Inculturation in the Post-Communist World
the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is the most important event since the Second World War, and represents the beginning of a new stage in world history. We face now a unique predicament in history when in an inconceivably short time a universal ideology, the belief system of a population of
about 400 million people, populating almost one
fifth of the earth, broke down. This leaves a huge
number of people in conditions of moral, spiritual, ideological, political, cultural and economic crisis. Millions of individuals
find themselves in a blind alley of internal chaos without identity or meaning
in their life. This vacuum is unknown in the
human history. Even the collapse of the old
ideologies and religions in the Roman Empire and their replacement by Christianity took place over a much longer period of several
The Post-Communist world is at the
crossroad. What to do next; where to go? In
this situation three major sets of ideas and belief systems rush
forward to serve the souls and govern the behavior of these millions of people
democracy, nationalism and religion. In some cases they are separated, but
most frequently they are mixed in miscellaneous and sometimes
odd combinations. Undoubtedly, religion is one of the most influential forces.
Christian Church now confronts the unimaginable situation of a new world open for new evangelization. When, 500 years ago, the missionaries reached the New World and were trying to convert the indigenous peoples they collided with people who were closed in their own strong belief system, and they thought it necessary to use force to coerce them
to be evangelized. The current "New
World" — the ex-communist world — is much more open and
eager for a new evangelization, because the old belief systems have been destroyed and the souls of these people are void,
without meanings, without identities. This situation
has never existed in history; scores of religions and sects are
rushing to transmit their meanings to these empty souls.
Ethnic and Religious Revival:
Religion as a Ground of Ethnic and National Identity
In the last decade, we have observed a coincidence of two processes -
religious and ethnic revivals. They are intertwined and feed upon one
another. The endeavor of ethnic revival or
nationalism may use religion as an additional force. At
the same time, in its struggle for survival and to regain territory, religion uses the ethnic and national identification.
Accordingly, the issue arises of the similarity and
difference between these two processes. Since the strengthening of religion,
neo-evangelization and neo-islamization could use
nationalism as a resource. In a number of countries, a stronger influence of religion and opposition to secularization are inseparable
from nationalism. In the Catholic sphere, Poland and Ireland
confirm this hypothesis.
similarities of national and religious identities allow close interaction and integration between them.
1) These are the two larger Gemeinschaften overstepping
the direct relations characteristic of family and
kinship. They require overriding all other obligations,
call for sacrifice, and satisfy the need of affective relationship. Because the national and religious communities are not directly
"visible" identification with them is realized
by means of highly developed symbolic and ritual systems.
2) These two
communities put strong emphasis on the role of the past, tradition, history as factors for identification.
3) Their sets
of symbols are included in the culture and interact with all other symbols in the cultures. If a religion is strongly rooted in a
culture, it could play a larger role in ethnic and
national identity. Religion and nation exchange their
symbols and mutually support each other. But major religions go beyond nations. They are included in the cultures before the
rise of nations and in this way the religions could
be the ground for a development of national
identity, but not conversely. Religious distinctions and conflicts precede
national distinctions and could become boundaries for different nations.
4) The major
causes bringing about today's religious revival - disruption of the other communities, social insecurity, the rise of
non-material values, etc.—bring forth as well ethnic and
national movements use religious identifications and symbols to strengthen their positions. Religions also use ethnic and
national movements to strengthen their own positions.
This is one of the best available opportunities for their inculturation. But
in different periods, different types of relations
between religion and nationalism could be found.
type is that of separation, hi a secular society and a secular national movement, religion is separated from the state. But the main
characteristic of the nation is that this is a community
desiring, supporting, and identifying itself with its own state.
That is why nationalism might divide from religion. The
case of the father of the modern Turkish nationalism, Kemal Ataturk is
typical; he divided the state and Islam giving birth to a secular
The second type of relationship between religion and nation is one of relative independence and interaction. In some situations and within
some limits, religious identity prompts national identity or
national identity prompts religious identity. When, for
instance, a Bulgarian compares his national identity
and culture with Turkish national identity and culture, he commonly thinks of himself also as Christian and accepts the
"otherness" of the Turks as including, above all, the
fact that they are Muslims. In this case, religious
identity becomes part of national identity. But when the Bulgarian compares his national identity with that of the Serbs, with
whom they share the same Orthodox Christian religion, then the
religious identity does not share in the national
identity, and other non-religious characteristics will be more important.
