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Religion and Politics in the 21st Century : Global and Local Reflections [1 ed.]
 9781443850766, 9781443848169

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Religion and Politics in the 21st Century

Religion and Politics in the 21st Century: Global and Local Reflections

Edited by

Natalia Vlas and Vasile Boari

Religion and Politics in the 21st Century: Global and Local Reflections, Edited by Natalia Vlas and Vasile Boari This book first published 2013 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2013 by Natalia Vlas and Vasile Boari and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-4816-6, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4816-9


Biographical Notes of Authors .................................................................. vii Acknowledgements ................................................................................... xii List of Abbreviations ................................................................................ xiii Simona Sav .................................................................................................. 1 Religion and Politics: A Summary of Perspectives Leonard Swidler .......................................................................................... 7 Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue Grace Davie ............................................................................................... 19 Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate Stephen Hunt ............................................................................................. 39 “Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK: The Implications of the 2010 Equality Act Bassam Tibi ............................................................................................... 54 The Politicization of Islam in the Context of Global Religious Fundamentalism: Islam as Political Religion Radu Murea ............................................................................................... 91 What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring Vasile Boari and Aurel Abrudan ............................................................. 112 Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition: A Doctrinal Approach Aurelian Boticӽ........................................................................................ 140 The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness of Western Culture


Table of Contents

Corneliu Constantineanu ......................................................................... 177 Christ and Caesar: Religion, Power and Politics from a Pauline Perspective Natalia Vlas ............................................................................................. 200 “Thy Kingdom Come!” Two Approaches to Christian Community and Socio-Political Order Gabriel Andreescu ................................................................................... 236 The Romanian State on State-Church Relations Sorin Bocancea ........................................................................................ 274 The Political and Ideological Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism Iuliana Conovici ...................................................................................... 308 The “Social Partnership” between Church and State as a Field of Negotiation for the Public Status of Religion in Post-Communist Romania


Simona Sav, Research assistant and Ph.D. student in Political Science at the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca. Her work includes “Judeo-Christian Values in Dialogue with Democracy” (2012) and “Secular and Postsecular. How the Concepts of ‘Postsecularity’, ‘Spirituality’ and ‘Gender’ Challenge Secularization” (2012). She is part of the editing board of the Europolis. Journal of Political Science Analysis and Theory. She is member of the Centre for Political Analysis (BBU). Leonard Swidler, Professor of Catholic Thought and Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University, since 1966, Co-Founder with his wife, Arlene Swidler, in 1964, of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (and still the Editor), Founder/Director of the Dialogue Institute: Interreligious, Intercultural, International (1978); holds degrees in History, Philosophy, and Theology from Marquette University (MA), University of Wisconsin (Ph.D.) and Tübingen University, Germany (S.T.L.). He was Visiting Professor at Graz (Austria), Hamburg and Tübingen (Germany), Nankai University (Tianjin, China), Fudan University (Shanghai), Temple University Japan (Tokyo), University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Chinese University of China (Hong Kong), and Khazar University (Baku, Azerbaijan). He has published more than 200 articles and 80 books. His most recent books are Constitutional Catholicism. An Essential in Reforming the Church (2011), Club Modernity. For Reluctant Christians (2011) and Democratic Bishops for the Roman Catholic Church, with Arlene Swidler (2011). Grace Davie, Professor Emeritus in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter UK. She is a past-president of the American Association for the Sociology of Religion (2003) and of the Research Committee 22 (Sociology of Religion) of the International Sociological Association (2002-06). In 2000-01 she was the Kerstin-Hesselgren Professor in the University of Uppsala, where she returned for extended visits in 2006-7, 2010 and 2012. In January 2008, she received an honorary degree from Uppsala. She has also held visiting appointments at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (1996) and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (1998 and 2003), both in Paris. In addition to numerous chapters and articles, she is the author of Religion in Britain


Biographical Notes of Authors

since 1945 (Blackwell 1994), Religion in Modern Europe (OUP 2000), Europe: the Exceptional Case (DLT 2002) and The Sociology of Religion (Sage 2007/2013); she is the co-author of Religious America, Secular Europe (Ashgate 2008), and co-editor of Predicting Religion (Ashgate 2003) and Welfare and Religion in 21st Century Europe (2 vols) (Ashgate 2010 and 2011). Stephen Hunt, Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Applied Social Sciences, the University of the West of England. His specialised interest lies in contemporary Christianity. His published volumes include A History of the Charismatic Movement in Britain and the United States of America (Edwin Mellen, 2009); Religion in Everyday Life (Routledge, 2006); The Alpha Enterprise (Ashgate, 2004); Alternative Religion: A Sociological Introduction (Ashgate, 2003); Religion in the West: A Sociological Perspective (Palgrave, 2001); and the edited volumes (with Andrew Yip) (eds.) The Ashgate Research Companion to Contemporary Religion and Sexuality (Ashgate, 2012); Contemporary Christianity and LGBT Sexualities (Ashgate, 2009); (with M. Marinov and M. Serafimova) Sociology and Law (Cambridge Scholars, 2009); Christian Millenarianism (New York University Press & Hurst Publishing, 2001) and (with M. Hamilton & T. Walter) Charismatic Christianity: Sociological Perspectives (Palgrave, 1997). Bassam Tibi, Professor of International Relations at the University of Göttingen, Germany, from 1973 until his retirement in fall 2009. Parallel to his tenure there he is a visiting non-resident A. D. White Professor-atLarge at Cornell University, USA. In the last quarter of the 20th century he had 17 visiting professorships in four continents in addition to lecturing at 30 universities. Tibi’s fellowships include those at universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Michigan Ann Arbor in the US, NUS/Singapore and the Islamic Hidayatullah State University of Jakarta in addition to other visiting positions in the world of Islam (e.g. al-Ahram Center in Cairo, etc.). He also teaches a course on Islam and world politics at The Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. He is author of the book Islam between Culture and Politics, re-released in a new edition in 2005 (first edition 2001); among his eight books written in English is Tibi’s book (partly completed at Cornell): Political Islam, World Politics and Europe. Democratic Peace and Euro-Islam vs. Global Jihad (London and New York: Routledge 2008). In 2009 Routledge published Tibi’s most recent book Islam’s Predicament with Cultural Modernity. Religious Reform and Cultural Change. In 2008/09 Tibi was working on a new book on Islamism

