27 May 2017
A couple weeks ago, the Pew Research Center published a major report about 18 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The big trends are strong and clear.
Most people in just about all Orthodox-majority countries (Moldova, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus, Russia) are in agreement that: (1) Orthodoxy is the essential protector of individual and national identity, even when only about 10% regularly attend religious services; (2) a strong Russia is necessary to balance the influence of the West; (3) Russia has an obligation to protect Orthodox Christians; and (4) the most important Orthodox religious leader in the world today, even for Greek Orthodox Christians, is the Patriarch of Moscow.
Even in Belarus and Moldova, where most Orthodox Christians are not ethnic Russians, loyalty to the Patriarch of Moscow remains strongly important.
What we see is the resuscitation of Mother Russia. No wonder the media shows President Putin attending church.
What we observe as well in countries with a majority of Roman Catholics (Poland, Croatia, Lithuania, and Hungary) is that Roman Catholicism is greatly valued as the giver of identity. It is what enables people to be “truly Polish,” “truly Croatian,” etc.
Unlike most Central and Eastern European countries, regular church attendance in Poland is about 45%. Here one sees the enduring influence of Pope John Paul II and a form of Roman Catholicism reminiscent of pre-Communist days. In Croatia, as well, one sees a strong pre-Communist and triumphant institutional Catholicism. The wealthiest owner of expensive real estate in Zagreb, for instance, is the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike Poland, however, church attendance in Croatia is far below 10% and ignorance of basic Roman Catholic beliefs is widespread. Here belonging is far more important than believing.
Curiously, the Czech Republic does not share the above trends. It is one of the most secular countries in Europe. Nearly three-quarters of Czech adults (72%) describe their religion as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.”
When it comes to a kind of values clarification process among Orthodox and Roman Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe, three attitudinal trends stand out: (1) a woman’s place is in the home, having children, and being obedient to her husband; (2) there is less support for the new economic systems in comparison with the former Communist-era planned economies and growing sentiments that democracy may not be the best form of government; and (3) homosexuality is a sinful aberration.
About 85% of adults in Russia (even young adults) say homosexuality is morally wrong. In Catholic Croatia, opposition to homosexuality remains strong; but in Catholic Poland only 48% consider homosexuality morally wrong.
This is a very brief overview. There are indeed some fascinating values trends in post-Communist Europe. More about this in a future reflection. (This is of course the Memorial Day week end.)
Having done my own on site research in Eastern Europe for several years, I tend to agree with an observation in the May 17th issue of the Economist: “Across ex-Communist Europe, religion is robust and patriotic, but sometimes skin-deep.” Religion is not always about Faith….and that is true of course on both sides of the Atlantic.
As I indicated last week, I will be away from Another Voice until the Fourth of July. The old fellow needs some R&R and a chance to work on a bigger writing project. More about that when it is completed. Many kind regards. – Jack