In the third type of interrelationship
between religion and culture the religious identity becomes the ground
for nation (or ethnic) identity and is considered as the
most important part of this identity.
a) Religion and ethnic identity. In fact, in the most Ancient societies the religions were ethnic religions and were the most important factors supporting ethnic identity. This is the case, for
instance, with Judaism, which has guarded the Jewish identity for
thousands of years without a common Jewish political
Ethnic revival today in the developed countries also is inseparable from some religions. This is especially visible in the USA where
churches and the parishes too often are the only force
uniting an ethnic group; it is their place for
contact, meeting, and support. Here the church is the nexus, or core of
ethnicity. In fact, when the state's support of ethnicity is absent, the church commonly becomes the most important institution in conserving
this ethnic identity. This is the case with
the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which supported the Bulgarian ethnic
identity for five hundred years under the Ottoman yoke.
and national identity. As E. Gellner points out, a people's meeting with larger cultures, especially literate cultures which is
often mediated by a conversion to a variant of a world
religion, allows ethnic groups to acquire assets which may later help to
turn them into nations and structure them as such.
religion plays an important role in almost any national movement, especially in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa. The modem Bulgarian nation began in the XVIII century with the activity of a monk,
Father Paisii, who wrote a history of the medieval Bulgarian kingdom and
brought together what was required for a common
Bulgarian spoken language. The first fighters for "national
awakening" in Bulgaria were monks and priests. In India in his appeal to
the Indian masses Gandhi also suggested a greater mobilization of the
role of religion than has been usual in modern Europe.
My claim is that the opposition of "us and them" between two
groups in a situation of conflict has been the most
important factor in the process of "national
awakening" and nation building for the last two centuries. When this opposition takes place between two different religious societies,
religion plays the first role in the process of nation
building and maintenance of national identity
and a specific religious-ethnic identification is developed.
Accordingly, Poles maintained their Catholic Polish identity in the struggles with the Russian Orthodox Christian state. In Great Britain,
Irish, English, and Scottish identities were formed
on the basis of different religions - Catholic, Anglican and Calvinist. People in Croatia,
Serbia, and Bosnia share a single language
and culture, but feel themselves affiliated to three different nations because
their religions are different – Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Moslem. In principle, when national and religious
identities and oppositions
between two groups coincide, their tensions and strife tend to be much more
severe and harsh. The reason is that we have here a unity of two most important distal identities of the person and one's embrace
of these identities is much stronger if people have different national and ethnic identities the uncertainty, danger or crisis connected with
one of diem could be replaced by the
other. If they are tangled in a common religious-ethnic
identity, then the danger of losing this identity is perceived as much
stronger and the battle to stand up for it is much more furious and bloody. It
is no accidents that as most all ethnic conflicts and wars in the contemporary
world are not "pure"
ethnic, but religious-ethnic.
At the same time, the different religions have different abilities to interact with nationalism to support it and to provide a basis for
It could be a one-sided or a poly-sided religious-ethnic identity. A
nation has a one sided religious-ethnic identity if this identity defines the nation only in opposition to one or several, but not to all other
nations. For instance, Roman Catholicism is part of die national identity of
Lithuanians when they compare themselves with Lutheran
Germans or Orthodox Russians and Byelorussians, but not when
they compare themselves with Catholic Poles.
A nation will
have a multi-faceted religious-ethnic identity if its religion is not
universal, but specifically ethnic. This religion will distinguish it form all other nations and make its identity stronger and more closed. Typical
is die case with Japan where most of die Japanese people are connected with die old Japanese animist religion, Shinto, or in China
where similarly die specifically Chinese semi-religious
teaching of Confucianism is most widely spread.
distinction, which could be drawn is between partial and complete religious-ethnic identity. Partial religious-ethnic identity is
formed in cultures, which are to some significant extent secularized so dial
die traditional religious cultures do not concur.
There, die national and religious identities will
coincide partially. The more a religion is separated from die profane culture, the more partial and non-important will be its role in
development and maintenance of national identity.
Complete identity in which die limits of die religious, cultural, and national identities almost coincide means a lack of clear-cut borders
between die sacred and die profane, die religious and
From this point of view, we can say that Protestantism could be included in only a partial religious-ethnic identity, while die Muslim
religion could be die ground for a complete identity. Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches be "in
This implies a different role of these religions in die processes of development of ethnic self-consciousness and nation-building. The
Islamization or Neo-islamization almost definitely
means a change of national identity. In die history of humanity Islam has been
die most mighty "melting pot" for die
assimilation of different groups, much more mighty than die "melting
pot" of American civilization during the XXth century. The
potential of the other world religions to create and support
national identity is weaker and secularization has
weakened it additionally. Accordingly, it would be easier for Islam to use
nationalism as a means of Islamization than for Christianity to do this for
the purpose of evangelization.
developed countries, the process of religious revival is strongly connected with growing diversity and pluralization. This means that a
variety of new religions and sects are quite active, and that
the old universal churches search for ways to adjust to
the new plurality and to face the issue of inculturation.
whole, in the Third World and the ex-communist world religious revival has first of all the form of re-evangelization and
re-islamization. Different versions of Christianity and
Islam are the mainstreams in this shift to the
de-secularization an de-atheization of these societies, as people search for faith, meaning, solace and support in order to be able to cope
with their broken lives and realities.
revivification of Christianity and Islam in the ex-communist world, Asia and
Africa is as a matter of fact, a revivification of two old adversaries. During this millennium, Russia and the Balkans always have
been frontline sites, areas of contact and conflict between these two great civilizations.
of Christianity and Islam in these regions is linked first and foremost with
the failure of the two major projects of modernity, both originating in the
Enlightenment: Communist society and Westernization. The attempts at rapid industrialization to overcome the backwardness without market and democracy in Eastern Europe and the Soviet
Union have failed. But in many countries of the Third
World this has also failed. When the power of the
efforts to overcome the backwardness and the build modern secular societies are compared the stronger is the restoration and
resurgence of religion.
