Hugo Chavez Prays on Twitter

The December issue of Harper’s includes some pretty intriguing translated tweets by Hugo Chavez, the socialist president of Venezuela. Chavez has always had a touchy relationship with religion; he’s gone from wanting to be a priest when he was a boy to getting a “fatwa” on his head from Pat Robertson. On the occasion of digging up the remains of Simón Bolívar, the schizophrenia continued.

First, he gives us some Pablo Neruda, echoing and secularizing the Lord’s Prayer. Not “Our Father who art in heaven,” but “Our Father who art on earth.” The passage comes from Neruda’s “Chant to Bolivar,” which, in full, goes a little something like this:

Our Father thou art in Heaven,
in water, in air
in all our silent and broad latitude
everything bears your name, Father in our dwelling:
your name raises sweetness in sugar cane
Bolivar tin has a Bolivar gleam
the Bolívar bird flies over the Bolivar volcano
the potato, the saltpeter, the special shadows,
the brooks, the phosphorous stone veins
everything comes from your extinguished life
your legacy was rivers, plains, bell towers
your legacy is our daily bread, oh Father.

It’s heretical. It’s incarnational. It’s idolatrous. It’s all the secularization of liberation theology tied up in lovely words and, now, a perverse exhumation.

And then, sometime after, Chavez calls upon the very God whose name he would replace with the liberator’s: “My God, my God … My Christ, our Christ … while I prayed in silence upon seeing those bones, I thought of you!” Doesn’t he mean “your bones”?

Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.