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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 wvi_publishing@wvi.org. 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

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

I know this will contribute to World Visions envisioned future: We look forward to a world where every child experiences life in all its fullness.Where they are protected, cared for and given the opportunities to become all God meant them to be. They grow strong in communities free of need and full of promise. Where families are valued, creation preserved and the most vulnerable live in security and confidence. They become responsible citizens of well led nations. Where peace and justice reign and all have the opportunity to contribute. 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 worlds children. In such a world, all taste the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.1 Tim Dearborn Partnership Leader, Christian Commitments World Vision International

World Vision International, WVI Christian Commitments Ministry Strategy, 2009-2012 (2009).

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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, along with the challenges these experiences pose for building healthy communities. After a half-century of humanitarian work around the globe, including work in many authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts, 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, as the well-known prayer says, the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. As the author of this book, I draw first on my own experience of living under the communist regime in Romania, the postcommunist euphoria and let-downs that followed, as well as years of study, travel and direct interaction with people living in dictatorial or post-authoritarian contexts in more recent years. Many colleagues, inside and outside of these restricted contexts, convinced me that numerous conclusions and principles extracted from that particular context can be applied effectively in many other countries and societies. I was born in communist Romania and lived for 35 years under that regime. I grew up in church but became disenchanted because of what I perceived as an otherworldly perspective on life. As an idealist teenager, I became attracted by Marxism, which seemed much more down-to-earth and socially engaged than what I had seen in church. Yet, when I was around 18 years old, a series of personal crises put to the test my Marxist beliefs and I realised they did not hold up.
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This ideology pretended to have a solution for society but could not offer a solution to individual people that form society. At that point, I turned to Christ and I was never sorry for my decision. He gave meaning and purpose to my life. From being a Marxist, I went to the opposite extreme and became an anti-communist, involved in dissident activities, particularly in defending the rights of Christians persecuted by the communist government. This attracted the wrath of the regime and tight supervision from the secret police. I was, obviously, aware of it and I consciously assumed the risk. Yet only after the fall of communism, in 1989, when I got access to my surveillance files compiled by the secret police, did I become aware of the extent and full impact of their actions. I did not find many surprises but, with rare exceptions, I do not know yet the real names of those (friends, church members, colleagues) who reported to the secret police about my life, as in those files they all have code names. 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, the man who baptised me. In it, he suggested to the police that I might have a mental illness (like an aunt of mine who, largely with his cooperation, was isolated for 10 years in a psychiatric prison and was never again a normal human being). 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. In time, through the influence of godly mentors and lots of reading, I came to realise that my anti-communism was as poisonous as the communist ideology, and incompatible with my commitment to minister to all people, whatever their ideological stance. The rest of my life, after that turning point, I have dedicated to serving people from different social, cultural, ethnic and national backgrounds. I have never considered my experience under communism as a wasted time but as Gods providence for me. In fact, normality, or at least some degree of it, is possible under almost any circumstance, no matter how harsh. It all depends

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

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

Danut M anastireanu

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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 Gods 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

Introduction
tHe LeGAcy oF coMMunIsM: AMBIvALence And reALIty

The destructive nature of communism is today a proven fact of history. The Black Book of Communism2 records about 100 million victims of Marxism as a state ideology since 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, from the millions killed by Stalin, through the numerous victims of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, to the crimes committed by the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea during its reign of terror from 1975 to 1979 [which] resulted in 1.7 million deaths out of a population of 7.9 million.3 Yet unequivocal statements about the evil nature of communism are rare in political and academic circles today. Former communist countries have never gone through a process of de-communisation comparable to the de-nazification programme carried out in Germany. We may fairly ask what reason there is for this striking anomaly. In the first place, 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, as important as the first, may be that many academic circles in the West, especially in the humanities, continue to be dominated by people who are still impressed with what they navely suppose to be the noble ideals of
2 3 4 Mark Kramer, ed., The Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press, 1999. Stephen P. Marks, Elusive Justice for the Victims of the Khmer Rouge, Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 52, 1999. See Stephen Koch, Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, Enigma Books, 2004.

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Marxism. Rarely have these academics lived and suffered under oppressive dictatorial regimes. A third reason is that former communist and secret police leaders still control, directly or indirectly, the economic and political life, and more importantly, also the media, in many post-communist countries. Finally, because many people were not prepared for life in post-communist neo-democratic or neo-capitalist contexts, those who have been disenfranchised may also experience nostalgia for economic and social benefits now lost.
MArxIsM A deHuMAnIsInG totALItArIAn IdeoLoGy

This phenomenon of communisms legacy the discord amongst documented historical reality, nostalgia for controlled societies in the face of post-authoritarian instability, 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.5 This is probably the only way to avoid the tragedy of such regimes gaining power in the future. People who have lived in communist countries were thoroughly affected by this ideology, some to a greater degree than others. No one was spared. The result is that we became distorted human beings, some brainwashed, some merely deprived of the long-term intellectual, emotional, spiritual and material inputs that lead to holistic well-being. Since the fall of communism in many countries, and changes in countries still governed by communist ideology, many of us who lived under communism have found ourselves utterly incapable of functioning normally in the new world being built before our eyes. Westerners working now in post-authoritarian countries also need to understand why we, people living in such contexts,
5 Totalitarianism: a political system in which authority, exercised by a person, a group or a political party has absolute control over all aspects of life, the individual is totally subordinated to the state and any opposing political and cultural expressions are suppressed.

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think and behave as we do. This is true not only regarding post-communist settings but applies also to neo-Marxist governments, to authoritarian religious regimes, and to military dictatorships. Hopefully, some of the insights herein will make it easier for Westerners to work alongside us and avoid looking down on us. In addition to these aims, we also have the secret hope that, in the process of reading what follows, 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.
WHIcH WAy to tHe proMIsed LAnd?

This document is unapologetically written from a fully assumed Christian worldview, with the purpose of engaging dialogue amongst peoples of differing faiths, worldviews and cultures. Such dialogue may also be useful in countries still under a communist or authoritarian regime, across many cultures on all continents. In this spirit of dialogue, 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, with you or with each other. Humility and respect is, at all times, our aim. Starting from the context of communist ideology, and moving then to consider other authoritarian settings, three fundamental questions will be considered: 1. What is the essence of totalitarian ideologies, especially as represented in Marxisms multifaceted manifestations, and how has this ideology engaged with Christianity as a faith and world view? To the extent that context allows such analogies, lessons drawn from this analysis may be adapted or extended to other authoritarian ideologies, as appropriate and as common sense dictates.

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2. From a Christian perspective, how can communities and individuals who are still living under an oppressive regime prepare for the coming of freedom, whether sooner or later, to their country? 3. What are characteristics of the post-authoritarian mindset, 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. 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.

To illustrate how this text and these questions might apply in a context affected by both Islam and communism, consider Kosova. The following brief observations are based on intense discussions with Kosovar leaders during various visits there.

AFter LIBerAtIon, tHen WHAt?: KosovA


Kosova is an area with a special religious significance, much like Jerusalem. It is par excellence the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy. Serbia derives its national and religious pride from the battle of Kosova Polje (in Albanian, Fushe Kosove) in 1389, where the Serbian army lost to the Ottomans. Following this event, in spite of the fact that one can find in Kosova almost 200 Serbian Orthodox places of worship (churches and monasteries, many of them destroyed during the bloody conflict in 1999), the Ottoman influence increased. At present the region is inhabited by a majority Albanian Muslim population. Yet Serbians still consider this province the cradle of their religious and national identity. In addition, Serbs tend to define their religious identity in nationalistic terms (to be a Serb is to be Orthodox; and if you are not Orthodox, you cannot truly be a Serb). This is an expression of the Christian heresy of phyletism (the blending of ethnic and religious identities), officially condemned at the Orthodox Council of Constantinople of 1872 as a negation of the

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

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

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On the contrary: besides pursuing nationalistic ends, Kosovars were in fact protesting against Milosevic, who, some of them believed, had betrayed true communism. As was the case in all other formerly communist East European countries, Kosovars too had lost many benefits when communism fell: job security, health insurance, free education, pensions and so on. Today, however, poverty and the identity crisis the people are experiencing are driving Kosovars towards religion, particularly Islam but also Christianity in its various forms, as a source of hope.

WIsdoM FroM tHe AGes: Get reAdy For tHe desert

Wisdom teaches that we do not need to reinvent the wheel from nation to nation, or generation to generation, but that we can learn from the experience of people in the past dealing with similar contexts. In the Old Testament, the story of the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt culminates in their liberation from slavery, under Moses the Exodus. Yet their long-awaited liberation does not lead directly to the Promised Land, but rather to their wandering for 40 years in the desert. This narrative provides perspective, significance and, most of all, hope, to this complex subject of sudden liberation from authoritarian regimes, and the often frustrating or discouraging wanderings that have ensued, and also opens up imaginative ways of thinking that go beyond the limits of merely logical or analytical discourse.

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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. In the more than 70 years following its achievement of state power, communism claimed the lives of millions and millions of victims all over the world. Now, more than two decades after the demise of the system in the Soviet Union following its collapse in most communist countries in 1989, the death count is still rising as a small number of countries continue along the bloody Marxist path. In the light of this reality, 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. Armenia, the oldest Christian nation, is an interesting and complex example of how oppression under Marxism can be compared and differentiated alongside other forms of authoritarian suffering. In its long and troubled history, Armenia has been at the traumatic crossroads of various empires and religions, experiencing numerous forms of imposed authoritarianism, all with devastating consequences for millions. According to tradition, the tribes of Armenia united as a nation around 2500 bc. After two apostles of Jesus, Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, brought Christianity in the first century ad, Armenia was the first nation in the world to accept Christianity as its official religion, in 301, when King Tiridates the Great (286330) was converted after a healing through the prayers of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
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By the fifth century, the invention of the Armenian alphabet enabled translation of the Bible into Armenian and an era of great cultural and religious vitality was created, spurred on by the growing literacy. Around 450, a Persian king tried to impose Zoroastrian faith on Armenians, who rebelled in traditional and guerrilla attacks until the Treaty of Nvarsak (484) allowed Armenians to freely practise their Christian faith. In more recent memory, Greater Armenia has suffered both under the Ottoman Turks the genocide of 1915 being particularly traumatic and as a Soviet satellite republic under communism. Since the fall of communism, Armenians have lost 90 per cent of their industry, suffered massive emigration (almost 2 million working abroad), and continue to cope with unfulfilled hopes, disappointment with freedom, and nostalgia for the past. War with Azerbaijan reflects the current insecurity of its geography as a Christian nation surrounded mostly by Muslim neighbours.
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. 1:10). The enemy uses the pressure of hard work to instil a survival mentality, to crush hope and to distract the attention of the oppressed from long-term preparation for a return to freedom (Exod. 1:1114). The oppressor may use birth control measures (infanticide), rape or sexual subjugation, or other interference in family life as a means to keep Gods people under control (Exod. 1:1517). When Gods people are oppressed, although it may appear that God does not care, in reality he is very active in hidden ways on behalf of his people (Exod. 1:2021).
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Oppression calls people not to rebel against God but to pray, because God hears the cry of his oppressed people (Exod. 2:2325). Gods people are called to use creativity to overcome oppression (Exod. 2:110). Human creativity and Gods providence co-labour and cooperate in providing a solution for the salvation of the people of God. God has a sense of humour with solutions that are sometimes ironic (Moses, the liberator of the Israelite slaves, grows up at the court of the oppressor, Pharaoh) (Exod. 2:10; Acts 7:2023). Civil disobedience is a legitimate choice when civil law contradicts Gods law (Ex. 1:17; 2:2). God rewards those who choose to obey God rather than people (Ex. 1:20). Some members of the people of God may be tempted to use violence in opposing those who oppress them (Exod. 2:1112). Gods 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. 3:11; 4:10). 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, who may think that certain actions only serve to increase the oppression (Exod. 2:1314).
For r eFLectIon

What other observations and comments would you contribute regarding these biblical passages (Exodus chs. 14)?

