Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe

By Bruce R. Berglund; Brian Porter-SzŰcs | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is the result of a major collaborative project, encompassing several years' worth of conversations, debates, shared bibliographies, circulated papers, and workshop presentations. Our group first met in June 2005, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that time, only a few months had passed since death of Pope John Paul II, an event that brought widespread attention to the tumultuous history of the Christian church in twentieth-century Eastern Europe. Many of the biographies and encomia published after the pope's death recounted the trials he had faced as a young worker and seminarian in Nazi-occupied Kraków and, later, as a priest, professor, and archbishop in communist Poland. And the archived news photos of millions of pilgrims surrounding John Paul during his visits to Poland, before and after the fall of commuism, reminded people of his—and the church's—triumph over these trials. As historians, however, we recognized that the story of Karol Wojtyla could not be viewed in isolation from those of other men and women of faith who lived through Eastern Europe's twentieth century. In looking at the history of East European Christianity, we were aware of other examples of clergy and lay believers who were emboldened by their faith to challenge the currents of nationalism, antisemitism, and authoritarian ideology. We discussed other Christian artists and intellectuals, like the philosopher and poet Wojtyla, who struggled profoundly with the challenges of their times and sought to express their faith in new and creative ways. And, at the same time, we acknowledged episodes of individual Christians and organizations standing by indifferently, collaborating pragmatically, or engaging actively in the darkest chapters of the region's recent past. We undertook our discussions with the recognition that the history of

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