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Eastern Europe’s Christian Reawakening
First Things ^ | 1-17-14 | Filip Mazurczak

Posted on 01/19/2014 5:05:00 PM PST by ReformationFan

In Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a pro-family, pro-life revolution and a rediscovery of Christian roots is occurring. While few in the American media have noticed, this trend should challenge those who simply lament Europe’s moral malaise. Unnoticed in the shadow of a secularized west, religion’s public role has been growing in the east since the collapse of communism.

Since taking power in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban—a charismatic veteran of Hungary’s anti-Communist underground—has victoriously stood at the forefront of what Americans call the culture wars. In 2011, Orban’s government ratified a new constitution that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman, speaks of the rights of unborn Hungarians, and ties Christianity to Hungarian nationhood. In 2013, Orban’s government reintroduced—for the first time since before Communism—religious education in public schools. Meanwhile, Orban (the father of five children) has made the Hungarian tax code friendlier toward large families.

Orban himself can be said to symbolize Hungary’s reawakening. Born in 1963 to a nominally Calvinist family (Hungary is a mixed Protestant-Catholic country), Orban had no religious upbringing aside from being baptized. His father was a devout Communist, and while Christianity played a crucial role in the collapse of Communism across the Eastern Bloc, it did not in Hungary.

After the Vatican failed to protect Hungary’s courageous Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty and replaced anti-Communist bishops with collaborationist toadies as part of its 1960s policy of Ostpolitik, the Catholic Church (followed by its Protestant brothers) was either driven underground or collaborated with the regime. Hungary’s anti-Communist dissidents were largely anti-clerical. Yet since the collapse of Communism, Hungarian society, like Orban, has started to rediscover its roots. Orban began to reclaim his Calvinist roots, thanks to his Catholic wife. He read voraciously about Christianity and in the 1990s received confirmation.

Another figure symbolizing Hungary’s spiritual renaissance is Cardinal Peter Erdo, one of the youngest members of the College of Cardinals, born in 1952 to a devout family that practiced its faith secretly. Since becoming the archbishop of Budapest, Erdo has enlisted young volunteers to knock on doors across Hungary, encouraging lapsed Catholics to return to their parishes. His voice has become influential in Hungarian society, as he has vocally condemned secularism, consumerism, poverty, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against Hungary’s Roma.

Evidence of the strength of Hungary’s spiritual renaissance is that Pope Francis has so far planned few foreign visits in the future, yet he has accepted an invitation to visit Hungary in 2016.

Croatia

Hungary’s Christian, natural law revolution is primarily top-down (while a growing number of Hungarians are rediscovering their roots, church attendance remains low). By contrast, neighboring Croatia is a society where the people have defended the family in defiance of secularist politicians. Since gaining independence in 1991, the Croats have rediscovered their Catholic identity largely thanks to the role the Church played in fighting for Croats’ rights under Yugoslav rule.

Francisco Javier Lozano—the Vatican’s former nuncio in Croatia—has called Croatia “Europe’s most Catholic country.” It was not so twenty years ago. According to sociologist Anica Marinovic-Bobinac’s research, the proportion of Croats believing in God has risen from 39 percent in 1989 to 75 percent in 1996 and 82 percent in 2004. In the past two decades, Croatia’s population has sharply declined by about a half a million out of 4.8 million, with a declining birthrate mostly caused by high unemployment and large numbers of youths seeking better material prospects abroad, with large Croat communities in North America, Chile, and Australia. Yet despite this demographic slump, the number of young men studying for the priesthood in Croatia has been remarkably stable. Since 1991 it has been virtually unchanged, between four hundred and five hundred.

Yet the strength of Croatia’s revolution was seen last month, when an overwhelming majority of Croats—65 percent—voted to amend their national constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. This occurred after 700,000 people—one-fifth of Croatia’s adult population—signed a petition “In the Name of the Family” for the referendum to be held. Croatia’s bishops robustly supported this. Although Ivo Josipovic, Croatia’s president, was more concerned with pleasing the EU than with defending morality, he was forced to change Croatia’s constitution after the referendum. Western Suspicions

Unfortunately, leaders in Brussels and Washington attack Hungary (Hillary Clinton has expressed “concerns” about democracy in Budapest) yet polls indicate Orban will be reelected in next year’s elections. Hundreds of thousands of Hungarians have taken to the streets defending their government. The U. S. State Department now routinely pressures Eastern European nations (including other deeply Catholic ones like Slovakia and Poland) to sanction and encourage public expressions of homosexuality. In the wake of Croatia’s vote, Western media claimed the supermajority actually reflected “deep polarization” and quoted observers explaining this “radicalism” as the result of “economic troubles.”

While it is true that anti-Semitism and discrimination against the Roma have increased in Hungary in recent years, the nation’s government cannot be blamed for this. Nationalistic passions are inflamed by the far-right Jobbik party, which is in opposition. Orban’s government, by contrast, has taken ambitious measures to fight racism, including subsidizing vocational education for Roma and building strong ties with Hungary’s Jewish community. Blaming Orban for far-right radicalism is intellectually lazy.

