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After Liberation, Then What?

Enabling and Protecting Communities in Post-Authoritarian Contexts

After Liberation, Then What?
Enabling and Protecting Communities in Post-Authoritarian Contexts

Danut Manastireanu

© World Vision International 2012 ISBN 978-1-887983-70-9 Author: Danut Manastireanu All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any form, except for brief excerpts in reviews, without prior permission of the publisher. Published by Christian Commitments on behalf of World Vision International All Bible references from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For further information about this publication or World Vision International publications, or for additional copies of this publication, please contact Series editor: Tim Dearborn. Editor in Chief: Edna Valdez. Senior Editor: Rebecca Russell. Publishing Management: Katie Klopman, Ann Abraham. Copyediting: Abba Communications. Proofreading: Audrey Dorsch Cover Design and Interior Layout: World Vision Cover photo © World Vision/ Pitoyo Susanto

I am grateful that now his insights can be made available more broadly. insight and wisdom. the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Whether because of government policies. the justice and the opportunity for religious expression endorsed in these rights. social cohesion and spiritual vitality once the artificial dictates of the dictator were removed. deserves special attention. We work as an organisation for a world in which men. World Vision offices around the world have benefitted from his guidance and counsel as a theologian and strategist as they seek to do the same. unofficial practices.Foreword Shortly before World Vision was formed. women and children claim these rights where these rights are only partially permitted. we also live in an era of many chronic as well as emerging forms of authoritarianism. and has provided leadership for his society as it sought to re-establish a moral compass. i . Though we publish this book in the year of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. Danut Manastireanu is an insightful expert on this topic. the freedom from oppression. serve and advocate in both kinds of contexts. How we understand. in which some authoritarian regimes have crumbled. social and cultural prejudices or religious convictions – not everyone enjoys the equality. authoritarian as well as post-authoritarian. He has endured and learned through life under an authoritarian regime.

WVI Christian Commitments Ministry Strategy. all taste the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.1 Tim Dearborn Partnership Leader. 2009-2012 (2009).Where they are protected. They flourish in a world where the treasure of our hearts and the measure of our wealth is the happiness and well-being of all the world’s children. creation preserved and the most vulnerable live in security and confidence.I know this will contribute to World Vision’s envisioned future: We look forward to a world where every child experiences life in all its fullness. They become responsible citizens of well led nations. Christian Commitments World Vision International 1 World Vision International. Where families are valued. Where peace and justice reign and all have the opportunity to contribute. cared for and given the opportunities to become all God meant them to be. In such a world. They grow strong in communities free of need and full of promise. ii .

Many colleagues. ‘the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change. and the wisdom to know the difference’. World Vision is in a unique place to collect and circulate evidence of the potential for genuine well-being and realistic hope through transformational development of whole persons that includes. a series of personal crises put to the test my Marxist beliefs and I realised they did not hold up. including work in many authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts. when I was around 18 years old. along with the challenges these experiences pose for building healthy communities.Preface This publication was prompted by a desire to help readers in authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts to acknowledge the profound experiences they have lived through. I became attracted by Marxism. which seemed much more down-to-earth and socially engaged than what I had seen in church. the postcommunist euphoria and let-downs that followed. the courage to change the things we can. travel and direct interaction with people living in dictatorial or post-authoritarian contexts in more recent years. I grew up in church but became disenchanted because of what I perceived as an otherworldly perspective on life. As the author of this book. convinced me that numerous conclusions and principles extracted from that particular context can be applied effectively in many other countries and societies. As an idealist teenager. After a half-century of humanitarian work around the globe. iii . as the well-known prayer says. I was born in communist Romania and lived for 35 years under that regime. Yet. as well as years of study. I draw first on my own experience of living under the communist regime in Romania. inside and outside of these restricted contexts.

From being a Marxist. In fact. I went to the opposite extreme and became an anti-communist. as in those files they all have code names. I have never considered my experience under communism as a wasted time but as God’s providence for me. Yet only after the fall of communism. obviously. or at least some degree of it.This ideology pretended to have a solution for society but could not offer a solution to individual people that form society. I came to realise that my anti-communism was as poisonous as the communist ideology. whatever their ideological stance. My greatest surprise – something that in truth broke my heart – was to find a particular note amongst many signed by the pastor of my church. cultural. He gave meaning and purpose to my life. aware of it and I consciously assumed the risk. in 1989. when I got access to my surveillance files compiled by the secret police. I do not know yet the real names of those (friends. In it. after that turning point. This attracted the wrath of the regime and tight supervision from the secret police. no matter how harsh. normality. involved in dissident activities. church members. and incompatible with my commitment to minister to all people. particularly in defending the rights of Christians persecuted by the communist government. I turned to Christ and I was never sorry for my decision. At that point. I was. he suggested to the police that I might have a mental illness (like an aunt of mine who. largely with his cooperation. is possible under almost any circumstance. It all depends iv . I did not find many surprises but. I have dedicated to serving people from different social. did I become aware of the extent and full impact of their actions. with rare exceptions. through the influence of godly mentors and lots of reading. the man who baptised me. colleagues) who reported to the secret police about my life. ethnic and national backgrounds. In time. It is only by the grace of God that the secret police did not follow up on his suggestion and that I can now write this text for you. The rest of my life. was isolated for 10 years in a psychiatric prison and was never again a normal human being).

I had the privilege of sharing my understanding of this topic with community and faith leaders in various communist and post-communist countries in Asia. This painful yet strength-building experience under communism gave me a unique insight into the fabric of authoritarian systems. my Christian faith and the story of the people of God described in the Bible gave me an interpretive context for understanding principles that can allow people living under those regimes. will provide insights and perhaps be a blessing to you too. to make sense of their experiences and not merely survive. who reviewed the manuscript and made useful suggestions. At the urging of my World Vision colleagues.on the inner freedom that one has. as the Bible says. is that what I have learned through those experiences. as I share these thoughts with you. or in the period immediately after. Her editorial suggestions made this a much better text than it would have been otherwise. I continued leading such seminars in my own region. and also in places throughout Western Europe. My hope and prayer. Furthermore. My sincere desire is not to impose on others my own conclusions but to stimulate a conversation that eventually leads to better development practices in totalitarian and posttotalitarian contexts. we can smile even when. in more than 20 countries. Yet all the shortcomings that remain are mine entirely. a deep personal faith and a feeling of personal destiny. I owe special debt to a number of friends. When we draw from these sources. I am particularly grateful to Rebecca Russell. v . I am aware that not everybody will agree with my perspectives – in parts or perhaps as a whole. which comes from. particularly to David Fitzstevens and Chawkat Moucarry. in spite of those circumstances. Africa and Latin America. Eastern Europe. we go through ‘the valley of the shadow of death’. both from living under communism and from sharing the lives of those living under authoritarianism or in post-authoritarian contexts. but thrive. amongst other sources.

as they follow in the footsteps of Christ. in writing this continues to be the World Vision staff working at the grass roots. My hope is that as they can better assess the contexts in which they work. difficult and often insecure authoritarian and postauthoritarian environments. amongst readers. in area development programmes taking place in risky. they will be more effective and compassionate in rebuilding the shattered communities in which they are called to serve.My special consideration. Danut M anastireanu vi .

Contents IntroductIon The legacy of communism: ambivalence and reality 11 1 A HArsH oppressIon Life under Communism The quasi-religious character of authoritarian ideologies Ideological propaganda as brainwashing private property as a key point of resistance 19 22 31 37 39 40 45 48 55 59 67 69 70 2 dIvIde And conquer Authoritarianism and Religious Faith The role of the secret police and security forces state and church in oppressive contexts persecution of the people of faith God’s providence in suffering A biblical theology of cultural engagement 3 Let My peopLe Go! How to Prepare for Freedom Inner freedom and external freedom Between dictatorship and democracy .

4 Forty yeArs In tHe desert? Post-Authoritarian Times The legacy of the past The post-authoritarian mindset pathologies of transition 77 79 85 93 Freedom without limits or responsibility? The price of freedom christian social responsibility A hristian critique of capitalism 96 100 104 109 111 concLusIon .

‘Elusive Justice for the Victims of the Khmer Rouge’. Marks.3 Yet unequivocal statements about the evil nature of communism are rare in political and academic circles today. ed. We may fairly ask what reason there is for this striking anomaly. wor ld v ision • 11 • introduction . Enigma Books.9 million’. See Stephen Koch. 52.7 million deaths out of a population of 7. The Black Book of Communism. may be that many academic circles in the West. from the millions killed by Stalin. Vol. Journal of International Affairs. Harvard University Press. it is evidence of surprisingly lasting results of the effective propaganda campaign launched and sustained in the West by communist regimes and sympathisers.4 A second reason. In the first place. through the numerous victims of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.Introduction tHe LeGAcy oF coMMunIsM: AMBIvALence And reALIty The destructive nature of communism is today a proven fact of history. continue to be dominated by people who are still impressed with what they naïvely suppose to be the noble ideals of 2 3 4 Mark Kramer. 1999. Former communist countries have never gone through a process of de-communisation comparable to the de-nazification programme carried out in Germany. Stephen P. the year of the Russian Revolution. to the ‘crimes committed by the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea during its reign of terror from 1975 to 1979 [which] resulted in 1. 1999. 2004. Double Lives: Stalin.. The Black Book of Communism2 records about 100 million victims of Marxism as a state ideology since 1917. Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. as important as the first. especially in the humanities.

spiritual and material inputs that lead to holistic well-being. a group or a political party has absolute control over all aspects of life. some merely deprived of the long-term intellectual. some brainwashed. A third reason is that former communist and secret police leaders still control. emotional. some to a greater degree than others. in many post-communist countries. the individual is totally subordinated to the state and any opposing political and cultural expressions are suppressed. the economic and political life. MArxIsM – A deHuMAnIsInG totALItArIAn IdeoLoGy This phenomenon of communism’s legacy – the discord amongst documented historical reality. Rarely have these academics lived and suffered under oppressive dictatorial regimes. because many people were not prepared for life in post-communist neo-democratic or neo-capitalist contexts. exercised by a person. 5 Totalitarianism: a political system in which authority. wor ld v ision • 12 • a fter liber ation. people living in such contexts. and irrational academic idealism – calls for a much firmer confrontation and much more thorough research and documentation that Marxism was not a utopian theory but rather a dehumanising totalitarian ideology. No one was spared. nostalgia for controlled societies in the face of post-authoritarian instability.Marxism. Since the fall of communism in many countries. People who have lived in communist countries were thoroughly affected by this ideology. directly or indirectly. also the media. then w h at? . those who have been disenfranchised may also experience nostalgia for economic and social benefits now lost. The result is that we became distorted human beings.5 This is probably the only way to avoid the tragedy of such regimes gaining power in the future. many of us who lived under communism have found ourselves utterly incapable of functioning normally in the new world being built before our eyes. and more importantly. and changes in countries still governed by communist ideology. Finally. Westerners working now in post-authoritarian countries also need to understand why we.

across many cultures on all continents. Westerners living in authoritarian and post-authoritarian countries will come to understand how much their own ways of thinking and acting have been affected by capitalism and by the ambivalent values of their free-market contexts. Starting from the context of communist ideology. lessons drawn from this analysis may be adapted or extended to other authoritarian ideologies. worldviews and cultures. with you or with each other. with the purpose of engaging dialogue amongst peoples of differing faiths. What is the essence of totalitarian ideologies. we also have the secret hope that. and to military dictatorships. at all times. Humility and respect is. three fundamental questions will be considered: 1. in the process of reading what follows. to authoritarian religious regimes.think and behave as we do. throughout this text you will find the heading ‘For reflection’ before questions we hope you will consider and perhaps thoughtfully debate or weigh with colleagues and community leaders and members – who may at times disagree with the text. This is true not only regarding post-communist settings but applies also to neo-Marxist governments. Such dialogue may also be useful in countries still under a communist or authoritarian regime. as appropriate and as common sense dictates. In addition to these aims. and how has this ideology engaged with Christianity as a faith and world view? To the extent that context allows such analogies. some of the insights herein will make it easier for Westerners to work alongside us and avoid looking down on us. our aim. Hopefully. wor ld v ision • 13 • introduction . In this spirit of dialogue. especially as represented in Marxism’s multifaceted manifestations. WHIcH WAy to tHe proMIsed LAnd? This document is unapologetically written from a fully assumed Christian worldview. and moving then to consider other authoritarian settings.

how can communities and individuals who are still living under an oppressive regime prepare for the coming of freedom. Fushe Kosove) in 1389. To illustrate how this text and these questions might apply in a context affected by both Islam and communism. officially condemned at the Orthodox Council of Constantinople of 1872 as a negation of the wor ld v ision • 14 • a fter liber ation. where the Serbian army lost to the Ottomans.2. The following brief observations are based on intense discussions with Kosovar leaders during various visits there. Serbia derives its national and religious pride from the battle of Kosova Polje (in Albanian. and if you are not Orthodox. Serbs tend to define their religious identity in nationalistic terms (‘to be a Serb is to be Orthodox. and how can Christian faith contribute to individual and community well-being in this complex reality? This text is addressed primarily to Christians but in hope that it may also be found helpful by people having different world views. It is par excellence the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy. consider Kosova. In addition. Yet Serbians still consider this province the cradle of their religious and national identity. whether sooner or later. What are characteristics of ‘the post-authoritarian mindset’. in spite of the fact that one can find in Kosova almost 200 Serbian Orthodox places of worship (churches and monasteries. much like Jerusalem. the Ottoman influence increased. to their country? 3. This is not intended as an academic paper but rather as a means of providing practical help to those living and working in authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts. Following this event. then w h at? . many of them destroyed during the bloody conflict in 1999). tHen WHAt?: KosovA Kosova is an area with a special religious significance. At present the region is inhabited by a majority Albanian Muslim population. From a Christian perspective. you cannot truly be a Serb’). This is an expression of the Christian heresy of phyletism (the blending of ethnic and religious identities). AFter LIBerAtIon.

Although the communist regime of Yugoslavia. produced somewhat artificially by bringing together a number of different nationalities under one Serbian wor ld v ision • 15 • introduction . Protestant or Muslim – who were considered to be too active in their respective communities. For this he was accused of deviationism and isolated by the Soviet leaders. of which Kosova was a province until 1999. which greatly benefitted the relatively weak Yugoslav economy. Prosperity. We may argue that at that time Yugoslavia was one of the most secularised of the Eastern European countries. which led to a higher standard of living than could be found in any other communist country at that time. Tito. Albania. Romania or China. Although we cannot compare communist repression of religion in Yugoslavia to that which took place in the Soviet Union. the secret police played a central role in controlling and limiting religious activities. the Yugoslav regime was wary of the role of religion as ‘the opium of the people’ and kept a close eye on religious leaders – Orthodox. Yugoslavia was a strange national construct. As in the rest of the communist world. threatened or subjected to house searches and sometimes arrested. Thus Yugoslavia was allowed to develop a milder version of socialism. People had relative freedom to travel and even to work in the West. Because of international pressure. Despite this relative liberalism. Catholic. Yugoslavia allowed much more private ownership not only of land but also of other ‘means of production’ such as small-scale businesses. however. the communist dictator of Yugoslavia. did not stimulate much interest in spirituality. These historical facts explain at least to a certain extent why the Serbs are so emotionally attached to Kosova. but possibly also because of secret agreements signed in Yalta between Roosevelt. As a result. soon distanced himself from Moscow and instituted a modified version of socialism. nevertheless active religious leaders were often kept under close observation. in spite of the prestige and informal authority enjoyed by the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church amongst the peoples of Yugoslavia. Churchill and Stalin (the three global leaders of the anti-Nazi coalition). the communist leaders of the Soviet Union did not dare to intervene against Belgrade as they were to do in Hungary in 1956. as is often the case. was constructed in typical Stalinist fashion after World War II just as in the other newly communist countries of Eastern Europe.catholicity of the church. similar to the mixed economic system later implemented by China and Vietnam after 1989 in their efforts to avoid the economic collapse that had led to the demise of communism in Eastern Europe.

It would be fair to say that the Yugoslav people in general and Kosovars in particular adhered quite strongly to the secular dream of communism. following the collapse of the AustroHungarian Empire. Many religious leaders there had no moral authority. Kosova was also relatively neglected in the economic development plans of the communist regime and. the world witnessed the rapid nationalistic fragmentation of communist Yugoslavia and the violent end of this artificial inter-ethnic unity. We may argue that the Kosova uprising was not really an anti-communist movement. the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) used for some time many communist symbols in its materiel and propaganda. wor ld v ision • 16 • a fter liber ation. When conflict erupted in Kosova. Tito’s vision was to transform the Yugoslav Federation into a sort of ‘melting pot’. much like the United States. It abandoned these only years later on the advice of the American special envoy Richard Holbrook. probably more so than the rest of the country. as people knew they merely followed orders received from the communist authorities. Kosova was a special case within Yugoslavia. At the same time Kosova was very secular. given its religious heritage for the Serbian Orthodox and its present Albanian Muslim majority. however. almost a decade after the fall of communism in Yugoslavia. in spite of the fact that in 1989 in Prishtina was formed a new anti-communist political party (LDK) and that more than 120. then w h at? . communist anti-religious propaganda played a significant role here. Undoubtedly. after his death. He did not allow free-market mechanisms and the interplay of democratic forces to bring about this effect but instead employed repressive totalitarian institutions and communist propaganda to enforce his ideal. As we have explained above. Because of these factors. Many saw in this a fulfilment of the centuries-old dream of a ‘Greater Serbia’. Tito believed that socialism would cause nations to sooner or later disappear. As a true communist. Religious life was centred inside Orthodox monasteries. history proved that Tito was completely mistaken as. whilst both mosques and churches were mostly empty during religious services.monarch at the end of World War I. became one of the poorest regions of the former Yugoslavia. as a result. After the fall of the monarchy and creation of a communist state with massive Soviet involvement. Unfortunately for him.000 Kosovar Albanian communists publicly declared that they were in favour of democracy and against communism.

or generation to generation. some of them believed. however. had betrayed true communism. health insurance. WIsdoM FroM tHe AGes: Get reAdy For tHe desert Wisdom teaches that we do not need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ from nation to nation. the story of the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt culminates in their liberation from slavery. Yet their long-awaited liberation does not lead directly to the Promised Land. particularly Islam but also Christianity in its various forms. In the Old Testament. but rather to their wandering for 40 years in the desert. most of all. as a source of hope. poverty and the identity crisis the people are experiencing are driving Kosovars towards religion. but that we can learn from the experience of people in the past dealing with similar contexts. Kosovars were in fact protesting against Milosevic. hope. under Moses – the Exodus. As was the case in all other formerly communist East European countries. pensions and so on. Kosovars too had lost many benefits when communism fell: job security. Today. This narrative provides perspective. who. and the often frustrating or discouraging wanderings that have ensued. wor ld v ision • 17 • introduction . and also opens up imaginative ways of thinking that go beyond the limits of merely logical or analytical discourse. significance and.On the contrary: besides pursuing nationalistic ends. to this complex subject of sudden liberation from authoritarian regimes. free education.

