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Is Che Guevara Like Jesus?

Statue of Che Guevara at the site of his death in Bolivia Credit: ConyJaro/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

When I was in high school, some of my fellow students were radical leftists, or at least they tried to be. We always knew them because they wore army surplus clothes, and raised their fists and shouted words like “Che, Che, Che!” They were referring to Che Guevara, the communist revolutionary who fought in Cuba, as a comrade of Fidel Castro.

Che was a doctor, born in Argentina, who joined the communist guerrillas in Cuba, led by Fidel Castro. After the successful Communist take-over in Cuba, he travelled to several countries to promote Communist revolutions. It all ended when he went to Bolivia and formed a guerrilla force to overthrow the government there. The Bolivians did not support him, including the Bolivian Communist Party, and he was betrayed, and then captured and killed by the Bolivian army.

The face of Che Guevara as a popular icon, almost a religious symbol, is still popular on t-shirts and posters, and tattoos. It was the great symbol of youthful rebellion among my friends.

Recently, a professor at UCLA in California spoke at the Religion Department, about “Chesucristo.” The professor, David Kunzle, is quoted as saying “Che Guevara, once the epitome of armed struggle, has evolved to an avatar of justice, peace, and love, as Jesus always was but no longer is exclusively.”

So, Che Guevara is like Jesus, only better.

Today Che Guevara has a problem. He has attracted many critics, and they have been busy for decades investigating the true story of the man. Now we know that Che was a violent man who killed and claimed to enjoy killing, he was routinely unfaithful to his wife, and he made crude racist statements on the level of a white supremacist. And there is much more. Che Guevara was not popular with his fellow communists when he was alive, and he does not look good today.

The speech in California, by David Kunzle, has attracted critics, who use words like ‘outrage’ and say how offended they are that Jesus, who still has a good reputation, is being dragged down to the level of a notorious criminal. That is offensive, but I believe the professor was trying to pull Che up to the level of Jesus, not to pull Jesus down. That means he respects Jesus. He didn’t deny the existence of Jesus, or criticize Him, which is what leftists commonly do; he used Jesus as an example of the best of humanity.

That is something.

And no sensible person believes that Che Guevara was like Jesus. A host of historical critics are dedicated to proving that the man was evil and reprehensible. They can easily counter the arguments of Professor Kunzle, and I don’t need to get involved. I believe there is something else that we need to know here.

We need to know the lie at the heart of “Liberation Theology” and the lie that apparently motivated ‘liberators’ like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. The idea that Jesus was a revolutionary leader, who worked to bring freedom and reform to our broken world, is always popular. Many Christians are tempted to believe this, but the idea has a major flaw.

It is not possible to build a good wall with bad bricks.

Violent revolutionaries, like Che Guevara fight to change systems and societies, to benefit humanity. Jesus told us that we, each one of us, must be “born again.” Only changed people can build a better world. A racist, adulterous, murderer cannot lead us to a better place. The promises of French Revolution produced public beheadings and military dictatorship; Hitler and the Nazis led the world into death and misery; and all communist societies fail, after the revolution. No one wants Communists to stay in power for long.

Jesus told us “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)

I remember when I was a ‘good boy’ as a young man. It is clear to me now, that I stayed out of trouble because I lacked opportunities. My family was not rich, and my generation had severe discipline. My friends and I were corrected in the playground, at home, at school, at church, and by the police, if necessary. Random neighbors would correct us fiercely, when they thought we needed it, and our parents always took their side. We were all ‘good boys’ in our generation.

When I was old enough to make my own decisions, I decided I wanted something good in me, not severe correction and a lack of finances imposed on me. If Jesus’ “born again” revolution meant that I could be a new person, starting from the inside, I wanted that.

And that was the best decision I ever made.

I lost track of my radical friends after high school, but they probably outgrew their old army clothes. We all got on with our adult lives, and we failed to change the world. Che Guevara pictures are still common, but the new world never showed up. Only good bricks make good walls.

Che Guevara is not like Jesus; Che’s revolution was only on the outside.

Jesus told us:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (Matthew 7: 15 to 20)

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