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The quasi-religious character of authoritarian ideologies


MArxIsM As secuLAr reLIGIon

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

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ways and upon clearly opposed grounds, are soteriologies doctrines of salvation and therefore deal in symbols and myths upon a scale without parallel except among nonEuropean humanity.8
MArxIst opposItIon to reLIGIon

Marx wrote: Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions (emphasis added).9 We should not be surprised at the violently anti-religious attitude of communist regimes. Since communism is quasireligious at its roots, 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. 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, can be seen in Asian, African and Latin American nations where communism and other isms continue to suppress free religious expression, despite economic loosening. In spite of the fierce and violent opposition of all communist regimes to religious communities, they have never been successful in their efforts. The fact is that the church survives (and in some cases, though not in all, is thriving) in all former communist countries, no matter how underground its adherents were forced during communism. There is indeed reason for hope for communities of faith, and for the church as a whole, in countries that are still under communist control. Jesus Christ himself promised: I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).
8 9 Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols. Studies in Religious Symbolism (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969) 11. In Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Right, 1843.

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MArxIst AntHropoLoGy
deFInItIon Anthropology is the study of humanity (from the Greek word anthropos, meaning human being).

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. 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. Why is there a need for a new man? Obviously, this is because the old man is not good enough. Christianity and Marxism agree on this point. Yet the solutions these world views propose are diametrically opposed and totally incompatible. Thus, Marxism avoids talking about personal sin and prefers to use the term alienation, seen as a social concept human beings are seen as victims of an unjust economic system, based on private property and controlled by those who own the means of production. According to Marxism, religion is nothing but a weak means of escape for people exploited by ruthless capitalists. This is why, instead of rising up against those who exploit them, the working class, encouraged by their exploiters, have conceived of a God according to the image of man who they suppose can save them, not in this life but rather in the world to come. From this perspective, religion becomes a means of undermining the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat, and as such, must be uprooted by all means, so that the working class can be truly saved that is, can overcome its alienation. Marxist anthropology involves a complete reversal of the Christian view of the human condition. Human beings (particularly the working class) are viewed as basically innocent (in the tradition of J.J. Rousseau). Evil as a social reality appeared on this earth when, at a particular moment in time during the primitive commune, certain leaders
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decided to grab for themselves what had until then been the common property of the group or tribe. As a consequence, the evil present in society through the allegedly destructive mechanism of private property must be removed through the violent means of revolution. According to Marxism, 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 (17981857), associated in his youth with the socialist utopian Saint-Simon, was the father of sociology.10 His seminal work was significantly titled A System of Positive Politics or A Textbook of Sociology that Institutes the Religion of Humanity. He proposes a religion without God in which humanity takes the place of its Creator. Marxism took over the project formulated by Comte and gave it a new impetus by making it an instrument of social engineering. This exercise in social transformation elevated an ideological understanding of reason as a sufficient and exhaustive explanation of reality (also called rationalism), 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. Consequently, Marxist sociology promotes the Myth of the scientific transformation of the World, which insists that a better society is the almost automatic consequence of organising society in a scientific manner. Strangely, many contemporary theories of change and development share with Marxism the same overly optimistic and unrealistic hope. To the above, we may also add the Myth of progress, which Marxism borrows from the Enlightenment the idea that the new is always better than the old and that things in the world are, as a general rule, getting progressively better. 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, groups and institutions, and the relationships between them, which make up human society.

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evolution to sociology and political philosophy. According to these principles, allegedly there is always an ascending trend in the history of the universe. Despite entropy and the second law of thermodynamics (not to mention documented tendencies in genetics as well as behavioural studies), communism as well as other ideologies including capitalist or socialist materialism tend to apply these myths to life in general, and to humanity in particular. The central concept of Marxist sociology is that of social classes. According to communist ideology, these are defined primarily in relationship to property. Thus some classes (exploiters), control the means of production, while other classes (the working class, the proletariat, et al) are deprived of these means of production. This leads to class struggle, through which the working class aims to gain control of the means of production. In formulating this social model, Marxism aims to the legitimate use of any means, no matter how violent or deceitful, for the establishment of the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the primary justification for the millions upon millions of victims of communism all over the world, with casualties in absolutely every country where communism became established, without any exception.
coMMunIsM As A reLIGIon oF HAte

Based upon history and primary-source documentation of Marxist ideology, it is clear communism is not a culture of life and love but an expression of vehement revolutionary hatred, as if an irresistible drive towards violence and hate

At the beginning of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, people were often arrested abruptly, on the slightest suspicion. The story goes that one day three men found themselves in the same cell. The question Why are you in prison? naturally came up. The first man said: I spoke against the general secretary of the Communist Party. The second said: I spoke in favour of the general secretary (in the meantime that particular general secretary had been disgraced). Since the third man remained silent, the two others asked him: Why are you in prison? He said: I was that general secretary.

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

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a Christian perspective, the solution for the sinful human condition is Christ, his mediatory death and resurrection, accepted personally by faith, through which the believer is incorporated into the church (the body of Christ). Following this radical personal decision (called conversion), the new Christian is called, together with the whole Christian community, to work out the implications of faith in every realm of life and society. In terms of its understanding of salvation, communism is incompatible with Christianity because of its atheistic basis. It is also a philosophy based exclusively on human effort, while from a Christian perspective salvation is based on Gods grace in Christ, 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).
MArxIst escHAtoLoGy

Marxist eschatology12 promotes a sort of atheistic millennialism a promise to establish heaven on earth through human means, with no reference to God. Marxist ideology encompasses the Myth of determinism, according to which the historical destiny of humanity is controlled, in a supposedly scientific manner, by a predictable chain of cause and effect. Thus, by knowing this historical mechanism, the new enlightened man can participate in the creative transformation of the world and society. Human society is believed to be developing ineluctably through the following stages: 1. primitive commune 2. slavery 3. feudalism 4. capitalism 5. socialism 6. communism
12 Eschatology is the doctrine or understanding of the future and particularly of the end of history (from the Gk. word eschata the last things).

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Communism, supposedly the most advanced stage in the development of human society, is for Marxists what paradise is for Christians. Achievement of communism represents a sort of surrogate heaven, and its doctrines deliberately set out to replace Christianity in the minds and hearts of people. This supreme culmination of history was to be preceded by a transitional period, called socialism, whose role was to destroy, through the dictatorship of the proletariat, any vestiges of capitalism the bourgeois state and its institutions, the capitalist economic system and the old mentalities on which these were based and to replace these with new structures and mentalities, thus preparing the ground for a millennial age of happiness and prosperity. Unfortunately for Marxists, these expectations were never accomplished in any societies where they were tried out. There are no exceptions. Marxists hopes proved utterly wrong in at least three essential areas of their doctrine, regarding Capitalism - Marx expected capitalism to disappear under the offensive of communism; yet in fact capitalism adapted and began incorporating some social concerns, thus becoming, in spite of obvious weaknesses, the strongest and most effective economic system available globally. Societies still ruled by communism have likewise adapted in ways inconceivable to Marx, increasingly incorporating capitalist approaches to economic growth (as in China, Vietnam and Cuba, amongst others, which explains their resilience, after the fall of most communist systems in Eastern Europe and Asia, following 1989). Nations - Marxist ideology predicted that the institution of the nation-state would be weakened and eventually disappear; yet the 20th century proved to be the age of the nations. Far from disappearing, fierce nationalistic passions, which had been suppressed in former communist countries, erupted after 1989 like in former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, leading to bloody conflicts and to tensions still unresolved today.
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Religion - As already noted, Marxism predicted that under the influence of secularism, religion would steadily decline and finally disappear, being replaced by a commitment to science. Resurgence of religion almost everywhere in the world, including the former communist bloc (Western Europe being the exception, not the norm) proves this prediction wrong thus far. Communisms eschatological hope failed to be actualised, and in fact many former communist countries have reverted to a capitalist system, defying Marxist historical assumptions. When those who still hold Marxist convictions are asked today how they explain this, the standard answer is that Marxist ideas were never applied as they should have been. These modern Marxists also believe that they will be the ones who will do the job thoroughly and will eventually succeed. In the light of the facts and historical documentation we have, this is simply wishful thinking, or worse, self-delusion. Interestingly, and quite important for anyone who works with communities in communist and post-communist contexts, 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, even if they are oppressive. 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. Therefore they too were taken by surprise when the system collapsed, and the sudden change found most dissidents and communities completely unprepared for freedom. More importantly, the church was itself unprepared to live and witness for Christ in a capitalist free-market system. During its communist years (19751979), Cambodia suffered horrific violence under the Pol Pot regime, and the church there was almost completely wiped out. Today, the young Christian leaders there see a need to learn from the experiences of the church after the collapse of Soviet
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communism. There is a need for reconciliation and healing of memory, for being protected from the dangers of wild capitalism as well as financial dependence on the West, and a critical need for investing in children and youth as the future of the church in that country.
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.g. theocracy, totalitarianism, social democracy, communism, anarchy, fascism, imperialism, liberalism, etc.).

Every society has an ideology that forms the basis of its public opinion or common sense, a basis that usually remains invisible to most people within the society. This is why so many people in a society often seem to think alike. On the surface, this dominant ideology appears as neutral, while those ideas that differ from the norm are seen as negative or antagonistic. Ideology also involves a certain ethical dimension. Political ideologies offer a comprehensive vision of life and a plan for creating a particular social order, giving direction to the thinking and action of a group or a nation. Political ideologies are concerned with how to allocate power and to what ends power should be used. Every ideology tries to be holistic, to account for the whole of life, and if possible to change it for what is assumed to be better or more desirable, at least in the eyes of adherents.
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Marx once said, Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the important thing, however, is to change it.13 Starting from this premise, communism, based on the original formulations of Marx and Engels and later developed by Lenin, was one of the most influential and well-defined political ideologies of the 20th century. According to Marxist theory, ideology is an instrument of social reproduction, a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society, in order to control it for the benefit of those who rule. This is why communists sought to obtain political power, to impose their ideology with the alleged objective of making the working class the main beneficiary of this social arrangement.
tHe centrAL roLe oF tHe econoMIc In MArxIst (And cApItALIst) IdeoLoGy

Three secular prophets of modernity have shaped contemporary understanding of our world. These three are Marx, Freud and Nietzsche. Marx underlined the force of the economic drive in people. Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, argued that everything in the human being is controlled by sexual drive. Nietzsche named the will to power as the drive controlling every human being on this earth. Each of their thought systems bear quasireligious connotations as well as totalitarian claims, 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. Marx proposed a base/superstructure model of society. The base, which determines the superstructure, refers to the means of production in society. The superstructure rises from the base and comprises that societys ideology as well as its legal, political and religious institutions. Since, according to Marxism, it is the ruling class that controls the means of production, the superstructure of society, which includes its ideology, will be determined according to what is in the interests of the ruling class. Such an arrangement was unacceptable to communists and they called on the working class to reverse this through revolution.
13 In Theses on Feuerbach (thesis XI), 1845.

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Marx subordinates everything in his philosophy to the force of the economic drive in human beings. Economics in general and the supposedly destructive effects of private property in particular, play a central role in Marxist understanding of the world. Communism argues that private property is inherently illegitimate.
deFInItIon Private property is the right to use, enjoy or possess a certain thing, and the right to exclude others from doing the same.

Marxs argument is centred mainly on the fact that creation of private property is evil because it involves private ownership of natural resources, including land, which should belong to everybody. If private ownership of land is illegitimate (for example, due to the fact that ownership of particular pieces of property may earlier have been instituted by force), then it follows in Marxism that private property in general is illegitimate. Marxist ideology argues that only collective ownership assures minimisation of unequal or unjust outcomes and maximisation of benefits, and that therefore all, or almost all, private property should be abolished. Richard Foster has written a book called Money, Sex and Power,14 in which he states that many Christians often neglect, to their peril, the importance of the human economic drive. The same holds true for the importance of the human sexual drive and of the will to power. This helps us understand why the contemporary church is regularly rocked by scandals related to financial corruption, sexual immorality and abuse of power. Christianity teaches that God put those drives in humankind and meant them for good, 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, Platonist outlook on life, of which they are likely to be
14 Richard Foster, Money, Sex and Power, HarperCollins: San Francisco, 1985.

