HAS ALREADY COME DOWN.

    Your reign of terror is over. You elected crazies like Jan Brewer who wanted to stop anyone that looked like an illegal and ask for their papers and export them. You elected leaders like Todd “legitimate rape” Akin who wanted to redefine the word rape in order to force women into indentured servitude for their rapists. You pushed anti-gay legislation not only banning gay people from legal marriage but civil unions, domestic partnerships, and even basic work protections. You fought against the repeal of DADT in an attempt to maintain the law that required the government to fire soldiers because they were gay. You held rallies to support the idea that employers should be able to deny their workers reproductive healthcare.

    You are the communists. You are the ones that are trying to control the lives of everyone else. Today isn’t a dark day for Americans, it’s a dark day for those that are on the wrong side of history and are working against American ideals of freedom and liberty.

    The wall has finally fallen. Gay people, women, and other minorities are now, or on their way to being, a full part of society. You can’t rebuild that wall to keep them out.

    The rest of America is ready to get back to work getting this country back on track. They are all ready to pitch in and help each other. You can either be part of that, or you can work against that. It’s up to you.

    • Chris

      You have a funny idea of what freedom and liberty look like.
      it should be:
      “If freedom is not to be chaotic and randomly destructive, it must be ruled or under law. To be free is to be able to will as I ought, i.e., in conformity with moral law.”

      (this is just a link I found in a google search, the quote is credited to Kant.)

      So in essence, Freedom is a Good. A ideal to strive for because achieving freedom should never be partnered with chaos and certainly should never be destructive. and fact is, extending the definition of marriage is inviting chaos and the end result is that both society and the individuals will not be better off.

      The truth is, these things are harmful to society. Instead of promoting the Good, it is allowing good folks to commit harmful acts to themselves and to their souls. I won’t apologize for trying to improve the world, one smile at a crabby store clerk at a time.

      Chris S

      • paul davis

        Did you go to the Catholic’s guide to bigotry for your definition? It amounts to little more than you are free to do the things that we agree with. That’s not freedom, that’s tyranny.

        Here’s the real definition of freedom:

        The state of being free or at liberty rather than inconfinement or under physical restraint, exemption from external control, interference, regulation,etc, the power to determine action without restraint, political or national independence. personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery

        STOP LYING about what freedom is.

        • Chris

          So you disagree that Freedom should never be chaotic and destructive? You would much rather people put themselves and others in harmful situations, both physically and morally, than maintain a healthy society in which people are productive and virtuous citizens?

          To me, what you just said is similar to: “Hey don’t bother putting protective barriers on roofs and other high structures because people should have the freedom to jump off and harm themselves and others.”

          Society needs a rule of law, unlimited freedom is destructive, which is opposite true freedom.

          True freedom is freedom from your own passions, to not let every appetitive desire rule you, but rather you control yourself and live a life a discipline and virtue. You otherwise risk falling into a licentious lifestyle.

          But hey, go ahead and mock the life of virtue. I can’t force it upon you, but I’ll do my best to convince you to live it better.

          God bless,
          Chris S

    • Shawn

      Wow, apparently Emily struck a nerve with her post that didn’t bring any of the issues that you just spouted off. Perhaps you should show more charity, charity that would bring down the wall that surrounds your heart.

  • This Catholic

    You fail to understand the significance of your comparison. For most Americans, today is the day the Berlin wall came tumbling down. The people that have reasonable faith beliefs have been oppressed the last decade or more. The religious right had managed to get people like Mourdock elected. Today, those oppressive religious right morons are gone from our government. We don’t have to worry about our daughters being forced to carry their rapists baby any longer. For gay and lesbian people that have fought long for the right to protect their families under our existing laws, many of them have succeeded. Just watch their joy on those nights []. They were fighting for what was right and they have defeated the evil and discrimination that was a basic part of those discriminatory campaigns against them. Amen. America has been reborn today.


  • Scottie O’Hutcheson

    Oh such a drama queen. You lost, get over it.

  • Mara

    Emily, thanks for reminding us of this milestone in history. It was, indeed, a glorious day for freedom.

    • Carla

      Emily, I agree with Mara. Thanks for the inspiration.



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