The most forceful manifestations of Islamic resurrection has occurred in
the more advanced and "modernized" (seemingly secular) countries of
the Muslim world, such as Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, and Tunisia.
The secular "White Revolution" in Iran was
replaced by the "Islamic Revolution." The sense that existing political, economic and social systems had failed
and disenchantment with secular modernization brought forth a
quest for identity and a greater authenticity.
Nationalism and religion are answers to this quest. In the
Christian states, they partially overlap. In the Muslim world the feeling is widespread that Islam provides a self-sufficient ideology
for both state and society, a valid alternative to
secular nationalism, socialism, and capitalism. As John
Esposito points out:
In the nineties,
Islamic revivalism has ceased to be restricted to the usual
marginal organizations on the periphery of society and instead has become part of mainstream Muslim society, producing a new modem-educated but Islamically oriented elite which work alongside, and at times in coalition with its secular counterparts. Revivalism continues to grow as a broad-based
socio-religious movement, functioning today in virtually every Muslim country
and transnationally. It is a vibrant, multi-faceted movement
that will embody the major impact of Islamic revivalism
for the foreseeable future. Its goal is the transformation of
society though the Islamic formation of individuals at the
grass-roots level. Dawa (call) societies work in social services (hospitals, clinics, legal-aid societies), in economic projects (Islamic banks, investment houses, insurance companies), in education (schools, child-care centers, youth camps), and
in religious publishing and broadcasting. Their common
programs are aimed at young and old alike.
There is a
revival of Christianity also in the ex-communist block, but the situation is quite different compared with most Islamic countries. On
the one hand, there is a surge in the quest for
religion as a refuge from the severe value crisis and as a foundation
for the identity of the personal self. But the Orthodox Churches in most of these countries is not sufficiently
mobile and versatile to react to this quest.
They have not enough missionary spirit and missionary structures. Both within
and in public a furious struggle for power in some
of these churches is waged. They are not too well prepared to face the
growing need for re-evangelization. For the last hundred years they
have had almost no experience in inculturation and lack the ability to adapt themselves to the psychology of the contemporary person.
Thus, many other denominations are trying to
gain influence in this region.
On the other
hand, by contrast to most muslim countries where neo-islamization is an expression of disillusionment with the process of
Westernization, understanding their failure to be a
result of Westernization, in the ex-Communist
countries the attitudes are just the opposite. The mass impression is that a lack of Westernization is the main reason for the failure
of their countries. They are ardent, zealous adherents of
anything coming from the Western world. This world is looked
to for support in distress. This leaves room for a
great influx of different sects, religion and denominations from the West, and first of all, from the USA. They bring with them not
just their religious hope, but the lure and reputation of something from a
country seen as an example to be followed. Some of
them are Christians, some of them are not, but there is much room
for neo-evangelization. What is different from the Muslim
revival in the Middle East is that this is taking place in conditions of greater democracy, openness, and competition among
different religions. Moreover, most of the sects and
churches coming form the West bring with them some idea of the
limits of the appropriate activity of the church in civil
society and the division between civil society and state. They are accepted by people as part of their way to the new dream: the
Accordingly, we have conditions for a more monolithic and authoritarian
re-islamization and more open and pluralistic re-evangelization. If the former is connected with a tendency to full deserialization, the second
is connected with an endeavor to overcome atheization. If islamization is a strong political movement toward unity between state and church, re-evangelization is first of all a shift in civil society without so strong a
tendency to unite church and state. For instance, the
new, post-communist constitution of Bulgaria did not
merely promulgate once again the separation of church and state, but forbade the establishment of parties on religious
Across a huge
territory from Asia and Africa to Europe, we observe the revival of two old rivals with different positions, advantages and
disadvantages in the processes of evangelization
and islamization, re-evangelization, and re-islamization. In this
process Western and Eastern traditions encounter one
difference from the point of view of a strategy of inculturation is that in principle in most cases evangelization and re-evangelization
have as their points of departure some distinctions dividing
sacred and profane, secular national identity and religious
identity. In contrast, Islam tends to deny these distinctions in principle an
strives to include under its rule the whole person and
culture. That is why Islamic conversion encloses the whole person in a specific world and is quite successful. For this
reason, it is more difficult to convert a Muslim to
another religion or to secularize him than to do so which
a Christian. It is a well known fact in the history of the Muslim religion, that although Muslims were initially a minority in the conquered territories, in time they became a majority, due largely to
mass conversions of local Christians. In addition, those who
remained Christians were Arabized adopting the Arabic
language and culture.