In the light of this reality. when King Tiridates the Great (286–330) was converted after a healing through the prayers of St. communism claimed the lives of millions and millions of victims all over the world. After two apostles of Jesus. more than two decades after the demise of the system in the Soviet Union following its collapse in most communist countries in 1989. Armenia has been at the traumatic crossroads of various empires and religions. Thaddaeus and Bartholomew. experiencing numerous forms of imposed authoritarianism. Now. Gregory the Illuminator. it is important to understand the essence of authoritarian ideologies such as communism and how nations and peoples of the world can protect themselves from its insidious influence. wor ld v ision • 19 • a h a rsh oppr ession 1 . brought Christianity in the first century ad. the death count is still rising as a small number of countries continue along the bloody Marxist path. Armenia was the first nation in the world to accept Christianity as its official religion. in 301. In the more than 70 years following its achievement of state power. In its long and troubled history. the oldest Christian nation. According to tradition. Armenia. the tribes of Armenia united as a nation around 2500 bc. is an interesting and complex example of how oppression under Marxism can be compared and differentiated alongside other forms of authoritarian suffering.A Harsh Oppression LIFe under coMMunIsM The Russian Bolshevik Revolution in the year 1917 marked the beginning of one of the darkest chapters in the history of humanity. all with devastating consequences for millions.

War with Azerbaijan reflects the current insecurity of its geography as a Christian nation surrounded mostly by Muslim neighbours. • The enemy uses the pressure of hard work to instil a survival mentality. a Persian king tried to impose Zoroastrian faith on Armenians. or other interference in family life as a means to keep God’s people under control (Exod. 1:15–17). 1:20–21). although it may appear that God does not care. and nostalgia for the past. 1:10). In more recent memory. to crush hope and to distract the attention of the oppressed from long-term preparation for a return to freedom (Exod. Since the fall of communism. in reality he is very active in hidden ways on behalf of his people (Exod.By the fifth century. wor ld v ision • 20 • a fter liber ation. spurred on by the growing literacy. 1:11–14). suffered massive emigration (almost 2 million working abroad). who rebelled in traditional and guerrilla attacks until the Treaty of Nvarsak (484) allowed Armenians to freely practise their Christian faith. Armenians have lost 90 per cent of their industry. Greater Armenia has suffered both under the Ottoman Turks – the genocide of 1915 being particularly traumatic – and as a Soviet satellite republic under communism. then w h at? . • The oppressor may use birth control measures (infanticide). and continue to cope with unfulfilled hopes. FroM BondAGe Into tHe desert The Old Testament narrative of the Israelites suffering as slaves in Egypt in the time of Moses provides a metaphor for understanding the essence of life under authoritarian regimes. Here are a few observations about this story that can also illuminate understanding of life under oppression: • The growth of the people of God attracts the enmity of its enemies (Exod. rape or sexual subjugation. • When God’s people are oppressed. the invention of the Armenian alphabet enabled translation of the Bible into Armenian and an era of great cultural and religious vitality was created. disappointment with freedom. Around 450.

1:20). 2:1–10). • God has a sense of humour with solutions that are sometimes ironic (Moses. • God’s best instruments are not necessarily those who are quick to react (as Moses was when he killed the Egyptian) but are often reluctant servants more inclined to depend on God than on their own power (Exod. 2:13–14). the liberator of the Israelite slaves. 2:11–12).• Oppression calls people not to rebel against God but to pray. 1:17. 2:10. 3:11. because God hears the cry of his oppressed people (Exod. • God’s people are called to use creativity to overcome oppression (Exod. grows up at the court of the oppressor. Acts 7:20–23). • Civil disobedience is a legitimate choice when civil law contradicts God’s law (Ex. 1–4)? wor ld v ision • 21 • a h a rsh oppr ession . For r eFLectIon What other observations and comments would you contribute regarding these biblical passages (Exodus chs. • God rewards those who choose to obey God rather than people (Ex. 2:2). • Those who have the courage to oppose oppressors have to accept the risk of having their hearts broken because of rejection from their own people. • Human creativity and God’s providence co-labour and cooperate in providing a solution for the salvation of the people of God. • Some members of the people of God may be tempted to use violence in opposing those who oppress them (Exod. 2:23–25). Pharaoh) (Exod. who may think that certain actions only serve to increase the oppression (Exod. 4:10).

In this sense we may very well say that Marxism is a kind of ‘religion of revolution’. Ludwig Feuerbach. Karl Marx. in different 6 7 Quoted in Friedrich Engels. alienated from yourself’. It has • its own dogma (e.g. two things alone really interest the non-European worlds: Christianity and communism. receiving the red scarf of a Pioneer) • its own hymns (e.g. you must first destroy the environment which makes you a divided being. the Internationale) • its own martyrs (e.g. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya) • its own cult of saints (e. Ché Guevara) • its own ‘prophets’ (e.g.6 Marx himself wrote to his devotees in obviously religious terms.g. the class struggle) • its own heretics (e. Both of these. Trotsky) • its own initiation rites (e. the German philosopher who. wrote in 1842: ‘We must become religious once again. One author makes an interesting observation that ‘of all our modern European spiritualities.7 Marxism displays a number of clearly ‘religious’ characteristics. was the most significant influence on Marx’s thought. Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.The quasi-religious character of authoritarian ideologies MArxIsM As secuLAr reLIGIon Feuerbach.g. Engels and Lenin). to be born again in harmony. The quasi-religious character of Marxism penetrates the consciousness of the masses through a whole set of symbols. together with Hegel.g. wor ld v ision • 22 • a fter liber ation. Uncle Ho) • even its own ‘trinity’ (Marx. then w h at? . Politics must become our religion’. 1888. initiation rites and the like. borrowed from the Judeo-Christian tradition: ‘If you want to become one and whole.

Studies in Religious Symbolism (New York: Sheed and Ward. In Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. 16:18). That this is globally true of authoritarian despots – who want to play god in the lives of other people – rather than merely a culturally isolated consequence of European communist secularism. no matter how underground its adherents were forced during communism. African and Latin American nations where communism and other ‘isms’ continue to suppress free religious expression. 1843. is thriving) in all former communist countries.8 MArxIst opposItIon to reLIGIon Marx wrote: ‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature. they have never been successful in their efforts. just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. it perceives Christianity (or any other religion for that matter) as a serious competitor for the souls of people and tries to annihilate it by force. 8 9 Mircea Eliade. the heart of a heartless world. Jesus Christ himself promised: ‘I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it’ (Matt. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions’ (emphasis added). The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. Images and Symbols. can be seen in Asian. In spite of the fierce and violent opposition of all communist regimes to religious communities. 1969) 11. Since communism is quasireligious at its roots. It is the opium of the people. and for the church as a whole.ways and upon clearly opposed grounds. though not in all. are soteriologies – doctrines of salvation – and therefore deal in ‘symbols’ and ‘myths’ upon a scale without parallel except among nonEuropean humanity’. despite economic loosening. in countries that are still under communist control. The fact is that the church survives (and in some cases.9 We should not be surprised at the violently anti-religious attitude of communist regimes. There is indeed reason for hope for communities of faith. wor ld v ision • 23 • a h a rsh oppr ession .

Christianity and Marxism agree on this point. meaning ‘human being’).MArxIst AntHropoLoGy deFInItIon – Anthropology is the study of humanity (from the Greek word anthropos. have conceived of a God ‘according to the image of man’ who they suppose can save them. so that the working class can be truly saved – that is. Human beings (particularly the working class) are viewed as basically innocent (in the tradition of J. Yet the solutions these world views propose are diametrically opposed and totally incompatible. based on private property and controlled by those who own the ‘means of production’. the working class. Why is there a need for a ‘new’ man? Obviously. encouraged by their exploiters. must be uprooted by all means.J. religion is nothing but a weak ‘means of escape’ for people exploited by ruthless capitalists. According to Marxism. religion becomes a means of undermining the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat. this is because the ‘old’ man is not good enough. Marxism avoids talking about personal sin and prefers to use the term alienation. certain leaders wor ld v ision • 24 • a fter liber ation. Rousseau). instead of rising up against those who exploit them. not in this life but rather in the world to come. From this perspective. Evil as a social reality appeared on this earth when. can overcome its alienation. and as such. seen as a social concept – human beings are seen as victims of an unjust economic system. This ‘new man’ is in fact nothing other than re-elaboration in secular and ‘scientific’ terms of a similar Christian project for the transfiguration of the human being. This is why. Thus. Marxist anthropology involves a complete reversal of the Christian view of the human condition. Marxist understanding of what it is to be human can be summarised as the ‘Myth of the new Man’ – a transformed human being who functions according to principles established by the Marxist ‘religion’ in order to create a new type of society. then w h at? . at a particular moment in time during the ‘primitive commune’.

associated in his youth with the socialist utopian Saint-Simon.10 His seminal work was significantly titled A System of Positive Politics or A Textbook of Sociology that Institutes the Religion of Humanity. as a general rule. many contemporary theories of change and development share with Marxism the same overly optimistic and unrealistic hope. According to Marxism. and the relationships between them. groups and institutions. wor ld v ision • 25 • a h a rsh oppr ession . which insists that a better society is the almost automatic consequence of organising society in a scientific manner. the evil present in society through the allegedly destructive mechanism of private property must be removed through the violent means of revolution. and also of science – as opposed to and excluding any religious explanation (also called scientism) – to the status of the new ‘religion’ of this social model. this radical change in the social and economic structure of society will create the conditions for formation of the ‘new man’. MArxIst socIoLoGy Auguste Comte (1798–1857).decided to grab for themselves what had until then been the common property of the group or tribe. Consequently. Marxist sociology promotes the ‘Myth of the scientific transformation of the World’. which Marxism borrows from the Enlightenment – the idea that the new is always better than the old and that things in the world are. was the father of sociology. Strangely. To the above. Another related idea that is very dear to Marxists is the ‘Myth of the (darwinian) evolution of society’ – the rather unscientific extension of principles of biological 10 Sociology is the study of individuals. we may also add the ‘Myth of progress’. He proposes a religion without God in which humanity takes the place of its Creator. As a consequence. This exercise in social transformation elevated an ideological understanding of reason as a sufficient and exhaustive explanation of reality (also called rationalism). Marxism took over the project formulated by Comte and gave it a new impetus by making it an instrument of social engineering. which make up human society. getting progressively better.

The central concept of Marxist sociology is that of social classes. This leads to class struggle. people were often arrested abruptly. coMMunIsM As A reLIGIon oF HAte Based upon history and primary-source documentation of Marxist ideology. et al) are deprived of these means of production.evolution to sociology and political philosophy. allegedly there is always an ascending trend in the history of the universe. control the means of production. and to humanity in particular. the two others asked him: ‘Why are you in prison?’ He said: ‘I was that general secretary’. with casualties in absolutely every country where communism became established. The story goes that one day three men found themselves in the same cell. According to communist ideology. these are defined primarily in relationship to property. then w h at? . while other classes (the working class. through which the working class aims to gain control of the means of production. This is the primary justification for the millions upon millions of victims of communism all over the world. The question ‘Why are you in prison?’ naturally came up. no matter how violent or deceitful. According to these principles. In formulating this social model. on the slightest suspicion. The second said: ‘I spoke in favour of the general secretary’ (in the meantime that particular general secretary had been disgraced). the proletariat. Marxism aims to the legitimate use of any means. The first man said: ‘I spoke against the general secretary of the Communist Party’. wor ld v ision • 26 • a fter liber ation. for the establishment of the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat. as if an irresistible drive towards violence and hate At the beginning of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. without any exception. communism as well as other ideologies including capitalist or socialist materialism tend to apply these myths to life in general. it is clear communism is not a culture of life and love but an expression of vehement revolutionary hatred. Thus some classes (‘exploiters’). Despite entropy and the second law of thermodynamics (not to mention documented tendencies in genetics as well as behavioural studies). Since the third man remained silent.

the violent reversal of the existing social order – a change from outside supposedly to the inside and from the top down. We have never seen a group of virulent anti-communists who managed to stay together for long. with original reference to the French Revolution of 1789. For r eFLectIon Do you think it is legitimate for a Christian to be an anti-communist? coMMunIsM As soterIoLoGy Marxism has a fundamentally soteriological character.11 It proposes a ‘way of salvation’ from humanity’s distorted condition. The same standards of evaluation should also hold true in considering anti-communism. but from this point. multiplying contagion until its oppression becomes a plague which people will do nearly anything to escape. presupposes that. the two world views diverge both in defining the problem (as noted above) and even more so in terms of the proposed solution. According to our observation. in spite of the whole Marxist mythology of progress and evolution. something is wrong with humanity and the world. From 11 Soteriology is a doctrine or teaching about salvation (from the Gk. that ‘the revolution devours its own children’ is also true of communism and of every revolution that has given way to authoritarian regimes. a similar inclination towards hatred and violent divisions that affects communists likewise destroys those who hate communists and communism. A saying. the cure for human alienation is revolution. they also tend to devour one another. word soteria – salvation). wor ld v ision • 27 • a h a rsh oppr ession .controls the hearts of people who hold communist beliefs. For Marxists. This search for salvation. Christianity agrees with Marxism on this matter. which forms the basis of any soteriological system.

MArxIst escHAtoLoGy Marxist eschatology12 promotes a sort of ‘atheistic millennialism’ – a promise to establish heaven on earth through human means. then w h at? . together with the whole Christian community. the new ‘enlightened’ man can participate in the creative transformation of the world and society. with no reference to God. capitalism 5. by a predictable chain of cause and effect. wor ld v ision • 28 • a fter liber ation. to work out the implications of faith in every realm of life and society. in a supposedly scientific manner.a Christian perspective. primitive commune 2. according to which the historical destiny of humanity is controlled. Marxist ideology encompasses the ‘Myth of determinism’. through which the believer is incorporated into the church (the ‘body of Christ’). communism is incompatible with Christianity because of its atheistic basis. slavery 3. accepted personally by faith. Thus. communism 12 Eschatology is the doctrine or understanding of the future and particularly of the end of history (from the Gk. by knowing this historical mechanism. feudalism 4. It is also a philosophy based exclusively on human effort. socialism 6. In terms of its understanding of salvation. his mediatory death and resurrection. while from a Christian perspective salvation is based on God’s grace in Christ. Following this radical personal decision (called conversion). word eschata – ‘the last things’). the new Christian is called. which human beings can either reject (and be separated from God) or receive by faith (and enjoy an ever-growing relationship with the God of the universe forward into eternity). the solution for the sinful human condition is Christ. Human society is believed to be developing ineluctably through the following stages: 1.

Marxists’ hopes proved utterly wrong in at least three essential areas of their doctrine. and its doctrines deliberately set out to replace Christianity in the minds and hearts of people. is for Marxists what paradise is for Christians. following 1989). leading to bloody conflicts and to tensions still unresolved today. Far from disappearing. increasingly incorporating capitalist approaches to economic growth (as in China. Unfortunately for Marxists. regarding • Capitalism . after the fall of most communist systems in Eastern Europe and Asia. which explains their resilience. There are no exceptions. Societies still ruled by communism have likewise adapted in ways inconceivable to Marx.Communism. the strongest and most effective economic system available globally. erupted after 1989 – like in former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. in spite of obvious weaknesses. thus becoming. which had been suppressed in former communist countries. yet in fact capitalism adapted and began incorporating some social concerns. thus preparing the ground for a millennial age of happiness and prosperity. Vietnam and Cuba. • Nations . wor ld v ision • 29 • a h a rsh oppr ession . any vestiges of capitalism – the bourgeois state and its institutions. yet the 20th century proved to be the age of the nations. the capitalist economic system and the old mentalities on which these were based – and to replace these with new structures and mentalities. amongst others. through the dictatorship of the proletariat. these expectations were never accomplished in any societies where they were tried out. This supreme culmination of history was to be preceded by a transitional period. Achievement of communism represents a sort of ‘surrogate heaven’. supposedly the most advanced stage in the development of human society.Marxist ideology predicted that the institution of the nation-state would be weakened and eventually disappear.Marx expected capitalism to disappear under the offensive of communism. whose role was to destroy. called socialism. fierce nationalistic passions.

this is simply wishful thinking. the young Christian leaders there see a need to learn from the experiences of the church after the collapse of Soviet wor ld v ision • 30 • a fter liber ation. Resurgence of religion almost everywhere in the world. These modern Marxists also believe that they will be the ones who will do the job thoroughly and will eventually succeed. During its communist years (1975–1979). not the norm) proves this prediction wrong thus far. the church was itself unprepared to live and witness for Christ in a capitalist free-market system. When those who still hold Marxist convictions are asked today how they explain this. and in fact many former communist countries have reverted to a capitalist system. then w h at? . the standard answer is that Marxist ideas were never applied as they should have been. Marxism predicted that under the influence of secularism. Cambodia suffered horrific violence under the Pol Pot regime. defying Marxist historical assumptions. including the former communist bloc (Western Europe being the exception. and quite important for anyone who works with communities in communist and post-communist contexts. and the sudden change found most dissidents and communities completely unprepared for freedom. This is why many dissidents and many Christians in the former communist countries could hardly imagine (let alone expect) that communist regimes would ever fall. self-delusion. being replaced by a commitment to science.• Religion . More importantly. Today. Interestingly. and the church there was almost completely wiped out. Therefore they too were taken by surprise when the system collapsed.As already noted. Communism’s ‘eschatological hope’ failed to be actualised. even if they are oppressive. religion would steadily decline and finally disappear. or worse. In the light of the facts and historical documentation we have. the historical scheme outlined above was so effectively ingrained in the psyches of people who lived under communist regimes that today even many Christians living in post-communist countries still continue to hold to some of these assumptions.

communism. totalitarianism. This is why so many people in a society often seem to ‘think alike’. and a critical need for investing in children and youth as the future of the church in that country. Political ideologies are concerned with how to allocate power and to what ends power should be used. For r eFLectIon What are some important arguments for or against the case for the quasi-religious nature of authoritarian ideologies? Ideological propaganda as brainwashing AutHorItArIAn poLItIcAL tHeory As IdeoLoGy deFInItIon – Political ideology is a set of ideas and principles which explain how society should work (e. wor ld v ision • 31 • a h a rsh oppr ession . Every ideology tries to be holistic. imperialism. Political ideologies offer a comprehensive vision of life and a plan for creating a particular social order. Ideology also involves a certain ethical dimension. On the surface. theocracy. anarchy. at least in the eyes of adherents. for being protected from the dangers of wild capitalism as well as financial dependence on the West. giving direction to the thinking and action of a group or a nation. a basis that usually remains invisible to most people within the society.g. There is a need for reconciliation and healing of memory. while those ideas that differ from the norm are seen as negative or antagonistic.). to account for the whole of life. communism. and if possible to change it for what is assumed to be better or more desirable. liberalism. fascism. social democracy. Every society has an ideology that forms the basis of its ‘public opinion’ or common sense. etc. this dominant ideology appears as ‘neutral’.

