Politics and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe: Traditions and Transitions

By William H. Swatos Jr | Go to book overview

question, though, involves the postunification period itself. The Evangelical church of eastern Germany has lost much of its previous influence and is not well enough equipped for the new needs of the population.


Slovakia and the Former Yugoslavia

Vasil Gluchman, who makes concessions, especially at the end, to value judgments and prospects for intervention, outlines a detailed picture of the minority role of the Slovak Evangelical church. This is a precise, well-documented historical excursus, first to 1918, then up to 1948 (with extensive reference to elements of Christian socialism in Slovak Lutheranism), and finally with an up-to-date summary of recent developments. This is a little-known phenomenon, worth following closely so as to understand the complex role of religion in the former Czechoslovakia more fully.

Finally, the example of Medjugorje, analyzed by means of a research visit by Markle and McCrea, is especially interesting. Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence exactly ten years after the first appearance of the Madonna at Medjugorje. It should be pointed out at once that this site is in Bosnia-Hercegovina -- a Muslim region. However, the residents of Medjugorje are Croatian and Catholic. Clearly the event had a politicoreligious function from the outset; moreover, some months ago the town was occupied by Croatian troops.

The authors examine mainly the social construction of the Medjugorje phenomenon, the mobilization of resources and the administration of modernity, whereby faith, politics, tourism, economics, nationalism, culture, and development are interwoven in a complex system of meanings and actions. The appearances have an antisecular weight but do not fail also to create conflicts of legitimacy within the church (with opposing factions -- Franciscans on one side and the local bishop on the other). In any event, Medjugorje's reputation is now thoroughly confirmed.


CONCLUSION

It is hard to imagine the destinies of religious institutions in the formerly communist countries of Europe. The historicocultural contexts are too varied to allow one to foresee homogeneous results. However, at least one fact can be taken for granted: one way or another, the churches will maintain a role, perhaps more one of conservation and tradition than one of innovation and change. Thus the function of religion is guaranteed well beyond any process of secularization and any forecast regarding the eclipse of the sacred.

-16-

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