At the same time, there is not a single case of mass conversion
of Muslims to the Christian faith. That is why the communities of
Muslim emigrants in the developed Western countries are more closed and more
difficult to integrate into the whole society.
The major peculiarity is the near inseparability of the religious from
the national (or Ethnic). Evangelization does not mean ethnic or national conversion. Islamization means a change of the entire way of life and
practically always leads to a change of ethnic or
national identity. When converted to Islam a Christian, Buddhist, etc.
population either affiliates itself to the closed muslim
nation or claims its own specific Muslim national identity. This is true throughout the world. In Bulgaria, Christians who changed
their faith to become Muslims under the Ottoman
yoke are now inclined to identify themselves as Turks, because Turkey is the
nearest nation which is Islamic in religion. At the same time in
Bosnia Serbs identify themselves as a specific Muslim
nation, although they speak the same language as Christian Serbs. Even if, as in the case of Bosnia, people are not very religious,
religion left so deep a vestige that now, with their brother
Christians, they wage the most bloody nationalistic civil war
in recent European history. To be Bosnian means first
of all to be Muslim, and to be Muslim means to be Bosnian. In the same way in Malaysia many consider it axiomatic that to
be Malay is to be Muslim. In Bulgaria Muslim theology has never been developed nor has the Muslim literature been disseminated, the Koran is
preached in the Arab language which almost no one
understands. Nevertheless, Islam is retained as the
way of life, and there remains the self-consciousness of "us" Muslims as different from "them" (Bulgarian
Christians). Their Islamic identity and their appropriate ethnic
or national identity are inseparable. According to J.
the modem notion of
religion as a system of personal belief makes an Islam that
is comprehensive in scope, with religion integral to
politics and society, 'abnormal' insofar as it departs from the accepted 'modem' norm, and nonsensical. Thus Islam becomes incomprehensible, irrational, extremist, threatening.
however is not just that of different perceptions of religion as a result of modernity, as J. Esposito emphasizes. There are two more
important distinctions, which are disregarded by
him. The first distinction is the originally
different notion of relations between the sacred and profane, religion and the state, which are characteristic of Christianity and
Islam and not just of modern and pre-modern visions of
religion. The second distinction is that the
inseparable unity between Islam and state leads to an integral unity of religious and national identity. The nation is a phenomenon of modernity, of the modern world, and now this modern
phenomenon is linked with the pre-modern unity between
religion in state.
nationalist and religious revivals, which could be quite separate
in other cultures tend to coincide. This multiplies their force, strengthening
both religious and national identities. This is in some sense a new
historical phenomenon. When the two parts of a uranium nuclear bomb unite
they become qualitatively new and different, and are followed by an enormous
explosion. Similarly, the fusion of nationalist and religious revival may
be the greatest danger in the Post-Cold War world.
As a matter of fact most of the nationalistic and ethnic wars and conflicts during the last decades are religious-ethnic wars. This makes
conflict much more plausible in the case of ethnic
(national) opposition and tension between
"us" and "them". Accordingly, along the thousands of
kilometers of the borderline between Islam and Christian
civilizations we observe tensions, conflicts, terrorist acts and
wars. It begins from the military clashes with the Muslim
minority in the Philippines, passes through Islamic terrorism and separatism
in India, the civil wars between Muslims and Christians in Azerbaijan,
Armenia, Georgia, Lebanon, Cyprus, the relations between Jews and
Arabs, the tensions between Greece and Turkey, Bulgarian Christians and Bulgarian Muslims, the war between Christian Serbs and Muslim Bosnians, the conflicts between Christians and Albanian
Muslims in Kosovo, etc. Everywhere the war is between
additional factors prompt the confrontation between these two different religious-national identities and cultures.
The first factor is the traditions and stereotypes of the confrontation between these two civilizations:
and conflicts have spanned the ages and reinforced images
of a historic and global militant Islam: the early Muslim
expansion and conquest; the crusades and the fall of
Jerusalem; Ottoman hegemony over Eastern Europe and, with
the siege of Vienna, its threat to overrun the West; the great jihads against European colonial rule; Arab-Israeli wars; the economic threat of oil embargoes; Iran's humiliation of an
"America held hostage" and its threat to export its revolution; media images of despots (Quddafi, Khomeini, Saddam Hussein) wielding an Islamic sword and calling upon the frenzied faithful to rise up against the West; and the specter of radical revolutionary groups seizing Western hostages, hijacking
planes and wantonly visiting a reign of terror. Death threats
against Salomon Rushdi and Muslim secular intellectuals
like the Egyptian philosopher Foudad Zanaria, who had declared that "the
tide of political Islam . . . constitutes a very real danger", reinforce
images of an intolerant and dangerous Islam.