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completely unaware. Contrary to the biblical world view, which upholds the sanctity of the whole of life, Platonism (formulated by the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Plato and developed by neo-Platonists during the Christian era) divides life into two realms. The higher realm, that of the spirit, includes all religious practices (for example, amongst Christians, prayer, fasting, Bible reading, etc.), and is considered the more important, while the lower realm, the sphere of material things (work, sexuality, politics, etc.), is secondary and consequently should not occupy much of our attention. This utterly unbiblical but very popular view is the root of most distortions of the Christian faith, in the West as in the East.
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. This is even more so in the case of totalitarian political systems. Thus, communist parties are especially concerned to promote Marxist ideology amongst the masses, through varied and effective means. As we have already suggested, totalitarian regimes frequently make use of quasi-religious means, including symbols, music and rituals, to propagate their ideas. Because people in newly communist countries always bring with them mentalities developed under the previous system, communist regimes historically immediately undertake measures aimed at systematic mass re-education. To achieve this, various authoritarian governments have employed the most diverse means: systematisation of the entire society, through regimentation in various structures such as children
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and youth organisations, trade unions, political parties (usually only one) etc., 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, 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, educational, work and political institutions permanent media pressure, conceived as an effective means of brainwashing. Some people were more influenced than others by this propaganda system, but no one was immune. We acknowledge that many political and social systems, not just communism and not only authoritarian regimes, employ these tactics.

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What is critical is whether individuals and communities are aware of these tactics and can hold tacticians to account.
tHe IrresIstIBLe Force oF IdeoLoGIcAL BrAInWAsHInG

When I first travelled to the West, after the fall of communism, I spent a few days with a friend in the north of England who was married to a lady from my own country. After many hours of conversation, my friend told me bluntly: You smell of communism a mile off. I must confess I was very offended. I told him: You tell me that I smell of communism? I was involved in dissident activities, 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, after thinking more deeply about this and after having opportunity to spend some time in the West, I had to admit, albeit reluctantly, that I do smell of communism, but so do Western people smell of capitalism. We tend to take on the smell of the environment we live in. You can easily identify someone who has spent all day herding livestock. The same is true of those who have lived under communism or other isms. Rather, like cowherds who live and work amongst their animals day and night, they cannot detect their own smell, but it can easily be detected by those who have lived in a different context. As in the case of the Israelites living as slaves under Pharaoh, a mythology of work is one of the most effective means of propaganda used by totalitarian systems: the worker, particularly the manual worker, is often elevated to the role of hero in such societies. In communist thinking, work possesses a primarily educative role, rather than being oriented towards effectiveness. This non-functional myth is one of the main reasons for the crumbling of communist economies. As at the time of the Israelites slavery in Egypt, intense work, even forced labour, 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
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of Egypt, the canal system of communist Russia or the megalomaniac constructions of Ceausescu in Romania). The penetrating power of ideological propaganda is often neglected by opponents of totalitarian systems, particularly by Christians, who tend to be quite nave about their ability to resist or who believe that somehow Gods power will miraculously protect them from its effects. This is a dangerous blindness that can have a serious negative effect on the ability of people, including Christians, to function normally when conditions of freedom return. Many find it difficult and even painful to shed false assumptions and mentalities acquired unconsciously during life under an authoritarian regime.

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, strongly recommends, We should influence the local authorities in such a way that all purchases of land, lots and real estate are arranged so that the new owners do not receive title but only permits for use.15 The main purpose of these instructions from the Russian secret police, directed at countries occupied shortly after the Second World War, was to undermine private ownership, particularly of land, considered the source of all evils. Compliance was achieved either through abusive (and often violent) confiscation of land or through (supposedly voluntary) creation of communal farms. Interestingly, the same strategy is used presently by some neo-Marxist regimes, where the state owns the land and manipulates agricultural workers into obedience through state-controlled agricultural trade unions.
15 NKVD Instruction NK/003/1947, point 12. This secret document, outlining the social engineering programme of the Soviet forces aimed at controlling of the recently occupied countries in Eastern Europe, was found after the early 1980s, in the secret archives of Boleslav Bierut, the first President of Communist Poland (19471952) and General Secretary of the Workers Party (19481956). It is supposed that this text was sent from Moscow to the KGB headquarters in Warsaw located in the Soviet Embassy. Available at http://www.naszawitryna.pl/jedwabne_en_102.html.

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In communist countries, enforcement was not possible in every case, particularly in mountainous areas with scattered plots of farm land. It has been observed and documented that, precisely because these farmers were able retain private ownership of their land and thus of some of the means of production, 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. At the macro level, findings were similar. 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. What this means is that, strangely enough, although Marxisms foundational premise of the incompatibility of private property and communism was proven to be true, that same truth eventually resulted in the collapse of this ideology. After 1989, the undeniable ineffectiveness of pure communist economies has forced the remaining communist regimes, such as those in China and Vietnam, to permit now an increasingly strong private sector. It remains to be seen to what extent these regimes will be able to survive in long-term competition with free market economies. If what we have argued above is correct, we may legitimately expect that, sooner or later, in spite of efforts to adapt, these communist regimes will collapse too, even if maybe less abruptly, according to circumstances of their own unique contexts.
For r eFLectIon

Please explore ways you think that communities and churches can resist the influence of ideological propaganda by authoritarian regimes.

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Divide and conquer


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

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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.) 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. In communist Eastern Europe, because religious communities were considered an enemy, they enjoyed the special attention of such repressive institutions. These were very powerful, specially trained units, working under the authority of the communist party in each country, created to keep society under strict control. Secret police gave special attention to destroying or bringing disunity to any organised religious group seen as a potential threat, and even more so if it involved young people, particularly students. 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. A few months later, 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, caused by my recent marriage. Throughout communist Eastern Europe, the number of people working directly in the ranks of secret police was not very great, but their impact was increased through use of a large number of informers (some paid, some unpaid). These collaborators ranged in numbers, on average, between onein-ten and one-in-four members of any given community. Nevertheless, the impact of the secret police in society far exceeded actual numbers. This was accomplished by intentionally giving people the impression that they knew everything that was happening. By inducing fear, they made individuals and groups easier to control. My examination of
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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
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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 navet 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
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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.
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usInG tHe InFLuence oF WeLL-MeAnInG, But nAIve, 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, they attempt to use the influence of wellmeaning but misguided church members or friends of the intended victims. Because these unsuspecting and sincere people usually enjoy the trust of those under the surveillance of the secret police, they may sometimes do more harm to the victims than informers or the officers themselves. Reading through my 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. suGGestIon
When freedom comes and people are given access to their secret police files, if you have any suspicion that you have been at any time the object of special attention of the secret police, I would suggest you immediately ask for your personal files. If you delay, you may not be able to find all the relevant documents in them. Often members of the former secret police will simply be incorporated into new secret services, and they will have every interest in covering up their criminal past. Consequently, the more time they have at their disposal, the easier it will be for them to identify documents that might incriminate them and to make these disappear.

tHe MytH oF usInG tHe secret poLIce In tHe Interest oF tHe FAItH coMMunIty

Some church leaders, as well as some political dissidents, 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. This is like trying to catch a lion by the tail or to trick the devil. It never works. I know of no cases when such schemes did not lead to major compromises and the discrediting of those promoting such dubious approaches.
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Some church leaders justify these stratagems, as well as other compromises, as attempts to save the church. They think that without their intelligent and sacrificial intervention the church will simply disappear. Yet the Lord of the church promised that even the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Some leaders have used these kinds of arguments to justify spying and reporting on fellow church members, and acquiescence in the destruction of church buildings, as well as in the persecution, imprisonment and even killing of other Christians. In the light of these realities, such superficial rationalisations are not only unconvincing, but in fact simply condemn the rationaliser and the rationalisation.
For r eFLectIon

How can you protect your community 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, We should give special attention to churches. cultural and educational activities should be directed in such a way as to create a general antipathy towards them. Pay particular attention and place under special controls church printing houses, libraries, archives, sermons, pastoral visits, catechism classes and funeral ceremonies (emphasis added).16 By now, it should be clear that churches especially those that bring genuine spiritual freedom to people and communities are not very popular with authoritarian regimes, even if sometimes regimes have tried to use churches and church leaders for limited periods of time to promote various agendas. Some nave church leaders were fooled by such circumstantial
16 NKVD Instruction NK/003/1947, point 34.

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benevolence and became fellow travellers.17 To their great surprise, they were later dumped by their supposedly friendly protectors as soon as their help was no longer needed. No matter what the immediate tactical attitudes of various communist regimes were towards the church, 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.
dIvIde And conquer

A key strategy of communist authorities in fighting any successful religious activities is to create divisions and strife amongst church leaders, and between church leaders and lay members. Communist officials have used pride, illegitimate ambition for promotion, and all other human weaknesses in order to promote their purposes. Sometimes this soft approach was much more effective than use of violence.
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), officials try to control its activities by confining these strictly to state-monitored church buildings. Any public church meetings can be reported on by informers. Thus under communism in Eastern Europe, home groups were forbidden or disbanded whenever possible, because governments regarded them as a serious threat. At the same time, if such groups found ways to keep their meetings secret, activities could continue unhindered for many years. Such was the case of discipleship groups run by the Navigators and other Christian organisations. 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. They invariably discarded these fellow travellers later on (and sometimes literally destroyed them in the process) after their purposes were accomplished.

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during times of oppression, 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. In Russia, churches that chose to remain unregistered under communism, and which refuse to do so even after the demise of the Soviet Union, are still locked in the past, unable to engage under conditions of freedom.
A cAse For cIvIL dIsoBedIence

The apostle Paul states that God has appointed people in authority for the good of society (Rom. 13:4). When authorities pursue this end, we may well say that they are operating under the authority of God, as Gods special servants, even if they are not believers (see the case of Nebuchadnezzar in Jer. 27:6). But when officials overstep the boundaries of their authority and start abusing those under their care, as in the case of the same emperor mentioned above, the Lord comes against them and will bring them to his righteous judgement. The Christian is called always to show respect towards and pray for those in positions of authority in society (1 Tim. 2:14). According to biblical teaching, the Christian is normally expected to obey the civil authorities, out of conviction and not from fear of punishment (Rom. 13:18). Christians have a duty to be recognised in society as loyal and law-abiding citizens. However, in cases when civil authorities ask Christians to do things against Gods expressed will as presented in scripture, the Christian is not only allowed to, but has the responsibility to resort to civil disobedience, in order to maintain loyalty to the higher authority of God (Acts 4:1820). Even if this may bring punishment upon the Christians, they have to remain faithful to God, who will reward obedience to him.

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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. This generous theory has made communists more suspicious of Christianity, now perceived as an even more serious threat, and has led to increased persecution for churches still living under communist regimes. In fact, the church as an organisation did not play a notable role in the fall of communism in Russia, Bulgaria, Albania or Hungary. Further, it played a minor role in anti-communist upheavals in Romania and Czechoslovakia. 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.
For r eFLectIon

What are the ways in which authoritarian regimes try to bring the church under its control, and with what means can believers protect themselves, 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 became an essential part of the Soviet system of repression. Communist takeovers in Eastern and Central Europe during and after World War II led to mass arrests of non-communist politicians, religious leaders and other people identified as class enemies. Many of these were sentenced to forced labour camps. 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, and their number was to multiply greatly in the years that followed.

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This cruel method is used not only by communist regimes but also by authoritarian regimes all over the world, whatever the ideology that informs their actions. Imprisonment in labour camps is just one of the means used by totalitarian regimes to restrict and persecute the Christian community. 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.
persecutIon As A nAturAL expectAtIon For cHrIstIAns

Some people complain today that believers are confronted in many places, not just in (post-)authoritarian and Islamic contexts, but also in the Western world, with increasing Christianophobia. This charge is legitimate, as religious freedom (and, generally speaking, the freedom of conscience) is a fundamental human right and one of the building blocks of the civilised world. Yet, Jesus Christ himself is recorded to have said: Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:12) and also Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you (John 15:20). The apostle Paul added: all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). This is true not only in the East but also in the West, for all who want to be faithful to Jesus words and be role models in an ungodly society. The verses quoted above instruct Christians not to be surprised when enemies of the church persecute the followers of Christ. This does not mean persecution is defensible as normal and should be accepted as part of Gods original plan. On the contrary, 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. This will continue, according to the Bible, until the Lord binds the devil and throws him in the lake of fire, at the Last Judgement.