Religion and Politics in the 21st Century: Global and Local Reflections


and Islam at Yale University as senior research fellow, a book published by Yale University Press in 2012. Radu Murea holds a PhD in International Relations and European Studies from BabeЬ-Bolyai University, with a thesis on Islam and Modernity. He is research assistant at the Centre for Political Analysis (BBU), and member of the editorial board of Europolis. Journal of Political Analysis and Theory. His main research interests include Islamic studies, modernization, globalization, religious fundamentalism. He is co-editor of Regăsirea IdentităĠii NaĠionale (Finding National Identity - 2010), Romania dupa 20 de ani, Vol.1, 2 (Romania after 20 Years - 2011), Intelectualii Ьi puterea (Intellectuals and Power - 2011). Vasile Boari, Professor at the Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences of Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj and director of the Centre for Political Analysis and of the Institute for Global Studies of Babes-Bolyai University. He authored Dialectica raportului conútiinĠa morală-constiinĠa politică (The Dialectic of the Relation between Moral conscience - Political Conscience - 1987), Filosofia úi condiĠia morală a cetăĠii (Philosophy and the Moral Condition of the City - 1991), Noua Europă în căutarea identităĠii (The New Europe in Search of Identity 2009) and Filosofie úi politică (Philosophy and Politics - 2009). Aurel Abrudan, Ph.D. candidate at the Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences of Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, with a thesis on Human Rights in World Religions. He is a member of the Centre for Political Analysis of Babes-Bolyai University. Aurelian Botică, Lecturer at the Emanuel University of Oradea. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Semitic Languages from Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio (2007). His area of focus is Ancient Hebrew, Old Testament Exegesis, OT Theology, the Intertestamental Period. He has authored The Concept of Intention in the Bible, Philo of Alexandria and the Early Rabbinic Literature (New York: Gorgias Press, 2011) and “The Tenth Commandment and the Concept of Inward Liability,” Windows to the Ancient World of the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honor of Samuel Greengus (edited by Bill T. Arnold, Nancy L. Erickson, and John H. Walton, Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2013).


Biographical Notes of Authors

Corneliu Constantineanu, Ph.D. at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and University of Leeds, UK, serves as the Rector of Institutul Teologic Penticostal, BucureЬti where he is Associate Professor of New Testament Studies. He is the former Academic Dean of Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia where he taught for many years, and also the former Executive Director of the Areopagus Centre for Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture in Timisoara, Romania. In addition to his specialization and publications in the areas of Pauline theology and reconciliation, Constantineanu has a special interest in pursuing a holistic understanding of the gospel as public truth, thus trying to integrate Christian faith with cultural, social and political realities of everyday life. His most recent books include First the Kingdom of God. A Festschrift in honour of Prof. Dr. Peter Kuzmiè (co-editor, ETF, Croatia, 2011); The Social Dimension of the Gospel (co-editor, Romanian Bible Society, 2011); The Social Significance of Reconciliation in Paul’s Theology. Narrative Readings in Romans (London/New York: T&T Clark Continuum, 2010); Bible, Culture, Society (co-editor, ETF, Croatia, 2009); Encountering the Other: Studies in Reconciliation (Cluj-Napoca: Casa Cãrþii de ªtiinþã, 2009). Natalia Vlas, Researcher at the Centre for Political Analysis of BabeЬBolyai University. She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and European Studies (2008). She has authored Religia Ьi globalizarea la începutul secolului XXI (Religion and Globalization at the Beginning of the 21st Century (2008) and co-edited several collective volumes, such as Studii Politice vol.2 (2007), Cine sunt romanii? Perspective asupra identitatii nationale (Who are the Romanians? Perspectives on National Identity – 2009), Romania dupa douazeci de ani, vol. 1 and 2 (Romania after 20 Years - 2010, 2011), Intelectualii si puterea (Intellectuals and Power – 2011), Twenty years After. A Romanian Story (forthcoming 2013). Currently she is postdoctoral researcher at BabeЬ-Bolyai University, working on a project on political theologies and global order. Her main research interests include ethics, political theology, religion in international relations, globalization. Gabriel Andreescu is a Romanian human rights activist and political scientist, one of the few Romanian dissidents who openly opposed Ceauúescu and the Communist regime in Romania. At present, he is associate professor with the Faculty of Political Science at the National University for Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA) in Bucharest, an active member of several Romanian human rights

Religion and Politics in the 21st Century: Global and Local Reflections


organizations, and editor of the Romanian-language New Journal of Human Rights. Gabriel Andreescu published more than 1000 articles, 150 studies, 24 books, and contributed to several collective volumes in the field of human rights, multiculturalism, national minorities, religious freedom and secularism, the ethics and politics of memory. Some of his works were translated into English, German and Hungarian. In recognition of his contributions, he received several awards from Romanian institutions and organizations Sorin Bocancea, Associate Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Political and Administrative Sciences of “Petre Andrei” University in Iaúi. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy (2006) with a Ph.D. dissertation on Plato’s Politéia and a Ph.D. in Political Sciences (2008) with a dissertation on The Ideological Grounds of EU. He is the author of InstituĠii úi politici publice în Uniunea Europeană (EU Public Institutions and Policies, 2004); Cetatea lui Platon (Plato’s Polis, 2011), Noi Ьi postcomunismul (We vs. Our Post-Communism, 2012). He is also a co-editor of Mass-media Ьi democraЮia în România postcomunistă (Mass Media and Democracy in Post-Communist Romania, 2011), and Totalitarismul. De la origini la consecinЮe (Totalitarianism: from Origins to Consequences, 2011). Iuliana Conovici, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of BucureЬti, Political Science Faculty (POSDRU project 89/1.5/S/62259, Project “Applied social, human and political sciences”, ESF-POSDRU 2007-2013). She holds a Ph.D. in Political Sciences (Magna cum laude) from the University of BucureЬti with a thesis on the reconstruction of the public identity of the Romanian Orthodox Church, published as: Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă: ReconstrucĠia unei identităĠi publice, II vols. (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2009-2010). She has published several articles on the status of Church-State relations in Romania, religion in the public space, religion and the mass-media etc.


