One of the things that strikes me most strongly about reactions to the death of Fidel Castro is the almost absolute division — people seem to see him either as all good or all bad. They either remember only the good things and forget the bad, or they remember only the bad things and forget the good.

An Orthodox priest writes Rejoicing in the death of a sinner | OrthoCuban:

Fidel Castro is dead. Part of me urges me to be rational. I would not have met my wife except for Fidel Castro. I would not have the same children I now have if I had stayed in Cuba. I might never have become a missionary and a practicing Christian had Fidel Castro not existed. But, Fidel Castro is dead! That is a refrain that keeps running through my mind. But, it does not simply run through my mind. It gallops. It leaps. It laughs. It says that the man who caused so much pain to my family and to so many other Cubans has finally had to answer for his crimes. Fidel Castro is dead. I am not supposed to rejoice in the death of a sinner, and yet I find myself breaking out in laughter every so often and in rejoicing that he has died. Fidel Castro is dead.

The Lord may not rejoice in the death of a sinner, but everyone, indeed everything else does, even the fir trees, if the sinner is also an oppressor — see Isaiah 14:4-20.

castropol1So with Castro, some remember only the brutal repression, the lack of freedom of speech or freedom of religion, imprisonment without trial and such things. Others remember only the free health care, the high literacy rate, and things like that.

But Castro was only flesh and blood, fallen like the rest of us, and St Paul says our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against rulers and authorities, the spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph 6:10-12). As the Roman Catholic historian Lord Acton said, all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So it is not flesh and blood but political power, an abstract thing, an invisible thing, that is the real enemy; not the flesh and blood of a Castro, a Kennedy, a Khrushchev, a Bush, a Cameron, a Mugabe, a Clinton, a Vorster, a Milosevic, a Blair, a Putin or a Zuma that is the real problem. It is the miasma of corruption in a fallen world.

It is that which turned the Cuban revolution from liberation to oppression, and similarly with every other movement for liberation in this fallen world. In the case of Castro’s Cuba, this process is rather well described here (2) Steve Hayes:

When Fidel Castro and Che Guevara rode victoriously into Havana sitting atop a tank and smoking cigars, the Cuban masses rejoiced. The banks were immediately nationalized, the casinos were shut down, prostitution was eradicated, and the national resources that had previously been siphoned off by America were now restored to the control of the Cuban populous. Socialism had prevailed. The poor were liberated. The power of the people had overcome the oppression of the American capitalist machine. At least that’s what the people were initially led to believe.

But the socialist revolution quickly turned into a communist nightmare. And it did so almost overnight. Fidel and Che immediately let it be known that they were not at all interested in democratic socialism. Atheistic communism is what they espoused, and Batista’s capitalist backed dictatorship would now be fully and thoroughly replaced by a repressive communist dictatorship. And when those who fought side by side with Fidel and Che – and who suffered and bled for the revolutionary democratic socialist ideal – dared to oppose the hard and drastic communist turn that Fidel and Che took, they were either executed or imprisoned.

And that is why the Church Fathers take the passage from Isaiah that I quoted as referring not just to the flesh and blood of the oppressor, the King of Babylon, but to the spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies that lies behind it.