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In the end, the Bible teaches that God has prepared a special blessing for those who suffer for his names sake: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:10). When the church comes before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), the Lord will reward those who have been persecuted for him. At the same time, believers have to be careful not to suffer because of their lack of wisdom or for their aggressive and unethical witness for their faith. As a recent important ecumenical document recommends, acts of service, such as providing education, health care, relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements, including financial incentives and rewards, in their acts of service.18
Inner FreedoM protectIon AGAInst externAL BondAGe

The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach.

Those who are free inside themselves usually cannot be broken, even if they are tortured or imprisoned. This is the common experience of the saints of God who have suffered in communist prisons, as well as through history according to verified sources and general Christian tradition. And these people, if they were not martyred, have come out of prison more mature and sanctified then when they went in. At the same time, many people in communist countries who were never imprisoned but did not experience the inner freedom brought about by a strong faith in God, 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, an ecumenical document signed in 2011 by the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance. The consultations that led to the formulation of this document also involved representatives of different religions, who shared their views and experiences on the question of witness and religious conversion.

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compromises and silent acquiescence in the oppression perpetrated by communist authorities. My own father, who lived through the worst period of Stalinist persecution but endured it in silence, as did many other Christians around him, was regularly harassed by secret police officers and lived under constant fear, especially when I started to become active as a Christian student and came under observation of the secret police.
persecutIon As An opportunIty

Jesus Christ taught Christians: love your enemies, do good.... Your reward will be great (Luke 6:35). In the light of this, 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. Some of these people actually experienced repentance and true faith through the testimony of one of these saints. There is nothing new about this. It has happened all through Christian history that some of the churchs persecutors have been given an opportunity to completely transform their lives through the faithful witness of the saints. (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. 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.) Thus something intended to do harm to believers is transformed by God into a means of extending the borders of the church. As the Latin theologian Tertullian said in the second century, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Yet historical examples also document places where either nominalism and/or fierce persecution have led to the virtual extinction of Christianity, as in many places in the Middle East and North Africa. That is why Christians in democratic countries have a special responsibility in defending religious freedom in restrictive contexts.
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Being silent, whatever our reasons, is not acceptable. At the Great Judgement, Christ himself will ask what we have done for those who suffered for him (Matt. 25:3146). In many post-authoritarian or post-traumatic contexts, there is growing acknowledgement that reconciliation is not possible without truth.19 In the post-Soviet republic of Georgia, Stalins legacy is the subject of bitter dispute and even civil war. Georgians describe their life between heaven and hell communism is not completely dead and functional capitalism is far away. Their cultural (and spiritual) situation is beautifully captured in the brilliant and funny Georgian film Repentance (1984, winner of the Cannes Grand Prix, director Tengiz Abuladze), about why the memory of dictators and tyrants and their betrayals must never be buried. The movie ends with a woman asking directions to a church. She is told the road ahead has no church, and she responds What good is a road if it doesnt 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. 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, authorities in totalitarian contexts will think twice before inciting international condemnation. In the case of one of the communist countries in Asia, often neglected in international media, extreme poverty has made the country heavily dependent on foreign aid (with ambiguous results). On the positive side, it has made the government more sensitive to international pressure concerning human rights and religious liberty. Membership
19 For example, in post-apartheid South Africa a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 1995 to bring social healing and restorative justice. It was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 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, London, 2004).

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in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which the country strove hard to achieve, has created even more sensitivity about projecting a good image internationally. Ten years ago, more than 100 Christians were in prison in that country for religious reasons. In the last five years, that number dropped, an obvious sign of progress. 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. Yet the Bible does not promise believers absolute protection against persecution, but rather gives assurance that the Lord will be beside them if they are called to suffer for him. Moreover, at moments when oppressive regimes feel that their end is near, totalitarian officials may act erratically and persecution may occur without any logical pattern; at times some minor misdemeanour may attract fierce retribution, while at other times a major act of civil disobedience may go unnoticed. This may create a high degree of insecurity, but communities and churches have to learn to accept this reality. suGGestIon
Keep records (pictures, documents, personal testimonies, etc.) for the sake of being able to write (in the future) the history of your community, family or church under persecution, and learn from it. This will be a great encouragement for future generations. Otherwise, these testimonies of authentic Christian faithfulness under oppression may be lost forever.

As we have said already, sometimes Christians bring persecution upon themselves not because of the gospel but because of their own lack of wisdom or their excessive zeal. Such people should not expect to receive any reward for their suffering. The Lord calls Christians to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). Moreover, indigenous Christians are often endangered because of the lack of wisdom or mere carelessness of foreigners working there. Such guilty imprudence has caused

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many victims and has landed many local Christians in jail. In most cases, the worst that could happen to foreigners would be to be expelled from the country, while local Christians may have to pay a high price for these peoples mistakes. It is, therefore, very important that foreigners should protect the lives and security of indigenous church leaders, even at the price of their own ministries.

Foreigners should protect the lives and security of indigenous church leaders, even at the price of their own ministries.

Another caveat regarding protection: Christians living in oppressive environments, particularly church leaders, tend to be very protective of their loved ones and community members, but this legitimate desire to protect can easily lead to illegitimate control over the lives of others and, in the end, perpetual immaturity for those controlled. This actually replicates authoritarian reflexes, which presume that ordinary members of society cannot think for themselves and that this is why governing authorities have to make decisions for them. Instead, church leaders would be better to emphasise development of deep convictions that can guide community members lives when freedom brings its array of choices, for better and for worse.
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. Certainly, in oppressive regimes, secrecy is the rule of the game. Thus, 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. Nevertheless, the surest way for a person or an organisation that works for religious freedom, either nationally or internationally, to discredit themselves is for them to use lies and exaggeration in promoting their liberation agenda.
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Such tactics are inherently immoral and unethical, and they fail to promote the interests of the kingdom of God. Lies and unverifiable reporting can only contribute to the discrediting of the church. It is not surprising that authoritarian regimes do not take any notice or show any respect for such initiatives. They deserve no better. Similarly, both during and after times of persecution, 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. This is an issue of integrity. Eventually the truth will come out, and long-term credibility will be measured accordingly. That is amongst the reasons why donors expectations need to be transformed as much as beneficiaries expectations. Western individualism (counting scalps to quantify conversion, 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 Gods vision for community than communism is. Instead, our Christian model should be the Holy Trinity Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit all having specific roles, but never working in an individualist manner.
For r eFLectIon

Identify ways community and church leaders, as well as ordinary Christians, can prepare communities of faith in your country to develop an attitude that reflects Jesus in the face of persecution.

Gods 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). Some quote Bible verses like Psalm 91:7 to justify this sort of triumphalism. Yet Christians who do this seemingly forget that even if the kingdom of God has been inaugurated in the first coming of Jesus Christ, it will not be fully established until Christ the Lord returns in glory.
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Christ teaches his followers that until then they have to be aware that because they are not of this world (John 17:16), the enemies of God will hate and persecute them, as they did the Lord (John 17:14). In other words, authentic Christianity requires a biblical view of suffering (what theologians have called a theology of the cross).
suFFerInG As IdentIFIcAtIon WItH cHrIst

The biblical example of Job shows that God may indeed allow his faithful ones to suffer, for reasons that are not always revealed to those who go through such ordeals. Yet Gods people can find comfort in the fact that if they suffer for the sake of Christ, they will receive a rich reward from the Lord, 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, and may be allowed to suffer along with other human beings. 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, simply because they are his children. If God were to do so, people would be tempted to believe just for the benefits they could obtain, which would reduce the life of faith to a simple bargain. 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. 5:45), so that no one can accuse God of any partiality. 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, in the end God will be vindicated in all his decisions, as in the case of Job. (See Job 42:16.) When people have unrealistic and selfish expectations of God, such as being spared pain that millions of other human beings suffer, they lay themselves open not only to great disappointment but potentially even to the loss of their faith. Yet, such nave and simplistic faith is worth losing, in order to be replaced with the robust biblical faith of a genuine believer.
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Sometimes people ask, Why do bad things happen to good people? Behind this question lie a number of questionable presuppositions: First, the question reflects a one-sided understanding of Gods providence for the believer, one that will always result in good and pleasurable things for humans, without consideration of Gods purposes. Second, the question presupposes that in fact many of us are basically good people, who deserve to be treated well by God, while Jesus himself says that, from the vantage point of Gods perfection, we are all evil (Matt. 7:11 and 19:17); the apostle Paul also says explicitly, quoting the Old Testament, that there is none righteous (Rom. 3:1018). Third, the question suggests that good people (if there are any) should always have good things happening to them, regardless of long-term consequences which humans are incapable of foreseeing. It should already be obvious that the Christian God is not limited to such simplistic explanations. In Isaiah God says, my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:89). Although God knows and cares when humans suffer, God may still allow suffering to occur, for reasons not always disclosed to the humans involved at the time. Yet Gods people may rightly say that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).
suFFerInG As An Honour

Christians should not consider persecution as a tragedy, painful as it may be, but as an honour. 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. 8:17; Col 1:24). Martyrs of the first centuries gladly accepted suffering for Christ, as this identified them with the saints of God who
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had suffered before them (1 Thess. 2:14) and gave them a firm assurance of also sharing in the glory of Christ and of his saints. Thus, as the apostle Peter said, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christs sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed (1 Pet. 4:1213).
Hope In despAIr

When persecution strikes and when physical and emotional pain becomes unbearable, it is very easy even for the strongest Christians to lose heart and fall into despair. In moments like these, Christians learn to depend on the help and encouragement of the community of faith. All down the centuries, the faithful have taken up different practices to overcome the hopelessness brought about by such painful experiences. Thus suffering has often been sublimated into beautiful poetry and music, profound prayers, and special acts of commitment and service to other people in need. In biblical times, a special role was played in such circumstances by apocalyptic literature. 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. These writings sought to instil in Gods people an eschatological hope (the imminent coming of the Messiah at the end of the Old Testament times and, later, an anticipation of the imminent return of Christ, expressed in the early Christian greeting Maranatha, our Lord is returning soon). 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. Importantly, however, Christians are instructed to avoid becoming excessively preoccupied with such coping mechanisms. When in despair, people tend to become obsessed with eschatology, with end-time scenarios and even with predictions of when precisely the end will come (in
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spite of clear biblical warnings against this see Acts 1:7). And when such predictions are obviously not fulfilled, these people can become depressed and lose faith in God. Such times are difficult tests of faith, and as Jesus Christ said, referring specifically to the end times, if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days will be short (Matt. 24:22). This is why Christian discipleship should also include training in learning to keep minds clear and renewed and to depend on Gods grace for everything.
For r eFLectIon

Please ponder in what ways a biblical theology of the cross might help Christians cope with suffering and persecution.

A biblical theology of cultural engagement


Richard Niebuhr, in his book Christ and Culture,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 Luthers model Christ of culture usually seen as a liberal Protestant model Christ transforming culture Niebuhr attributed to his own Reformed tradition. Each of these models has strengths and weaknesses, and each may be more effective in a certain given context or at a certain given time than in others.
20 Harper & Row, 1956.

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As with any other attempt at systematisation, this proposal has been legitimately criticised for inherent and unavoidable simplifications, but many revered theologians and Christian leaders still consider it a good basis for opening up discussion of this important topic, in this instance particularly regarding implications for an oppressive context such as communism. The natural tendency of any human community living under oppression is to withdraw in order to survive. Although such an attitude may be understandable and even justified in certain contexts and for certain periods of time, it risks hindering the ability of people of God to function as salt and light in society, if this is the only way they interact with the surrounding culture. Defining culture is a daunting task because of the many meanings and perspectives that this concept may reflect. Yet this is precisely why readers will need a working definition, so that what is communicated may be clear. So here is a proposed meaning for the sake of this text.
deFInItIon Culture is the totality of ideas, beliefs, values, traditions and institutions that create solidarity amongst members of a certain community, giving them identity, dignity, security and a feeling of continuity.