1845. Marx proposed a base/superstructure model of society. to impose their ideology with the alleged objective of making the working class the main beneficiary of this social arrangement. however. Nietzsche named the will to power as the drive controlling every human being on this earth. a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society. will be determined according to what is in the interests of the ruling class. the important thing. argued that everything in the human being is controlled by sexual drive. According to Marxist theory. it is the ruling class that controls the means of production. the superstructure of society. communism. These three are Marx. and not surprisingly all three authors saw Christianity as the archenemy to be removed at all costs in order for human beings to be free to become what they thought we should become. ideology is an instrument of social reproduction. Such an arrangement was unacceptable to communists and they called on the working class to reverse this through revolution. which determines the superstructure. The superstructure rises from the base and comprises that society’s ideology as well as its legal. Each of their thought systems bear quasireligious connotations as well as totalitarian claims. the father of psychoanalysis. which includes its ideology. The base. 13 In Theses on Feuerbach (thesis XI). according to Marxism. was one of the most influential and well-defined political ideologies of the 20th century. political and religious institutions. Freud. refers to the means of production in society. then w h at? .13 Starting from this premise. tHe centrAL roLe oF tHe econoMIc In MArxIst (And cApItALIst) IdeoLoGy Three secular ‘prophets’ of modernity have shaped contemporary understanding of our world. This is why communists sought to obtain political power. Marx underlined the force of the economic drive in people. is to change it’. based on the original formulations of Marx and Engels and later developed by Lenin. wor ld v ision • 32 • a fter liber ation. ‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways.Marx once said. in order to control it for the benefit of those who rule. Since. Freud and Nietzsche.

This helps us understand why the contemporary church is regularly rocked by scandals related to financial corruption. Sex and Power. HarperCollins: San Francisco. wor ld v ision • 33 • a h a rsh oppr ession . Richard Foster has written a book called Money. Christianity teaches that God put those drives in humankind and meant them for good. 1985. then it follows in Marxism that private property in general is illegitimate. to their peril. the importance of the human economic drive. Communism argues that private property is inherently illegitimate. including land. deFInItIon – Private property is the right to use. Sex and Power. or almost all. private property should be abolished. even if sinful human nature has distorted them. Yet how is it that we do not listen to biblical warnings related to them? The minds of many Christians are dominated by a dualist. and that therefore all. Marxist ideology argues that only collective ownership assures minimisation of unequal or unjust outcomes and maximisation of benefits. sexual immorality and abuse of power. enjoy or possess a certain thing. play a central role in Marxist understanding of the world. Marx’s argument is centred mainly on the fact that creation of private property is evil because it involves private ownership of natural resources.14 in which he states that many Christians often neglect. and the right to exclude others from doing the same. Money.Marx subordinates everything in his philosophy to the force of the economic drive in human beings. which should belong to everybody. Platonist outlook on life. of which they are likely to be 14 Richard Foster. The same holds true for the importance of the human sexual drive and of the will to power. Economics in general and the supposedly destructive effects of private property in particular. due to the fact that ownership of particular pieces of property may earlier have been instituted by force). If private ownership of land is illegitimate (for example.

is secondary and consequently should not occupy much of our attention. Platonism (formulated by the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Plato and developed by neo-Platonists during the Christian era) divides life into two realms. to propagate their ideas. then w h at? . etc. the sphere of material things (work. This is even more so in the case of totalitarian political systems. fasting. includes all religious practices (for example. Contrary to the biblical world view. communist parties are especially concerned to promote Marxist ideology amongst the masses. through regimentation in various structures such as children wor ld v ision • 34 • a fter liber ation. communist regimes historically immediately undertake measures aimed at systematic mass re-education. including symbols. prayer. various authoritarian governments have employed the most diverse means: • systematisation of the entire society. politics. Thus. Because people in newly communist countries always bring with them mentalities developed under the previous system. through varied and effective means. in the West as in the East. while the lower realm.).). To achieve this. that of the spirit. amongst Christians. etc. music and rituals. sexuality. For r eFLectIon Do you agree with this analysis? Why or why not? To what extent do you think that this view dominates the thinking and practice of Christianity and other world views in your country? What can Christians do to protect churches and the communities they serve from such distortions? IdeoLoGIcAL MAss propAGAndA All political organisations and governments try to influence society by disseminating their ideologies.completely unaware. As we have already suggested. and is considered the more important. which upholds the sanctity of the whole of life. Bible reading. This utterly unbiblical but very popular view is the root of most distortions of the Christian faith. The higher realm. totalitarian regimes frequently make use of quasi-religious means.

political parties (usually only one) etc. not just communism and not only authoritarian regimes. educational. work and political institutions • permanent media pressure. trade unions. but no one was immune. We acknowledge that many political and social systems. leaving very little space for private life • ideological distortion of language for propaganda reasons (use of so-called ‘wooden language’) • frequent and extraordinary applications of criticism and self-criticism within these various structures • use of military service as an effective means of inculcating blind obedience to the dominant ideology • near-complete transparency of private life. employ these tactics. Some people were more influenced than others by this propaganda system.and youth organisations. wor ld v ision • 35 • a h a rsh oppr ession . conceived as an effective means of brainwashing.. particularly family life. with family members often encouraged to spy on each other • subordination of the educational system to requirements of re-education aimed at formation of the ‘new man’ • use of all forms of art as means of propaganda • use of sporting events and performances to promote aims of the regime • manipulation of science in the hope of proving the superiority of the dominant system • use of natural patriotic feelings as a means of manipulation of citizens into blind obedience to the totalitarian state • regular study of ideological propaganda materials in all military.

This non-functional myth is one of the main reasons for the crumbling of communist economies. then w h at? . albeit reluctantly. As at the time of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt. particularly the manual worker. they cannot detect their own ‘smell’. I was harassed by the secret police and I finally lost my job because of my opposition to the communist regime and you tell me that I smell of communism?’ Later. is a tool utilised by dictators all through history to control the minds of the masses and to build contextualised symbols of power (the pyramids wor ld v ision • 36 • a fter liber ation. I had to admit. After many hours of conversation. I must confess I was very offended. like cowherds who live and work amongst their animals day and night. You can easily identify someone who has spent all day herding livestock. We tend to take on the ‘smell’ of the environment we live in. As in the case of the Israelites living as slaves under Pharaoh. but so do Western people ‘smell’… of capitalism. intense work. a ‘mythology of work’ is one of the most effective means of propaganda used by totalitarian systems: the worker. is often elevated to the role of hero in such societies.What is critical is whether individuals and communities are aware of these tactics and can hold tacticians to account. In communist thinking. work possesses a primarily educative role. that I do ‘smell’ of communism. I told him: ‘You tell me that I smell of communism? I was involved in dissident activities. my friend told me bluntly: ‘You smell of communism a mile off’. rather than being oriented towards effectiveness. tHe IrresIstIBLe Force oF IdeoLoGIcAL BrAInWAsHInG When I first travelled to the West. after the fall of communism. Rather. even forced labour. I spent a few days with a friend in the north of England who was married to a lady from my own country. after thinking more deeply about this and after having opportunity to spend some time in the West. The same is true of those who have lived under communism or other ‘isms’. but it can easily be detected by those who have lived in a different context.

particularly of land. Many find it difficult and even painful to shed false assumptions and mentalities acquired unconsciously during life under an authoritarian regime. considered the source of all evils. who tend to be quite naïve about their ability to resist or who believe that somehow God’s power will miraculously protect them from its effects. ‘We should influence the local authorities in such a way that all purchases of land. Private property as a key point of resistance A top-secret document intended to outline strategy of the Russian Red Army for bringing under control newly occupied countries. where the state owns the land and manipulates agricultural workers into obedience through state-controlled agricultural trade unions. The penetrating power of ideological propaganda is often neglected by opponents of totalitarian systems. Available at http://www. It is supposed that this text was sent from Moscow to the KGB headquarters in Warsaw located in the Soviet Embassy. was found after the early This secret document. particularly by Christians. in the secret archives of Boleslav Bierut. lots and real estate are arranged so that the new owners do not receive title but only permits for use’. point 12. directed at countries occupied shortly after the Second World War. was to undermine private ownership. strongly recommends. the first President of Communist Poland (1947–1952) and General Secretary of the Workers Party (1948–1956). 15 NKVD Instruction NK/003/1947.html. the same strategy is used presently by some neo-Marxist regimes. including Christians. wor ld v ision • 37 • a h a rsh oppr ession . to function normally when conditions of freedom return.of Egypt. outlining the social engineering programme of the Soviet forces aimed at controlling of the recently occupied countries in Eastern Europe. the canal system of communist Russia or the megalomaniac constructions of Ceausescu in Romania). Compliance was achieved either through abusive (and often violent) confiscation of land or through (supposedly voluntary) creation of communal farms. This is a dangerous blindness that can have a serious negative effect on the ability of people.naszawitryna.15 The main purpose of these instructions from the Russian secret police. Interestingly.

communities in these areas were able to resist the impact of communist propaganda more effectively and were the first to adapt to new conditions of freedom. sooner or later. these communist regimes will collapse too. It remains to be seen to what extent these regimes will be able to survive in long-term competition with free market economies. we may legitimately expect that.In communist countries. particularly in mountainous areas with scattered plots of farm land. even if maybe less abruptly. that same truth eventually resulted in the collapse of this ideology. wor ld v ision • 38 • a fter liber ation. For r eFLectIon Please explore ways you think that communities and churches can resist the influence of ideological propaganda by authoritarian regimes. the undeniable ineffectiveness of ‘pure’ communist economies has forced the remaining communist regimes. enforcement was not possible in every case. strangely enough. After 1989. although Marxism’s foundational premise of the incompatibility of private property and communism was proven to be true. At the macro level. precisely because these farmers were able retain private ownership of their land and thus of some of the means of production. What this means is that. according to circumstances of their own unique contexts. Those countries such as Poland and Hungary that had preserved a limited private sector were much more successful in transition to a free market economy in the post-communist period. It has been observed and documented that. to permit now an increasingly strong private sector. in spite of efforts to adapt. findings were similar. such as those in China and Vietnam. then w h at? . If what we have argued above is correct.

2 wor ld v ision • 39 • di v ide a nd conquer . the Christian Triune God or Allah) and the secular powers trying to control and regulate their lives. in spite of all odds. even at the price of martyrdom. While some believers were ready to affirm their allegiance to the supreme authority of God. words and actions in a particular context. as well as regular community members. in the hope that God. At the same time. While only God is fully qualified to judge someone’s motivations. people of faith have often been caught in a power conflict. who knows everything. In such cases. will reward our faithfulness. even when our faith commitments call us to differ. The aim of this second part of our text is to help community and faith leaders. a belief in the providence of God calls us to manifest conditional respect to secular powers. Furthermore. note – Observations and suggestions in this section have been verified in many former and present communist countries and have been confirmed by documents found in various secret police files. we have to gladly accept the consequences of such tough choices. between the absolute claims of the divine (be that Yahweh.Divide and conquer AutHorItArIAnIsM And reLIGIous FAItH All through recorded history. others opted for the easy way of compromise. for the sake of survival. including my own. not just to survive but also to thrive in (post-)authoritarian contexts. we are all called to follow the example of those who have chosen to live lives consistent with their faith commitments. wisdom calls us to learn from those who have gone before us through similar circumstances – by imitating their worthy behaviour and avoiding their mistakes.

between onein-ten and one-in-four members of any given community. This was accomplished by intentionally giving people the impression that they knew everything that was happening. they made individuals and groups easier to control. In communist Eastern Europe. but their impact was increased through use of a large number of informers (some paid. The secret police officers following me in the late 1970s because of my church activities closed my first surveillance file when they got the (wrong) impression that they had been successful in efforts to disband my youth group. the secret police realised they had celebrated success too soon and had to reopen the file when they concluded that an observed reduction in the level of youth activities was purely incidental. and even more so if it involved young people.The role of the secret police and security forces (There are some specific suggestions in highlighted boxes for people targeted by secret police or security forces. some unpaid). then w h at? . By inducing fear. specially trained units. on average. These were very powerful. working under the authority of the communist party in each country. particularly students. created to keep society under strict control. My examination of wor ld v ision • 40 • a fter liber ation. Secret police gave special attention to destroying or bringing disunity to any organised religious group seen as a potential threat. A few months later. Nevertheless. caused by my recent marriage. because religious communities were considered an ‘enemy’. Throughout communist Eastern Europe. the number of people working directly in the ranks of secret police was not very great. These collaborators ranged in numbers. they ‘enjoyed’ the special attention of such repressive institutions.) Authoritarian regimes regularly use secret police or ‘security forces’ as the most important instrument for anti-religious propaganda and for bringing religious communities under government control. the impact of the secret police in society far exceeded actual numbers.

secret police files convinced me that, in reality, even if they knew many things, they definitely did not know everything. For example, from 1979 to 1989 I was involved in the national leadership of the Navigators (a Christian discipleship ministry based in the United States), but I could find absolutely no mention of it in my police files. suGGestIon
If you want to keep certain things strictly secret and protect these from the eyes of secret police, leave a number of less dangerous things out in the open to distract their attention. Then take special security measures regarding those things they definitely must not find out. There is no guarantee of success, but this method seems to have worked well in many cases.

recruItInG LeAdersHIp InForMers And InFILtrAtInG FAItH coMMunItIes

The easiest method of keeping religious communities under control is recruitment of potential or actual leaders, both lay and ordained, as informers and collaborators. The means of recruitment are as varied as the kinds of people approached, but all major on some personal weakness that is exploited in a cunning way. Secret police often use promises, blackmail and fear in attempts to recruit informers. And they are frequently successful, in spite of the fact that many of those they approach are committed believers. The pastor of the church where I was baptised after my conversion was one of those Christian leaders who fell under the control of the secret police and were used by it to persecute those Christians who were perceived as dangerous opponents by the communist regime. As touched on above, the greatest surprise I had while reading my police files was to find a note written by my pastor in which he subtly suggested to the police that I should be put into a psychiatric prison, as they had previously, with his collaboration, imprisoned one of my aunts. (Aggressive psychiatric treatments were amongst the most feared means used by communist secret police against dissidents.) A few years later this pastor was filled with
wor ld v ision • 41 • di v ide a nd conquer

remorse and tried to end his collaboration and defect to the West. Unfortunately for him, he knew too much and was eventually assassinated by the secret police the night before he was supposed to leave the country. A second effective means of influence is infiltration by specially trained officers into leadership of certain important religious communities. People selected for this undercover type of work often come from believing families, making it easier for them to be accepted into churches. Some of the most effective of these secret agents worked as high-ranking secret police officers while at the same time serving as bishops or other important denominational leaders. suGGestIon
In my experience, the best protection for someone targeted by secret police to become an informer, or simply called in for interrogation, is to ignore warnings regarding secrecy – and to tell everyone, including family and church members, in such a way that this will reach the ears of the secret police. you will quite definitely not be contacted again. Of course, there is risk in doing this, but not doing so carries much greater risk that one should avoid at all costs. Also be sure to pray earnestly about the situation and have others pray for you.

recruItInG FAItH coMMunIty MeMBers As InForMers

Communists do not trust people – even their own. The same is true under all other authoritarian regimes. This is why in any given community there is always more than one informer. So, even if the pastor of a church was working for the secret police, either as an undercover officer or as a collaborator, the police also recruited lay church members to check up on information received from the leader. To recruit lay church members, secret police used the same means as for the recruitment of church leaders. Officers frequently exploited the naïveté of people they approached. When making contact with potential informers, secret police officers instruct them very firmly not to tell anyone, even family members, about having been contacted. The effectiveness of their recruitment unquestionably depends
wor ld v ision • 42 • a fter liber ation, then w h at?

on acceptance of this secrecy. This common tactic was used with me when I was interrogated for the first time by the communist police in 1978. Knowing this, and expecting to be followed when I left after the interrogation was over, I went directly and openly to the house of close friends, where I told them everything that happened at the police station. Recruitment of an informer in communist Eastern Europe was nearly always confirmed by a Faustian written agreement, which police then used to blackmail the informer into obedience. At this point the informer generally received a secret code name to be used in all information reports. Opening of secret police archives after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe revealed that nearly all such reports were meticulously kept in the personal files of the informer and of the people they informed on. Those who agreed to such compromises thought generally that their betrayals would always remain secret. However, after the fall of communism the ongoing discovery of caches of secret files in many countries laid bare the written agreements and reports of secret police informers in churches. Requests from an officer of secret police became definite orders, accompanied by real threats, if the person signed the agreement, but even in such cases there was a way out. The solution was to refuse to write any reports. If someone who had signed a collaboration agreement started writing reports, it became ever more dangerous to refuse cooperation later on. Some collaborators who tried to withdraw after years of cooperation were killed by the secret police. Certainly, some of these died as martyrs after being convinced by the Lord that their collaboration was a great sin, but their families still have to live with the shame of their lives of compromise before they were killed. suGGestIon
If you know people who have become collaborators with the secret police, try to convince them gently to come out into the open as soon as possible, to save their souls certainly, and possibly their lives. With confession, there will be forgiveness before God and, ideally, within the Christian community.
wor ld v ision • 43 • di v ide a nd conquer

If you delay. you may not be able to find all the relevant documents in them. wor ld v ision • 44 • a fter liber ation. But nAIve. the easier it will be for them to identify documents that might incriminate them and to make these disappear. I would suggest you immediately ask for your personal files. the more time they have at their disposal. and they will have every interest in covering up their criminal past. tHe MytH oF usInG tHe secret poLIce In tHe Interest oF tHe FAItH coMMunIty Some church leaders. Because these unsuspecting and sincere people usually enjoy the trust of those under the surveillance of the secret police. if you have any suspicion that you have been at any time the object of special attention of the secret police. then w h at? . It never works. as well as some political dissidents. suGGestIon When freedom comes and people are given access to their secret police files. I was surprised to find that in many instances even some of those I was counting as my best friends and spiritual mentors had been used unwittingly by the secret police to persuade me to stop being active in church ministry. they attempt to use the influence of wellmeaning but misguided church members or friends of the intended victims. I know of no cases when such schemes did not lead to major compromises and the discrediting of those promoting such dubious approaches.usInG tHe InFLuence oF WeLL-MeAnInG. This is like trying to catch a lion by the tail or to trick the devil. they may sometimes do more harm to the victims than informers or the officers themselves. Reading through my secret police files. make the mistake of thinking they are so smart and cunning that they can use the secret police to promote the interests of the church and of society at large. Consequently. Often members of the former secret police will simply be incorporated into new secret services. coMMunIty MeMBers At times. when secret police do not have at their disposal collaborators who are in a position to influence or to spy on certain people.