The fall of 2011 brought important news for the small team of researchers enrolled in the Centre for Political Analysis, Cluj-Napoca: we had received support and funding for one of our most important projects, namely that of analyzing the relationship between religion and democracy in Europe. Naturally, the idea of an international conference on the topic of religion and politics sprung immediately to our mind and, slowly but surely, this initiative became reality in June 2012, when the Centre for Political Analysis had the privilege to organize a conference under the title “Religion and Politics in the Globalization Era.” Although we have already thanked everyone involved in making this extraordinary event possible, we would like to reiterate our gratitude towards all the contributors who generously provided us with the written variant of their presentations. Furthermore, we would like to renew our expression of gratitude towards Augusta Sabau, Vlad Jecan and Ionela Danciu, who were involved in different yet essential ways in making the conference possible and efficient. We would like to thank George Jiglau, Managing Director of Europolis. Journal of Political Analysis and Theory for enabling us to issue a special volume in December 2012, called “Religion and Democracy,” where a number of the papers presented at the conference in Cluj-Napoca were included. We would like to thank Stephanie Short for her careful proofreading of most of the articles in the volume and for her competent interventions and remarks. We would also like to thank Simona Sav, the newest member of our research team, for her contribution in proofreading, translating and editing.


APADOR – CH Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania-the Helsinki Committee AROCS Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students ECHR European Court of Human Rights GRP Greater Romania Party IMAS Institute for Marketing and Polls MENA Middle East and North Africa NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization NIS National Institute of Statistics NLP National Liberal Party NPP National Peasants’ Party NSF National Salvation Front OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development POB Public Opinion Barometer RCP Romanian Communist Party RNUP Romanian National Unity Party ROC Romanian Orthodox Church RSDP Romanian Social Democratic Party RCUR Romanian Church United with Rome SLP Socialist Labour Party UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights


With the advent of the twenty-first century, renewed interest is given to the intricate, complex and historically rich relation between religion and politics. However, in the context of well-articulated challenges addressed to the theory of secularization – or to the multiple theories of secularization – the observed global resurgence of religious phenomena leads not only to the study of the interaction between church/synagogue/ mosque and state but it also incorporates many aspects of the presence of religion in the public sphere and in politics. The present volume captures a wide variety of perspectives on contemporary religion and politics, ranging from theoretical approaches to case studies and from analyzing global facets to exploring local situations. This richness of perspectives found an inspired translation in the term “reflections” in the title, as theoretical and slightly more philosophical articles are complemented by local reflections of the relation between religion and politics in a given area. Taking into account the fact that this volume is a fortunate opportunity to publish some of the articles that were presented during the 2012 conference on “Religion and Politics in the Globalization Era” organized by the Centre for Political Analysis in ClujNapoca, Romania, and given the need to reflect on the new religious landscape of this post-communist country, little more than twenty years after state-enforced religious persecution ended and a new type of religionstate interaction was necessary, the presence of three articles concerning Romania represents a valuable contribution to further research. For reason of cohesion, these articles take the final section in the volume, while the order or the previous articles, though not altogether arbitrary, is not rigorously categorized, allowing for a thematic diversity. Leonard Swidler begins from considering the vey definition of politics and that of religion seen at first not from the way they interact within the formal context of religion and state, but from the point of view of human nature. This is not be understood only in the sense of human propensity to


Religion and Politics: A Summary of Perspectives

create, crave and sustain communities, but also in the sense of the need for each individual to become “as fully an authentic human being as possible.” Historically regarded as two sides of the same coin, the state and religion have the same purpose - that is “to promote the welfare of each of its members, each human person.” Seeing though that, in the author’s view, freedom is vital for imagination and intellect, Swidler argues that the separation between religion and state is a key element for the thriving of a nation, of a society and, ultimately, of an individual. The modern European context, with its great diversity, offers ample room to analyze the place of religion, which, as Grace Davie aptly argues, depends on a series of historical, cultural and social factors such as: cultural heritage, the manner in which people approach the legacy of historical churches, the change towards religious consumerism, the levels of immigration, the reaction of Europe’s secular elites to religion in the public life and the realization that, perhaps, Europe is the exception rather than the norm in terms of its patterns of religious life. Three case studies follow: the Republic of Ireland, the former East Germany and Romania; they, as well as other examples, amply exemplify the fact that “the patterns of religious activity vary considerably across Europe.” What’s more, these patterns do not vary only from country to country, but they are also subject to variation due to changes in the legislation of the same country. Stephen Hunt analyzes this very phenomenon, when looking at the implication of the 2010 Equality Act in the United Kingdom upon the relation between religion and the state According to Hunt, state’s policies of accommodation and social inclusion have drawn religion into the public space, which in liberal democracies was equated until recently with a more or less secular space. In his article, Bassam Tibi explores the phenomenon of the politicization of Islam in the form of Islamism, as part of the global process of the return of religion to the public space. Islamism is, according to Tibi, the expression of Islam’s crisis generated by its encounter with modernity and it has two forms: institutional Islamism and jihadist Islamism. Both of them are a challenge to the secular world order, being dedicated to establishing a political order based on shari’a. Tibi argues that political Islam threatens not only secularism, but also “Muslims themselves in their search for a better future within humanity at large with its plurality of religions.” For Tibi, the universality of pluralism and democratic world peace is the better alternative both to institutional and jihadist Islamism, and the condition for the participation of Muslims in democratic peace is for them to “depoliticize their faith by dissociating it from fundamentalism