The Bible has much to say about culture and the world, and the way in which believers are called to engage with it. Sometimes things appear to be very confusing. Thus on the one hand we read that God so loved the world that he gave his only son for it (John 3:16), while at the same time we are warned, Do not love the world or the things in the world.... For all that is in the world - the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in the riches - comes not from the Father but form the world (1 John 2:1516). 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
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language (fallen humanity in the first, and human society organised in opposition to God in the second), things begin to become clearer. This one example demonstrates that individual believers and Christian communities themselves are in great need of a biblically informed theology of culture. 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 believers social responsibility. Without a correct biblical understanding of culture, Christians and faith communities may simply follow their own impulses, traditions of the past or contemporary trends; and even if these are not necessarily wrong, 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.
tHe cHrIst AGAInst cuLture vIeW vALue And LIMItAtIons

The Christ against culture model has been used by Christians at different times in history, particularly in moments of great distress or crisis for the Christian community. Thus, in the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, many saintly believers became aware of the danger that the church, which until that moment had seen itself as a community of pilgrims and strangers in this world, would start to learn the ways of the world and lose her prophetic role. This in fact did happen to a certain extent, in some places more than in others. That is why many holy men and women of God withdrew from society and isolated themselves, most in the deserts of Egypt and Judea, in order to save their souls.
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The same happened at the time of the Reformation, 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. 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 Gods commandments. It protects members of the community from being moulded by values of a godless society. 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. It makes Christian leaders overly protective of members of their churches, which does not nurture the formation of personal convictions and does not provide the necessary context for spiritual growth towards maturity, if circumstances take a member away from the group.
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, a characteristic of many minorities and, paradoxically, a mere expression of human pride.

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Another expression of this pathology of societal rejection, and of the implicit isolationism that it nurtures, is the risk of a secret, subconscious search for acceptability and respectability. This inclination may be expressed in subtle ways, and consequently be more difficult to detect, when the community in question is under pressure, but becomes very obvious whenever the situation becomes less tense and even more so after religious freedom has been granted. This problem arose in all post-communist societies thus far documented. The pathology includes a willingness to make more or less important compromises in terms of Christian values and lifestyle, in order to receive the due respect and appreciation illegitimately withheld under oppression. Clear understanding and acceptance of biblically defined Christian identity, in which the church is viewed as a community of pilgrims, 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, to be equally yoked, those who bring money (usually foreigners) must not dominate those who have none (often the nationals), and must listen to the voice of national Christians. True Christianity is never rooted in feelings of superiority, but in true humility and mutual vulnerability, following the example of Christ. 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, villages or churches with a firm hand). Genuine partnerships require mutual submission to Christ, along with give-and-take serving of one another, ability to work in teams and relinquishing of human inclinations towards extremes of authoritarian control or Western individualism.

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need For ALternAtIve ApproAcHes

The Christ against culture model is not the only option available for the Christian community. It may be the most effective means of survival in critical situations, but is definitely problematic in times of religious freedom and societal flux. If the church has not been able or willing to explore, at least theoretically, other possible models of cultural engagement, when freedom comes then communities and individuals may be unable to function in society to the fullness of their potential and calling. This is why Christian leaders living under an oppressive communist regime, and more importantly, the young people in their communities, need to be introduced to and familiarised with other possible ways of relating to culture, 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.
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. This does not mean that culture should be the determining factor in the choice of the churchs model of engagement. Quite the contrary: The more a cultural model is able to engage with society and to act as a prophetic agent of transformation, the more appropriate it is for that particular context. The Christian community is not fulfilling its calling to be Gods new society when it conforms to this world, but rather when it dares to live courageously and humbly, as salt and light, in the midst of a world that is either hostile or indifferent to the calling of God. 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. Yet even in a secularised world,
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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. 57) will always raise questions and provoke genuine engagement with those who have ears to hear.
For r eFLectIon

Please review the prevalent theology of culture adopted by the church in your country, and what could be possible implications of that for individuals, families and communities living in conditions of freedom.

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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. Although a number of communist regimes continue to exist, most of them were forced to introduce progressively a more open economic system in order to survive. No one knows whether it is a matter of months or years, 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. This section covers the short period of time that marks the final phase of authoritarian systems as experienced in multiple nations thus far, in communist, 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. The biblical story of Exodus serves well as a metaphor to explore what freedom is, how communities can prepare for it and what price should be expected to be paid in order to fully enjoy it. Following are a few observations from the biblical narrative to open up the conversation: Gods solution is not necessarily a quick escape from dire problems, but often a progressive delivery through the problems; 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, there is a risk that the people for
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whom they are fighting will not understand and will blame them for temporary increases in oppression that actions may bring (Exod. 5:21). This danger of rejection by ones own may be the greatest test of a persons trust in Gods calling for them to act for the freedom of their people (Exod. 5:2223); in such times of doubt, the only solution is holding firmly to the promise of God. When the time for the end of the oppression comes, things may get worse before they get better (Exod. 5:59). Sometimes God uses miracles (such as the 10 plagues) to save his people, but there is never a guarantee that God will do so unless he has explicitly promised that he will. When people have been slaves for generations, it is very difficult for them to understand and value freedom (Exod. 14:12). In Gods economy, time spent under oppression is not time wasted; as in the case of the Israelites, who were allowed to plunder the Egyptians (Exod. 3:2122; 12:3536). 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. Oppression is not over at the first break of a new dawn; 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; so therefore it is not wise for Gods people to let down their guard too soon and become complacent (Exod. 14:57). In such moments, when the future hangs in a precarious balance, the people of God are in peril of being overcome by despair (Exod. 14:1012). All the same, God always has the last word in history (Ex. 14:2631).
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For r eFLectIon

What additional observations and comments do you find regarding these biblical passages (Exodus chs 514)? One vital and strategic response Christians can make in authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts is to demonstrate tangibly their commitment to their countrys future. Two specific ways this can be done are to give young people a vision and vocation to stay in their country rather than emigrate, to rebuild its social networks, civil society (including solid democratic institutions) and culture nurture amongst Christians the high calling of rebuilding the countrys Christian beginnings and ethical heritage, as well as documenting the more recent history of the church and providing solid theological training for young leaders.

Inner freedom and external freedom


In times when peoples hope is that social, political and religious freedom will soon become a reality, it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that inner freedom is far more important than external freedom. In fact, 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. The testimonies of the saints of God who suffered for their faith under oppressive regimes show that people who, through an intimate walk with God, attained a high degree of inner freedom, were able to keep their dignity even in prison, while others, though externally free, were in fact slaves of their fears and compromises. External freedom is probably one of the hardest tests of inner strength and spiritual maturity. Most people who survived the oppression of authoritarian regimes may think of
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themselves as mature Christians, but many of them will have unpleasant surprises waiting when freedom comes. Some Christians who were respected leaders under communism very rapidly lost their reputation when freedom came, 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, when choices are minimal and starkly polarised. In such times one can either be a Christian and pay a high price, or deny Christ and enjoy the benefits this choice brings. Under democracy, however, choices are relatively endless and temptations are much more attractive. Besides this, people can now choose from a multitude of possible positions in relation to faith and its implications for life. The world of oppression is quite a simple one. The democratic world is overwhelmingly complex, and churches, communities and individuals would do well to prepare for it as best they can.

Between dictatorship and democracy


When the only leadership style known and observed in a lifetime is dictatorship and control, 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. democracy is a difficult art to learn. From the extreme of dictatorship, democracy can look like anarchy, but is obviously not the same thing. Democracy is also imperfect, but it remains historically the best governance system that fallen human beings have managed to devise. Some Christians, who are afraid of or who dislike accepting the risks of democracy, argue for the idea that the church cannot be a democratic institution but should rather be seen as a theocracy, very much like the people of Israel under
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the law of God. 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. In fact, such arguments are frequently simply pathetic or self-interested attempts to hide fundamentally dictatorial tendencies. Paradoxically, some Christian leaders in former communist countries who had been persecuted for their faith by communists became, under freedom, the persecutors of their brothers and sisters in faith, who happened to disagree with them on one matter or another. 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, but theocracy is not one of them. The three classic models of church government are: the hierarchical model - typical of Catholic and Orthodox, but also of some Protestant Episcopal churches, and corresponding to monarchy in the political realm the presbyterian model - typical of some mainline Protestant churches (particularly Presbyterians) and corresponding to representative democracy

the congregational model - typical of many evangelical and charismatic churches, corresponding to direct participatory democracy. In the light of both biblical and contemporary reality, Christians need to learn to live and function effectively under democracy and reject at all costs the ways of dictatorship, which are a disgrace to those who are called to model the principles of the kingdom of God in the present imperfect situation.
WHAt Is your tHeoLoGy oF cuLture?

Ability to function effectively as a Christian community under conditions of freedom depends to a critical extent on

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the way its members understand their responsibility towards the surrounding culture. As already noted, churches living under oppression have most often chosen the Christ against culture model as a means of survival in highly hostile societies. Yet when freedom comes, this model may become something of a hindrance to a full presence of the church as salt and light in society. This is why churches and Christian faith communities preparing for freedom need to be willing to explore, at least theoretically and where possible also in small-scale practical ways, other possible models of engaging with culture, so that they will be able to effectively represent Christ in the coming democratic society.
neW WInesKIns versus neW WIne

For some time after my conversion to Christianity, together with a number of my friends, I was involved in dissident activities, fighting for religious freedom. On behalf of the church, we kept demanding that the communist authorities grant us free access to the media, freedom to train our own religious leaders without interference, free access to all levels of education and many other similar things. Such demands were absolutely legitimate from a democratic perspective. However, 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. A few decades later, when freedom came, we almost instantly obtained all the rights for which we had fought so earnestly before. Unfortunately, we soon realised that we were not prepared for them and had not equipped people who could make maximum use of these rights. Even today, we feel ashamed when we see the poor quality of Christian radio and TV programmes, amateurish publications and critical lack of modern Christian institutions in former communist countries.
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In saying this, I do not want to question in any way the necessity for new wineskins (rights, structures, institutions) but rather to emphasise the priority of the new wine, a biblical metaphor (used in Matt. 9:17) here representing mature people who can make good use of these structures on behalf of the church and the entire society. Coming back to my personal experience, after a number of years of involvement in dissident political activities, I chose to give this up and instead to dedicate myself to Christian discipleship. Many of those who had been involved with me in political activities during communism were forced to leave the country and, although they have a better standard of living in the West, are not able now to do much for their own country.
LeAdersHIp trAInInG And youtH

All peoples, including the people of God, 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, he gave gifts to the church (Eph. 4:1011) 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, but they are also represented by spiritually endowed leaders: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers and others. 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. As one author says, disciples (and leaders too) are made, not born.21 If they pray for a strong mature church under freedom, Christians need to invest in training leaders, especially young ones, long before the fall of an existing authoritarian system.
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. Hendrichsen, Disciples Are Made Not Born, Victor Books, 1974.

