The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall

The astonishing physical barrier of division that separated West Berlin from its hinterland for three decades from 1961 to 1989 seemed when I was young to be a permanent and immutable feature of political geography.  Today in Berlin I was able to walk for 13 minutes along the stretch of the wall that was allowed to stand on the eastern bank of the River Spree, covered with beautiful and diverse and sometimes sombre artwork celebrating freedom and the liberation from communist oppression. 

Here is my video of this walk, just wandering with my phone camera along the wall and commenting on the painting.  Each artist has repainted their work each decade, so the immediate visions of freedom after the collapse of communism are as fresh today as when they were first done in 1990.

Each rose is a person killed trying to escape to freedom

As I mentioned, my transit visit on Saturday to Singapore brought back memories of my 1989 visit to Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, a nation that remains frozen and petrified in a stultifying and dangerous time-warp, refusing to allow the tectonic forces of history and economy and politics to break open its tyrannical system.  I hope the political earthquake comes soon for North Korea, and that the transition will be as peaceful and productive as it has been for East German integration with the West.

The big differences from North Korea include that West Berlin was an enclave of freedom entirely surrounded by totalitarian dictatorship, and was radiating the seductive message of prosperity, creativity, diversity, dignity and liberty in ways the communists could not totally suppress.  I watched the hilarious 2003 film Goodbye Lenin last week, with its satirical emphasis on the lies the communists had to tell to maintain their façade of legitimacy and keep their people in ignorance.  North Korea has no West Berlin, so its propaganda brainwashing is unchallenged.  As well, the collapse of the German Democratic Republic was part of the broader collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, whereas North Korea remains mainly supported by China, in the memorable but chilling phrase “as close as lips and teeth”.  And then there is Christianity, with its subversive ideas that the truth shall set you free (John 8:32), and that we are united to God through Christ’s ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18).  The spirit of conversation and respect created by a desire for reconciliation is very different from the arrogant communist ideological insistence that an unelected political dictatorship holds the total truth and has a historical mission to eliminate its class enemies. Christian history is far from perfect, but the Gospels present a message that is inherently critical of denial of human dignity to those who refuse to buckle.

Say Yes To Freedom

I hope you will watch the wall video I made.  It provides an emotional outpouring of spiritual release when the bottled up stifling control was finally broken. There is a sort of similarity between walls of control and the old imperial idea that just crucifying the messenger can destroy the message. The liberating gospel of resurrection says no regime can control the spirit of truth, which inevitably breaks down the worldly systems of oppression.

In Faith

Robbie Tulip

Freedom Mermaid

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