Simona Sav


and its concept of order but also to engage themselves in ‫ދ‬rethinking Islam’ through religious reforms.” Radu Murea analyzes the series of momentous events which have engulfed the Arab world since early 2011 in an attempt to move beyond the plethora of perspectives that have become normative in media or scholarly discourse, while arguing that what has been termed the “Arab Spring” represents no less than a major chapter in Islam’s “great debate” with Modernity. Although the main level of analysis makes use of a historical approach, in which diachronic connexions are seen as complementary to cause/effect patterns, the article also tries to accommodate a multi-dimensional mapping of correlative issues which have played a consequential role in the later unfolding of events. The following two articles – the first by Vasile Boari and Aurel Abrudan and the second by Aurelian Botică – explore, albeit in a significantly different manner, the relation between democracy and the biblical texts. In the first section of their article, Boari and Abrudan set out to highlight a number of Judeo-Christian elements that have “indirectly contributed to the development of modern democracy” such as: a limitation of the power of the rulers, the interpretation of freedom as a divine gift to humankind and an understanding of fraternity. The second section, infused with Biblical references, seeks to identify scriptural passages that could sustain human rights, the most renown consisting of the Genesis narrative of creation that establishes human worth as a consequence of imago Dei. In addition to this, the authors explore both New Testament and Old Testament passages that emphasize the equality of all people. As for Aurelian Botică, he focuses on the way in which the biblical religion shaped democratic consciousness by looking firstly at the way in which it influenced the mentality of ancient Hebrews in an egalitarian direction with regards to social freedom, the institution of kingship and the law. A form of proto-regulation of power was represented by the activity of prophets whose role was to uphold the law and openly criticise the king if he had misjudged the nature of power. Secondly, Botică explores the influence that the Old Testament scriptures played, either directly or through New Testamental echoes, on the political thought of Jean Calvin, Martin Luther, John Locke, John Milton, Edmund Burke and other influential scholars who helped shape democratic consciousness in the Western European and American culture. In his article, Cornel Constantineanu focuses on the Apostle Paul’s views as expressed in the epistles and prioritizes contextual and historical understanding of first century practice by an analysis of the integration of


Religion and Politics: A Summary of Perspectives

religion and politics in the Roman Empire. Constantineanu examines the often indissoluble imposition of the status of divine being upon Roman emperors and proceeds to an analysis of Christ and Caesar in Pauline writings, which, according to the author, have been de-politicized and domesticated to the “power interests of Christians and their own purposes.” Therefore, Constantineanu proceeds to an exploration of the Pauline concept of principalities and powers and of the way Christians should engage with and relate to them, a topic that is increasingly relevant for the contemporary context as well, as author Natalia Vlas also highlights in her article. Natalia Vlas analyzes two strikingly different approaches to Christian involvement in politics that stem for radically discrepant political theologies: the Christian Reconstructionism dominionist theology and the pacifist project of John Howard Yoder. Vlas underscores the dangers of rendering faith a mere instrument for “advancing a particular political agenda” which seems fraught, among others, with problematic attitudes towards religious otherness and towards democracy. By contrast, the political thought of Yoder envisions Christian community as an alternative polis, which, placing Christology at its center, finds its force in the spirit of servanthood, non-violence and the sacramental practices of baptism and the breaking of bread together, seen in their inclusive, economically generous and egalitarian dimension. As mentioned above, the final part of the volume constitutes a series of case studies on religion and politics in post-communist Romania. Unquestionably, the Romanian religious landscape displays a high number of believers – overwhelmingly Christian and by far predominantly Romanian Orthodox. The striking visibility of the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the privileged position granted to it by the state thus enable detailed evaluations of its post-revolution strategies, its present activity – in terms of its interaction with politics and its social involvement – and perhaps even its future directions as a powerful and influential institution in the state. Gabriel Andreescu critically examines the ROC’s presence in the public sphere from the point of view of its anti-democratic tendencies which, according to the author, have “a negative impact on the values and institutions and will be a long-term danger to relations between Romania and the European community.” As Andreescu observes, the ROC’s propensity to actively support and promote nationalism and even far right movements in the name of safeguarding national values is both an old recipe for success and a viable way to channel its theocratic tendencies. This issue is particularly stringent since, according to the author, the

Simona Sav


wealth of the Romanian Orthodox Church, its influence on public opinion, on political figures and, very importantly, its role in providing religious education in public schools makes it a force whose theocratic tendencies are incompatible with “the type of democracy required by the European Union treaties.” Sorin Bocancea’s contribution consists in identifying not only the political but also the ideological repositioning and the ascent of the ROC in the past twenty years; for this purpose, the author briefly explores its past collaboration with the communist system, as well as the immediate post-revolution attempts to re-write the past and cast itself as a martyr and a victim of an oppressive regime. “The strategy to fill the empty seat of the communist ideology” that glorified the Romanian nation and give it a spiritual allure by proclaiming the ROC as the depositary of Romanian spirituality and salvation enabled it to gain an unprecedented position and repeatedly claim the status of national church. Though the 2006 Law on Religious Denominations does not recognize the ROC as state-church, the funding system that the state set in motion for religious denominations provides the ROC with substantial financial aid, not only for partial clerical remuneration and restoration of old churches, but also for erecting new ones, the most grandiose project being the Cathedral of the People’s Salvation, a symbol of the ROC’s inability to adapt to the realities of contemporary society. Another important aspect of the 2006 Romanian Law on Religious Denominations is scrutinized by Iuliana Conovici, namely the legal concept of “social partnership.” The author argues that this partnership between denominations, especially the majority Church, and the state takes a toll on both the public sphere – as now “religious denominations are endowed with a powerful legitimating argument for their presence” – and perhaps even on the Church itself, since “a camouflage of the Church’s transcendent legitimacy … may act as an internal agent of selfsecularisation.” Conovici briefly examines the construction of a social, philanthropic role for the Orthodox Church as a provider of social services in the 90’s before analyzing how the above mentioned law and the ensuing protocols influenced the course of the ambiguous status of social partners between the Church and the state in charity, chaplaincy, medical assistance and education, the final section of the article being dedicated to considering the implications and consequences of this partnership.


Religion and Politics: A Summary of Perspectives

Through their varied perspectives and thematic richness, contributors to this present volume have helped paint a picture of the dynamic relation between religion and politics at the beginning of the 21st century. What’s more, by exploring not only present realities but also historical events and patterns of past interactions, authors have identified possible future directions, and have drawn attention to the need for careful consideration of the relation between religion and politics, both on a local level and on a global one.

Acknowledgements This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-IDPCE-2011-3-0481.