While many academics speak of Europe as a uniform secularized continent, two decades after the collapse of Communism it is more accurate, if still too simple, to speak of two Europes: a West that has largely abandoned its religious roots, and an East that is rediscovering its heritage.

Hungary and Croatia are only two examples of post-Communist societies where the public role of religion is growing. Whereas Hungary and Croatia are experiencing a rebirth of Western Christianity, the Orthodox Churches are also booming east of the Elbe. Russia is rediscovering Orthodoxy. Patriarch Kirill’s influence is growing, more monasteries and parishes are reopened, growing numbers of Russians profess belief in God, and more young Russians are choosing a religious vocation. Meanwhile, Orthodoxy is also resurgent in neighboring Georgia. Evidence of this can be seen in the success that Georgia’s bishops had in encouraging their compatriots to have more children. After the bishops’ campaign, Georgia went from having one of Europe’s lowest birthrates to one of the highest among post-Communist countries. Meanwhile, Romania is currently building the world’s largest Orthodox church in Bucharest, a city once dominated by Nicolae Ceausescu’s totalitarian aesthetic.

Could a similar revival happen in Western Europe? Optimists might point to the millions of French Catholics—but also Jews, Muslims, and non-believers of good will—took to the streets to protest President Francois Hollande’s redefinition of marriage. Yet Western European nations took a very different political course from Eastern ones in the twentieth century, so analogies may be difficult.

Whether or not Hungary, Croatia, or other nations pave the way for a religious revival across Europe remains to be seen. However, this gives hope, especially for the East. Perhaps God is not quite dead in Europe.

Filip Mazurczak is the assistant editor of the quarterly magazine New Eastern Europe. Image via Wikimedia Commons.


TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Evangelical Christian; Mainline Protestant; Orthodox Christian; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: anticommunism; biblicalmarriage; christianity; communism; croatia; easterneurope; filipmazurczak; hungary; mazurczak; naturalmarriage; profamily; prolife; promarriage; reawakening; russia
When are Hungary and Croatia going to start sending missionaries to the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe?
1 posted on 01/19/2014 5:05:00 PM PST by ReformationFan
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To: ReformationFan

Progressives will be furiously ignoring this development. Progressivists believe in linear history, where things just get more and more left wing. Bringing up the fact that the most progressive government in history, the Soviet Union, collapsed and had to rebuild itself as a more conservative, non-Progressive country. History is nowhere near linear.


2 posted on 01/19/2014 5:11:44 PM PST by Vince Ferrer
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To: ReformationFan

LOL. My church sends missionaries to England and Scotland.

The end must be near.


3 posted on 01/19/2014 5:15:29 PM PST by firebrand
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To: ReformationFan
Excellent idea.

e had two seminarians doing internships at our parish last year: one from Colombia, one from Romania.

4 posted on 01/19/2014 5:16:40 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o (Point of interest.)
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To: Vince Ferrer

Political movements come and go. Collectivism has built-in time limits which must lead to its replacement. And a suffocated people will seek air.

You can smash the Jew and the Christian, but God will remain faithful and restore.


5 posted on 01/19/2014 5:16:40 PM PST by lurk
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To: Vince Ferrer

Good point. The progs can ignore it all they want but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. God is on His throne and His ultimate will will never be stopped by them.


6 posted on 01/19/2014 5:17:42 PM PST by ReformationFan
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To: ReformationFan

**Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe**

The churches in Poland were packed when I went there five years ago, but not so in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.

So to me, this is great news!


7 posted on 01/19/2014 5:21:24 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: ReformationFan

They’ll be dealing with the swelling Muslim hordes now slowly destroying Europe before they get a chance to be sent to us as missionaries. We’ll have to fend for ourselves I expect.


8 posted on 01/19/2014 5:26:21 PM PST by john drake
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To: Salvation
**Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe**

The churches in Poland were packed when I went there five years ago, but not so in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.

So to me, this is great news!

Our church supports a missionary family working in what was East Germany, in Berlin. It is a hard and hardened place.

9 posted on 01/19/2014 5:28:19 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("You keep using that verse, but I do not think it means what you think it means.")
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To: ReformationFan

Good news, thank you.


10 posted on 01/19/2014 5:33:14 PM PST by kitkat (STORM THE HEAVENS WITH PRAYERS FOR OUR COUNTRY.)
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To: ReformationFan

Not anytime soon, they have enough problems at home. In these two countries, particularly Croatia, there have been victories for Christianity and values voters, but that does not change the fact that there is still a large element of militant secularism trying to storm the gates.

Case in point, the marriage amendment in Croatia was the brainchild of the Catholic Church, using the law as it stood to get a referendum set up and circumvent an effort that was underway to bring civil partnerships to the country. The referendum itself was decried by people across all sectors of the government. So in Croatia, you have a government that is actually further to the left than the population at large. We’ve got a long way to go in that nation to preserve it as a bulwark against Euro-headed feminization and socially engineered destruction.