16:18). Pay particular attention and place under special controls church printing houses. Yet the Lord of the church promised that even ‘the gates of hell will not prevail against it’ (Matt. cultural and educational activities should be directed in such a way as to create a general antipathy towards them. pastoral visits. but in fact simply condemn the rationaliser and the rationalisation. ‘We should give special attention to churches.Some church leaders justify these stratagems. such superficial rationalisations are not only unconvincing. it should be clear that churches – especially those that bring genuine spiritual freedom to people and communities – are not very popular with authoritarian regimes. archives. For r eFLectIon How can you protect your community members. even if sometimes regimes have tried to use churches and church leaders for limited periods of time to promote various agendas. Some leaders have used these kinds of arguments to justify spying and reporting on fellow church members. church members and colleagues from becoming instruments of the secret police? State and faith communities in oppressive contexts specIAL AttentIon GIven to cHurcHes The same NKVD instruction quoted previously suggested. sermons. point 34. as attempts to ‘save the church’. catechism classes and funeral ceremonies’ (emphasis added). imprisonment and even killing of other Christians. as well as other compromises. libraries. and acquiescence in the destruction of church buildings. wor ld v ision • 45 • di v ide a nd conquer . Some naïve church leaders were fooled by such circumstantial 16 NKVD Instruction NK/003/1947.16 By now. In the light of these realities. They think that without their intelligent and ‘sacrificial’ intervention the church will simply disappear. as well as in the persecution.

Thus under communism in Eastern Europe.17 To their great surprise. activities could continue unhindered for many years. home groups were forbidden or disbanded whenever possible. At the same time. and between church leaders and lay members. No matter what the immediate tactical attitudes of various communist regimes were towards the church. if such groups found ways to keep their meetings secret. They invariably discarded these ‘fellow travellers’ later on (and sometimes literally destroyed them in the process) after their purposes were accomplished.benevolence and became ‘fellow travellers’. and all other human weaknesses in order to promote their purposes. wor ld v ision • 46 • a fter liber ation. Communist officials have used pride. controL oF cHurcH ActIvItIes Since authoritarian regimes are never able to make the church completely disappear (despite horrific and dire examples of suffering such as Cambodia or Iran under Islamic authoritarianism). A note regarding registered and unregistered churches: Whilst unregistered churches might thrive in secrecy 17 Fellow travellers was a label to identify people and institutions that communists used in order to strengthen their position and influence in society. Sometimes this ‘soft’ approach was much more effective than use of violence. illegitimate ambition for promotion. they were later dumped by their supposedly friendly protectors as soon as their help was no longer needed. officials try to control its activities by confining these strictly to state-monitored church buildings. ‘dIvIde And conquer’ A key strategy of communist authorities in fighting any successful religious activities is to create divisions and strife amongst church leaders. Such was the case of discipleship groups run by the Navigators and other Christian organisations. then w h at? . long-term purposes always included the idea of compromising the testimony and influence of church leaders and of the church as a whole in society. because governments regarded them as a serious threat. Any public church meetings can be reported on by informers.

out of conviction and not from fear of punishment (Rom. unable to engage under conditions of freedom. even if they are not believers (see the case of Nebuchadnezzar in Jer. But when officials overstep the boundaries of their authority and start abusing those under their care. this experience does not give unregistered church leaders the opportunity to acquire the negotiating skills essential for normal functioning of Christian communities in complex social contexts such as those that will confront the church when freedom comes. Christians have a duty to be recognised in society as loyal and law-abiding citizens. 2:1–4). who will reward obedience to him. A cAse For cIvIL dIsoBedIence The apostle Paul states that God has appointed people in authority for the good of society (Rom. The Christian is called always to show respect towards and pray for those in positions of authority in society (1 Tim.during times of oppression. When authorities pursue this end. in cases when civil authorities ask Christians to do things against God’s expressed will as presented in scripture. 27:6). However. the Christian is normally expected to obey the civil authorities. but has the responsibility to resort to civil disobedience. churches that chose to remain unregistered under communism. the Lord comes against them and will bring them to his righteous judgement. 13:4). the Christian is not only allowed to. According to biblical teaching. in order to maintain loyalty to the higher authority of God (Acts 4:18–20). they have to remain faithful to God. are still locked in the past. Even if this may bring punishment upon the Christians. as in the case of the same emperor mentioned above. wor ld v ision • 47 • di v ide a nd conquer . 13:1–8). In Russia. and which refuse to do so even after the demise of the Soviet Union. we may well say that they are operating under the authority of God. as God’s special servants.

and has led to increased persecution for churches still living under communist regimes. For r eFLectIon What are the ways in which authoritarian regimes try to bring the church under its control. religious leaders and other people identified as class enemies. Bulgaria. This ‘generous’ theory has made communists more suspicious of Christianity. It became an essential part of the Soviet system of repression. Only in Poland and East Germany did the church play a significant role in actively confronting the abuses of communist regimes – these being exceptions rather than the norm. Albania or Hungary. now perceived as an even more serious threat. and with what means can believers protect themselves. the church as an organisation did not play a notable role in the fall of communism in Russia. and their number was to multiply greatly in the years that followed. then w h at? . Communist takeovers in Eastern and Central Europe during and after World War II led to mass arrests of non-communist politicians. Many of these were sentenced to forced labour camps. In fact.dId tHe cHurcH pLAy A roLe In tHe FALL oF coMMunIsM? Western Christian media and also some secular media have promoted the idea that the church played a major and active role in bringing down the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. Further. In 1952 the International League for Human Rights was able to document the existence of more than 400 forced labour camps in central and eastern europe. wor ld v ision • 48 • a fter liber ation. their communities and their churches against such abuses? Persecution of the people of faith A system of forced labour camps was established in the first years of the communist regime in the Soviet Union. it played a minor role in anti-communist upheavals in Romania and Czechoslovakia.

3:12). until the Lord binds the devil and throws him in the lake of fire. with increasing Christianophobia. This charge is legitimate. 5:12) and also ‘Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me. the freedom of conscience) is a fundamental human right and one of the building blocks of the civilised world. persecutIon As A nAturAL expectAtIon For cHrIstIAns Some people complain today that believers are confronted in many places. Below we present some of these means and discuss attitudes that Christian teaching indicates God expects from Christians in the light of this grim reality. as religious freedom (and. at the Last Judgement. The apostle Paul added: ‘all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim. Imprisonment in labour camps is just one of the means used by totalitarian regimes to restrict and persecute the Christian community. not just in (post-)authoritarian and Islamic contexts.This cruel method is used not only by communist regimes but also by authoritarian regimes all over the world. wor ld v ision • 49 • di v ide a nd conquer . according to the Bible. Yet. whatever the ideology that informs their actions. generally speaking. The verses quoted above instruct Christians not to be surprised when enemies of the church persecute the followers of Christ. they will persecute you’ (John 15:20). but also in the Western world. This will continue. for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’ (Matt. Jesus Christ himself is recorded to have said: ‘Rejoice and be glad. This does not mean persecution is defensible as ‘normal’ and should be accepted as part of God’s original plan. This is true not only in the East but also in the West. for great is your reward in heaven. the Bible teaches that it is because of human sinfulness and a vast spiritual conflict with the devil that there is spiritual battle between the ‘children of God’ and ‘the children of the devil’. for all who want to be faithful to Jesus’ words and be role models in an ungodly society. On the contrary.

health care. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. The consultations that led to the formulation of this document also involved representatives of different religions. such as providing education. the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance. even if they are tortured or imprisoned. When the church comes before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. in their acts of service’. wor ld v ision • 50 • a fter liber ation. for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. have come out of prison more mature and sanctified then when they went in. believers have to be careful not to suffer because of their lack of wisdom or for their aggressive and unethical witness for their faith. many people in communist countries who were never imprisoned but did not experience the inner freedom brought about by a strong faith in God. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements. As a recent important ecumenical document recommends. 5:10). including financial incentives and rewards. then w h at? . 5:10).18 Inner FreedoM – protectIon AGAInst externAL BondAGe The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. as well as through history according to verified sources and general Christian tradition. At the same time. the Lord will reward those who have been persecuted for him. And these people. At the same time.In the end. This is the common experience of the saints of God who have suffered in communist prisons. if they were not martyred. Those who are free inside themselves usually cannot be broken. who shared their views and experiences on the question of witness and religious conversion. an ecumenical document signed in 2011 by the World Council of Churches. the Bible teaches that God has prepared a special blessing for those who suffer for his name’s sake: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. lived as ‘prisoners’ of their own fear and guilt because of their 18 Quoted from ‘Christian Witness In A Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct’. relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. ‘acts of service.

) Thus something intended to do harm to believers is transformed by God into a means of extending the borders of the church. It has happened all through Christian history that some of the church’s persecutors have been given an opportunity to completely transform their lives through the faithful witness of the saints. as in many places in the Middle East and North Africa. ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’. That is why Christians in democratic countries have a special responsibility in defending religious freedom in restrictive contexts. do good.compromises and silent acquiescence in the oppression perpetrated by communist authorities.. Yet historical examples also document places where either nominalism and/or fierce persecution have led to the virtual extinction of Christianity. persecutIon As An opportunIty Jesus Christ taught Christians: ‘love your enemies. direct persecution of Christians by communist authorities has often provided a unique opportunity to dialogue with those who would otherwise never have been able to hear the gospel. especially when I started to become active as a Christian student and came under observation of the secret police. (See The Acts of the Martyrs for examples from the first century and The Mirror of the Martyrs for examples at the time of the Reformation. who lived through the worst period of Stalinist persecution but endured it in silence.. My own father. Your reward will be great’ (Luke 6:35). There is nothing new about this. The former are embellished by Eusebius and other early church fathers. the latter ‘mirror’ had many versions in the tales of several 17th-century writers – mainly about the grisly fate of Anabaptists. as did many other Christians around him. As the Latin theologian Tertullian said in the second century.. wor ld v ision • 51 • di v ide a nd conquer . Some of these people actually experienced repentance and true faith through the testimony of one of these saints. In the light of this. was regularly harassed by secret police officers and lived under constant fear.

whatever our reasons. authorities in totalitarian contexts will think twice before inciting international condemnation. She is told the road ahead has no church. In many post-authoritarian or post-traumatic contexts. and she responds ‘What good is a road if it doesn’t lead to a church?’ How much more blatantly could the director state what the journey towards rebuilding the social and moral fabric of a nation will require? HoW to protect cHurcH LeAders The best protection for Christian leaders living under totalitarian regimes is for them to be known in the democratic world in such a way that local authorities are aware of this fact. 25:31–46). The movie ends with a woman asking directions to a church. who later explored its underlying themes of hate/ vengeance versus love/forgiveness/truth in his book God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (Random House. At the Great Judgement. Georgians describe their life ‘between heaven and hell’ – communism is not completely dead and functional capitalism is far away. extreme poverty has made the country heavily dependent on foreign aid (with ambiguous results). It was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If officials know that any threats against or harm done to Christian leaders will cause international protests and result in pressure being brought to bear on the government concerned. On the positive side. it has made the government more sensitive to international pressure concerning human rights and religious liberty. is not acceptable. Membership 19 For example. often neglected in international media. Stalin’s legacy is the subject of bitter dispute and even civil war. about why the memory of dictators and tyrants and their betrayals must never be buried. in post-apartheid South Africa a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 1995 to bring social healing and restorative justice. there is growing acknowledgement that reconciliation is not possible without truth.Being silent. London. Christ himself will ask what we have done for those who suffered for him (Matt.19 In the post-Soviet republic of Georgia. Their cultural (and spiritual) situation is beautifully captured in the brilliant and funny Georgian film ‘Repentance’ (1984. In the case of one of the communist countries in Asia. 2004). then w h at? . winner of the Cannes Grand Prix. director Tengiz Abuladze).’ wor ld v ision • 52 • a fter liber ation.

Such guilty imprudence has caused wor ld v ision • 53 • di v ide a nd conquer . etc. but rather gives assurance that the Lord will be beside them if they are called to suffer for him. This may create a high degree of insecurity. suGGestIon Keep records (pictures. has created even more sensitivity about projecting a good image internationally.) for the sake of being able to write (in the future) the history of your community. Moreover. at times some minor misdemeanour may attract fierce retribution. which the country strove hard to achieve. This will be a great encouragement for future generations. As we have said already. Moreover. Otherwise. while at other times a major act of civil disobedience may go unnoticed. sometimes Christians bring persecution upon themselves not because of the gospel but because of their own lack of wisdom or their excessive zeal. documents. personal testimonies. indigenous Christians are often endangered because of the lack of wisdom or mere carelessness of foreigners working there. family or church under persecution. The Lord calls Christians to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ (Matt. 10:16). at moments when oppressive regimes feel that their end is near. Yet the Bible does not promise believers absolute protection against persecution. an obvious sign of progress. In the last five years. totalitarian officials may act erratically and persecution may occur without any logical pattern. Ten years the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. that number dropped. The social involvement of churches and of many Christian NGOs appears to have played a role in encouraging this openness on the part of authorities towards Christians and churches. but communities and churches have to learn to accept this reality. and learn from it. more than 100 Christians were in prison in that country for religious reasons. Such people should not expect to receive any reward for their suffering. these testimonies of authentic Christian faithfulness under oppression may be lost forever.

even at the price of their own ministries. AccurAte InternAtIonAL reportInG And docuMentAtIon Correct reporting of cases involving violation of religious rights is essential to any effective work for the protection of persecuted Christians. therefore. secrecy is the rule of the game. very important that foreigners should protect the lives and security of indigenous church leaders. Another caveat regarding protection: Christians living in oppressive environments. but this legitimate desire to protect can easily lead to illegitimate control over the lives of others and. the surest way for a person or an organisation that works for religious freedom. Foreigners should protect the lives and security of indigenous church leaders. for better and for worse. in the end. Certainly. tend to be very protective of their loved ones and community members. then w h at? . either nationally or internationally. they will not be very happy with such reporting and will sometimes accuse of treason those who are involved in such delicate but important activities. Thus. church leaders would be better to emphasise development of deep convictions that can guide community members’ lives when freedom brings its array of choices. in oppressive regimes. while local Christians may have to pay a high price for these people’s mistakes. This actually replicates authoritarian reflexes. In most cases. even at the price of their own ministries. Instead. It is. wor ld v ision • 54 • a fter liber ation. particularly church leaders. which presume that ordinary members of society cannot think for themselves and that this is why governing authorities have to make decisions for them. the worst that could happen to foreigners would be to be expelled from the country. to discredit themselves is for them to use lies and exaggeration in promoting their liberation agenda. Nevertheless.many victims and has landed many local Christians in jail. perpetual immaturity for those controlled.

God’s providence in suffering Sometimes Christians tend to live as if the end times have already come and as if nothing bad can touch them (theologians call this a ‘theology of glory’). It is not surprising that authoritarian regimes do not take any notice or show any respect for such initiatives. but never working in an ‘individualist’ manner. our Christian model should be the Holy Trinity – Father. Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit all having specific roles. as well as ordinary Christians. Eventually the truth will come out. can prepare communities of faith in your country to develop an attitude that reflects Jesus in the face of persecution. Western individualism (‘counting scalps’ to quantify conversion. Instead. Similarly. it will not be fully established until Christ the Lord returns in glory.Such tactics are inherently immoral and unethical. Yet Christians who do this seemingly forget that even if the kingdom of God has been inaugurated in the first coming of Jesus Christ. and long-term credibility will be measured accordingly. They deserve no better. and they fail to promote the interests of the kingdom of God. rather than the more-difficult-to-measure lifelong journeys the Bible refers to as ‘making disciples’ and ‘discipling the nations’) is no more a reflection of God’s vision for community than communism is. both during and after times of persecution. For r eFLectIon Identify ways community and church leaders. This is an issue of integrity. wor ld v ision • 55 • di v ide a nd conquer . to inspire further funding from their base. missions agencies are in danger of concentrating on numbers and (intentionally or not) exaggerating these numbers for the sake of keeping supporters happy and money flowing. Some quote Bible verses like Psalm 91:7 to justify this sort of triumphalism. That is amongst the reasons why donors’ expectations need to be transformed as much as beneficiaries’ expectations. Lies and unverifiable reporting can only contribute to the discrediting of the church.

Such a debased picture is not worthy of the Christian God as revealed in the Bible. God makes the sun shine equally on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. which would reduce the life of faith to a simple bargain. In other words. as in the case of Job. for reasons that are not always revealed to those who go through such ordeals. (See Job 42:1–6. the enemies of God will hate and persecute them. Yet God’s people can find comfort in the fact that if they suffer for the sake of Christ. wor ld v ision • 56 • a fter liber ation. in order to be replaced with the robust biblical faith of a genuine believer. such naïve and simplistic faith is worth losing. If God were to do so. who himself suffered so much for humanity. This is why authentic biblical Christianity needs to avoid any sort of triumphalism. Christians have not yet reached heaven.Christ teaches his followers that until then they have to be aware that because they are ‘not of this world’ (John 17:16).) When people have unrealistic and selfish expectations of God. 5:45). simply because they are his children. Yet. and may be allowed to suffer along with other human beings. they lay themselves open not only to great disappointment but potentially even to the loss of their faith. people would be tempted to believe just for the benefits they could obtain. then w h at? . in the end God will be vindicated in all his decisions. It would not be fair if God were to protect Christians from the pain and affliction that other people experience in this world because of the fallenness of creation. as they did the Lord (John 17:14). such as being spared pain that millions of other human beings suffer. so that no one can accuse God of any partiality. suFFerInG As IdentIFIcAtIon WItH cHrIst The biblical example of Job shows that God may indeed allow his faithful ones to suffer. Although the presence of pain in the world and particularly the suffering of believers has been a major stumbling block for the faith of many people. authentic Christianity requires a biblical view of suffering (what theologians have called ‘a theology of the cross’). they will receive a rich reward from the Lord.

Yet God’s people may rightly say that ‘no eye has seen. quoting the Old Testament. ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts. suFFerInG As An Honour Christians should not consider persecution as a tragedy. • Third. the apostle Paul also says explicitly. Martyrs of the first centuries gladly accepted suffering for Christ. without consideration of God’s purposes.Sometimes people ask. nor the human heart conceived. Although God knows and cares when humans suffer. painful as it may be. regardless of long-term consequences which humans are incapable of foreseeing. from the vantage point of God’s perfection. In Isaiah God says. one that will always result in good and pleasurable things for humans. 2:9). that ‘there is none righteous’ (Rom. The Bible talks in glorious terms about the suffering of Christians. It is viewed as a form of identification with the cross of Christ (Rom. as this identified them with the saints of God who wor ld v ision • 57 • di v ide a nd conquer . Col 1:24). God may still allow suffering to occur. 3:10–18). we are all ‘evil’ (Matt. nor ear heard. 7:11 and 19:17). 55:8–9). and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isa. for reasons not always disclosed to the humans involved at the time. who deserve to be treated well by God. the question suggests that good people (if there are any) should always have good things happening to them. • Second. the question reflects a one-sided understanding of God’s providence for the believer. ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ Behind this question lie a number of questionable presuppositions: • First. what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Cor. the question presupposes that in fact many of us are basically ‘good people’.… as the heavens are higher than the earth. so are my ways higher than your ways. but as an honour. It should already be obvious that the Christian God is not limited to such simplistic explanations. while Jesus himself says that. 8:17. nor are your ways my ways.

had suffered before them (1 Thess. When in despair. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings. with end-time scenarios and even with predictions of when precisely the end will come (in wor ld v ision • 58 • a fter liber ation. Thus. it is very easy even for the strongest Christians to lose heart and fall into despair. then w h at? . Thus some portions of the books of Daniel and Zechariah as well as the book of Revelation in the New Testament reflect a special manner of coping with pain and despair. Hope In despAIr When persecution strikes and when physical and emotional pain becomes unbearable. In biblical times. In moments like these. Thus suffering has often been sublimated into beautiful poetry and music. These writings sought to instil in God’s people an eschatological hope (the imminent coming of the Messiah at the end of the Old Testament times and. so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed’ (1 Pet. profound prayers. 2:14) and gave them a firm assurance of also sharing in the glory of Christ and of his saints. The key message of this kind of literature is something like this: ‘There is not long to wait until the oppressors are judged by God and the people of God are free’. later. as the apostle Peter said. Importantly. the faithful have taken up different practices to overcome the hopelessness brought about by such painful experiences. an anticipation of the imminent return of Christ. as though something strange were happening to you. do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you. expressed in the early Christian greeting Maranatha. ‘our Lord is returning soon’). a special role was played in such circumstances by apocalyptic literature. and special acts of commitment and service to other people in need. however. Christians learn to depend on the help and encouragement of the community of faith. All down the centuries. people tend to become obsessed with eschatology. Christians are instructed to avoid becoming excessively preoccupied with such coping mechanisms. 4:12–13). ‘Beloved.