What is politics and other basic terms? In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote that humans are “political beings” (zoon politikon) and that “politics is the highest good attainable by action.” The term “politics,” of course, comes from the Greek polis, city, community. However, in Aristotle’s mind, it meant much more than we normally mean today, for he said that politics is “the most comprehensive master science.” It is the practical knowledge needed to be able to live well, euzen, as a happy human being, and since we cannot become humans alone, but only in a community (starting with the very physical community of our parents), we humans must learn to euzen en polis, live well in community. It is worth dwelling a little on this more basic understanding of “politics”, so we can better see what good politics should look like in the contemporary customary sense of the exercise of communal power. Aristotle stated that “the goal of politics is the good of the human being,” that is, the purpose of the community is to promote the good of its individual members. Of course, there are many situations where promoting the good of some individuals will diminish the good of others, as when imprisoning criminals for the safety of the majority of the community. Then, there are situations where some will voluntarily sacrifice their good for the sake of the larger community, as soldiers fighting and dying in a just war. In fact, Aristotle said that, “The attainment of the good for one person alone is, to be sure, a source of satisfaction; yet to secure it for a nation and for states is nobler and more divine.” Thus, we celebrate heroes who have sacrificed, even died, for the good of others. Nevertheless, the whole point of the community, the state, is to foster the good of the individual person, not the other way around. Yes, we individually strive for the good of the community, the state - however, not for its own sake, but for the individual persons that compose the community, the state. Ultimately, the community, the state is for the sake of persons, not the person for the sake of the community, the state.


Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue

The same trajectory of thought applies when we ask the related questions: How should I act? What principles should I follow to determine whether a particular action is good or not? We call this set of reflections leading to actions ethics.1 Before answering this fundamental question, we must first ask ourselves what we mean when we use the terms “good and bad.” Broadly speaking, we use the term “good” to mean that a thing exists or acts in a way that leads to what we understand to be its goal. For example, if I say, “this is a good steak,” I have in mind the “purpose” of steak; that it, for example, should taste in a certain way, satisfy my hunger, provide nourishment, etc. To the extent it does not satisfy these goals, I say that it is a bad steak. Similarly, I say that a performance of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is good if it is well acted, entertained the audience, was spoken “trippingly on the tongue,” as Shakespeare has Hamlet instruct the traveling group of players within the play itself—and the performance was bad to the degree that it failed in those goals. A human person, or her individual actions, are said to be good if she lives in a way or acts in a way, we conceive a human being should live and act—and is called bad if she acts contrary to how we think a human should live and behave. To repeat in summary: a thing is said to be good if it leads toward its purpose and bad if it leads away from its purpose. Disagreements, of course, can and do abound about what the purposes of things are—like human beings, for example.

What is religion? We humans need to ask ourselves: What is a good human being? However, before we address that question, it is important to explain what religion is, for it is that dimension of humanity that specifically addresses that question. Here is a succinct definition that I developed many years ago:2 Religion is: “An explanation of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly, based on some notion and experience of the transcendent.” 1

There is no real difference between the terms “ethics” and “morality”, though some try to make a distinction—but it is really a distinction without a difference. The term “ethics” comes to us from the Greek (ethos, custom) and “morals” from the Latin (mos, moris, custom). For some indiscernible reason, the term moral is more often, but not always, used in connection with sexual matters, whereas in other matters concerning right behavior the term ethical is most often used. 2 See Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes, The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000).

Leonard Swidler


Normally, all religions contain the four “C’s”: Creed, Code, Cult, Community-structure, and are based on a notion of the Transcendent. Creed refers to the cognitive aspect of a religion; it is everything that goes into the “explanation” of the ultimate meaning of life. Code of behavior or ethics includes all the rules and customs of action that somehow follow from one aspect or another of the Creed. Cult means all the ritual activities that relate the follower to one aspect or other of the Transcendent, either directly or indirectly, prayer being an example of the former and certain formal behavior toward representatives of the Transcendent, like priests, of the latter. Community-structure refers to the relationships among the followers; this can vary widely, from an egalitarian relationship, as with Quakers, through a “republican” structure like Presbyterians have, to a monarchical one, as with some Hasidic Jews vis-a-vis their “Rebbe.” The Transcendent, as the roots of the word indicate, means “that which goes beyond” the everyday, the ordinary, the surface experience of reality. It can refer to spirits, gods, a Personal God, an Impersonal God, Emptiness, etc. Especially in modern times, there have developed “explanations of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly,” which are not based on a notion and experience of the Transcendent, e.g., secular humanism, atheistic Marxism. Although in every respect, these “explanations” function as religions traditionally have in human life, because the Transcendent, however it is understood, plays such a central role in religion, but not in these “explanations”, for the sake of accuracy, it is best to give these “explanations” not based on the Transcendent a separate name; the name often used is: Ideology. Much, though not all, of the following will, mutatis mutandis, also apply to Ideology even when the term is not used.

What is an authentic human being? Let me now return to the questions I began to raise earlier, namely, what is a good human being? What is a good community, a good state? What is a good relationship between the two? I already gave my answer to the last two questions when I argued that the community, the state exists for the person. “Why should that be?” one should then ask. Because of the unique character of humans, of persons. What is unique about humans, about persons, is that each one is infinite, unlimited in a “negative” sense. Here religion long ago already offered some extraordinary insights in this regard. At the fountainhead of both Judaism and Christianity, the first


Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue

book of the Bible, Genesis (the Priestly writer, writing in the fifth century B.C.E.—before the “big three” Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) in chapter one stated that humanity was created in “God’s image” (imago Dei, in St. Jerome’s Latin). God is thought to be infinite, unlimited, and thus so too is the human person, at least in one dimension. Yes, I am limited in terms of my bodily existence, but in my intellect I am at least quasi-infinite. For example, since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, the universe has been expanding at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second. Yet, in my intellect, I am there at the expanding edge of that vast space of the universe (and even “multiverses,” if they really exist). There is no conceivable possibility from which I am blocked. As soon as it is thought by my intellect, I am there, no matter how wild the idea. I am open-ended in that I can continue on and on thinking always new thoughts—endlessly, infinitely. So, in this way, I am an imago Dei, and so is each of you and every person. Reflection on this biblical insight led the Rabbis to spell out further some of its implications and claim that, “To whomever saves a single soul it is reckoned as if s/he saved the whole world.... To whomever destroys a single soul it is reckoned as if s/he destroyed the whole world.... From this you learn that one human is worth the whole of creation.” (Mishnah: Aboth Rabbi Nathan 31). The Mishnah was published about the year 200 C.E. Over four hundred years later, we find in Muhammad’s Qur’an this statement: “Whoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all humankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all humankind” (Qur’an: 5:32). Regardless of how Muslim believers deal with this seemingly divine repetitive “revelation,” for me as a historian, the causal connections are clear. However, for our purposes, what is startling is the insight and claim from two different religious traditions hundreds years apart that every person has an infinite worth. This understanding of the human person and the community, the state, means that all the legal and ethical principles and laws that are reflected on and devised should have as their ultimate aim fostering the good of each individual person, for s/he is of infinite value. Put briefly, “Principles are for Persons,” not persons for principles. Rabbi Jesus uttered the equivalent when he said that “The Sabbath is for humans, not humans for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). This insight was apparently found to be so important that a very close paraphrase is also found in an early rabbinic

