Terry Eagleton still has the knack of turning out catchy sound bites, such as the following:

The truth is that Marx was no more responsible for the monstrous oppression of the communist world than Jesus was responsible for the Inquisition.

The problem is that Eagleton’s renowned flippancy has once again ensured that he misses a deeper truth here: one can trace a path from the recorded sayings of Jesus to the Inquisition, as one can from Paul as well. And we can also follow a thin line from Marx’s writings to the atrocities of Stalin or Pol Pot. That is a far harder pill to swallow, but I suggest it is more truthful. Why? First, it is easy to blame the ‘distortions’ of followers and zealous disciples, while leaving the original words of the founder untainted. Second, a profound dialectic may be found within both Christianity and Marxism, one that leads to the Terror, to oppression and bloodshed, and another powerful line that leads to liberation. Third, although both elements may at certain times be inseparable, and although one needs to make some tough choices (as Lenin found), the trick is to ensure that the liberating side of the dialectic comes out on top. Easier said than done.

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