And when such predictions are obviously not fulfilled.20 presents five possible models for engagement of the church with the surrounding culture: • Christ against culture – often an Anabaptist model • Christ above culture – often a Catholic and Orthodox approach • Christ and culture in paradox – Niebuhr associates with Luther’s model • Christ of culture – usually seen as a liberal Protestant model • Christ transforming culture – Niebuhr attributed to his own Reformed tradition. and as Jesus Christ said. these people can become depressed and lose faith in God. and each may be more effective in a certain given context or at a certain given time than in others. This is why Christian discipleship should also include training in learning to keep minds clear and ‘renewed’ and to depend on God’s grace for everything. 1956. Each of these models has strengths and weaknesses. ‘if those days had not been cut short. A biblical theology of cultural engagement Richard Niebuhr. referring specifically to the end times. wor ld v ision • 59 • di v ide a nd conquer . 24:22). Such times are difficult tests of faith. but for the sake of the elect those days will be short’ (Matt. For r eFLectIon Please ponder in what ways a biblical theology of the cross might help Christians cope with suffering and persecution. no one would be saved. in his book Christ and Culture. 20 Harper & Row.spite of clear biblical warnings against this – see Acts 1:7).

Although such an attitude may be understandable and even justified in certain contexts and for certain periods of time. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. security and a feeling of continuity. deFInItIon – Culture is the totality of ideas..comes not from the Father but form the world”’ (1 John 2:15–16). but many revered theologians and Christian leaders still consider it a good basis for opening up discussion of this important topic. dignity. the desire of the eyes.the desire of the flesh. and the way in which believers are called to engage with it. the pride in the riches . then w h at? . so that what is communicated may be clear. How are we to interpret such statements as these? When we understand that the word ‘world’ used in these two biblical verses has different meanings in the texts’ original wor ld v ision • 60 • a fter liber ation. Thus on the one hand we read that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son’ for it (John 3:16). giving them identity. The natural tendency of any human community living under oppression is to withdraw in order to survive. values. For all that is in the world . Yet this is precisely why readers will need a working definition. this proposal has been legitimately criticised for inherent and unavoidable simplifications. it risks hindering the ability of people of God to function as salt and light in society. So here is a proposed meaning for the sake of this text. traditions and institutions that create solidarity amongst members of a certain community. in this instance particularly regarding implications for an oppressive context such as communism. beliefs. Defining culture is a daunting task because of the many meanings and perspectives that this concept may reflect. if this is the only way they interact with the surrounding culture. The Bible has much to say about culture and the world.As with any other attempt at systematisation. while at the same time we are warned.. Sometimes things appear to be very confusing..

in order to save their souls. That is why many holy men and women of God withdrew from society and isolated themselves. and even if these are not necessarily wrong. traditions of the past or contemporary trends. in the fourth century. This should include such things as • understanding of the holistic nature of life and reality (no separation or antithesis between the spiritual and the material) • a biblical understanding of humanity (anthropology) • accurate definition and understanding of culture • understanding of the believer’s social responsibility. many saintly believers became aware of the danger that the church. the lack of reflection with which people usually follow them puts all people at risk of being out of tune with the expressed and implicit will of God at the present time. This one example demonstrates that individual believers and Christian communities themselves are in great need of a biblically informed theology of culture. most in the deserts of Egypt and Judea. wor ld v ision • 61 • di v ide a nd conquer . which until that moment had seen itself as a community of pilgrims and strangers in this world. in some places more than in others. particularly in moments of great distress or crisis for the Christian community. This in fact did happen to a certain extent. and ‘human society organised in opposition to God’ in the second). things begin to become clearer. when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. tHe ‘cHrIst AGAInst cuLture’ vIeW – vALue And LIMItAtIons The ‘Christ against culture’ model has been used by Christians at different times in history. Christians and faith communities may simply follow their own impulses. Thus. Without a correct biblical understanding of culture.language (‘fallen humanity’ in the first. would start to learn the ways of the world and lose her prophetic role.

when many Anabaptist communities isolated themselves from society in reaction to what they considered to be the failure of the Reformers to carry the Reformation right through to the end of its logical implications. seArcHInG For respectABILIty An oppressed community deprived of the respect it deserves in society as a whole may slowly develop a kind of inferiority complex. if circumstances take a member away from the group. which does not nurture the formation of personal convictions and does not provide the necessary context for spiritual growth towards maturity. This approach continues to be maintained in various ways within Mennonite and Amish communities in different parts of the world. This model has a number of definite advantages: • It allows communities to preserve their Christian identity when under pressure. • It allows observers to appreciate the (possibly) superior quality of life in a community living in a radical way in the light of God’s commandments. • It makes Christian leaders overly protective of members of their churches. Yet we have to add that this isolationist approach to culture has definite limitations: • It inhibits the Christian community from being ‘salt and light’ in the midst of a society that desperately needs the message of the gospel. • It often promotes an antagonistic and aggressive attitude towards secular society. paradoxically. a characteristic of many minorities and.The same happened at the time of the Reformation. then w h at? . wor ld v ision • 62 • a fter liber ation. • It protects members of the community from being moulded by values of a godless society. a mere expression of human pride.

to be ‘equally yoked’. but becomes very obvious whenever the situation becomes less tense and even more so after religious freedom has been granted. Clear understanding and acceptance of biblically defined Christian identity. This problem arose in all post-communist societies thus far documented.Another expression of this pathology of societal rejection. is the risk of a secret. and consequently be more difficult to detect. along with give-and-take serving of one another. those who bring money (usually foreigners) must not dominate those who have none (often the nationals). villages or churches with a firm hand). True Christianity is never rooted in feelings of superiority. subconscious search for acceptability and respectability. ability to work in teams and relinquishing of human inclinations towards extremes of authoritarian control or Western individualism. following the example of Christ. when the community in question is under pressure. Genuine partnerships require mutual submission to Christ. The pathology includes a willingness to make more or less important compromises in terms of Christian values and lifestyle. but in true humility and mutual vulnerability. could protect believers from this vain search for human recognition and instead point to God. whose children will be richly rewarded for accepting the humble position of being small and unimportant in the eyes of the world. Likewise. This also applies to authoritarianism rooted not so much in communism as in traditional forms of patriarchalism and tribalism (with exclusively male leaders ruling their families. clans. and of the implicit isolationism that it nurtures. and must listen to the voice of national Christians. in which the church is viewed as a community of pilgrims. wor ld v ision • 63 • di v ide a nd conquer . This inclination may be expressed in subtle ways. in order to receive the due respect and appreciation illegitimately withheld under oppression.

This is why Christian leaders living under an oppressive communist regime. The great surprise of freedom will be to realise that not hostility but indifference is the greatest obstacle to genuine Christian faith and its influence in the hearts and minds of people. wor ld v ision • 64 • a fter liber ation. but rather when it dares to live courageously and humbly. This does not mean that culture should be the determining factor in the choice of the church’s model of engagement. need to be introduced to and familiarised with other possible ways of relating to culture. the more appropriate it is for that particular context. and more importantly. Yet even in a secularised world. as ‘salt and light’. Quite the contrary: The more a cultural model is able to engage with society and to act as a prophetic agent of transformation. It may be the most effective means of survival in critical situations. so that under freedom these future leaders of faith communities and churches will not have their initiative and creativity stifled by ignorance and narrow-mindedness. then w h at? . If the church has not been able or willing to explore. but is definitely problematic in times of religious freedom and societal flux. the young people in their communities. contextuAL cuLturAL enGAGeMent A key criterion for determining effectiveness of any particular model of cultural engagement for the Christian community is the appropriateness of that model for the actual situation it tries to address. The Christian community is not fulfilling its calling to be ‘God’s new society’ when it ‘conforms to this world’. when freedom comes then communities and individuals may be unable to function in society to the fullness of their potential and calling. in the midst of a world that is either hostile or indifferent to the calling of God. other possible models of cultural engagement. at least theoretically.need For ALternAtIve ApproAcHes The ‘Christ against culture’ model is not the only option available for the Christian community.

and what could be possible implications of that for individuals. wor ld v ision • 65 • di v ide a nd conquer . For r eFLectIon Please review the prevalent theology of culture adopted by the church in your country. families and communities living in conditions of freedom. 5–7) will always raise questions and provoke genuine engagement with those who have ‘ears to hear’.decidedly uninterested in the things of the kingdom of God. a community of people living consistently in the light of ‘kingdom principles’ as presented by Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt.

but there are signs in these contexts that indicate either the imminent end of communism as a functioning world view system or its gradual transformation into something totally different from what Marxist ideology claimed would inevitably happen.Let my people go! HoW to prepAre For FreedoM The year 1989 marked the beginning of the end for the communist system on a global scale. Following are a few observations from the biblical narrative to open up the conversation: • God’s solution is not necessarily a quick escape from dire problems. Islamist or military contexts. The way churches and communities understand this period may determine the extent to which they will be able to take advantage of opportunities brought about by freedom to incarnate the call of Jesus Christ in their developing communities as fully and completely as possible. but often a progressive delivery through the problems. how communities can prepare for it and what price should be expected to be paid in order to fully enjoy it. most of them were forced to introduce progressively a more open economic system in order to survive. The biblical story of Exodus serves well as a metaphor to explore what freedom is. in communist. Although a number of communist regimes continue to exist. This section covers the short period of time that marks the final phase of authoritarian systems as experienced in multiple nations thus far. God allowed the Israelites to suffer for a long time before intervening and never explained to them why this was. • Even when those who oppose an oppressor are called by God to do so. No one knows whether it is a matter of months or years. there is a risk that the people for wor ld v ision • 67 • let m y people go! 3 .

14:10–12). the people of God are in peril of being overcome by despair (Exod. who were allowed to ‘plunder the Egyptians’ (Exod. 14:26–31). the only solution is holding firmly to the promise of God. • When people have been slaves for generations. • Oppression is not over at the first break of a new dawn. • In such moments. 5:21). as in the case of the Israelites. in such times of doubt. • In God’s economy. 14:12). it is in the nature of the oppressive beast to try to strike a last mortal blow even in the final moments of its life. 12:35–36). • Sometimes God uses miracles (such as the 10 plagues) to save his people. • All the same. 14:5–7). Those who had lived with God under tyranny were able to emerge with a wealth of spiritual experience that was to enrich the lives of many in better times. but there is never a guarantee that God will do so unless he has explicitly promised that he will. when the future hangs in a precarious balance. 5:22–23). 5:5–9). it is very difficult for them to understand and value freedom (Exod. wor ld v ision • 68 • a fter liber ation.whom they are fighting will not understand and will blame them for temporary increases in oppression that actions may bring (Exod. • When the time for the end of the oppression comes. 3:21–22. God always has the last word in history (Ex. things may get worse before they get better (Exod. time spent under oppression is not time wasted. so therefore it is not wise for God’s people to let down their guard too soon and become complacent (Exod. then w h at? . • This danger of rejection by one’s own may be the greatest test of a person’s trust in God’s calling for them to act for the freedom of their people (Exod.

attained a high degree of inner freedom.For r eFLectIon What additional observations and comments do you find regarding these biblical passages (Exodus chs 5–14)? One vital and strategic response Christians can make in authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts is to demonstrate tangibly their commitment to their country’s future. philosophers may well say that only those who are truly free inside can handle the responsibilities of external freedom and protect themselves from the risks that more freedom brings. it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that inner freedom is far more important than external freedom. civil society (including solid democratic institutions) and culture • nurture amongst Christians the high calling of rebuilding the country’s Christian beginnings and ethical heritage. though externally free. were in fact slaves of their fears and compromises. The testimonies of the saints of God who suffered for their faith under oppressive regimes show that people who. to rebuild its social networks. Inner freedom and external freedom In times when people’s hope is that social. were able to keep their dignity even in prison. while others. In fact. Most people who survived the oppression of authoritarian regimes may think of wor ld v ision • 69 • let m y people go! . as well as documenting the more recent history of the church and providing solid theological training for young leaders. Two specific ways this can be done are to • give young people a vision and vocation to stay in their country rather than emigrate. External freedom is probably one of the hardest tests of inner strength and spiritual maturity. political and religious freedom will soon become a reality. through an intimate walk with God.

democracy can look like anarchy. Between dictatorship and democracy When the only leadership style known and observed in a lifetime is dictatorship and control. The democratic world is overwhelmingly complex.themselves as mature Christians. Some Christians. it is very easy to internalise this approach and not be aware of the tendency to lead the church in the same way authoritarian leaders control society. because they were unable to overcome temptations (material or otherwise) flooding in as a consequence of newfound forms of democracy. I would also testify that it is sometimes simpler to be a Christian under oppression. very much like the people of Israel under wor ld v ision • 70 • a fter liber ation. but many of them will have unpleasant surprises waiting when freedom comes. and churches. Democracy is also imperfect. but is obviously not the same thing. or deny Christ and enjoy the benefits this choice brings. choices are relatively endless and temptations are much more attractive. argue for the idea that the church cannot be a democratic institution but should rather be seen as a theocracy. democracy is a difficult art to learn. however. Besides this. then w h at? . people can now choose from a multitude of possible positions in relation to faith and its implications for life. but it remains historically the best governance system that fallen human beings have managed to devise. In such times one can either be a Christian and pay a high price. Some Christians who were respected leaders under communism very rapidly lost their reputation when freedom came. communities and individuals would do well to prepare for it as best they can. The world of oppression is quite a simple one. From the extreme of dictatorship. Under democracy. when choices are minimal and starkly polarised. who are afraid of or who dislike accepting the risks of democracy.

some Christian leaders in former communist countries who had been persecuted for their faith by communists became. However. this flawed interpretation of scripture is an illegitimate application to the church of a system ordained by God specifically for the nation of Israel. which are a disgrace to those who are called to model the principles of the kingdom of God in the present imperfect situation. corresponding to direct participatory democracy. but theocracy is not one of them.typical of many evangelical and charismatic churches. under freedom. Paradoxically.typical of Catholic and Orthodox. the persecutors of their brothers and sisters in faith. such arguments are frequently simply pathetic or self-interested attempts to hide fundamentally dictatorial tendencies.the law of God. The three classic models of church government are: • the hierarchical model . WHAt Is your tHeoLoGy oF cuLture? Ability to function effectively as a Christian community under conditions of freedom depends to a critical extent on wor ld v ision • 71 • let m y people go! . Christians need to learn to live and function effectively under democracy and reject at all costs the ways of dictatorship.typical of some mainline Protestant churches (particularly Presbyterians) and corresponding to representative democracy • the congregational model . In the light of both biblical and contemporary reality. who happened to disagree with them on one matter or another. but also of some Protestant Episcopal churches. Such behaviour is truly pathological and does much harm to the witness of the church in society. The New Testament mentions various models of church government. and corresponding to monarchy in the political realm • the presbyterian model . In fact.

they were mere requests for ‘new wineskins’ which had little value if not also associated with the formation of a people who could effectively use these freedoms in ways that would bring honour to God and build up their faith communities. at least theoretically and where possible also in small-scale practical ways. we soon realised that we were not prepared for them and had not equipped people who could make maximum use of these rights. As already noted. free access to all levels of education and many other similar things. Yet when freedom comes. wor ld v ision • 72 • a fter liber ation.the way its members understand their responsibility towards the surrounding culture. we feel ashamed when we see the poor quality of Christian radio and TV programmes. this model may become something of a hindrance to a full presence of the church as ‘salt and light’ in society. we almost instantly obtained all the rights for which we had fought so earnestly before. This is why churches and Christian faith communities preparing for freedom need to be willing to explore. I was involved in dissident activities. amateurish publications and critical lack of modern Christian institutions in former communist countries. Even today. churches living under oppression have most often chosen the ‘Christ against culture’ model as a means of survival in highly hostile societies. when freedom came. fighting for religious freedom. freedom to train our own religious leaders without interference. neW WInesKIns versus neW WIne For some time after my conversion to Christianity. Such demands were absolutely legitimate from a democratic perspective. Unfortunately. together with a number of my friends. However. so that they will be able to effectively represent Christ in the coming democratic society. other possible models of engaging with culture. then w h at? . A few decades later. we kept demanding that the communist authorities grant us free access to the media. On behalf of the church.

a biblical metaphor (used in Matt. have always been in need of godly and able leaders. The apostle Paul teaches that after the Lord had been exalted to heaven and had sent the Holy Spirit. ‘disciples (and leaders too) are made. wor ld v ision • 73 • let m y people go! . Many of those who had been involved with me in political activities during communism were forced to leave the country and. Hendrichsen. Coming back to my personal experience. I do not want to question in any way the necessity for ‘new wineskins’ (rights. I chose to give this up and instead to dedicate myself to Christian discipleship. structures. long before the fall of an existing authoritarian system. Disciples Are Made Not Born. 1974. not born’. he ‘gave gifts to the church’ (Eph. 4:10–11) for the building up of the body of Christ. These gifts come principally in the form of spiritual endowments (charismata in Greek) in response to current needs of the church. MAKInG youtH And cHILdren A prIorIty Children and young people living in authoritarian societies have been less affected by ideological propaganda than the 21 Walter A. LeAdersHIp trAInInG And youtH All peoples.In saying this. although they have a better standard of living in the West. prophets. but they are also represented by spiritually endowed leaders: apostles. As one author says. institutions) but rather to emphasise the priority of the ‘new wine’. especially young ones. evangelists. after a number of years of involvement in dissident political activities. are not able now to do much for their own country. 9:17) here representing mature people who can make good use of these structures on behalf of the church and the entire society. Christians need to invest in training leaders.21 If they pray for a strong mature church under freedom. including the people of God. Victor Books. Such ‘gifts’ do not literally drop from the sky. We should expect that bearers of these gifts need to be identified and trained in a manner similar to the way Christ trained his disciples. pastor-teachers and others.