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writing: “The Sabbath is committed to you; you are not committed to the Sabbath” (Mekilta 31:13).3 I am not advocating rampant individualism in an Ayn Rand fashion. It is absolutely true that we cannot become authentic human beings, persons, except in community, for as noted above from Aristotle, human beings are social, political beings. We not only could not even be brought into existence except by the “communion” of our parents, but would grow to be not humans but some kind of twisted monsters were we, after being born, simply fed and kept clean without any human touch, speaking, loving. This is not a guess on my part, but a scientifically substantiated fact.

Love of the other at the core of the authentic human Here again religion supplies us with some ancient wisdom, that is, the socalled Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” or as it is in the fifth-century B.C.E. biblical book of Leviticus and repeated by Jesus in the first century: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”4 Implied in this Golden Rule is that because we are human we are oriented to love the other as our self. The fourth-century Confucian scholar Mencius put this insight into the following image: if we saw a child about to fall into a well, we all “automatically” would reach out to prevent it, implying that deep in our psyches, we identify with the falling child, with the Other—unless we have been trained not to! Thus, all authentic human love starts with self-love, for we “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” As noted above, every human reaches out 3

In fact, Rabbi Phillip Sigal argued that, “During his brief ministry Jesus was a proto-rabbi whose views influenced his contemporaries and possibly entered tannaitic literature [teaching of the Rabbis living until the publication of the Mishnah around the year 200] as the views of others.... A classic example of a view enunciated by Jesus, which is attributed to later tanna R. Simon B. Menasia, is the Mekilta statement about the sabbath. Either way, Yeshua [Jesus] in this regard was in the center of the rabbinic tradition—either as being paralleled or plagiarized. [Phillip Sigal, The Halachah of Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Matthew (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987), 159. Quoted in Leonard Swidler, Yeshua: A Model for Moderns (Kansas City: Sheed/Ward, 1988; 2nd expanded edition, 1993), 50.] 4 See Leonard Swidler (ed.), For All Life. Toward a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic: An Interreligious Dialogue (Ashland: White Cloud Press, 1999), where over twenty instances of the Golden Rule are listed, the oldest of which come from Zoroaster and Confucius in the sixth century B.C.E., followed by a score of others through the ages to the present.


Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue

in myriad ways to draw to her/himself what s/he perceives as the good. If we do not learn to block our “natural”5 tendency, we will want the same for the Other (whether the falling child or other). The Other human at the same time naturally reaches out to us and is reenforced in doing so by our reaching out to her, so that there is a “natural” mutual reenforcement of loving each other—again, unless we have been taught to block this natural tendency. Now here is where the community, the state plays an essential role in helping to form good human beings. Infants and children learn the really important things in life not most of all by being told in words, but by being the recipients and observers of the actions of those around them, especially those closest to them physically and by affection. Thus, the community, starting with the parents and family, either fosters or inhibits the first inborn tendency, to reach out to unite with what is perceived as the good—for example, the mother’s breast—, and the second inborn tendency, in reaching for the good to include the Other—as in the falling child. In fact, in Western languages, we use the Latin term alter ego to refer to the most intense object of our love, of our identifying with the Other. Alter ego, of course, literally means “other I,” “other self.” Thus, we are saying that my beloved is my “other self,” my other “I.” Jesus referred to this common wisdom when he said: “Greater love than this has no person than to give his life for his friend.” (Jn. 15:13) In that case, my self, my ego is even more there in my alter ego than in my primus ego, my first I. If I had been on the sinking Titanic with my granddaughter Willy, I would not have hesitated to give my life jacket to her if she had none. I ask, which of you would not do the same in similar circumstances? I put it to you, that all in this room or reading these words have in us the inborn tendency to reach out for the falling child, the Other. But, this inborn tendency is just that, a tendency. Negatively, it must not be blocked as we grow older, and positively, it must be fostered. We must avoid blocking, and, at the same time, encourage this inborn tendency to expand our ego endlessly even striving for the ultimate that Jesus expressed when he said: “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” (Mt. 5: 44) This is the main task of the community from the family up through all civic society to the state and ultimately the global community. Here too is where we find the raison d’etre of religion, which today is a major part of civic society. Before the Humanitarian Revolution of the eighteenth century, Enlightenment religion was the matrix within 5 The term “natural” comes from the Latin natus, born. Thus, “natural” means simply the way things come into existence, the way they are “born.”

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which all the other elements of the civic society existed. The “dethroning” of religion during the Enlightenment was, along with the “dethroning” of the monarchical state from both of their prior tendencies toward absolutism, a huge advance for humanity, for the Human Person. The initial creation of the state (Hobbes’ Leviathan), some five millennia ago, was a prior massive advance for humanity in that it drastically cut down on violence6 and thus, fostered subsequent great human accomplishments. The same was also true of the early development of religion, which developed ethical systems and fostered their practice. However, as Lord Acton noted over a century ago, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”7 Thus, what happened in my adopted city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1776 and 1787—the signing of the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution, respectively—humanity broke the chains that earlier Jean-Jacques Rousseau spoke of when he proclaimed at the beginning of his famous book Du Contrat Social ou Principes du Droit Politique (The Social Contract): “L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers!” “Humans are born free, and everywhere they are in chains!” The purpose of both the state and religion is basically the same: to help each human person to be as fully an authentic human being as possible. Historically, religion has been the interior dimension of the state and the state the exterior expression of religion. Thus, in the ancient, and not so ancient, civilizations and states, the state and religion were the two sides of the single coin of humanity. That liberating-confining combination was challenged by the growing divisions inside of religion in the West, leading to that liberating principle of the separation of religion from the power of the state.