At the same time one finds similar
stereotypes from the other side.
Muslim images of the West in turn as the
"real" threat to them. Many in
the Arab and Muslim world view the history of Islam and of Muslim world's dealing with the West as one of victimization
and oppression at the hands of an expansive imperial
power. Thus many counter that it is "militant Christianity"
and "militant Judaism" that are the root causes of failed
Muslim societies and instability: the aggression and intolerance
of Christian-initiated Crusades and the Inquisition; European
colonialism; the break up of the Ottoman empire and artificial
creation of modem states in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan,
and Palestine; the establishment of Israel; Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and its invasion of Lebanon;
and the extent to which oil interests have been the determining
factor in support for autocratic regimes.
factor prompting the confrontation between Christian-national identities and
Islam-national identities, between the processes of re-evangelization and re-islamization is the desperate crisis,
destitution, and marginalization of millions of peoples in the
area of the main contacts between the two civilizations in
ex-communist countries and a large part of Muslim states in
Asia and Africa. In these conditions people become intolerant and look for scapegoats and enemies, which is the strongest factor
reinforcing the nationalistic identity. This occurs in the "zone of
In any case,
the process of re-evangelization in the Ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is inseparable from an encounter and tensions with the
concurrent process of re-islamization.
Totalitarian Ideologies as Religion
understand the strength of the quest for a new faith in Eastern Europe if one takes as a starting point that a religion collapsed
and that this gave rise to a search for a new one by its disillusioned
There is an
old debate whether the Marxism-Leninism in the ex-communist world was a religion, a surrogate of religion, or had nothing to
do with the religion. First Berdiaev in 1937 put forward the
idea of Communism as a rival religion explaining in this
way its conflict with Christianity. The debate is not
finished because it is inseparable from the other much-debated problem: "what is religion". I will make a short
summary and continue this debate.
If we take
some of the most popular definitions of religion we find in them several recurrent characteristics: a supernatural (or
transcendental) reality; the sacred; a set of coherent answers
to the universal existential problems of
mankind; some human behavior expressing relation to the supernatural and the sacred, and institutions connected with this
behavior (Church). In some form these characteristics are formed
in the ex-communist societies.
(1) A Supernatural (transcendent) reality. This is a
qualitatively different reality from that which is
experienced as "nature". It is an explanation of the surrounding world, not by its intrinsic properties, but by
means of something added. The predominant personal link with this world is not
rational and could be provided not by science, but by religion.
To oppose this position Marxism-Leninism calls its credo
"scientific". But, in fact, there is nothing from
positive science in this understanding. The claim for the existence of
objective laws governing the movement of human history toward communist
society is a claim for the existence of a supernatural reality. The
main proof for this "scientific" character is the ability of its ideas to influence people as "social historical practice".
From this point of view the "objective laws"
and the "objective necessity" of Marxism-Leninism play the role of a supernatural (transcendent) reality. (Of course, the
ideas of the world religions have influenced people
over thousands of years, and Christianity displayed a stronger
ability to change the human world and to create a new
civilization. Yet this does not provide a concrete "scientific" proof.)
(2) The Sacred. According to P. Berger, "empirically
speaking, what is commonly called religion involves an
aggregation of human attitudes, beliefs and actions
in the face of two types of experience — the experience of the supernatural and the experience of the sacred."
He distinguishes the sacred as another kind of reality, one
that overlaps with the supernatural and carries redemptive
significance. The sacred affirms the individual at the center of his being and integrates him within the order of the cosmos.
We find many indications of this reality in the practice of the ex-communist societies. They have their prophets and saints-Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, etc. The communist society is the future sacred
reality placing the individual at its center. The
working class is the redemptive force; the
sufferings of present generations will be redeemed by the "bright future". The writings of the "classics" are like a
scripture, revealing past and future events.
(3) A set
of coherent answers to the universal existential problems of mankind. Marxism-Leninism
claims to give a comprehensive explanation of all core
existential problems—from the physics of nuclear particles (Lenin's writing "Materialism and Empiriocriticism") to appropriate
haircuts (in the Soviet Union a book published the quotations from the
"classics" regarding this topic).
mediating between the sacred and the profane, the natural and the supernatural.
There are many
comparisons between the role of the church and that of the party. I will quote
one of the most famous from the Christian Century, in 1952.
Years ago observers of the growth of international
communism began to see it as a secular religion, so closely approximating in
its purposes the social concepts of Christianity that Archbishop Temple
called it a "Christian heresy". The parallel between the development
of the Christian institution and apparatus and the Communist institution and
apparatus have often been pointed out. Think of almost any element supposedly
distinctive in the Christian church—its inspired revelation, its inherent
dogma, its heresy trials and excommunications, its saints, its martyrs, its
hagiography, its demonology, its pope, its hierarchy, its consecrated
priesthood, its missionaries, its initiatory vows, its
sacred shrines and icons, its reliance on an apocalyptic
future to compensate for a grim present—and communism, less
than seventy years after the death of Karl Marx, already shows a counterpart.
additional explanatory remarks could give a sociological account of these similarities.
