Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe

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

Drafting a Historical Geography
of East European Christianity

BRUCE R. BERGLUND

What distinguishes Christianity in Eastern Europe? In the meetings and conversations leading to these essays, contributors to this project have turned repeatedly to this question. Can we identify patterns of religiosity in the region that are distinct from those in Western Europe? How has Eastern Europe's differing pace of industrialization, urbanization, education, and consumption affected church institutions and religious life? And what of the churches' and individual Christians' relationships to nationalist movements, to authoritarian regimes, to groups engaged in ethnic violence and groups engaged in political resistance—have these important players in Eastern Europe's modern history been decisive in the experience and understanding of Christianity? Might we even ask, as did one participant in the project, whether the decades of communist rule—the key distinguishing factor between Europe East and West—were as significant to the region's religious history as is generally assumed? Perhaps we should look instead at developments across the postwar continent: the growth of the welfare state, the movement of women into the workplace, the expansion of education, the housing of families in high-density apartment blocks, and the saturating advance of popular culture. One might argue that these broader European trends, rather than the social and political features we typically associate with Eastern Europe, have been more significant in shaping Christian belief and practice in the region.

Of course, in asking what distinguishes the expression of Christianity in Eastern Europe, we also stir the question of what distinguishes “Eastern Europe.” Historians, political scientists, and geographers mark and label this region in various ways, defining it by lagging economic and demographic development, traditions of governance that

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