Union of religion and state all-pervading As noted above, in all past civilizations, religion has been an integral, a constitutive element. Religion supplied the ethical basis on which the 6

See Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature. Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), who demonstrates massively the decline of human violence. A huge step forward was taken when humans established the state, which John Hobbes referred to as the Leviathan. The eighteenth-century Enlightenment establishment of Reason launched another great leap forward in the decline of violence. 7 Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887, published in Historical Essays and Studies, J. N. Figgis and R. V. Laurence, eds. (London: Macmillan, 1907).


Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue

authority of the state and law was built. As a result, in all past civilizations, there was a very intimate relationship between religion and state, very often so close that one could speak of the union of religion and state. At times, religion tended to dominate the state, and at other times, the state dominated religion. We have seen both in recent times and still even today. The Soviet state’s domination of Orthodox Christianity was an example of the former and the Ayatollahs’ and Mullahs’ domination of the state in Iran is an example of the latter. In the early centuries of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world, Christian writers were strongly in favor of religious liberty. After the Constantinian embrace of the Christian religion in the fourth century, however, they quickly switched to the position that the state had the responsibility of seeing that the truth was protected and favored—and, of course, Christianity had the truth. Certainly, in theory, no one was to be forced to accept Christianity, but not infrequently, the theory was not translated into practice. With the development of medieval Christendom in the western half of the former Roman Empire, almost everyone became Christian, with the exception of the Jews, who, for the most part, were allowed to continue a separate existence, often in ghettos. The history of Islam was not very different: in theory no individual or community was to be forced to embrace Islam. But, in practice, the Jihad, in the sense of a Holy War against non-Muslim states, not infrequently, was in fact launched aggressively. Although the millet system allowed non-Muslims within a Muslim-conquered state to practice their religion, the non-Muslims were clearly second-class citizens - which doubtlessly encouraged conversion to Islam, and surely not the contrary.

Development of the separation of religion and state Something unique in human history, however, began to take place in Western Christianity, in Christendom: the gradual, painful move toward the separation of religion and state. Some might trace its beginnings to the Gregorian Reforms when Pope Gregory VII (1021–1085 A.D.) attempted dramatically to separate the Church from the power of the Holy Roman Empire and other civil powers. Of course, no one at the time promoted the notion of the separation of church and state. Rather, each side attempted to wrest power to its side; witness the thirteenth-century “imperial interregnum” manipulated by the popes (when for fifty years the popes effectively prevented the election of a Holy Roman Emperor), followed soon by the imprisonment of that most

Leonard Swidler


authoritarian of all popes, Boniface VIII, by the king of France, Phillip the Fair, at the beginning of the fourteenth century. But, it was precisely this mammoth power-struggle that encouraged a weariness with the unquestioned assumption of the union of church and state. The Renaissance with its shifting of interest from the divine to the human provided a further basis for the gradual questioning of the wisdom of the union of church and state. This questioning manifested itself visibly in the so-called left-wing of the sixteenth century Reformation; the Anabaptists and related sects clearly and vigorously rejected the idea of the union of church and state, for which, of course, they were viciously persecuted by both Catholics and mainline Protestants. In the end, it was the pitting of Catholics and Protestants against each other that magnified the incipient weariness with the consequences of the union of church and state - induced by the earlier struggle between the pope and civil rulers - to the point of the full embrace of the principle of the separation of religion and state during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The 1787 U.S. Constitution gave, for the first time, a formal national articulation of the idea of separation of church and state. From that time, it spread throughout the West in various juridical expressions and, from there, increasingly around the globe.

The unique quality of Western civilization When historians like Arnold J. Toynbee survey the total history of humankind, they find that there have been a number of civilizations which have come into existence, flourished, and then declined (Toynbee discerned twenty-one civilizations in human history). Many of them achieved admirable accomplishments, the Greco-Roman civilization being the one best known to Westerners. Its achievements were indeed great, so much so that during the late Renaissance there was a lively debate about whether the Ancients (meaning the Greeks and Romans) or the then Moderns had attained greater cultural heights. But, doubtless, the GrecoRoman accomplishments were in many regards matched, and in some surpassed, by the Chinese, Islamic and other civilizations. However, it is no cultural hubris to be aware that the rising arc of Western civilization - which is largely a synthesis of 1) the JudeoChristian tradition, 2) the Greco-Roman tradition, 3) the Germanic tradition, 4) with a significant influence of medieval Islam, and 5) modern science and thought - has reached far beyond where any of the other twenty civilizations have gone, whether in culture, science, politics, economic prosperity, technology, etc. Moreover, Western civilization has


Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue

now become a global civilization in a way that had never occurred before, and the process of globalization appears to be intensifying in exponential fashion. This is not to discount Western-Now-Becoming-Global Civilization’s defects, blind spots, and seething problems. Some of its most critical problems are largely a result of its very accomplishments, e.g., the population explosion (because of, inter alia, medical and agricultural advances), the ecological crisis (because of, inter alia, technological advances and the population explosion). But, even that illustrates the main point: Western civilization’s greatest problems flow not from its weaknesses but from its even more awesome, unparalleled achievements.

The separation of religion and state a vital key One of the essential elements in the advances of Western civilization in culture, science, politics, economic prosperity and technology, the like of which, as said - for all of its problems, which are correspondingly massive - were never before experienced in human history, is the separation of state and religion. And, religion here includes any “ideology” that functions like a religion, as, for example, atheistic Marxism (it is clear to see today in Eastern Europe and the former USSR what disaster the union of state and the “religion” of Marxism led to). Christendom, in the Late Middle Ages began reaching the cultural level of the earlier Greek and Roman, and the then contemporary Islamic, civilizations. All historical data strongly suggest that Christendom would have plateaued at approximately that level for a longer or shorter period of time, and then gone into decline - as had all other civilizations before then, and as eventually the Islamic civilization did as well. That did not happen, however. Why? One very fundamental reason was that - starting with the Gregorian Reforms, through the Renaissance, the Reformation and on into the Enlightenment and beyond - religion and the state slowly and very painfully began to be separated. This separation broke the forced quality of religion/ideology and consequently freed the human spirit and mind to pursue its limitless urge to know ever more, to solve every problem it confronts. This resulted in a series of what historians call revolutions in the West: the Commercial Revolution (sixteenth-seventeenth centuries), Scientific Revolution (seventeenth century), Industrial Revolution (eighteenth-nineteenth centuries), Political Revolution (epitomized in the eighteenth century by the American and French Revolutions), and on into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with myriads of revolutions of all sorts occurring at geometrically increasing speed and magnitude.