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older generations. This is why, if appropriately trained and educated, 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. 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, even at the expense of being less active in church. Most of these people are now serving God in various ways on four continents. Some of them came to participate at my sons wedding and shared with us about their ministries. Then one of my mentors, who did not know much about my underground activities, exclaimed: I see now what you were doing when you were not very much in church all those years. It was really worth it! This investment in children and young people requires strong convictions, or the priority will constantly be displaced by more urgent demands. Yet nothing is more important for the future of communities and nations and of course the community of faith. When Jesus disciples were confused about their mission, he put a child in their midst as a living metaphor of the kingdom of God (Mark 9:3637). It is time that Christians learned this lesson and stopped neglecting children and youth. The church and faith communities should do this intentionally and seriously, if they care about the future. People over 35 rarely change their minds on important matters. If these people have been exposed to the pervasive effects of authoritarian propaganda for all or most of their lives, there is very little chance they will ever function normally in a free and democratic society. 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. Perhaps as in the Exodus story, the older generations will have to die in the desert like the Israelites over age 20 who came out of Egypt. This is why it is critically
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important for the church to start investing now in the training of children and youth, so that when freedom comes, they will be able to take greater advantage of opportunities brought about by living in a democratic society.
tHe dAnGer oF unreALIstIc Hopes

The greatest enemy of communities coming out of postauthoritarian contexts, and of the Christian churchs ability to function under freedom, is the entertaining of false and unrealistic ideas about freedom and democracy seen as a universal panacea, a cure for all diseases. People living under oppression have no way of imagining life under freedom, and they imagine that all their previous problems originate in the external environment. Thus, they tend to think that when that changes, all the problems will go away. Yet, to their dismay, they may discover that some of their problems originate in themselves, rather than the context in which they were living. This is true in all post-communist societies, but can also be observed in the recent democratic movements in some Arab countries. 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. 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. Those who entertain such false hopes will be utterly disappointed. Christians ought to know better than that. Our communities deserve to know better. In ambiguous and unpredictable political situations, local Christians live with a high degree of nervousness and anxiety. They live with uncertainty regarding whether their activities will be simply ignored by government or will attract the most severe measure of retaliation. In times such as these, the only reasonable course of action for Christians
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is to live consistently, in the light of their conscience, and to leave the consequences in the hands of a gracious God, and if the Lord allows persecution, to accept it with dignity, like the first Christians when they were delivered to the lions, in the sure confidence of their reward in heaven. Many authoritarian governments take pains to create a good image in the West, 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. Reading signs of the times is never without risk, but the Bible mentions amongst Davids mighty men some from the tribe of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (I Chron. 12:32). There have always been people like these amongst Gods people. What we can know for sure is that freedom is like a mirage for people who have lived under oppression for a long time. This can motivate them to acts of heroism, but it can also lead to nave hope that when oppression ends, things will change almost overnight. If this unreality prevails, then disappointed hope can be sure to lead to cynicism, nostalgia for authoritarianism and corrupting desires for quick economic power inside and outside of the church.
For r eFLectIon

Please assess the extent to which you think the church in your country was/is prepared (or not) for freedom. Can you think of concrete examples? If it is not yet prepared, what can you and your faith community do to prepare the people of God, and the people of your society, for life under freedom?

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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. When people heard this, they were very annoyed. This man was accused of being too pessimistic. People said to themselves, What does he mean? We are smart people. We will certainly learn how to live in democracy in a very short period of time. It is more than 20 years since that prophecy, and most people in former communist countries are still very far from having worked out how to live in a free world. Maybe this prophet was in fact too optimistic. What if people need not 20 but 40 years, like the Israelites in the desert, 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. 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 Gods people when they are blessed with freedom (Exod. 15). Times of transition that follow immediately after oppression are very ambiguous; people are out of oppression, but the oppression is not out of them the Israelites were out of Egypt, but Egypt was alive and well inside their thinking and hearts (Exod. 16:3).

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Freedom confronts believers with temptation to conform to the ways of the world without God (Deut. 12:2932). Freedom carries a high price; when confronted with the difficulties and responsibilities that freedom brings, 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, few as they were, thus idealising their oppression; that is why many would rather go back than endure the challenges of the present (Exod. 16:3; Num. 14:16). True spiritual leaders make intercession for Gods children a high priority (Ex. 32:3032; Num. 11:2; 14:1120; 16:4150). Those who lead in times of transition have to be prepared to have their authority challenged; in such times they have to learn to depend on Gods sufficiency and timing, rather than assert their own authority (Num. 11:2629; 12:115). This does not mean that leaders should be weak and easy to manipulate, but that real leaders will be more concerned to safeguard Gods glory than to desperately cling to their own positions of authority (Num. 16:140). Leadership is both a charisma (gift of the Holy Spirit) and an art to be learned from those more experienced in it (Ex. 18:1327); leaders are made, not born. Leaders have to think about succession of leadership who will replace them after they have gon; the best way to ensure this is for leaders to mentor others who have the potential to replace them at the right time (Deut. 31:78). The leaders of Gods people have to learn to be willing to share power and to work in a team (Num. 11:2425).
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Wise leaders deliberately undermine the tendency of weaker people to build a personality cult around them, as this detracts from the glory of God and impedes peoples growth towards political, economic and spiritual maturity (Deut. 34:56). During transition, some things about people may change, but other aspects of their life under oppression are so ingrained that people will carry them to the grave; because of this, some will never be able to fully enjoy the benefits of freedom (Num. 14:2124).
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. 1540; Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)?

The legacy of the past


The leadership style of any authoritarian system is exclusively one of manipulation and control. The party (or the junta) forcibly maintains absolute control over the lives of their citizens. Often, this approach to leadership is replicated at every level of society, even the church. Usual justifications for this tyrannical way of ruling society include that control was enforced for the good of the people because, it was strongly suggested, people obviously do not know what is in their real interest. Thus, the benevolent authoritarian leaders were ready to make good decisions for all people under their care. Such reasoning sounds very strange when it comes from the mouths of church leaders, 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. Thus Jesus Christ told his disciples: The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you: rather,
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the greatest among you must become like the youngest; and the leader like one who serves (Luke 22:2526). Instead of looking for and submitting to proud and controlling rulers, Christians are called to follow and mentor leaders who learn to become humble and trustworthy servants. Such a change of mentality is rare throughout humanity; that is why Christians need to call upon the grace of God to inspire and raise up servant leaders. 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, masses of people across a variety of cultures and distinct contexts continue to instinctively view such abusive approaches to government as absolutely legitimate. Dictatorship is likely the only leadership paradigm available, even amongst church leaders, under oppression. Under freedom, some church and community leaders became even more abusive towards their people than the old dictatorial masters. This behaviour is incompatible with the Christian faith and needs to be exposed and combatted, because it is a disgrace to a humanity created in the image of God. Soon after the collapse of communism, I met with the head of one of Christian denominations in my country. He explained to me that during communist times the leadership of the church had been perceived as a dictatorial body. After the changes of 1989, denominational leaders were pressed by believers to adopt a more democratic structure. And guess what happened? he told me, Now every local church has its own dictators, in its pastors and elders. Such authoritarian approaches to leadership cannot function effectively in democracy. Under freedom, people simply cannot be controlled. Even if it were possible to do so, control is not Gods preferred leadership style. In human history, the practice of authoritarianism debilitates people and keeps them in a chronic state of immaturity. It is not only much safer and
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Even if it were possible to do so, control is not Gods preferred leadership style.

wiser, but also more compatible with biblical principles, to help people develop their own convictions and become able to make decisions for themselves. This is true not only in churches but also in communities. Throughout aid and development work by such agencies as World Vision, as we try to mobilise communities, we will encounter this type of mindset in the leaders that naturally emerge. Apparently, these tough people are effective in engaging the energies of their community members. Yet, in the long term, by promoting such people in positions of responsibility, we will only reinforce the way of the past and disempower the community. It is more advisable to recruit in such positions younger people, who are less influenced by authoritarianism, and mentor them to become mature leaders. Leaders in post-authoritarian contexts should not try to play the role of the Holy Spirit or to be a Messiah for people. No matter how highly we think of ourselves, we are utterly unqualified for such roles.
unreALIstIc expectAtIons oF tHe stAte

Because of their fundamental lack of trust in people, authoritarian regimes tend to treat their citizens like children. Therefore, the state assumes responsibility for making all important decisions and for providing for those needs of people that the state considers legitimate. Thus, the communist state, for instance, made centralised provision for (supposedly) free education, free health care, jobs and so on, which obviously came at a price as people were forced to accept very little personal freedom of decision. At the same time, it was in fact through taxes that people themselves paid that the state was able to provide such services, as is the case in any socialist system, Eastern or Western. This economic model created in people a fundamental lack of initiative and a chronic dependence on the state, which was expected to meet all peoples needs (at least so far as the state agreed to recognise the extent of needs). The communist ideal was expressed through the utopian watchword from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. It goes without saying that this
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ideal has never been achieved in any of the communist states that have ever existed. It is not surprising, then, that when communism fell in Eastern Europe, people continued to expect the same provision from the state. Most refused to assume personal responsibility for meeting these needs, and held the state responsible for everything that would normally have been their own duty in a free-market economy. Since the state now refused to fulfil these functions, or was unable to do so because of economic collapse, 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. 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, as did their Israelite counterparts, if real promise for a democratic future is to be realised.
suspIcIon toWArds deMocrAcy

Communist propaganda demonises Western democracy, and this penetrates deep into the individual and social psyche under communist regimes. Some communist critique of capitalism is legitimate, 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. In many former communist countries, people could hardly bring themselves to utter the word capitalism, while many openly admit that they hold socialist views. Because of constant propaganda bombardment, people who lived for many years under communism developed a sort of ideological allergy towards everything from the West. This allergy might become dormant during initial transition towards democracy, but is reactivated as soon as the cost of living under freedom becomes apparent. Things are quite different for younger people who did not live under communism long enough to be so effectively
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brainwashed by its propaganda. This is why the real hope for building a truly democratic society rests with the younger generations. 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, even if politically they were never part of the system.
devALuAtIon oF tHe HuMAn person

Under communism, people have value simply as numbers in a mass. Emphasis is not on what distinguishes each individual but on what is common to all. This is why the communist system used a sort of Procrustean levelling approach, cutting off everything and everybody that did not fit the generally prescribed profile. At the centre of Marxist anthropology, part and parcel of the ideal of creating the new man is the essentially pseudo-religious world view that peoples 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. Humanity has no more value than a cog in the machine, and as soon as individuals can no longer be useful for production purposes, their social value decreases dramatically. This underlying attitude led to a major devaluing of the human person under communism, similar to that of other authoritarian systems, not just in the eyes of authorities but also amongst ordinary people. This may be one of the reasons communism has accounted for so many millions of deaths wherever it has been implemented. We who have lived under communism carry this kind of devaluation and dehumanisation over with us into democracy. Not only do these attitudes prevent us from functioning as fully and eagerly responsible beings in a free society, they also make us easy prey for those without scruples (leaders, parties, companies, etc.) 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
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or even destructive purposes. 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.
For r eFLectIon

What then can be done to change this state of things? Where should one begin, and what could be the model for the change that is needed?

dIGnIty In coMMunIty

According to the Christian understanding of humanity, people are created in the image of God. This gives humanity, collectively and individually, both dignity and a purpose: to live for the glory of God. Every human being has a unique calling and has a role to play in the body of Christ. Christianity teaches that Christ died for the whole of humanity, but would have been ready to die for just one sinner if you or I had been the only one. This makes every human being infinitely valuable, because we each have been bought at the price of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus christ. 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). In contrast to both these views, Christ calls people to live in community, according to the image of the Holy Trinity, where the divine persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony. This is the model that underlines the Christian concept of person and the Christian definition of the ideal society.
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.
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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. This was also true within churches and all other organisations. The only groups that could not be controlled by the communist regime were those meeting underground, and this held true only until such groups were infiltrated by undercover agents or informers. People living under authoritarian regimes always had to be on their guard and exercise great care in everything they did, so as not to run the risk of being accused of being enemies of the people. This being the case, 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. 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, but frequently continue in positions of power in political and economic life, overtly or more discreetly. When Hitlers Nazi government fell and Germany was occupied by the Allied armies, the international community set up the Nuremberg tribunal and condemned the crimes of the Nazis and Nazism itself. Then Germany and other European countries went through a thorough process of de-nazification. 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 documents introduction, and the number is still rising in our case there is clearly no political will, either in the international community or in former communist countries, to initiate a similar trial of communism. The only countries in which this influence has been limited, at least to some extent, are those which have passed through their parliaments a special law (called the law of lustration) preventing, for a number of years, former communist and
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secret police leaders from entering parliament or holding positions of authority in governing administrations and business. 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.

suspIcIon And BreAKdoWn oF coMMunIty

Paradoxical as it seems, communist collectivism, while setting out to seek the good of the masses, in fact destroyed the fabric of society and instilled in many people utter selfishness and lack of concern for the community. That is true also of other authoritarian societies, and may in some respects be so as well under rampant capitalism. As a consequence of living under very difficult economic conditions for an extended time, people started to concern themselves only with their own interests and neglected the common good. Likewise, people under authoritarian regimes tend to neglect the environment, frequently bringing their countries to the brink of ecological disaster. It continues to be very difficult to initiate processes of raising ecological awareness amongst people and communities in post-dictatorial societies, because so few link economic and ecological benefits for individuals with the welfare of their entire communities. Many people in communist countries, particularly in cities, had to live in apartment blocks. While people took what care they could of their own apartments, they tended to completely neglect shared areas of those blocks (land around the block, the faade of the building, entrances, the corridors, etc.) which were usually left in a very dilapidated condition. Naturally, the same attitude to shared areas (or state property, for that matter) continues even after the fall of the communist system, demonstrating how enduring these deeply ingrained attitudes remain.
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This being the case, rebuilding of community spirit in the hearts of people should be one of the greatest priorities for post-dictatorial societies. 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. It is the duty of conscientious leaders of civil society, of which the church and NGOs are part, to create public debates and to initiate such processes of change. Civil society refers to the population of a nation and its institutions, apart from government and business, such as individuals, NGOs, civic associations, religious groups and voluntary associations, which form the basis of a functioning democracy. Such civil society groups advocate and take action primarily for social development and on behalf of public interest.
condescendInG etHIcs

As an outworking of classic Marxist theory, which argues that private property is the root of all evils, whenever the communist system was instituted in a country, one of its first moves was to confiscate all major private property (factories, larger buildings, mineral reserves, land, etc.). In the countryside, peasants were forced (on many occasions by use of very violent methods) to join collective farms. People also had to contribute to these collectives, supposedly voluntarily, all their animals and means of production (tractors, agricultural machinery, carts, etc.). What this produced in the hearts of country people and factory workers alike was, naturally, 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. Thus, in time, quality of work and levels of production decreased, leading in the end to total collapse of the communist economic system (this summary simplifies, for the sake of our argument here, very complex but well-documented economic realities).