Hungary has a less daunting task ahead, mainly because the left wing there is in disarray. I think Viktor Orban is someone American conservatives should study. He was a communist in his teen years, but then had a change of heart and became a leading figure in the movement to free Hungary from Soviet satellite status. He gained political acclaim for his speech during the burial of martyrs after the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution, where he demanded Soviet troops leave Hungary for good.
A few years later, he founded Hungary’s right-wing party, Fidesz.
For a while after the fall of communism, a Orban’s first presidency, Hungary’s Socialist Party was the major political player, but throughout the 00s, Orban engineered its downfall and the rise of his own political movement.
He now has a super-majority in parliament, as a coalition government with a sister-party, the Christian Democratic People’s Party. They control 263 seats out of the total 386. What’s even more impressive is that as a further roadblock to the Hungarian left, Orban has allowed the growth of the nationalist Jobbik Party that holds a further 43 seats and would never be in coalition with the Socialists.

During his tenure, Orban has clipped the wings of the activist judiciary precisely to prevent the things we see our own leftist judges doing right here in the USA. ‘One of the main reasons the Eurocrats HATE him and wanted to haul him into European court.

A class-A politician at any rate.

It’s also worth mentioning Poland. It was a wonderful sight to see them recently torch a massive, ugly rainbow set up outside a college in a night of protest. Poland’s right wing is growing.


11 posted on 01/19/2014 5:34:27 PM PST by Viennacon
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To: Salvation

I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the Czechs. They’ve become to westernized ‘absorbed by the Borg’ as it were. And Austria will be majority Islamic by about 2060, so I’d probably write them off too.

Although Slovakia will be part of a rising Christian sentiment from the east, by my estimation. They have more in common with the Russian side of Europe than the French side.


12 posted on 01/19/2014 5:36:54 PM PST by Viennacon
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To: ReformationFan

Ironically, American Christians may one day be moving there. The persecution is coming.


13 posted on 01/19/2014 5:49:00 PM PST by stinkerpot65 (Global warming is a Marxist lie.)
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To: Vince Ferrer
Progressives will be furiously ignoring this development. Progressivists believe in linear history, where things just get more and more left wing. Bringing up the fact that the most progressive government in history, the Soviet Union, collapsed and had to rebuild itself as a more conservative, non-Progressive country. History is nowhere near linear.
So-called “progressives” hate actual progress.
Article 1 Section 8. The Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries . . .
”Progressives” don’t oppose the patent office, of course. But while giving lip service to progress in the abstract, they put up a furious NIMBY blockade against any particular large project for the progress of the people. And as to science, they’re all for it - provided it doesn’t disturb their political agenda by debunking “manmade global warming.” Or any other “progressive” political agenda.
If you label socialists “progressive” in the future, scare quotes would be appropriate in order to avoid promoting Newspeak.

14 posted on 01/20/2014 12:40:42 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion ("Liberalism” is a conspiracy against the public by wire-service journalism.)
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To: Mrs. Don-o

My parish has a parishoner, a gentleman whose son is a priest, the priest son has been ministering in Nigeria, his bishop gave him permission to come to the USA to get his doctorate and could very well come to my parish.


15 posted on 01/20/2014 3:00:42 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: john drake

Look for Christian missionaries to be coming from the global south nations, such as from Africa and Asia to come to America as missionaries.


16 posted on 01/20/2014 3:02:47 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: Biggirl
Look for Christian missionaries to be coming from the global south nations, such as from Africa and Asia

See the graphic. Note the horizontal blue line in the center.
That is the equator. Above that line is north, below it is south.

Note also that no part of Asia is south of the equator.

Asia is not and never has been any part of "global south".

To correct you.

17 posted on 01/20/2014 5:55:45 AM PST by humblegunner
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To: humblegunner

Thank you for the information. I never thought about Asia being north of the equator in its entirety. I learned something.


18 posted on 01/20/2014 6:11:23 AM PST by sport
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To: humblegunner

So? No biggie.


19 posted on 01/20/2014 7:00:48 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: Biggirl

No biggie except that you are apparently ignorant of geography.


20 posted on 01/20/2014 7:13:39 AM PST by humblegunner
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To: humblegunner

I can simply “ignore” you all I want. Goodbye.


21 posted on 01/20/2014 7:14:53 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: Biggirl
I can simply “ignore” you all I want.

It sure seems to have worked in Geography class.

22 posted on 01/20/2014 8:36:33 AM PST by humblegunner
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To: humblegunner
"... you are apparently ignorant of geography."

But you are even more ignorant concerning humility, as evidenced by your rude response to the lady.

23 posted on 01/21/2014 8:58:24 AM PST by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: FormerLib

Tough.


24 posted on 01/21/2014 8:59:53 AM PST by humblegunner
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To: humblegunner

Adios!


25 posted on 01/22/2014 9:37:10 AM PST by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: FormerLib

Hasta la vista.


26 posted on 01/22/2014 9:38:43 AM PST by humblegunner
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