A Plough special: Stories of people who have overcome life’s hells.
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A weekly special from Plough: stories from Escape Routes: For People Who Feel Trapped in Life’s Hells, in which Johann Christoph Arnold distills lessons he’s learned from “travel guides” along the way: men and women who have been through hell and found a way out.

This week:

Che Guevara

A photograph in the public domain of Che Guevara looking thoughtful and smoking a cigar.

Years ago, I wouldn’t have picked Che Guevara as an example of someone whose life gives hands and feet to rebirth. Far from an inspiring figure, he struck me as a misguided genius. Long a popular icon of radicals and advertisers, he was also, to my mind, a cold-blooded man of violence, and I found nothing attractive in his philosophy of life. After all, I’ve always believed that peace can only be achieved by nonviolent means, whereas Che is hardly known for pacifist tendencies. As an internationally-known guerrilla, he was instrumental not only in bringing revolution to Cuba, but in executing dissidents and organizing armed struggles in the Congo and Bolivia as well.

My prejudices began to dissolve after visiting Cuba and discovering that this man – though murdered over thirty years ago – still lives on in the hearts of a new generation. I met Che’s spirit in one of the last places I would have expected it: at a Baptist church in Havana. I was speaking to a youth group about nonviolence and forgiveness, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights in the United States (the church is named after Martin Luther King Jr.), and when I asked them if there was anyone they looked up to as a fighter for social change, they immediately responded by telling me about Che and what he meant to them. The sparkle in their eyes was unforgettable.

It’s been said that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. As I learned more about Che’s life, I came to see his vision and his deeds as a sharp and much-deserved rebuke to Christians who claim to have left everything to serve their fellow human beings. Trained as a physician from an upper-middle-class Argentinean family, he abandoned his considerable opportunities for a greater cause. Keep reading...

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