During the last decade before the fall of communism I spent most of my time secretly discipling a few students in my Christian youth ministry. When Jesus’ disciples were confused about their mission. they may be able to accomplish for God things that those older generations could not even dream of. Investing in the younger generations is like planting trees in a forest. Results cannot be seen overnight but at the right time will prove impressive and rewarding. then w h at? . he put a child in their midst as a living metaphor of the kingdom of God (Mark 9:36–37). It is possible that at least two generations need to pass before countries that have lived under communism and other forms of authoritarianism can get rid of all the ‘baggage’ they carry from the old system. if appropriately trained and educated. there is very little chance they will ever function ‘normally’ in a free and democratic society. Yet nothing is more important for the future of communities and nations and of course the community of faith. It is time that Christians learned this lesson and stopped neglecting children and youth. This is why. Then one of my mentors. exclaimed: ‘I see now what you were doing when you were not very much in church all those years. Some of them came to participate at my son’s wedding and shared with us about their ministries.older generations. This is why it is critically wor ld v ision • 74 • a fter liber ation. It was really worth it!’ This investment in children and young people requires strong convictions. even at the expense of being less active in church. If these people have been exposed to the pervasive effects of authoritarian propaganda for all or most of their lives. if they care about the future. who did not know much about my underground activities. the older generations will have to ‘die in the desert’ like the Israelites over age 20 who came out of Egypt. The church and faith communities should do this intentionally and seriously. or the priority will constantly be displaced by more urgent demands. Perhaps as in the Exodus story. People over 35 rarely change their minds on important matters. Most of these people are now serving God in various ways on four continents.

People living under oppression have no way of imagining life under freedom. rather than the context in which they were living. all the problems will go away. Those who entertain such false hopes will be utterly disappointed. local Christians live with a high degree of nervousness and anxiety. Human freedom of any kind brings great responsibilities and involves a cost that must be counted and accepted before people can be in a position to enjoy its benefits. Our communities deserve to know better. a cure for all diseases. and of the Christian church’s ability to function under freedom. They live with uncertainty regarding whether their activities will be simply ignored by government or will attract the most severe measure of retaliation. tHe dAnGer oF unreALIstIc Hopes The greatest enemy of communities coming out of postauthoritarian contexts. Yet. This is true in all post-communist societies. is the entertaining of false and unrealistic ideas about freedom and democracy seen as a universal panacea. In times such as these. they may discover that some of their problems originate in themselves. but can also be observed in the recent democratic movements in some Arab countries. In ambiguous and unpredictable political situations. Christians ought to know better than that. the only reasonable course of action for Christians wor ld v ision • 75 • let m y people go! . so that when freedom comes. and they imagine that all their previous problems originate in the external environment. Thus. to their dismay. they will be able to take greater advantage of opportunities brought about by living in a democratic society. they tend to think that when that changes.important for the church to start investing now in the training of children and youth. The laments of young Tunisians and Egyptians at the low speed of change and the autocratic tendencies of those who assumed authority after the demise of the previous regimes. sound very much like the complaints of Romanians and Hungarians just a few months after the fall of communism – sad proof that humans only slowly learn from history.

in the sure confidence of their reward in heaven. Many authoritarian governments take pains to create a good image in the West. things will change almost overnight. what can you and your faith community do to prepare the people of God. What we can know for sure is that freedom is like a mirage for people who have lived under oppression for a long time. but it can also lead to naïve hope that when oppression ends. Reading ‘signs of the times’ is never without risk. and to leave the consequences in the hands of a gracious God. nostalgia for authoritarianism and corrupting desires for quick economic power – inside and outside of the church. in the light of their conscience. 12:32). then disappointed hope can be sure to lead to cynicism. including resolving reports of abuse of religious rights. Wise pressure from certain government officials to allow more religious freedom might gradually bring good results for the country and its people. to know what Israel ought to do’ (I Chron. then w h at? . but the Bible mentions amongst David’s mighty men some from the tribe of Issachar who ‘had understanding of the times. for life under freedom? wor ld v ision • 76 • a fter liber ation. to accept it with dignity. This can motivate them to acts of heroism. like the first Christians when they were delivered to the lions. and the people of your to live consistently. and if the Lord allows persecution. Can you think of concrete examples? If it is not yet prepared. For r eFLectIon Please assess the extent to which you think the church in your country was/is prepared (or not) for freedom. If this unreality prevails. There have always been people like these amongst God’s people.

like the Israelites in the desert. Here are a few observations from the biblical narrative to open dialogue on this subject: • Giving God the glory and keeping God before their eyes should be the first priority of God’s people when they are blessed with freedom (Exod. but Egypt was alive and well inside their thinking and hearts (Exod. Maybe this ‘prophet’ was in fact too optimistic. people are out of oppression.’ and most people in former communist countries are still very far from having worked out how to live in a free world. People said to themselves. 4 wor ld v ision • 77 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . but the oppression is not out of them – the Israelites were out of Egypt. When people heard this. What if people need not 20 but 40 years. to learn how to fully enjoy freedom? This anecdote suggests that the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years after the Exodus event could be a good model to help communities grasp the nature of the complex period generally referred to here as ‘post-dictatorial’. We will certainly learn how to live in democracy in a very short period of time’. 16:3). 15). ‘What does he mean? We are smart people. • Times of transition that follow immediately after oppression are very ambiguous.Forty years in the desert? post-AutHorItArIAn tIMes When freedom came to Eastern Europe. one former communist leader declared that people in my country ‘will need 20 years in order to learn democracy and freedom’. they were very annoyed. This man was accused of being too pessimistic. It is more than 20 years since that ‘prophecy.

11:26–29. 32:30–32. thus idealising their oppression. not born’. • Leadership is both a charisma (gift of the Holy Spirit) and an art to be learned from those more experienced in it (Ex. • True spiritual leaders make intercession for God’s children a high priority (Ex. 11:24–25). when confronted with the difficulties and responsibilities that freedom brings. in such times they have to learn to depend on God’s sufficiency and timing. 18:13–27). • Those who lead in times of transition have to be prepared to have their authority challenged. • The leaders of God’s people have to learn to be willing to share power and to work in a team (Num. 31:7–8). but that real leaders will be more concerned to safeguard God’s glory than to desperately cling to their own positions of authority (Num. 14:11–20. rather than assert their own authority (Num. wor ld v ision • 78 • a fter liber ation. that is why many would rather go back than endure the challenges of the present (Exod. 16:1–40). • This does not mean that leaders should be weak and easy to manipulate. few as they were. 12:1–15).• Freedom confronts believers with temptation to conform to the ways of the world without God (Deut. 12:29–32). then w h at? . ‘leaders are made. 14:1–6). 16:41–50). Num. people who have lived for a long time under oppression have a tendency to quickly forget the pain and nostalgically remember only the good things of the past. • Freedom carries a high price. 11:2. the best way to ensure this is for leaders to mentor others who have the potential to replace them at the right time (Deut. • Leaders have to think about succession of leadership – who will replace them after they have gon. 16:3. Num.

Thus. but other aspects of their life under oppression are so ingrained that people will carry them to the grave. wor ld v ision • 79 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . people obviously do not know what is in their real interest. Such reasoning sounds very strange when it comes from the mouths of church leaders. some will never be able to fully enjoy the benefits of freedom (Num. some things about people may change. Often. Usual justifications for this tyrannical way of ruling society include that control was enforced ‘for the good of the people’ because. 34:5–6). even the church. But not so with you: rather. because obviously this has little in common with the way Christians are called to lead according to the principles of the kingdom of God as described in the Bible. 15–40. because of this. economic and spiritual maturity (Deut. Numbers. 14:21–24).• Wise leaders deliberately undermine the tendency of weaker people to build a ‘personality cult’ around them. this approach to leadership is replicated at every level of society. the ‘benevolent’ authoritarian leaders were ready to make good decisions for all people under their ‘care’. Leviticus. • During transition. as this detracts from the glory of God and impedes people’s growth towards political. Deuteronomy)? The legacy of the past The leadership style of any authoritarian system is exclusively one of manipulation and control. it was strongly suggested. The party (or the junta) forcibly maintains absolute control over the lives of their citizens. and those in authority over them are called benefactors. For r eFLectIon What other observations and comments would you have regarding the biblical account of 40 years spent by the Israelites in the desert (Exodus chs. Thus Jesus Christ told his disciples: ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them.

that is why Christians need to call upon the grace of God to inspire and raise up ‘servant leaders’. because it is a disgrace to a humanity created in the image of God.the greatest among you must become like the youngest. This behaviour is incompatible with the Christian faith and needs to be exposed and combatted. ‘And guess what happened?’ he told me. Even if it were possible to do so. Such a change of mentality is rare throughout humanity. I met with the head of one of Christian denominations in my country. Such authoritarian approaches to leadership cannot function effectively in democracy. the practice of authoritarianism debilitates people and keeps them in a chronic state of immaturity. even amongst church leaders. In human history. ‘Now every local church has its own dictators. He explained to me that during communist times the leadership of the church had been perceived as a dictatorial body. and the leader like one who serves’ (Luke 22:25–26). The authoritarian leadership style becomes so ingrained in the minds and reflexes of those who live under oppression that even when the authoritarian system collapses. some church and community leaders became even more abusive towards their people than the old dictatorial ‘masters’. It is not only much safer and wor ld v ision • 80 • a fter liber ation. Under freedom. under oppression. people simply cannot be controlled. denominational leaders were pressed by believers to adopt a more democratic structure. Under freedom. . Instead of looking for and submitting to proud and controlling rulers. then w h at? Even if it were possible to do so. Soon after the collapse of communism. control is not God’s preferred leadership style. After the changes of 1989. masses of people across a variety of cultures and distinct contexts continue to instinctively view such abusive approaches to government as absolutely legitimate. Christians are called to follow and mentor leaders who learn to become humble and trustworthy servants. in its pastors and elders’. Dictatorship is likely the only leadership paradigm available. control is not God’s preferred leadership style.

At the same time. we will only reinforce the way of the past and disempower the community.wiser. jobs and so on. Thus. but also more compatible with biblical principles. the state assumes responsibility for making all important decisions and for providing for those needs of people that the state considers legitimate. for instance. to each according to his needs’. we are utterly unqualified for such roles. and mentor them to become mature leaders. we will encounter this type of mindset in the leaders that naturally emerge. Throughout aid and development work by such agencies as World Vision. authoritarian regimes tend to treat their citizens like children. who are less influenced by authoritarianism. It goes without saying that this wor ld v ision • 81 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . The communist ideal was expressed through the utopian watchword ‘from each according to his ability. Yet. as is the case in any socialist system. as we try to mobilise communities. which was expected to meet all people’s needs (at least so far as the state agreed to recognise the extent of ‘needs’). It is more advisable to recruit in such positions younger people. to help people develop their own convictions and become able to make decisions for themselves. in the long term. these tough people are effective in engaging the energies of their community members. by promoting such people in positions of responsibility. which obviously came at a price – as people were forced to accept very little personal freedom of decision. it was in fact through taxes that people themselves paid that the state was able to provide such services. This economic model created in people a fundamental lack of initiative and a chronic dependence on the state. made centralised provision for (supposedly) free education. Eastern or Western. Apparently. free health care. unreALIstIc expectAtIons oF tHe stAte Because of their fundamental lack of trust in people. No matter how highly we think of ourselves. Leaders in post-authoritarian contexts should not try to play the role of the Holy Spirit or to be a Messiah for people. the communist state. Therefore. This is true not only in churches but also in communities.

This ‘allergy’ might become dormant during initial transition towards democracy. then w h at? . Most refused to assume personal responsibility for meeting these needs. Clearly people and communities who hold to such unrealistic expectations are incapable of functioning normally in a free society and may sooner or later have to ‘die in the desert’. It is not surprising. In many former communist countries. people continued to expect the same provision from the state. Because of constant propaganda bombardment. and held the state responsible for everything that would normally have been their own duty in a free-market economy. suspIcIon toWArds deMocrAcy Communist propaganda demonises Western democracy. people who lived for many years under communism developed a sort of ‘ideological allergy’ towards everything from the West. Since the state now refused to fulfil these functions. or was unable to do so because of economic collapse. Things are quite different for younger people who did not live under communism long enough to be so effectively wor ld v ision • 82 • a fter liber ation. that when communism fell in Eastern Europe. but partial truths were blended with so many lies and distortions that it became impossible for ordinary people isolated under communism to distinguish truth from falsehood. and this penetrates deep into the individual and social psyche under communist regimes. but is reactivated as soon as the cost of living under freedom becomes apparent. then. those people who had never valued freedom in any case started to become nostalgic for times when the supposedly benevolent authoritarian state took ‘good’ care of them.ideal has never been achieved in any of the communist states that have ever existed. people could hardly bring themselves to utter the word ‘capitalism’. while many openly admit that they hold socialist views. if real promise for a democratic future is to be realised. as did their Israelite counterparts. Some communist critique of capitalism is legitimate.

This may be one of the reasons communism has accounted for so many millions of deaths wherever it has been implemented. people have value simply as numbers in a mass. This is why the communist system used a sort of ‘Procrustean’ levelling approach. Travelling outside their countries could help people living in post-authoritarian contexts to become aware of the extent to which their thinking and their reflexes have been conditioned by the ethos of the ideology promoted by the dominant regime. they also make us easy prey for those without scruples (leaders. parties. At the centre of Marxist anthropology. even if politically they were never part of the system. devALuAtIon oF tHe HuMAn person Under communism. their social value decreases dramatically. part and parcel of the ideal of creating the ‘new man’ is the essentially pseudo-religious world view that people’s individual value is determined by the economic and political contribution they bring to society to the extent that they can function as mere instruments of production.brainwashed by its propaganda. similar to that of other authoritarian systems. Not only do these attitudes prevent us from functioning as fully and eagerly responsible beings in a free society. cutting off everything and everybody that did not fit the generally prescribed profile. not just in the eyes of authorities but also amongst ordinary people. Humanity has no more value than a cog in the machine.) who are all too ready to exploit our low self-image in order to transform us into a new ‘mass of manoeuvre’ to accomplish selfish wor ld v ision • 83 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . and as soon as individuals can no longer be useful for production purposes. This underlying attitude led to a major devaluing of the human person under communism. Emphasis is not on what distinguishes each individual but on what is common to all. We who have lived under communism carry this kind of devaluation and dehumanisation over with us into democracy. etc. This is why the real hope for building a truly democratic society rests with the younger generations. companies.

Christ calls people to live in community. people are created in the image of God. In contrast to both these views. Human beings were not created either to be numbers or masses (characteristic of communist collectivism) or to live in isolation and selfishness (specific to capitalist individualism). This is the model that underlines the Christian concept of ‘person’ and the Christian definition of the ideal society. then w h at? . Christianity teaches that Christ died for the whole of humanity. wor ld v ision • 84 • a fter liber ation. and what could be the model for the change that is needed? dIGnIty In coMMunIty According to the Christian understanding of humanity. For r eFLectIon Identify characteristics of authoritarianism in your country which you think could have a negative effect on the ability of your people and communities – Christians or not – to live under freedom. both dignity and a purpose: to live for the glory of God. It is evident to us that such a diminished sense of the human person is unlikely to immediately result in societal frameworks based on responsibility and personal initiative. collectively and individually. This makes every human being infinitely valuable. according to the image of the Holy Trinity.or even destructive purposes. Every human being has a unique calling and has a role to play in the body of Christ. For r eFLectIon What then can be done to change this state of things? Where should one begin. This gives humanity. where the divine persons of Father. because we each have been bought at the price of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus christ. Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony. but would have been ready to die for just one sinner if you or I had been the only one.

The only countries in which this influence has been limited. so as not to run the risk of being accused of being ‘enemies of the people’. are those which have passed through their parliaments a special law (called the law of lustration) preventing. This being the case. at least to some extent. but frequently continue in positions of power in political and economic life. When Hitler’s Nazi government fell and Germany was occupied by the Allied armies. overtly or more discreetly. Then Germany and other European countries went through a thorough process of de-nazification. it can easily be imagined that a residue rampant in post-dictatorial contexts is a high degree of suspicion amongst people in all social structures. for a number of years. People living under authoritarian regimes always had to be on their guard and exercise great care in everything they did. and this held true only until such groups were infiltrated by undercover agents or informers. the international community set up the Nuremberg tribunal and condemned the crimes of the Nazis and Nazism itself. This was also true within churches and all other organisations. to initiate a similar trial of communism.The post-authoritarian mindset It is estimated that in most former communist countries at least one in every 10 people worked in one way or another for the secret police. It is very strange then to us who endured communism that even though communism caused far more deaths than Nazism –100 million victims according to the sources cited in this document’s introduction. The only groups that could not be controlled by the communist regime were those meeting underground. Another contributing factor in this ongoing sense of suspicion and scepticism is that many people who formerly held positions of responsibility in the leading party and the secret police not only have been rarely made responsible for their crimes. either in the international community or in former communist countries. former communist and wor ld v ision • 85 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . and the number is still rising – in our case there is clearly no political will.

they tended to completely neglect shared areas of those blocks (land around the block. Many people in communist countries. demonstrating how enduring these deeply ingrained attitudes remain. the façade of the building. Likewise. while setting out to seek the good of the masses. people started to concern themselves only with their own interests and neglected ‘the common good’. While people took what care they could of their own apartments. had to live in apartment blocks.) which were usually left in a very dilapidated condition. and may in some respects be so as well under rampant capitalism. It continues to be very difficult to initiate processes of raising ecological awareness amongst people and communities in post-dictatorial societies. suGGestIon The law of lustration is probably the surest protection against continuation of the influence of dictatorial leaders in countries that move towards democracy when authoritarian regimes collapse. in fact destroyed the fabric of society and instilled in many people utter selfishness and lack of concern for the community. because so few link economic and ecological benefits for individuals with the welfare of their entire communities. the same attitude to shared areas (or state property. then w h at? . communist collectivism. particularly in cities. Naturally. That is true also of other authoritarian societies. people under authoritarian regimes tend to neglect the environment. frequently bringing their countries to the brink of ecological disaster. As a consequence of living under very difficult economic conditions for an extended time. suspIcIon And BreAKdoWn oF coMMunIty Paradoxical as it seems. entrances. etc. for that matter) continues even after the fall of the communist system.secret police leaders from entering parliament or holding positions of authority in governing administrations and business. wor ld v ision • 86 • a fter liber ation. the corridors.