First. Any revolution desperately needs some
new religion to inspire the people. It could be against some
old religion, but the disintegration of society during the revolution requires
even more urgently a set of beliefs, which acts as a
religion. It is paradoxical that the victors in the strongest battles against religious forces most desperately need their own religion
to replace the old one. The example with the
French Revolution is classical: priests were being
hanged and church property confiscated, but at the same time a surrogate was established, a new civil religion in which Reason is
worshipped as a high metaphysical entity.
Second. At first sight ex-communist societies
are atheistic, anti-religious and lacking in any basis for religion. In
fact, their need for religion is stronger and the conditions created by
them stimulate religious growth more than do the
conditions of modem bourgeois society. On the one hand, the lack of developed market and profit motivation in the individual's
behavior means much less instrumental rationality and
materialistic value orientations, which are the grounds of modem
secularization. The market is replaced by the party
and its decisions, relying on historical laws and necessity. Higher and transcendent laws and necessities replacing the real
market-forces are evoked by the party and its
leaders. Because a real substitution is impossible this
evocation and all economic policy become irrational. This creates much more "false consciousness" than the one that was
analyzed by Marx in bourgeois society. The market forces
are replaced by religious faith in the power of the
On the other
hand, there is a desperate need for some religious substitute because forceful and very rapid industrialization and urbanization
destroy all old communities and identities. The party and its ideology is suggested as the only possible identity.
Max Weber has argued that Protestantism and its ethics is the religion of the Capitalist society—the spirit promoting its birth, which in turn
is the birth of modernity. It could be claimed that
Marxism-Leninism in the ex-communist states was a specific
religion necessary for the rapid modernization of backward
Eastern authoritarian peasant societies. For lack of the conditions for an individualistic Protestant ethics these societies gave
birth to a collectivist totalitarian (fundamentalist)
ethics and religion. They required asceticism and sacrifice now in the name of
the "Bright future". This ascetic was necessary
for the initial accumulation of capital, for rapid industrialization and for the predominance of heavy over light production. The
satisfaction of personal needs was limited in the name of
future generations. The distinction, however, was that the
sacrosanct revelation was the result not of personal experience,
but of party documents.
proliferation of this kind of fundamentalist religion was connected with the marginalization of the traditional Christian religions. Now
the collapses of communism as a religion has opened room for
the restoration of Christianity and re-evangelization.
Religions and religious revival in Bulgaria
I will take Bulgaria as an example of the conditions and the shifts in religions today. It combines a collapsed Marxist-Leninism, a religious
revival in a region of ethnic clashes and an
encounter of Christianity and Islam.
Bulgarian Orthodox Church was founded by an ecumenical council in Constantinople in March 870. In 927 it became fully
independent. The evangelization of the Bulgarian state took
place in the context of the struggle between
Eastern and Western Churches for influence and conversion of the pagan
fact, the tool of inculturation the church in Constantinople sent its two missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, to create a special Slav
alphabet and to preach the scriptures in the Slavic language. This was, against the dogma in that time that scripture could be disseminated only
in one of the three sacred languages: Hebrew, Greek or
Latin. The Bulgarian Tzar, Boris I, needed Christianity as a common religion
to unite the two parts of his population-the Slavic and the
Bulgarian tribes. When some of them tried to keep their heathen
religion, he did not scruple to kill 300 clans and to
importation of the Orthodox religion by force and the subordination of religion to the state was the reason why the anti-feudal and
anti-state movements were open to receive heretical
movements. The strongest of these was the dualistic teaching of
the Bogomils, which spread from Bulgaria under other names
and versions to Western Europe.
At the end
of the XIV century Bulgaria fell under five hundred years of Ottoman yoke.
Broad processes of Islamization of the Christian population were taking place during this time. In order to have stronger
support and protection at the beginning of the XIV
century some Bulgarians sought the help of the Catholic Church in
Rome and were converted or accepted the authority of the
Pope. During the Ottoman rule the church played the most important role in preserving the Bulgarian identity and in the XVIIIth
and XlXth centuries priests and monks began the struggle for
church independence and for the resurgence of the Bulgarian
After the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1879 the Bulgarian
Church became again totally independent. According to the Law of Religions in Bulgaria enacted in 1977, which remains valid the church is
separated from the state but is dependant upon the
government. It receives some governmental subsidies and at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a special Department
of Ecclesiastical Matters, which in fact approves the most important
promotions in the church.
Religious education in the state schools is forbidden and the propagation of religion is banned. The separation of church and state in a
totalitarian context means more than merely the
Western type of secularization. Because in the totalitarian society everything
is the state there is almost no other social space.
