This June 8 will be honored to Antonio Alvarez-Solis in Bilbao. The act will take part, among others, the lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe, the writer Bernardo Atxaga, as well as different politicians and relatives of this well-known journalist and great communicator. I join the event by presenting a lesser-known profile of this “rebel with a cause.” I was lucky enough to speak with Antonio on different occasions during the last years of his life, in particular, about his communist militancy and about his conviction of Christian faith. In the conversations and meetings held, I heard him say that his existence was presided over by this double and, at the same time, unitary, fidelity: I am “a communist Christian” or “a Christian communist” who has maintained a permanent internal dialogue, without complacency, with both fidelities over the years,
Regarding the first of his fidelities, the communist, he used to say that he had embraced it when contemplating how broad sections of society lived in abandonment, while others liked to settle in what he called “the moral suburbs” of power and gold. “I am, he confessed, an everlasting communist” who “has thrown to the wind as an invitation to the truth” a lifetime. But there were also occasions when he qualified this communist fidelity, indicating that he had never stopped being critical of certain groups of this political option, incapable of reconciling the centrality of solidarity with the immense gift of freedom, also brought by the modernity. I confess that he did not surprise me that when he entered this territory he spoke of “the active revolution.” Nor that he revolted –also in his expression– against the “i hate the poor” or who criticized “the dehumanization of others”. But it did call my attention –and a lot– that in the midst of the heat of this passionate and fiery dialectic he did not neglect –also in his expression– “devotion in tenderness”.
Regarding the second fidelity, the Christian-Catholic, he claimed to be because he recognized himself as a follower of the Crucified, unjustly led to Calvary in his time. And because thanks to following what was said and done by the Nazarene, he not only perceived in the relationship with the pariahs of our time the actualization of such injustice, but he also understood himself as their brother and at their side. A few months before he died he recalled the following in the last of his many books (One God for all): “In one of my encounters with the soul, in order to make my life something valid, the inner voice with which I have always dialogued, far beyond all mystical stillness, required me to turn to Franciscanism as the ‘Rosetta Stone’. ‘ to understand my human existence”. I admit that, since this is the background music of his existence, it did not surprise me that he was a communist among Christians, bathed in Franciscanism, nor that he dedicated such a book to Pope Bergoglio and “to all those who suffer.”
But, in addition to these two capital references, I was also able to appreciate another last-minute interest: he liked to talk –when he asked me about what I was writing at the time– about the reasons for the conversions to deism and theism of some singular characters from the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st: the case, among others, of the antitheist philosopher Antony Flew, the protobiologist Francis S. Collins or the writer and university professor Clive Staples Lewis. I remember the surprise on his face and the complicit silences he kept –particularly when we talked on the phone– when explaining to him the reasons for their respective “conversions”: all of them had gone from an atheist, anti-theist or even agnostic and indifferent worldview, to another believer because the deist or theist explanation seemed to them more consistent than the atheist and antitheist in which they had militated, founded on gross materialism or on chance or coincidence that I dared to describe as idle from the rational point of view. And I also remember the curiosity and admiration that caused him to know that, after the ride of the famous atheist bus through the streets of London (2008) –supported ideologically and financially, among others, by R. Dawkins– a surprising movement of opinion that claimed Christianity and that, in our days, is recognized as “atheists for christianity”.
The brevity of my relationship with Antonio did not prevent me from understanding his claim to build bridges between the following of Jesus of Nazareth and the last of our time. Proceeding in this way, I believe that he inscribed his existence in a two-thousand-year-old tradition and spirituality, full of admirable testimonies; even in our days. Such is the framework of understanding that this Christian communist or, if you prefer, this Christian communist, named Antonio Álvarez-Solís, whom I remember with affection and closeness, refreshed me; in my case, spiritual and theological, as well as personal.