‘Civil society’ refers to the population of a nation and its institutions. What this produced in the hearts of country people and factory workers alike was. very complex but well-documented economic realities). all their animals and means of production (tractors. of which the church and NGOs are part. peasants were forced (on many occasions by use of very violent methods) to join collective farms. not great enthusiasm but rather a feeling of disconnection from the land and the means of production and a total lack of interest in their demeaned work status. apart from government and business. Yet governments seem incapable of seeing the importance of this and of doing something to bring about radical change in stewardship of communities’ shared resources. Such civil society groups advocate and take action primarily for social development and on behalf of public interest. civic associations. which argues that private property is the root of all evils. etc. quality of work and levels of production decreased. such as individuals. for the sake of our argument here. wor ld v ision • 87 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? .). mineral reserves. naturally. leading in the end to total collapse of the communist economic system (this summary simplifies. carts. land. In the countryside. People also had to contribute to these collectives. Thus. agricultural machinery. whenever the communist system was instituted in a country.This being the case. in time. larger buildings. condescendInG etHIcs As an outworking of classic Marxist theory. It is the duty of conscientious leaders of civil society. which form the basis of a functioning democracy. rebuilding of community spirit in the hearts of people should be one of the greatest priorities for post-dictatorial societies. NGOs. to create public debates and to initiate such processes of change. etc.). one of its first moves was to confiscate all major private property (factories. supposedly voluntarily. religious groups and voluntary associations.

You have to take care of them. 22 This joke can easily be found on the Internet at websites such as http://www. perestroIKA You have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk. Your noble takes some of your milk for himself. The government takes both and shoots you. representAtIve deMocrAcy You have two cows. but the government takes all the milk.htm. but the Mafia takes all the milk. and the cows drop dead from starvation. no one gets any milk.22 FeudALIsM You have two cows. The rest is yours. cAMBodIAn coMMunIsM You have two cows. BureAucrAtIc socIALIsM Your cows are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. then w h at? . You have to take care of them. pure socIALIsM You have two cows. FAscIsM You have two cows. pure coMMunIsM You share two cows with your neighbours. The government gives you as much milk and eggs as the regulations say you need. no one works. because you don’t have any cows to put up as collateral. The government gives you a glass of milk. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers.Realities described above are well illustrated by the following joke titled ‘World ideologies explained with cows’. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the ‘free’ market. rotten capitalist that you are. Your neighbours pick someone to tell you who gets the hires you to take care of them and sells you the milk. The government takes both. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the black market. russIAn coMMunIsM You have two cows. pure deMocrAcy You have two cows. cApItALIsM You don’t have any cows. You have to take care of all the cows. You and your neighbours argue about who has the most ‘ability’ and who has the most ‘need’. wor ld v ision • 88 • a fter liber ation. The bank will not lend you money to buy cows. Meanwhile.cyberclass. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows.

Large dogs jump over it. people in the countryside stole from the fields and workers stole from their factories anything that could be sold in the market or could be made use of in the home. Small dogs sneak under it. making it almost impossible to build any predictable social structure. the unavoidable outcome is the reign of lawlessness. Citizens forcibly endure a veritable plethora of new laws. as a result. people living under authoritarian regimes developed a sort of ‘situational ethics’. manipulated and controlled. the end result is moral chaos. mocking the Marxist theory: ‘This is not stealing. It goes something like this: ‘Under communism. Further complications: authoritarian regimes operate in the juridical sphere with the purpose of creating a very complicated legal system. When loss of shared ethics is coupled with an ineffective police force and a corrupt legal system. people usually answered. can be more easily blackmailed. purposefully impossible to clearly understand or comply with. To survive. Only stupid bulls stop in front of it’.Hard pressed on every side. Asked why they were stealing. law is seen as a barrier. Isn’t all this ours? If it is. A key consequence of this situation was the total undermining of society’s ethical fibre and value system. When people’s common attitude towards compliance with laws is downgraded in this manner. Since nobody can possibly know. every member of society feels more or less guilty or utterly fearful and. LAcK oF respect For LAW A humorous post-communist joke about the law illustrates the devaluation of legality under a dictatorial system. the constantly changing laws. economically and politically and not least of all spiritually. whose aim is to control people through fear and guilt. Whenever this happens. then we are only taking what we need from our own property’. wor ld v ision • 89 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . the democratic ideal of building a ‘state of law’ is very difficult if not impossible to accomplish. let alone abide by.

then w h at? . or the idea that a state functionary is a civil servant. creating all sorts of anti-social behaviour in ordinary members of society and in government officials alike. This attitude frequently carried over into the period of transition to democracy.On the other hand. As a result. ‘one called to serve the public’. Authoritarian regimes allow no place for the concept of the ‘independence of the judicial system’. Concepts of customer satisfaction. This makes the life of any petitioner absolute misery.e. people tend to offer bribes or to use the influence of some acquaintance in a high position in order to obtain what they want. i. people living in dictatorial societies rarely held genuine respect for authority and government. One area in which this situation affects nearly every ordinary citizen is that of the government administration. which is a chronic problem for most dictatorial and postauthoritarian administrations. expressed in the saying ‘the customer is always right’. To cap it all. tHe roAd to corruptIon As a kind of corollary to issues discussed above. such a situation leads ordinary people to try to cheat the state as much as they can. courts are totally corrupt and operate under political control. It is a sort of perverted competition. in order to survive. and the state is seen as the great enemy. which were invariably seen as inherently oppressive. whether or not it is legitimate to do so. are totally foreign to the authoritarian mindset. Officials of state bureaucracy generally have a very arrogant attitude to all who come to ask them for some legitimate service that they are paid to provide. It is obvious then that establishment of a modern democratic society could only be hindered and slowed down by perpetuation of this kind of mentality in the period of transition from dictatorship to a free society. This practice breeds rampant corruption. whose end result is that the citizen is considered ‘always guilty unless proven innocent’. wor ld v ision • 90 • a fter liber ation..

Freedom also involves a significant cost. For many. The filmmaker Cecil B. as fallen beings. as was the case with the Bible’s first human couple. it is very difficult for them to understand what freedom really entails. This. FreedoM or AnArcHy? Freedom is the greatest possible dream for anyone living under oppression. DeMille once famously summarised the lesson of his ‘Ten Commandments’: ‘We cannot break the laws of God. they are simply deceiving themselves and are bound for bitter disappointment. and it is also very easy to idealise freedom. without any restrictions. is not freedom. freedom means simply the ability or ‘right’ to do whatever they want. which brings us back to the metaphor of ‘40 years in the desert’. a price not easy to pay. Adam and Eve. we tend to abuse freedom and have always done so. There is no such thing as absolute freedom. and is certainly not conducive to democracy. For this to develop. True freedom involves responsibility. When we realise this. God created women and men as free human beings and our search for freedom is an unrelenting one. for oneself and for others. When people have lived for generations under oppression. wor ld v ision • 91 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . we became aware that we are not gods but simply God’s creation. but anarchy. Yet. however.Creation of a modern society in which different institutions work effectively in the public interest requires radical change in individual and community mentality and behaviour. and if we try to avoid playing by God’s rules we will bear the consequences of those decisions. We all have our limitations and there is nothing wrong with that. citizens living in post-dictatorial contexts need to engage in a process of social transformation that could take at least two generations. We can only break ourselves against them’. This reality establishes the rules of the ‘game’ of life. When people living under oppression entertain very naïve and idealistic dreams about freedom. We are all conditioned by many things in our past.

To survive. amongst other initiatives. Developing societies need to be consciously involved in a process of transformation that includes a number of contributing resources: reformed approaches to education as discovery rather than institutionalised propaganda. rebuilt infrastructures. Because of heavy ideological control exercised by the system. Dictators never encourage such communication skills. nor do they understand the importance of acknowledging and respecting the positions of those holding opposing views. sincere communication between people. people very early learn the art of dissimulation: thinking one thing and saying something else. people living in such societies do not learn how to discover and evaluate different options. independent-minded. because their aim is to create obedient and subservient citizens.InABILIty to coMMunIcAte Oppressive regimes do not encourage open. especially when disagreements arise. not mature. This is why if communist ideologues thought someone’s ideas were not correct. wor ld v ision • 92 • a fter liber ation. Deeply rooted behavioural patterns need to undergo progressive change. During transition from dictatorship to democracy. then w h at? . their reaction was to eliminate the person altogether. as a way of dealing with ideas that opposed their ideology. Also. to form their own convictions and to argue for them. renewal of media integrity. even highly-educated people may appear utterly incapable of respect for someone whose ideas they reject. Obviously these behaviours are not conducive to sincere dialogue and open communication. and this will not happen overnight or by simply letting things take their ‘natural course’. Marxist regimes did not make a distinction between a person and that person’s opinions. new social networks. Negative impacts of this state of affairs on social cohesion and abilities of people and communities to negotiate and solve conflicts are obvious. reasoning and responsible personalities.

but had no clear idea what life in the Promised Land would be like. particularly in Asia. we may very well say that society came out of communism. They knew Egypt all too well. people just emerging from oppression do not have a clear understanding of the kind of society towards which they are in transition. This is one of the strangest paradoxes of transition from authoritarian regimes to freer societies: people whose mentality is affected by their past dictatorial experiences have the almost impossible task of building a modern society based on democratic values and on principles of free enterprise. In examples of post-communist transition. one of the most common ‘diseases’ in post-dictatorial societies. What happened in Eastern Europe was similar to the Israelites’ experience after crossing the Red Sea. but Egypt was alive and well in their minds. We shall have to wait and let history evaluate how well they will do with this. This too is similar to what happened to the Old Testament Israelites in the desert. People who have been part of a centralised economy all their lives find it very hard to understand the mechanisms wor ld v ision • 93 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . This kind of situation can lead to a deep-seated hopelessness. They were physically out of Egypt. no cLeAr vIsIon oF tHe Future At the same time. Also communist regimes remain. the demise of communism as a way of thinking and as a pattern of behaviour for people living in post-communist contexts. but communism did not come out of people. unfortunately.For r eFLectIon Which elements characterise present dictatorial or post-authoritarian mentalities in your context? How do you think these are likely to manifest during future or ongoing transition to democracy? Pathologies of transition The fall of communism as a political and economic system in Eastern Europe did not mean.

In former Yugoslavia. communist leaders kept nationalistic passions of their people under strict authoritarian control. from a philetist perspective. this combination became truly explosive. nAtIonALIsM versus GLoBALIsM Post-communist societies are quite polarised between traditionalists and modernists. or rather. Yet this tactic proved to be no solution to the ‘problem of different nationalities’ evidenced by the violent explosion of nationalistic passions that led to recent wars in the Balkans and ongoing conflict in the former Soviet Union. Again. to be a Serb is to be an Eastern Orthodox. then w h at? . When people’s identity was redefined. the terrible result caused tens of thousands of deaths. to be a Croat is to be a Catholic and to be a Bosnian is to be a Muslim. When such sharply defined identities collided. In this. evidently. to ethnicity and to religion as sources of identity. the artificially constructed identity of ethnic groups that had been part of such states entered a major crisis. Not knowing for certain whether the fall of the diseased system was irreversible. it will be easier for younger people to learn and adapt to these mechanisms. or what the future might look like. who they want to become. ethnicity came to play a central role. The root of this problem is that after the fall of dictatorship. Traditionalists look to the past. merging ethnicity and religion (technically known as philetism. In line with an internationalist perspective. in postcommunist societies we also find those who argue that wor ld v ision • 94 • a fter liber ation.of the free-market economy and of democracy. a heresy condemned by a Christian council in the 19th century). people were confronted with a critical need to define a new identity. a dimension whose importance was rediscovered after atheistic propaganda ceased and governments stopped exercising control over society. At the other end of the world view spectrum. while modernists oppose these as outdated and look ahead to modern globalist concepts to define who they are. Another aspect that further complicates matters is the religious dimension of people’s identity.

some people chose to become members of the communist party in order to be able to pursue a particular career. as human beings. Since I was already a very active Christian and consequently did not have a very good reputation with local communist authorities. These become even more deeply rooted when. including the one in which I was interested.looking to the past as a source of individual and corporate identity is detrimental to the establishment of a modern. When I finished my high school studies I wanted to specialise in sociology. impulses and habits. The same holds true for world view accumulations as individuals and as national communities during the communist era. developed society. while others. Thus. the result of a combination of ideas. I wor ld v ision • 95 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . in spite of their lack of communist convictions. a few months before I had to register for the university entrance exam. traditions. as a result of ideological propaganda. soMe tHInGs WILL never cHAnGe We are all. Some are the result of persistent brainwashing efforts carried on for generations. unwilling to make this compromise. Some are so deeply ingrained in us that they cannot change without significantly affecting our identity as individuals. These people are usually strong believers in alleged virtues of secularism (radical separation of religion from the public sphere) and globalisation (a present-day tendency towards creation of cultural and economic uniformity across the whole world). we make personal choices that set us on a specific personal trajectory. while other traits are learned characteristics that can change given the right conditions. However. accepted more modest professional trajectories. It is again obvious that such polarisation of the public arena has a negative effect on social cohesion in post-communist societies and slows transition to democracy. conscious and unconscious. inherited and accumulated. the government passed a law requiring a special recommendation from the Communist Youth League for a number of faculties.

most people in older generations lack moral authority in the eyes of new generations seeking spiritual guides. We are all influenced to some extent by the contexts in which we live and by the decisions we make in life. Handled in the wrong way. For r eFLectIon How can you contribute towards preparing younger generations in such a way that they will be able to maximise opportunities and avoid. I gave up my dream and chose a different area of study to which I did not feel especially drawn. as happened with the Israelites in the desert. they can succeed – against all odds. It is almost like dynamite. then w h at? . In spite of acknowledged limitations and of baggage carried from the former regime. As already affirmed. Because of compromises or tacit acceptance of the former oppressive regime. LAcK oF ModeLs One critical situation in periods of transition is an inability of older generations to offer a viable model to younger generations. As a result. wor ld v ision • 96 • a fter liber ation. There simply is no one else to step into the gap.was advised to not even dare to ask for the reference. freedom is not easily understood by those who have never lived under it. it can do a lot of harm. pathologies characterising transitions from dictatorship to democracy? Freedom without limits or responsibility? Freedom is precious but also a volatile thing. Some influences become so much a part of us that they remain with us until we die. largely if not totally. these older generations have no moral choice today other than to engage in the effort of shaping the future of their churches and of their countries. In humility and by the grace of God.

One of the most common myths that dominate postcommunist psyches is that genuine freedom has no limits. According to this myth, if people are truly free, they can do whatever they want, without limitations or constraints. Yet such an idea is not only utopian but also absurd. If everybody was ‘free’ in this sense of the word, the world would become a total mess in a very short time. Freedom is not genuine or moral if it infringes on the rights and freedoms of others. True freedom requires self-imposed limitations and constant negotiation. From a Christian point of view, freedom is not a selfish individualistic right but a communitarian virtue. The Creator has given it to humankind not for self-gratification, but for the glory of God and the service of others. People who are spiritually and socially immature imagine that freedom means that they have all the rights in the world and no responsibilities whatsoever. This is somewhat childish. Nevertheless, many people in post-communist societies, particularly younger people, think like this. When such attitudes prevail, there is no hope of building solid democracies, because this demands hard work, true discipline and, ironically, some sense of solidarity. Yet there is a source of hope: when former communist countries opened their borders and people were able to travel and sometimes also work in the West, these pilgrims and pioneers very quickly came to understand that one cannot be truly free without paying the price of responsible living.
devALuAtIon oF FreedoM

People who have lived without freedom for a long time have no way of appreciating its true value. Confronted with freedom’s high price, a good many look back and fall into nostalgia for idealised ‘good old days’. Like the Israelites in the desert, these modern children of God swiftly forget the hardships of slavery and want to go ‘back to Egypt’ for the predictability and meagre pleasures oppression afforded.

wor ld v ision • 97 • fort y y e a rs in the desert?

Similar devaluation of liberty in East and West leads people who have freedom to sell it cheap to gain security. This happens to Christians right along with people of other faiths or no faith who, having learned the art of submission to oppressors, are sometimes ready to accept without protest the authoritarian style of their new leaders.
Money tALKs

An extremely serious risk confronting communities, the church and Christians who have been freed from oppressive regimes is that of letting themselves be controlled by the power of money. Christians often hold a dualistic world view in which prayer is ‘spiritual’ while money is just ‘a worldly matter’. Such believers never learn to handle money intelligently or to view their finances in the light of their faith in God. Most practicing Christians living under oppression tend to be poor because they and their families are denied access to privileges of the ruling class. When freedom comes, some Christians who have business skills become active and start accumulating wealth. At this point they discover, to their surprise, that other members of their Christian community believed the communist lie that wealth (rather than ‘love of wealth’, as the Bible distinguishes) is the source of all evils. These perhaps well-meaning but ignorant Christians become envious and start slandering their business-minded brothers and sisters, accusing them of being worldly and of obtaining wealth by theft and dishonesty. As a result, the whole community loses, both in resources and cohesion. Clearly, from a biblical point of view, there is nothing sinister about wealth, so long as it results from honesty, integrity and fair dealings, with the likely additional factors of hard work and a special God-given vocation for business. Yet the Bible addresses numerous warnings to wealthy people, because they are exposed to serious risks of putting their trust in their resources rather than in God. These risks increase when Christians naïvely underestimate the corrupting power of money.

wor ld v ision • 98 • a fter liber ation, then w h at?

This same flawed and naïve understanding leads some Christians, including church leaders, to ‘sell themselves cheap’ to competing foreign agencies and interests in the name of the allegedly higher interest of the Christian community. A number of Christian leaders in Eastern Europe have brought their churches into disrepute by thirst for power, prompting them to engage their churches in projects and initiatives that made them dependent on external ‘help’ – particularly financial – which then turns out to be debilitating to the local congregation. Such debilitating dependence is dishonouring to God and has nothing to do with principles laid down in the Bible.
oBsessIon WItH BuILdInGs

One particular effect of underestimating the corrupting power of money can be observed in the current obsession with putting up church buildings, occurring in many Christian communities of all denominations in former communist countries. Under some authoritarian regimes it was/is indeed often very difficult, if not impossible, for churches to put up suitable buildings. Under freedom, congregations have a legitimate desire to provide themselves with accommodation for all their activities. Yet not everything about this tendency is right. Frantic and compulsive building activity often leads to a neglect of the building up of the living congregation, which after many years of oppression, needs at least as much attention as external walls. These demanding building projects frequently exhaust the congregation, with very little, if any, spiritual benefit. These congregations have forgotten that the kingdom of God is not built with ‘bricks and mortar’. Some years ago, the church in which I worshipped started a new building project, in spite of the fact that its existing building was adequate and that the 60 members of the church were mainly elderly pensioners or students without income and, as a result, the congregation did not have the financial resources to sustain such a project. Yet a start was made on the building in the hope that money would
wor ld v ision • 99 • fort y y e a rs in the desert?

