When word came of Fidel Castro’s death, my family threw a party.
It’s not that we’re Cuban. Since we’re from the DC area, I’m not sure we even have any close Cuban friends. Nonetheless, we wanted to give Castro the send-off he deserved, so we invited some folks over for Cubano sandwiches, plantain chips, and (of course) cuba libres. We played great Cuban music and toasted Castro’s much delayed demise.
When I gleefully told my story of devising the festivities, a friend protested: “That doesn’t sound very Christian.” It’s a reasonable objection. Most people think that Christians must abide by a law of niceness. Aren’t we supposed to love our enemies? Hidden somewhere in the depths of the Torah (or at least the Gospels), people expect to find a verse that reads, “Thou Shalt Not be Mean.” While I understand why a Christian might feel uncomfortable with celebrating someone’s death, I must beg to differ.
As the leader of his country, Castro represents an ideology and a regime. Both were incredibly bloody, unjust, and oppressive. The Bible makes it quite clear that God hates injustice and wicked rulers. He warns us in Deuteronomy 16:19:
You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.
and promises judgement on unjust leaders in Isaiah 10:
Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
2 to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
3 What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?
4 Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.
See also Micah 2 or many other passages in Scripture — you can take your pick.
Fidel Castro was a wicked ruler (notwithstanding tepid statements from many world leaders, including Pope Francis). His brutal regime caused 25% of his countrymen to flee Cuba any way they could — they risked death by drowning rather than live under his rule. He forced political opponents, homosexuals, and religious leaders into reeducation and concentration camps. He killed somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 of his own people. We must not whitewash his legacy of death and enslavement.
While Fidel had been sick for some time and his younger brother Raul continues the Castro regime in Cuba, I think it is still worth toasting his death. It is always easy for us to cheer the downfall of an impersonal group (the Nazis, ISIS, etc), but behind the fall of evil organizations are the deaths of individuals who promoted and supported their evil. Castro not only embodied the corrupt regime in Cuba, he was one of most unequivocally evil men of our time. I do not rejoice at the fate of Castro’s soul—that is not for me to know. I do rejoice that, at least from him, the injustices have now stopped.