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Realities described above are well illustrated by the following joke titled World ideologies explained with cows.22
FeudALIsM You have two cows. Your noble takes some of your milk for himself. The rest is yours. FAscIsM You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them and sells you the milk. pure socIALIsM You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone elses cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you a glass of milk. BureAucrAtIc socIALIsM Your cows are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs as the regulations say you need. pure coMMunIsM You share two cows with your neighbours. You and your neighbours argue about who has the most ability and who has the most need. Meanwhile, no one works, no one gets any milk, and the cows drop dead from starvation. cAMBodIAn coMMunIsM You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you, rotten capitalist that you are. russIAn coMMunIsM You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the black market. perestroIKA You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the Mafia takes all the milk. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the free market. pure deMocrAcy You have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk. representAtIve deMocrAcy You have two cows. Your neighbours pick someone to tell you who gets the milk. cApItALIsM You dont have any cows. The bank will not lend you money to buy cows, because you dont have any cows to put up as collateral.
22 This joke can easily be found on the Internet at websites such as http://www.cyberclass.net/ref2cows.htm.

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Hard pressed on every side, economically and politically and not least of all spiritually, people living under authoritarian regimes developed a sort of situational ethics. To survive, 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. Asked why they were stealing, people usually answered, mocking the Marxist theory: This is not stealing. Isnt all this ours? If it is, then we are only taking what we need from our own property. A key consequence of this situation was the total undermining of societys ethical fibre and value system. Whenever this happens, the end result is moral chaos, making it almost impossible to build any predictable social structure. When loss of shared ethics is coupled with an ineffective police force and a corrupt legal system, the unavoidable outcome is the reign of lawlessness.
LAcK oF respect For LAW

A humorous post-communist joke about the law illustrates the devaluation of legality under a dictatorial system. It goes something like this: Under communism, law is seen as a barrier. Small dogs sneak under it. Large dogs jump over it. Only stupid bulls stop in front of it. When peoples common attitude towards compliance with laws is downgraded in this manner, the democratic ideal of building a state of law is very difficult if not impossible to accomplish. Further complications: authoritarian regimes operate in the juridical sphere with the purpose of creating a very complicated legal system, purposefully impossible to clearly understand or comply with. Citizens forcibly endure a veritable plethora of new laws, whose aim is to control people through fear and guilt. Since nobody can possibly know, let alone abide by, the constantly changing laws, every member of society feels more or less guilty or utterly fearful and, as a result, can be more easily blackmailed, manipulated and controlled.

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On the other hand, such a situation leads ordinary people to try to cheat the state as much as they can, in order to survive. It is a sort of perverted competition, whose end result is that the citizen is considered always guilty unless proven innocent, and the state is seen as the great enemy. To cap it all, courts are totally corrupt and operate under political control. Authoritarian regimes allow no place for the concept of the independence of the judicial system. 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.
tHe roAd to corruptIon

As a kind of corollary to issues discussed above, people living in dictatorial societies rarely held genuine respect for authority and government, which were invariably seen as inherently oppressive. This attitude frequently carried over into the period of transition to democracy, creating all sorts of anti-social behaviour in ordinary members of society and in government officials alike. One area in which this situation affects nearly every ordinary citizen is that of the government administration. 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. This makes the life of any petitioner absolute misery. As a result, people tend to offer bribes or to use the influence of some acquaintance in a high position in order to obtain what they want, whether or not it is legitimate to do so. This practice breeds rampant corruption, which is a chronic problem for most dictatorial and postauthoritarian administrations. Concepts of customer satisfaction, expressed in the saying the customer is always right, or the idea that a state functionary is a civil servant, i.e., one called to serve the public, are totally foreign to the authoritarian mindset.

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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. For this to develop, citizens living in post-dictatorial contexts need to engage in a process of social transformation that could take at least two generations, which brings us back to the metaphor of 40 years in the desert.
FreedoM or AnArcHy?

Freedom is the greatest possible dream for anyone living under oppression. God created women and men as free human beings and our search for freedom is an unrelenting one. Yet, as fallen beings, we tend to abuse freedom and have always done so. When people have lived for generations under oppression, it is very difficult for them to understand what freedom really entails, and it is also very easy to idealise freedom. For many, freedom means simply the ability or right to do whatever they want, without any restrictions. This, however, is not freedom, but anarchy, and is certainly not conducive to democracy. There is no such thing as absolute freedom. We are all conditioned by many things in our past. We all have our limitations and there is nothing wrong with that. When we realise this, we became aware that we are not gods but simply Gods creation. This reality establishes the rules of the game of life, and if we try to avoid playing by Gods rules we will bear the consequences of those decisions, as was the case with the Bibles first human couple, Adam and Eve. The filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille once famously summarised the lesson of his Ten Commandments: We cannot break the laws of God. We can only break ourselves against them. True freedom involves responsibility, for oneself and for others. Freedom also involves a significant cost, a price not easy to pay. When people living under oppression entertain very nave and idealistic dreams about freedom, they are simply deceiving themselves and are bound for bitter disappointment.

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InABILIty to coMMunIcAte

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

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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, unfortunately, the demise of communism as a way of thinking and as a pattern of behaviour for people living in post-communist contexts. Also communist regimes remain, particularly in Asia. In examples of post-communist transition, we may very well say that society came out of communism, but communism did not come out of people. What happened in Eastern Europe was similar to the Israelites experience after crossing the Red Sea. They were physically out of Egypt, but Egypt was alive and well in their minds. 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. We shall have to wait and let history evaluate how well they will do with this.
no cLeAr vIsIon oF tHe Future

At the same time, people just emerging from oppression do not have a clear understanding of the kind of society towards which they are in transition. This too is similar to what happened to the Old Testament Israelites in the desert. They knew Egypt all too well, but had no clear idea what life in the Promised Land would be like. This kind of situation can lead to a deep-seated hopelessness, one of the most common diseases in post-dictatorial societies. People who have been part of a centralised economy all their lives find it very hard to understand the mechanisms
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of the free-market economy and of democracy. Again, it will be easier for younger people to learn and adapt to these mechanisms.
nAtIonALIsM versus GLoBALIsM

Post-communist societies are quite polarised between traditionalists and modernists. Traditionalists look to the past, to ethnicity and to religion as sources of identity, while modernists oppose these as outdated and look ahead to modern globalist concepts to define who they are, or rather, who they want to become. In line with an internationalist perspective, communist leaders kept nationalistic passions of their people under strict authoritarian control. 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. The root of this problem is that after the fall of dictatorship, 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, or what the future might look like, people were confronted with a critical need to define a new identity. In this, evidently, ethnicity came to play a central role. Another aspect that further complicates matters is the religious dimension of peoples identity, a dimension whose importance was rediscovered after atheistic propaganda ceased and governments stopped exercising control over society. When peoples identity was redefined, merging ethnicity and religion (technically known as philetism, a heresy condemned by a Christian council in the 19th century), this combination became truly explosive. In former Yugoslavia, from a philetist perspective, to be a Serb is to be an Eastern Orthodox, 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, the terrible result caused tens of thousands of deaths. At the other end of the world view spectrum, in postcommunist societies we also find those who argue that
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looking to the past as a source of individual and corporate identity is detrimental to the establishment of a modern, developed society. 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). 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.
soMe tHInGs WILL never cHAnGe

We are all, as human beings, the result of a combination of ideas, traditions, impulses and habits, conscious and unconscious, inherited and accumulated. Some are so deeply ingrained in us that they cannot change without significantly affecting our identity as individuals, while other traits are learned characteristics that can change given the right conditions. The same holds true for world view accumulations as individuals and as national communities during the communist era. Some are the result of persistent brainwashing efforts carried on for generations. These become even more deeply rooted when, as a result of ideological propaganda, we make personal choices that set us on a specific personal trajectory. Thus, in spite of their lack of communist convictions, some people chose to become members of the communist party in order to be able to pursue a particular career, while others, unwilling to make this compromise, accepted more modest professional trajectories. When I finished my high school studies I wanted to specialise in sociology. However, a few months before I had to register for the university entrance exam, the government passed a law requiring a special recommendation from the Communist Youth League for a number of faculties, including the one in which I was interested. Since I was already a very active Christian and consequently did not have a very good reputation with local communist authorities, I
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was advised to not even dare to ask for the reference. As a result, I gave up my dream and chose a different area of study to which I did not feel especially drawn. We are all influenced to some extent by the contexts in which we live and by the decisions we make in life. Some influences become so much a part of us that they remain with us until we die, as happened with the Israelites in the desert.
LAcK oF ModeLs

One critical situation in periods of transition is an inability of older generations to offer a viable model to younger generations. Because of compromises or tacit acceptance of the former oppressive regime, most people in older generations lack moral authority in the eyes of new generations seeking spiritual guides. In spite of acknowledged limitations and of baggage carried from the former regime, 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. There simply is no one else to step into the gap. In humility and by the grace of God, they can succeed against all odds.
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, largely if not totally, pathologies characterising transitions from dictatorship to democracy?

Freedom without limits or responsibility?


Freedom is precious but also a volatile thing. It is almost like dynamite. Handled in the wrong way, it can do a lot of harm. As already affirmed, freedom is not easily understood by those who have never lived under it.

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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 freedoms 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.

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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 navely underestimate the corrupting power of money.

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This same flawed and nave 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
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somehow materialise, most probably from the United States. In spite of congregants opposition, the building was wildly out of proportion to the size of the existing congregation, designed to hold more than 400 people. Today, after years of demanding effort, the building is still not finished, the church has been through crisis after crisis and the number of congregants is smaller than it was when the project started. Such building projects often far exceed not only the real needs but also the financial resources of congregations. Then, you may ask, 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. Besides the irresponsibility of this conduct, on both sides of the equation, few count the cost of economic dependency that eventually must be paid. As the secularised golden rule goes, He who has the gold, makes the rules. Consequently, 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.
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. If people and communities really want to enjoy freedom, they must consider the price freedom demands. Here are some possible prices we may need to pay:

Slower growth
From a biblical perspective, faithfulness, not pragmatic effectiveness, is the test of authentic Christian leadership. This may sound strange in our pragmatic times, when we tend to consider that if something works it must be right. The Bible tells us that Abraham believed God and he was counted as righteous on the basis of that faith
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(Gen. 15:6): nothing pragmatic about this story; it was all about faithfulness. To keep intact the precious gift of freedom, under any political system or regime, Christians are instructed to acknowledge that freedom, well-being and fullness of life are received from the Lord, 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 Gods reality, including financial reality, in our context and congregation. Otherwise we risk becoming dependent on external funding, rather than God, and such dependent funding alliances will prove the arch-enemy of freedom. Saying this, we do not intend to promote the idea of isolating local and national churches from the church universal. That also would be contrary to the New Testaments portrait of the church. At the same time, we cannot accept that one part of the ecclesiastical body (the one that has more money) should dictate to other, poorer parts of the body. This is not biblical partnership but ecclesiastical imperialism.