All property, economic and political activities are state matters. This means that the church is pseudo- separated from the state,
for the lack of civil society in the totalitarian system
means that there are no independent organizations between the
state and individual. So for almost five decades the
church was closed in itself, unorganized and subordinated to the state; it was maintained by the state and seen as an appendix
from the past. It had had some cultural significance in the past, but will
vanish in the future. Officially, its place and role are
seen first of all from the point of view of foreign policy – the image of
the country abroad, the struggle for peace and for
humanism. That is why it is a department in the Foreign Ministry that is in charge of the church and the religions in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian population is about 9 millions. According to the most recent data Christians in Bulgaria are 89.1% — the prevailing part of
them are Orthodox, 0.9% Catholics, 0.5% protestants. The Moslems are 10.5%
(Turks, Pomaks and gypsies). 16 Churches are registered with the
Department of Ecclesiastical Matters.
Christians are between 60 and 80,000. They are divided into two dioceses with bishops in Sofia and Plovdiv. One of these dioceses is Roman Catholic with a congregation of about 50,000, 40
priests and 30 churches. The other is Unite and has between
10 and 20,000 believers, 20 priests, 25 parishes and 17 churches.
14% of the believers in Bulgaria. They have between 1000 and 1300 mosques and about 1000 ministries.
sects in Bulgaria appeared before it fell under the Turkish yoke. These sects are many – Bogomils, Adamits, Hesychasts, etc. —
most of which were islamized and disappeared under the Ottoman
During the last 100 years, and especially for the last three years, there
has been an active penetration by different
sects in Bulgaria. For many of them there is no sufficient data and
for others the data is not sufficiently exact:
(established in 1923, about 3700 members), Adventist-reformers, Pentecostal (established in 1921, about 10 thousand members), Baptists (established in 1880, about 2500 members),
Methodists (about 1300 members), Bulgarian Church of God (about 15,000 members
in 70 villages), Dunovists (about 10,000 members, founded after the First
World War by the Bulgarian Petur Dunov), Hare Krishna,
Biblical center "Christian Charity and Education",
Biblical Movement "Vasan", Satanism, Unification Church of Dr. Moon,
According to opinion polls there is an abrupt growth of the number of believers which soared from 23.6% in 1986 to 48.5% in 1992-11.2% are deeply religious and 37.3% of the respondents answer that they are
"partially religious". The percentage of religious
people increases with the age of the respondents and
decreases with education. There is a great difference, however, between Christians and Muslims~47.1% of Bulgarians respond that they are religious, but 79.1% are from the population traditionally
connected with the Muslim religion; 44.9% of Bulgarians
are not familiar with the Bible, but only 22.2% from the population with the
traditional Moslem religion is not acquainted with the
Koran; only 15% of the Christians mention the name of
God often, but 50% of the Muslims mention the name of Allah every day. These distinctions are indicative. Partially they are
result of the fact that the Muslim population has less
education, but the most important factor is the specific cultural
and ethnic function of the Muslim religion. This function is
even stronger when, as is the case, the group is a minority.
of demoralization has changed importantly the position of the Orthodox Church and the different religions. Christmas and Easter were declared official holidays. The new Constitution of
Bulgaria, adopted in 1991, included the text that "Bulgaria
is traditionally an Orthodox Christian State". At different
universities faculties of theology were established. It became fashionable that any important event, commemoration, holiday,
establishment of new firms, institutions, etc., be opened with a religious service.
At the same
time internally the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Muslim Church in 1992 were deeply divided politically in a struggle for power. There were two synods and patriarchs and two
General Muftis. The struggle between them was at times physical, each side
desiring to seize the buildings of the other. There were declarations and
counter-declarations on television, radio, and newspapers. One
of the sides claimed that the other was connected with the old regime, and conversely. The groups were supported by
different political forces; there were no theological
distinctions between them, but only a furious struggle for power. This
was and is a repercussion of the traditional
subordination of the Church to the state; hence, one result of the deep political division in the society is division as well between the
main churches in the country. This impedes the growth of their
influence and leaves enough room for an active intrusion
and propagation by the different sects from abroad.
situation of strong politicization of the society religion too is politicized and different forces and people try to use it as a political
weapon: several priests and bishops were elected to the parliament, and the
evocation of religious values has become a means of
never before had there been any parties claiming to have started from some religious values. Now there are dozens of such
parties, e.g.: Christian Democrats,
Christian-Republicans, Christian-Democrat (Center),
Christian Union "Salvation", Christian Movement of Women, etc. Some of them are in the anticommunist "Union of Democratic Forces"
now ruling Bulgaria, others are in a coalition with the
Socialist Party. Many are not in parliament.
