Academic journal article
By Rust, Eric C.
Journal of Church and State , Vol. 47, No. 3
"Conservative Revolutionaries": Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany after Radical Political Change. Monographs in German History, Vol.14. By Barbara Theriault New York: Berghahn, 2004. vii+188 pp. $50.00.
Thanks to a series of recent journal articles, Barbara Theriault, who teaches sociology at the University of Montreal, has emerged as an expert on the political, organizational, and doctrinal challenges that Germany's reunification has created for the Protestant and Catholic churches over the past fifteen years. Her first book-length study on the subject offers a well researched and plausibly argued explanation why efforts to reunite in harmony the formerly split East and West German churches have encountered and continue to face formidable obstacles. At first glance this situation seems baffling: after all, East German Christians helped hasten the downfall of the communist regime, and many observers at the time envisioned a smooth return to normalcy both with regard to traditional church-state relations in Germany and internal church organization and leadership. But developments would take a more complicated turn, leaving in their wake much frustration and even bitterness in both East and West.
For Theriault, the heart of the problem is a kind of West German clerical imperialism that imposed the Federal Republic's constitutionally anchored and rather intimate church-state relationship unfeelingly and clumsily upon East German ecclesiastical arrangements that had undergone marked transformations and innovations during forty years of totalitarian rule. In contrast to the Federal German model, and altogether not very different from American practices, the former German Democratic Republic had imposed upon its society a strict regimen of secularization and deliberate dechristianization, insisting on a sharp division between church and state. …