The East German Church and the End of Communism

The East German Church and the End of Communism

The East German Church and the End of Communism

The East German Church and the End of Communism

Synopsis

This book addresses the role of religion in the massive political changes that took place in Eastern Europe in 1989. In particular, it examines the role played by the East German church in that country's bloodless revolution. Although some scholars and political commentators have noted that the East German church provided a free space in which dissident groups could meet, they have neither described nor assessed the theology that guided the church's political involvement. Drawing on his own research in East Germany and relying primarily on sources published in East Germany itself, John Burgess demonstrates the roots of the church's theology in Barth, Bonhoeffer, and in the Barmen declaration, which in 1934 pronounced Christianity and Nazi ideology to be incompatible. He explores how the dissident groups drew on church symbols and language to develop a popular alternative theology, and finally shows how the theological tension between the church and the dissidents provided impulses for political democratization.

Excerpt

By the mid-1980s, it was apparent that East German Marxist-Leninist thinkers saw religion as a problem that they could not easily explain away. Maintaining consistency with earlier Marxist-Leninist thinking, they asserted that religion was a distorted way of interpreting reality and that it would eventually disappear from socialist society. Yet they had reason to feel chastened. No longer could they foresee the quick eradication of religion; rather, it appeared that religion was surviving and even thriving in socialist soil.

In response, some of these thinkers developed new lines of thought, arguing that religion could play an integral role in the development of socialist society. Yet, in contrast to other parts of Eastern Europe, East Germany never developed a genuine Christian-Marxist dialogue. Political expediency, rather than genuine respect, seemed to lie behind the state's emphasis on negotiation with the church; if the church were not going to disappear anytime soon, the state was concerned to avoid a politics of confrontation.

This chapter explores the ambivalence that East German Marxist- Leninist thinkers evidenced in relation to the future of religion. An introductory section examines the legal status of religious communities in East Germany. Subsequent sections seek to answer three questions that dominated East German Marxist-Leninist thinking on religion: (1) Why does religion persist in a socialist society? (2) What does religion contribute to the heritage of a socialist society? and (3) What role does religion . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.