But what is
important is that almost any political force at any point on the political
spectrum tries to take advantage of the revival of religion. This kind of politization has a double effect. On the one hand, there is
much ballyhoo and demonstrative use of religious symbols. On
the other hand, this politization has negative results because it turns the
church and religion from being values in themselves into being
merely instrumental values. This instrumentalization
of the traditional Orthodox religion turns the sacred into a profane tool for power. In this way religion loses its own intrinsic
traits and becomes the same as all other things in
the profane world.
arises a very important question regarding the role of religions, the church and Christianity in the process of the
demoralization of society. The problem is that, as in other
periods in the history of humanity, the growing
need of religion and of fruitful conditions for religion coincided with a
growing disintegration, insecurity and division in society. This gives rise to growing intolerance, hatred, a search for
"scapegoats" and punitive attitudes. This explains for
instance the furious persecution of Christians in the
Roman Empire and of heretics at the end of the Middle Ages.
is whether in this kind of situation the Church will play a democratic or antidemocratic fundamentalist role, whether it will
contribute to an enhancement of hatred and confrontation or will prevent
these. Up to now, being engaged in severe political struggles, the Bulgarian
Orthodox and the Muslim churches reflect the
intolerance and hatred of society. The physical attacks and
occupation of church residences and buildings displays a lack of rule of law
and appears as a resurrection of the Hobbesian "natural state of the people". This deepens hatred as well as authoritarian
and neo-totalitarian social attitudes.
situation re-evangelization with the help of a church that is part of an already established democratic tradition in the developed
Western countries could make an important
contribution to the humanization of society, democratic
development and the lowering of tensions and confrontations.
two very important factors prompting a process of re-evangelization from the West.
First, evangelization coming from the West is
accepted as a part of the process of Westernization of the country-which, in
turn, is considered by the largest part of the population
to be the only "true road" for the country today. Phrases describing the changes as a "way to
Europe", a "way to America" are considered to be of
quite high value. There is even talk between scholars and
other intellectuals that the adoption of Christianity in Bulgaria by the Eastern Church in Constantinople, and not from the
Church in Rome had been a terrible historical mistake
which entailed the unfortunate history of
Bulgaria, its separation from the Western World and five centuries under Ottoman rule. They argue that if Bulgaria had been a
Catholic country Western Europe would have defended it from the Ottoman Turks.
Second, the use of the Bulgarian Orthodox
Church in political life in a situation of intolerance repulses and
disgusts many of its people. This strips the church
of its nimbus of sacredness and makes room for other efforts at evangelization. In fact now the influx of different sects and
religions introduces competition and puts all in
the situation of marketing religion. In this
situation those have an advantage who are more active, with better advertising, more knowledge of the different social groups and
their needs, and can accommodate to the local
conditions, culture, mentality, leisure, music,
dances, dress, national identity, social problems, etc.
new political culture for the societies is now very important and will develop with the active help of the changing human
religious values. For instance, the great experience of
the Catholic Church in different charity
organizations, health care organizations and institutions of social care will mitigate the shock of mass impoverishment of the population and will
provide the basis for the development of a vital civil
Finally, there are several important dimensions of the process of inculturization, which will promote the process
First, connections with and support of traditional
culture. This will remove any accusation that the church
from abroad destroys traditional Bulgarian values
and identities. It is especially meaningful now when because of the crises all subsidies for the national arts and folk culture
have been cut off abruptly. In the conditions of emerging
"wild capitalism" the church will stand
up for national values.
Second, removal from political life and
engagement with some political forces, but strong support of the
person and individual's rights. Standing up as well against
any violation of human rights religion could play a very important role for the defense of individuals from political
persecutions in conditions of growing authoritarian attitudes.
The church as a shelter in a collapsed world is
one of the best positions for inculturation.
Third, applying a sociological approach,
attending to the different needs, ways of life and behaviors of
the various social groups-scholars and undergraduates, the
unemployed and homeless, men and women, the single and old people, the
disappointed and those broken in spirit.
In this way we observe different modes of Westernization. The traditional type of Westernization of societies from the Third World is connected with an imposition of secular culture and the abandonment of many of the traditions and values of the societies. This kind of modernization failed and had many negative effects. Now we observe in the Ex-Communist countries the quest for a new mode of Westernization in which, not secularization, but some form of de-secularization (evangelization, de-atheization) is taking place. This is a new chance to unite this region with the Western World. Re-evangelization is part of this difficult and complicated process.
 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy (Anchor Books; Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1959), p. 243.
See: T.F. O'Dea, "Sociology of Religion", The New Catholic
Encyclopedia, (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. xii, and p.263.
 See: Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., "Emergent Religion hi America: An Historical Perspective", in Understanding the New Religions, Jacob Needle-man and George Baker, eds. (A Crossroad Book; New York, Seabury Press, 1978), pp. 273-282.
 John L. Esposito. The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 29-30.
 John L. Esposito. The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 29-30.
 Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (New York et al: Anchor Books, 1967), pp. 111-112.