What is the engine of history?

By Tom Quiner

Poland's most beloved piece of art: The Black Madonna

Some Republican leaders are urging their party to focus on economic issues and de-emphasize cultural issues. They believe that it is economics and politics that drive history.

Pope John Paul II (JPII) disagreed. He believed, and he proved, that it is culture that drives history.

Not economics.

Not politics.

Economics and politics are certainly potent forces. They are interconnected with each other, as well as with culture, as engines of history.

But culture drives us more than anything. It defines our national identity. It IS our national identity.

Here is a pretty straight forward definition of “culture” as put forth in 1963 by J. Useem and R. Useem in Human Organizations:

Culture is “the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings.”

Poland was a nation that had been brutalized by it’s neighbors, Germany and Russia. Germany tried desperately to destroy Poland. Russia (the Soviet Union)  subjugated it.

When Pope John Paul II arrived on the scene on June 2nd 1979, he said quite simply, Poland belongs to Christ.

He is the source of your dignity.

He is the source of humanity.

He is your reality.

He invoked the great heroes from Polish history such as Edith Stein and Maximillian Kolbe who exhibited such great courage and died at the hands of their oppressors.

He traveled to Czestochowa and paid homage to the most beloved work of art in Poland, the Black Madonna.

And the Pope said “be not afraid.” He spoke these words from a perspective of Christian fearlessness. If Christ is with you, who can be against you?

Polish art, literature, and religion defined the shared behavior of this proud, but wounded nation. Pope John Paul II reminded Poles who they really were as their communist overlords looked on.

Nazis or communists can’t take your art, literature, and religion away.

When this first Slavic Pope was elected, every Pole thought of the prophetic poem written by their “Shakespeare”, Juliusz Slowacki, in the 19th century:

“Behold the Slavic pope is coming,

a brother of the people;

He already pours the world’s balm into our breasts,

And the angel choirs sweep the throne for him, with flowers.  …

Amidst all the discord, God sets an immense bell ringing,

He opens the throne to a Slavic Pope …”

The Polish culture sustained an often beleaguered nation for a thousand years. A mere decade after JPII’s journey home, Poland elected Lech Walesa President as communism crumbled.

Culture is power.

Let us remind our Republican friends to fight hard in the public arena to preserve our great American culture that embraces a God-given right to life,  liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Let us encourage our Democratic friends who have abandoned the essence of these building blocks of our culture to put politics aside, to go back to the cultural forces that made America great.

Let us all remember the wisdom of a great man, John Paul II, as he is beatified this Sunday.

What is the engine of history? It is culture.

1 Comment

  1. maxine bechtel on April 30, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Well-said! If we abandon our moral convictions against the issues that God condemns (abortion, Sodomy, cheating, lying. etc.) any victory gained will be most hollow indeed!!