Revisiting the Church in Socialism

By Stackhouse, Max L. | The Christian Century, September 23, 1998 | Go to article overview

Revisiting the Church in Socialism


Stackhouse, Max L., The Christian Century


A RECENT VISIT to the heavily guarded border between South and North Korea reminded me of going through Checkpoint Charlie at the Wall between East and West Berlin in the 1970s and '80s. The stiff efficiency of soldiers working the gates, the hard eyes of security people, the sound of heavy boots on stone roads, the guard's sudden disappearance with one's passport, the zigzag traffic around tank traps--all this came back to me. I remembered the blaring martial music, red flags, banners emblazoned with slogans, and heroic proletarian statuary that greeted me as I entered East Berlin. Only a few places still mark the divide between pluralistic societies and those forms of socialism that seek to liberate humanity through a state monopoly of ideology, politics and economics.

Countries that have been divided the way Germany and Korea have are of special interest to political analysts, since such key factors as religion, cultural history, geography, ethnicity and technological capacity are relatively constant in both regimes. The issues that arise with the reunification of such countries are equally revealing. Hong Kong has been reabsorbed into the People's Republic of China, but tensions between the raw forms of capitalism of the one and the raw forms of socialist statism of the other suggest that many issues remain unsettled. Taiwan is among the countries watching closely.

North and South Vietnam were united by a victorious socialist state, but they are now divided between factions reluctantly adopting the capitalism they had defeated and those exploiting what they now control. North and South Yemen tried to join and have split again. North Korea seems to be collapsing, while South Korea undergoes readjustments brought on by the wider East Asian crisis.

Only the experience of East and West Germany provides a useful model of reunification, though it is fraught with ambiguities. The Wall is gone and the massive cleanup of ecological and social damage in the East is under way, but many of the older generation are still wandering in the wilderness, with little taste for manna or hope of glimpsing any promised land. Many in the East are nostalgic about the socialist days when they willingly made sacrifices for the promised new society. No one easily forgets causes for which a great price has been paid.

Many "Ossies" (former East Germans) resent the "Wessies" for thinking that they know better about everything, and many East German youth are contemptuous of their elders for supporting or tolerating the old system and not preparing them for the new. People sneer at the former communist "true believers" who have now become capitalist managers, and they make snide comments about "foreigners" who migrate from Eastern Europe and are willing to work for less money than Germans are. A certain cynicism makes people unwilling to trust any program, institution or belief system. Marxist anti-idealism and atheism succeeded too well.

The German case is significant not only for Asians who face the problems of reunification but for Christians everywhere. In East Germany, the Protestant church had a chance to be the "church in socialism." Though few church leaders and public intellectuals would still argue that Stalinism, Leninism or Maoism is the way of the future, a belief in socialist values and a Marxist understanding of capitalism remain pervasive.

JOHN P. BURGESS, recently on the staff of the Presbyterian Church (U. S .A.) and now professor of theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has artfully woven together a series of essays on East Germany written between 1984 and 1996. He begins with an account of the limits imposed on the church by the state, the difficulty of a serious dialogue between the church and the Communist Party, and the church's decision nevertheless to become the "church in socialism." In some ways, this was the only option for the East German church. It would have lost its identity entirely if it had simply been "for" socialism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revisiting the Church in Socialism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.