As the secularised ‘golden rule’ goes. on both sides of the equation. Consequently.somehow materialise. ‘He who has the gold. If people and communities really want to enjoy freedom. In spite of congregants’ opposition. the building is still not finished. designed to hold more than 400 people. most probably from the United States. Then. makes the rules’. not pragmatic effectiveness. Here are some possible ‘prices’ we may need to pay: Slower growth From a biblical perspective. faithfulness. you may ask. This may sound strange in our pragmatic times. then w h at? . after years of demanding effort. they must consider the price freedom demands. on what basis do churches embark upon such huge projects? They are most often based on promises (or hopes of promises) from congregations in the West. For r eFLectIon What do you anticipate will be the greatest dangers associated with freedom in your own context? The price of freedom Any given thing is as valuable as the price we are prepared to pay for it. the church has been through crisis after crisis and the number of congregants is smaller than it was when the project started. The Bible tells us that Abraham believed God and he was counted as righteous on the basis of that faith wor ld v ision • 100 • a fter liber ation. indigenous congregations are in danger of losing their independence and may be pushed unwillingly in directions its members would never have accepted under other circumstances. few count the cost of economic dependency that eventually must be paid. when we tend to consider that if something ‘works’ it must be right. the building was wildly out of proportion to the size of the existing congregation. Today. is the test of authentic Christian leadership. Besides the irresponsibility of this conduct. Such building projects often far exceed not only the real needs but also the financial resources of congregations.

communities need to learn to depend on God. we cannot accept that one part of the ecclesiastical body (the one that has more money) should dictate to other. wor ld v ision • 101 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . through the help of Western money – who will build the church. we do not intend to promote the idea of isolating local and national churches from the church universal. and such dependent funding alliances will prove the arch-enemy of freedom. To keep intact the precious gift of freedom. At the same time. Biblical interdependence vs. including financial reality. This is not biblical partnership but ecclesiastical imperialism. Christians are instructed to acknowledge that freedom. and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it’ (Matt. financial dependence on aid Jesus Christ promised the apostles. through the Holy Spirit – not us. Saying this. rather than money. under any political system or regime. The biblical story of the poor widow who donated her last two coins to the Temple (Mark 12:41–44) gives Christians an idea of what God expects from them in the area of giving. 15:6): nothing pragmatic about this story. well-being and ‘fullness of life’ are received from the Lord. That also would be contrary to the New Testament’s portrait of the church. in determining ministry direction and to steward all resources according to biblical principles of justice and generosity.(Gen. it was all about faithfulness. poorer parts of the body. Thus. ‘I will build my church. in our context and congregation. 16:18). rather than God. The Bible provides very rich teaching about money and giving. that inner freedom takes precedence over external freedoms such as those resulting from the fall of an oppressive regime and that we need to make the wise decision to accept a pace of personal and ministry growth that aligns with God’s reality. Biblically taught Christians believe genuinely and sincerely that it is Christ. Otherwise we risk becoming dependent on external funding.

Here is the principle suggested by the apostle Paul: ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind. 9:7). governments or organisations from many wealthy lands a financial power that can easily be abused through domination and control. it is often churches experiencing serious problems with members’ giving which are most tempted to engage in projects that exceed their financial capabilities and. In their context. as a result. individuals. the Israelites paid two tithes a year. for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor. and this may be one of the reasons for God’s blessing on their country. This is proof not only of ecclesiastical pride but also of irresponsible leadership. Although there is no general agreement across Christian traditions on this matter. In the light of these biblical principles and examples. Paul also commends the Macedonians to us as examples of righteous giving. then w h at? . the amount raised also played the role of state tax. this allows ‘giving’ churches. and even beyond their means’ (2 Cor.The Old Testament principle of tithing required giving 10 per cent of one’s income for the service of the temple (in reality. Strangely enough. with grave wor ld v ision • 102 • a fter liber ation. we may rightly say that the sign of a person’s spirituality is not church activism but the extent to which faith touches the person’s wallet. end up in financial dependence. amounting to an annual percentage of at least 22 per cent). American churches have often been a commendable exception to this rule. this is a real indictment of the poor level of commitment to giving in many churches across all traditions. plus another one every three years. At the same time. 8:3). not reluctantly or under compulsion. making it a very liberal percentage compared with some modern countries’ levels of taxation. I do not believe that the New Testament establishes a specific percentage of giving for Christians. because ‘they voluntarily gave according to their means. both of which are incompatible with Christian understanding of partnership and financial giving for God’s children or towards God’s kingdom. If such analysis is accurate. in spite of any shortcomings.

consequences for the spiritual health of the church concerned. This may offer a possible alternative to financial dependencies of churches in new democracies upon churches in the free world. Rome and the British Isles and later crossed the Atlantic to the Americas. and today the church is multiplying at a surprising rate despite severe persecution. Thus it reached Asia Minor. wor ld v ision • 103 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . this strategy does not depend on any foreign funding. the gospel reached China and took root. The Christian gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Likewise. such as the apostle Thomas. For r eFLectIon Please contemplate on ways in which you can teach your communities. Practically speaking. but is supported almost exclusively through the sacrificial giving of Chinese churches. Jesus’ apostles mainly took the gospel message to the West (although some. economically sound and biblical principles of giving and of financial independence. churches and networks healthy. the Son of God. also went East). known under the generic name of ‘back to Jerusalem’. Christian leaders bear a responsibility to teach churches about the biblical disciplines of giving and to be models to church members in this area of the life of faith. Chinese house churches have formulated a vision described as the ‘back to Jerusalem’23 strategy. Christian leaders must also prove wise and persuasive in making sure the church preserves its freedom and does not let itself become financially dependent. was revealed to humanity in Judea. A reMArKABLe ALternAtIve One remarkable example of application of biblical financial principles to money and giving is the strategy of house churches in China. which aims to close the circle of missions by moving west through the Muslim world in order to finally arrive back at Jerusalem. From there.

politics. often we take for granted our right to speak to people about the things that interest us (perhaps including God and salvation) – yet we may show no interest at all in the things these people care about. Our concern for them as whole human beings is the only kind of concern that gives us the right to speak to them about Christ. On a more personal note. the individual and the social. The apostle Paul warns precisely against such surrogate versions of the gospel. local community. economics. society in general. If we want to see in our countries and communities vibrant churches and dynamic people of faith who are making an impact on society. we need to promote in the Christian community a holistic understanding of the gospel. love for God and love for our neighbours. etc. and the only kind that reflects Jesus’ conversations recorded in the gospels. wor ld v ision • 104 • a fter liber ation. in Galatians 1:6–9. which concentrates on getting individual people to heaven and makes no connection with the social dimension of people’s lives: extended family. Bible reading and churchgoing. Thus the good news of the kingdom of God is frequently reduced to • a so-called ‘spiritual’ gospel which limits its teaching to prayer. one that embraces both the spiritual and the material. and rejects any preoccupation with material things as worldly and unworthy of ‘spiritual’ people • an individualistic gospel. then w h at? . • a heavenly gospel concerned almost exclusively with reconciliation with God and having nothing to say about our need to be reconciled with our neighbours.Christian social responsibility A HoLIstIc GospeL One of the greatest scandals of the Christian world today is the multitude of distorted or partial versions of the gospel preached in many churches.

those people who have lived around us and yet never had the opportunity to hear (or see) the gospel may testify against us at the Last Judgment. Such a thought is obviously scandalous wor ld v ision • 105 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . while being a good artist or computer scientist is. to be a minister or a missionary is the highest calling in life. People who promote themselves in this manner usually do not go beyond this point. do everything to the glory of God’ (1 Cor. cLoset cHrIstIAns Jesus tells Christians not to ‘hide our light under a bushel’ (Matt. This dualism often manifests itself in unbiblical obsession with so-called ‘full-time ministry’. it implies that if Christians serve in a factory or on a farm they are in fact serving the devil. This is why all Christians are called to be ‘marketplace Christians’ who view their entire lives – their jobs. As the apostle Paul instructs. 5:15). because it is when we live our life of faith amongst people that we give them an opportunity to see how the gospel is transforming our lives (if indeed this is happening). oBsessIon WItH ‘FuLL-tIMe MInIstry’ Many Christians entertain a dualistic view of life and ministry. cleaning the house or making love with their spouses – as aspects of their worship of God and gratitude for God’s goodness. ‘Whether you eat or drink. 10:31). For them. for sure. if we take the same logic to its extreme. This means that if you are a professional minister in the church or work for a missionary agency you can boast that you are serving God full-time. However. By this he means that his followers are not to isolate themselves from society. If we isolate ourselves because we care more about safeguarding our alleged holiness than about being vibrant witnesses of God’s love in a world heading towards destruction. or whatever you do. and as testimonies to the exceedingly good gospel of Jesus Christ.MArKetpLAce cHrIstIAns vs. second best. Someone once said: ‘The waters that you keep for yourself will go sour’ and ‘The light that you keep for yourself will make you blind’.

on the farm. from Jesus and his apostles to the likes of St. in the factory. For ‘God arranged the members in the body. the apostle. No vocation is superior to any other. If someone is a Christian. in the house. No calling (including work in full-time church service) is superior (or inferior) to any other. according to each person’s vocation and calling in life. as he chose. Paul’s writings any complaints about being forced to ‘waste time’ making tents instead of preaching the gospel. If all were a single member. As we have mentioned already. yet one body’ (1 Cor. where would the body be? As it is. It is our own hearts’ attitudes towards obedience to God’s voice that may be found superior. 12:12–27). and also in the church. then w h at? . Paul. that person is called to serve God full-time. Christians often use this term to refer to making a living by common manual or creative labour while living out the Christian life – rather than making a living from preaching or similar ‘ministry’. or wanting. The apostle Paul clearly states that we are all ‘one body’ and ‘the body does not consist of one member but of many’.and totally unacceptable. One of the universal benefits of tent-making is that it helps foreigners and national Christian leaders avoid the risks of chronic financial dependence on outside people and agencies (as well as the consequent dangers mentioned earlier of false or embellished reporting). there are many members. Christians need to emphasise that absolutely nothing in the Bible justifies such ‘super-spirituality’. in the office. every day of the week. Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther and more modern Christian leaders such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Richard Wurmbrand. whatever our calling. is the wide-spread breakdown of work and business wor ld v ision • 106 • a fter liber ation. we must glorify God in everything we do. each one of them. The message is very clear. We do not find in St. St. consistently condemn this notion as heresy. He was literally a tentmaker. but God distributes them according to his purposes and. is the patron saint and role model for all ‘tentmakers’. Christian teachings. one of the most problematic areas of need in post-authoritarian and post-communist societies.

ethics. they likely profess what has been called ‘Mickey Mouse theology’. but if you ask them to explain their area of specialty in the light of biblical revelation or their faith convictions. a childish expression of immature faith that falls far below their professional competence. This Christian practice would transform entire communities. transitioning nations have little chance of alleviating poverty and becoming truly ‘developed’ (witness the multiplicity of post-authoritarian nations whose ‘free market’ is essentially corrupt mobsterism or even anarchy). When you hear some of these people talk about their profession. have contributed to various cultural distortions of the Christian wor ld v ision • 107 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . they appear highly competent. For example. benefitting people of all faiths and world views. Christians who represent Christ in their secular vocations can take a stand for an alternative vision of society. Many Christians in virtually every context who have a secular vocation exist in a sort of schizophrenia: they may find it difficult to connect their specialty professionally with their life of faith. Christians need to build a bridge between their personal faith and the area or specialty in which they are called to serve in the world. by deepening their biblical and theological understanding. and rarely are they helped to do this by the teaching they receive in church. Tentmakers have a great opportunity to model and teach new ways of engaging in work and business. The same is true for a medical doctor or a politician. no ‘MIcKey Mouse tHeoLoGy’ To represent Christ worthily in society. Without this. emanating from colonial powers of the day. Some residues of Christian missions in the 18th and 19th centuries. A critical priority of church leaders today should be to equip those members of their congregations and faith communities who have a secular vocation to live out their faith intelligently and relevantly in the midst of their daily occupations. a biology teacher who claims Christianity as her or his faith needs to know in what way the discipline interfaces with biblical revelation.

is the need to build solid institutions that are transpersonal and will be able to outlast their founders.message and life style. Without these. then w h at? . A foundational principle of political liberalism. theology and structures on cultures. ‘How Lao is our ministry?’ Or ‘Are we encouraging Ethiopian authors to put their own experiences into writing?’ Or ‘Are we encouraging original Bolivian theology in response to their unique challenges?’ ‘Do we encourage the translation of Cambodian worship songs into English?’ And so on. soLId InstItutIons. through the immature imposition of Western music. Christian ministry will be stunted – amateurish and likely not significantly impacting free societies of the future. We should constantly be asking ourselves. for example. This runs totally contrary to the biblical principle of incarnation – when God became like us – that should be our model for missions. MentorInG And contInuIty Churches cannot expect stability and continuity in ministry if their members and adherents continue to be critically influenced by fluctuations in doctrine and practice that are a direct consequence of dependence on questionable sources and more or less genuine charismatic personalities. from which Christians can legitimately learn. For r eFLectIon How can you prepare members of your faith communities and congregations to worthily represent Christ in their everyday lives in society under conditions of freedom? wor ld v ision • 108 • a fter liber ation. while original and native expressions of the gospel were not encouraged to flourish.

a very ‘socialist’ idea. I have a great deal of sympathy for many ideas promoted by left-leaning politicians. have tried as it were to ‘affiliate’ God with their political agendas. respect for private property is an underlying theme in the Bible. nor have these agendas helped the Christian community to fulfil its prophetic role in society. most obviously by using the word ‘Christian’ in party names and titles. both in so-called ‘free’ democracies and in post-authoritarian countries. and this really shook my preconceived ideas. For example. Yet when I started to move beyond my prejudices I realised that both capitalism and socialism exhibit some elements compatible with the gospel. tHe Free MArKet Is not sAcred Christian advocates of Western capitalism sometimes speak as if the gospel of Jesus Christ and the free market ‘gospel’ were one and the same. communism) and was a fan of capitalism. I could never have imagined that a Christian could be anything but conservative and ‘right wing’.A Christian critique of capitalism cHrIstIAnIty – neItHer socIALIst nor cApItALIst Living as I did in a communist country. My structural allergy to Marxism and to leftist politics made me blind to the fact that God does not take sides politically. Rarely could serious Christians imagine God being honoured by such associations. in contemporary political terms. At the same time. I had opportunities to meet people who were definitely committed Christians but who regularly voted for the ‘left’. with no proof) in this regard as wor ld v ision • 109 • fort y y e a rs in the desert? . Various political parties. Such advocates tend to be as fideistic (based on mere belief. even while fundamentally I do not share entirely their world view. Today. the Bible repeatedly speaks of the responsibility of those who have towards those who don’t. although I am still more inclined to the right politically. Later in life. Until that point I had no doubt that God hated socialism (and even more so.

but be able to discern the times with the ‘mind of Christ’. Having partaken of the ‘blessings’ of the communist economy for most of my life. not God’s creation. I would certainly vote for the free market model. those who seek to understand Christianity – along with those who seek to authentically live the Christian faith – have to understand that it is neither the merciless competition for profit nor the Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ (which frequently characterise capitalist economies) but rather God’s heart for the poor and marginalised which should be of paramount concern for the church and the individual Christian. 12:2). However. So help us God! For r eFLectIon Identify what Christian leaders can do in order to not let themselves be controlled by the ‘spirit of the times’ (Rom. How might this exercise affect partnerships and work in your communities? wor ld v ision • 110 • a fter liber ation. we all should always keep in mind that whatever economic model we choose or are forced by circumstances to live under. created in the image of God but alienated from God.Marxists are about theories of the class struggle and the ‘evils’ of private property. if I had to choose between the two. then w h at? . Both reflect to different degrees the beauty and the ugliness of humanity. God’s HeArt For tHe poor Finally. Both the free market and the centrally planned economic model are human inventions. we must constantly submit its assumptions to the discerning light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

roads were built. of movement and of political action. This is why it is violently opposed to Christianity and to all other religious systems. which bears the image of our Creator. not everything done under authoritarian systems is totally bad. When this happens. in terms of limitation of personal freedom of conscience. Furthermore. as well as the breakdown of community spirit and of hope for the future. there was progress in terms of housing facilities. a certain degree of ‘normality’ and even joy of living that is possible under the most oppressive circumstances. This perspective allows. and lower-class people got access to education. will people and communities be able to make the most of opportunities afforded by newly gained freedom? wor ld v ision • 111 • conclusion .Conclusion Communism – not so different from many varied authoritarian systems which attempt to ‘play god’ in controlling the lives of citizens – is basically a quasireligious ideology. did not compensate for these gains. as we have already described in detail above. because even dictators share in our common humanity. God created all of us as free human beings. there was very little unemployment. Those of us whom God allowed to live under such oppressive political systems have to accept it as part of God’s providence to us and strive to extract as much spiritual gain as possible from this traumatic experience. Yet the price paid for these accomplishments. illiteracy was almost completely eradicated. under communist regimes. Thus. and sooner or later all authoritarian regimes (which do not acknowledge that freedom) will fall under the weight of their own economic ineffectiveness and inhumanity.

we nurture hope. Our prayer for every heart. to also disagree with ideas expressed here. Feel free to add other questions and. We commit them to you with all due humility. so that the incarnation of Christ in your country may flourish. using the reflection questions provided. They have been less damaged than adults by totalitarian systems. Seeds planted in them can bear fruit into eternity. Yet with a little bit of help. This is why we have taken the trouble to put these thoughts together. nostalgia for the past (whose oppressive shadow is easily forgotten) and falling back into old habits of the demised times – can be observed already in countries experiencing the ‘Arab spring’. Our expectation and hope is for ongoing engagement with the complex issues of (post-) authoritarian contexts. That is precisely the reason we have put together this text. then w h at? . We would like to encourage you and your teams to go through this material in your times of spiritual reflection. May his name be blessed forever! Amen! wor ld v ision • 112 • a fter liber ation. of course. The vision statement of World Vision International should be a powerful inspiration for all of us in this endeavour: ‘Our hope for every child. Please muse upon or discuss issues presented here with your colleagues and faith communities. A similar trajectory – of unrealistic hopes. to the glory of our great and gracious God. the will to make it so’. so that you may discern through the Holy Spirit what in them could be of help to you. disappointment. such depressing experiences can be mitigated. Truly it often seems hard to learn from history. and insights gained through reflection. or for that matter by the flaws in free-market systems in the West.Quite negative experiences of Christian churches in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe should alert us to the possibility and the danger of not being ready for freedom. All promise for our shared futures resides in investing in children and youth. By mentoring them into becoming wise and good as discerning and fully engaged citizens of our communities and countries. life in all its fullness.

After receiving his MA in theology at the London School of Theology he went on to receive a PhD in Orthodox theology at Brunel University. Danut Manastireanu has served as the director for Faith & Development for the Middle East & Eastern Europe region of World Vision International since 1999. He is involved currently in an oral history project aimed at preserving the memory of the persecuted Church in Romania that will hopefully extend to other former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. He has a keen interest in understanding communism and post-communism from a Christian perspective and has held seminars on the topic in approximately 20 countries. wor ld v ision • 113 • a bout the author . London. He currently lives in Romania.About the Author Dr.

org European Union Liaison Office 33 Rue Livingstone 1000 Brussels Belgium Web: International Liaison Office Chemin de Balexert 7-9 Case Postale 545 CH-1219 Châtelaine Switzerland Email: geneva@wvi.World Vision International Offices Executive Office 6-9 The Square Stockley Park Uxbridge. Middlesex UB11 1FW United Kingdom World Vision International 800 West Chestnut Avenue Monrovia. 2nd Floor New United Nations Liaison Office 919 2nd Avenue. CA 91016-3198 USA Web: wvi. NY 10017 USA .