Biblical interdependence vs. financial dependence on aid


Jesus Christ promised the apostles, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Biblically taught Christians believe genuinely and sincerely that it is Christ, through the Holy Spirit not us, through the help of Western money who will build the church. Thus, communities need to learn to depend on God, rather than money, in determining ministry direction and to steward all resources according to biblical principles of justice and generosity. The biblical story of the poor widow who donated her last two coins to the Temple (Mark 12:4144) gives Christians an idea of what God expects from them in the area of giving. The Bible provides very rich teaching about money and giving.
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The Old Testament principle of tithing required giving 10 per cent of ones income for the service of the temple (in reality, the Israelites paid two tithes a year, plus another one every three years, amounting to an annual percentage of at least 22 per cent). In their context, the amount raised also played the role of state tax, making it a very liberal percentage compared with some modern countries levels of taxation. Although there is no general agreement across Christian traditions on this matter, I do not believe that the New Testament establishes a specific percentage of giving for Christians. Here is the principle suggested by the apostle Paul: Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Paul also commends the Macedonians to us as examples of righteous giving, because they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means (2 Cor. 8:3). In the light of these biblical principles and examples, we may rightly say that the sign of a persons spirituality is not church activism but the extent to which faith touches the persons wallet. If such analysis is accurate, this is a real indictment of the poor level of commitment to giving in many churches across all traditions. American churches have often been a commendable exception to this rule, and this may be one of the reasons for Gods blessing on their country, in spite of any shortcomings. At the same time, this allows giving churches, individuals, governments or organisations from many wealthy lands a financial power that can easily be abused through domination and control, both of which are incompatible with Christian understanding of partnership and financial giving for Gods children or towards Gods kingdom. Strangely enough, it is often churches experiencing serious problems with members giving which are most tempted to engage in projects that exceed their financial capabilities and, as a result, end up in financial dependence. This is proof not only of ecclesiastical pride but also of irresponsible leadership, with grave
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consequences for the spiritual health of the church concerned. 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. Christian leaders must also prove wise and persuasive in making sure the church preserves its freedom and does not let itself become financially dependent.
A reMArKABLe ALternAtIve

One remarkable example of application of biblical financial principles to money and giving is the strategy of house churches in China, known under the generic name of back to Jerusalem. This may offer a possible alternative to financial dependencies of churches in new democracies upon churches in the free world. The Christian gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was revealed to humanity in Judea. From there, Jesus apostles mainly took the gospel message to the West (although some, such as the apostle Thomas, also went East). Thus it reached Asia Minor, Rome and the British Isles and later crossed the Atlantic to the Americas. Likewise, the gospel reached China and took root, and today the church is multiplying at a surprising rate despite severe persecution. Chinese house churches have formulated a vision described as the back to Jerusalem23 strategy, which aims to close the circle of missions by moving west through the Muslim world in order to finally arrive back at Jerusalem. Practically speaking, this strategy does not depend on any foreign funding, but is supported almost exclusively through the sacrificial giving of Chinese churches.
For r eFLectIon

Please contemplate on ways in which you can teach your communities, churches and networks healthy, economically sound and biblical principles of giving and of financial independence.

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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. Thus the good news of the kingdom of God is frequently reduced to a so-called spiritual gospel which limits its teaching to prayer, Bible reading and churchgoing, and rejects any preoccupation with material things as worldly and unworthy of spiritual people an individualistic gospel, which concentrates on getting individual people to heaven and makes no connection with the social dimension of peoples lives: extended family, local community, society in general, economics, politics, etc. a heavenly gospel concerned almost exclusively with reconciliation with God and having nothing to say about our need to be reconciled with our neighbours. The apostle Paul warns precisely against such surrogate versions of the gospel, in Galatians 1:69. 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, one that embraces both the spiritual and the material, the individual and the social, love for God and love for our neighbours. On a more personal note, 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, and the only kind that reflects Jesus conversations recorded in the gospels.

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MArKetpLAce cHrIstIAns vs. cLoset cHrIstIAns

Jesus tells Christians not to hide our light under a bushel (Matt. 5:15). By this he means that his followers are not to isolate themselves from society, 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). If we isolate ourselves because we care more about safeguarding our alleged holiness than about being vibrant witnesses of Gods love in a world heading towards destruction, 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. 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. This is why all Christians are called to be marketplace Christians who view their entire lives their jobs, cleaning the house or making love with their spouses as aspects of their worship of God and gratitude for Gods goodness, and as testimonies to the exceedingly good gospel of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul instructs, Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
oBsessIon WItH FuLL-tIMe MInIstry

Many Christians entertain a dualistic view of life and ministry. For them, to be a minister or a missionary is the highest calling in life, while being a good artist or computer scientist is, for sure, second best. This dualism often manifests itself in unbiblical obsession with so-called full-time ministry. 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. People who promote themselves in this manner usually do not go beyond this point. However, if we take the same logic to its extreme, it implies that if Christians serve in a factory or on a farm they are in fact serving the devil. Such a thought is obviously scandalous
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and totally unacceptable. Christian teachings, from Jesus and his apostles to the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther and more modern Christian leaders such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Richard Wurmbrand, consistently condemn this notion as heresy. Christians need to emphasise that absolutely nothing in the Bible justifies such super-spirituality. If someone is a Christian, that person is called to serve God full-time, every day of the week, in the house, in the factory, in the office, on the farm, and also in the church, according to each persons vocation and calling in life. No calling (including work in full-time church service) is superior (or inferior) to any other. It is our own hearts attitudes towards obedience to Gods voice that may be found superior, 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. For God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body (1 Cor. 12:1227). The message is very clear. No vocation is superior to any other, but God distributes them according to his purposes and, whatever our calling, we must glorify God in everything we do. St. Paul, the apostle, is the patron saint and role model for all tentmakers. He was literally a tentmaker. 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. We do not find in St. Pauls writings any complaints about being forced to waste time making tents instead of preaching the gospel. 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). As we have mentioned already, one of the most problematic areas of need in post-authoritarian and post-communist societies, is the wide-spread breakdown of work and business
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ethics. Tentmakers have a great opportunity to model and teach new ways of engaging in work and business. Without this, 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). Christians who represent Christ in their secular vocations can take a stand for an alternative vision of society.
no MIcKey Mouse tHeoLoGy

To represent Christ worthily in society, 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. For example, a biology teacher who claims Christianity as her or his faith needs to know in what way the discipline interfaces with biblical revelation. The same is true for a medical doctor or a politician. 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, and rarely are they helped to do this by the teaching they receive in church. When you hear some of these people talk about their profession, they appear highly competent, but if you ask them to explain their area of specialty in the light of biblical revelation or their faith convictions, they likely profess what has been called Mickey Mouse theology, a childish expression of immature faith that falls far below their professional competence. 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, by deepening their biblical and theological understanding. This Christian practice would transform entire communities, benefitting people of all faiths and world views. Some residues of Christian missions in the 18th and 19th centuries, emanating from colonial powers of the day, have contributed to various cultural distortions of the Christian
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message and life style, through the immature imposition of Western music, theology and structures on cultures, while original and native expressions of the gospel were not encouraged to flourish. This runs totally contrary to the biblical principle of incarnation when God became like us that should be our model for missions. We should constantly be asking ourselves, for example, 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, 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. A foundational principle of political liberalism, from which Christians can legitimately learn, is the need to build solid institutions that are transpersonal and will be able to outlast their founders. Without these, Christian ministry will be stunted amateurish and likely not significantly impacting free societies of the future.
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?

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A Christian critique of capitalism


cHrIstIAnIty neItHer socIALIst nor cApItALIst

Living as I did in a communist country, I could never have imagined that a Christian could be anything but conservative and right wing, in contemporary political terms. My structural allergy to Marxism and to leftist politics made me blind to the fact that God does not take sides politically. Later in life, I had opportunities to meet people who were definitely committed Christians but who regularly voted for the left, and this really shook my preconceived ideas. Until that point I had no doubt that God hated socialism (and even more so, communism) and was a fan of capitalism. Yet when I started to move beyond my prejudices I realised that both capitalism and socialism exhibit some elements compatible with the gospel. For example, respect for private property is an underlying theme in the Bible. At the same time, the Bible repeatedly speaks of the responsibility of those who have towards those who dont, a very socialist idea. Today, although I am still more inclined to the right politically, I have a great deal of sympathy for many ideas promoted by left-leaning politicians, even while fundamentally I do not share entirely their world view. Various political parties, both in so-called free democracies and in post-authoritarian countries, have tried as it were to affiliate God with their political agendas, most obviously by using the word Christian in party names and titles. Rarely could serious Christians imagine God being honoured by such associations, nor have these agendas helped the Christian community to fulfil its prophetic role in society.
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. Such advocates tend to be as fideistic (based on mere belief, with no proof) in this regard as
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Marxists are about theories of the class struggle and the evils of private property. Both the free market and the centrally planned economic model are human inventions, not Gods creation. Both reflect to different degrees the beauty and the ugliness of humanity, created in the image of God but alienated from God. Having partaken of the blessings of the communist economy for most of my life, if I had to choose between the two, I would certainly vote for the free market model. However, we all should always keep in mind that whatever economic model we choose or are forced by circumstances to live under, we must constantly submit its assumptions to the discerning light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Gods HeArt For tHe poor

Finally, 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 Gods heart for the poor and marginalised which should be of paramount concern for the church and the individual Christian. 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. 12:2), but be able to discern the times with the mind of Christ. How might this exercise affect partnerships and work in your communities?

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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. This is why it is violently opposed to Christianity and to all other religious systems. Those of us whom God allowed to live under such oppressive political systems have to accept it as part of Gods providence to us and strive to extract as much spiritual gain as possible from this traumatic experience. This perspective allows, as we have already described in detail above, a certain degree of normality and even joy of living that is possible under the most oppressive circumstances. Furthermore, because even dictators share in our common humanity, which bears the image of our Creator, not everything done under authoritarian systems is totally bad. Thus, under communist regimes, illiteracy was almost completely eradicated, there was very little unemployment, there was progress in terms of housing facilities, roads were built, and lower-class people got access to education. Yet the price paid for these accomplishments, in terms of limitation of personal freedom of conscience, of movement and of political action, as well as the breakdown of community spirit and of hope for the future, did not compensate for these gains. God created all of us as free human beings, 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. When this happens, will people and communities be able to make the most of opportunities afforded by newly gained freedom?

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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. A similar trajectory of unrealistic hopes, disappointment, 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. Truly it often seems hard to learn from history. Yet with a little bit of help, and insights gained through reflection, such depressing experiences can be mitigated. That is precisely the reason we have put together this text. We would like to encourage you and your teams to go through this material in your times of spiritual reflection. Please muse upon or discuss issues presented here with your colleagues and faith communities, using the reflection questions provided. Feel free to add other questions and, of course, to also disagree with ideas expressed here. Our expectation and hope is for ongoing engagement with the complex issues of (post-) authoritarian contexts. All promise for our shared futures resides in investing in children and youth. They have been less damaged than adults by totalitarian systems, or for that matter by the flaws in free-market systems in the West. By mentoring them into becoming wise and good as discerning and fully engaged citizens of our communities and countries, we nurture hope. Seeds planted in them can bear fruit into eternity. The vision statement of World Vision International should be a powerful inspiration for all of us in this endeavour: Our hope for every child, life in all its fullness. Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so. This is why we have taken the trouble to put these thoughts together. We commit them to you with all due humility, so that you may discern through the Holy Spirit what in them could be of help to you, so that the incarnation of Christ in your country may flourish, to the glory of our great and gracious God. May his name be blessed forever! Amen!
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About the Author


Dr. Danut Manastireanu has served as the director for Faith & Development for the Middle East & Eastern Europe region of World Vision International since 1999. 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, London. 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. 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 currently lives in Romania.

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