Leonard Swidler


With these “exponential” advances in capabilities, of course, the possibilities of destructiveness increased correspondingly - as the medieval philosophers said: the corruption of the best becomes the worst, corruption optimae pessima. Nevertheless, because freedom is of the essence of being human, even though we may well destroy ourselves if we do not learn wisdom and live virtuously, we can never turn back to an unfree stage of human development. Hence, those societies which try to reunite religion/ideology with the power of the state are doomed to always be third-class societies.New problems and challenges will always arise in human societies. Humans, however, have a virtually limitless capability of intellect, imagination, and spirit (which is another way of saying what was noted above from the book of Genesis, that God made humans in God’s image, the imago Dei) with which to address and overcome those problems and challenges ever anew. Unfortunately, when that innate human creative spirit is imprisoned in a doctrinal strait-jacket (“ortho-doxy,” “straight-doctrine,” becomes in fact “strait-doctrine”) imposed from above by the power of the state, it will die from spiritual circulation-strangulation. And, then, that society will fall behind, and perhaps even succumb to, those societies which retain their creativity. That is why, for example, the present attempt of Islamists to reestablish the Muslim law, the shar’ia, in the Muslim world will condemn those countries to always be behind the “West.” And, given the Islamists’ memory of the past medieval cultural glory and superiority of Islam over the West, it is precisely the present, and continued, inferiority in almost every way of all Islamic countries vis-à-vis the West that infuriates them. One finds an acknowledgment of the present decline of Islamic civilization, and a determination to do something positive about it, in certain leading Muslim circles, for example, in Malaysia: “None of the Muslim countries are considered to be developed or advanced, despite about ten are among the rich nations of the world.” Perceptively, the author goes on to note that the Muslim countries “are so weak politically, economically, socially and even educationally.... Muslims have become so weak and dependent on others in almost every field,”8 and, then, quotes Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: “We Muslims are backward in many fields.”9 Of course, the same disastrous consequences 8

Seyed Othman Alhabshi, An Inspiration for the Future of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia, 1994), 14f. 9 Speech of Prime Minister, Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, at the opening of the International Youth Camp, Morib, Selangor August 10, 1981, cited in Alhabshi, An Inspiration for …, 18.


Politics and Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue

would also result, e.g., in India if the resurgent Hindu “fundamentalists” have their way - and North Korea and Cuba will likewise always remain relatively “backward” as long as they maintain a union of ideology and state. Many Islamist apologists argue, however, that Islam is different from the West and its major religion, Christianity, because, unlike Christianity, Islam is a holistic religion which includes politics as well as all other aspects of life. In this, unfortunately, they are forgetting that Christendom - like every other civilization and religion - was exactly the same for well over a millennium - the Constantinian Era. It is only when Christendom, the West, began to break out of that mischievous marriage of religion/ideology and state (only allegedly virtuously “holistic”) that it embarked on the path of human freedom with its limitless possibilities of creativity (and destruction).

Conclusion Thus, to summarize briefly, the fundamental purpose of both religion and politics is to promote the welfare of each of its members, each human person. In carrying out their purpose, both need to be deabsolutized and operate in a free, respectful relationship with each other, maximizing each other’s freedom. Most of all, however, they both need to maximize the freedom/responsibility of each individual human person.

References Swidler, Leonard and Paul Mojzes. The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000. Sigal, Phillip. The Halachah of Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Matthew. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987. Swidler, Leonard. Yeshua: A Model for Moderns. Kansas City: Sheed/Ward, 1988; 2nd expanded edition, 1993. Swidler, Leonard, ed. For All Life. Toward a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic: An Interreligious Dialogue. Ashland: White Cloud Press, 1999. Pinker, Steven. The Better Angels of our Nature. Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking, 2011. Figgis, J. N. and R. V. Laurence, eds. Historical Essays and Studies. London: Macmillan, 1907. Alhabshi, Seyed Othman. An Inspiration for the Future of Islam. Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia, 1994.


This chapter has two sections. The first is longer than the second and builds on to previous writing relating to the nature of religion in modern Europe and the factors that must be taken into account if this is to be properly understood.1 The second section introduces three European societies that in one way or another invite reflection. These are the Republic of Ireland which has experienced a late and very rapid process of secularization; the former East Germany which is widely regarded as the most secular region of Europe; and Romania which is an Orthodox, postcommunist and notably religious corner of the continent. How should we understand these cases? Does the analysis set out in the first section help us to do this effectively? I have been prompted to ask this question during recent visits to each of these places. The last of these was to Cluj-Napoca in Romania – the location for the conference from which this publication emerges.

1 See Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); Grace Davie, Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Grace Davie, Europe: The Exceptional Case: Parameters of Faith in the Modern World (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002); Grace Davie, “Religion in Europe in the 21st century: The factors to take into account.” European Journal of Sociology 47 (2006): 27196; Grace Davie, The Sociology of Religion (London: Sage, 2007).


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

Understanding religion in modern Europe: the factors to take into account 2 There are six rather different factors, which – taken together – contribute to a better understanding of the place of religion in modern Europe. The crucial point to remember is that they push and pull in different directions. The six factors are: 1. the role of the historic churches in shaping European culture; 2. an awareness that these churches still have a place at particular moments in the lives of modern Europeans, though they are no longer able to discipline the beliefs and behaviour of the great majority of the population; 3. an observable change in the churchgoing constituencies of the continent, which operate increasingly on a model of choice, rather than a model of obligation or duty; 4. the arrival into Europe of groups of people from many different parts of the world, and with very different religious aspirations from those seen in the host societies; 5. the reactions of Europe’s secular elites to the increasing salience of religion in public as well as private life; 6. a growing realization that the patterns of religious life in modern Europe should be considered an “exceptional case” in global terms – they are not a global prototype. Each of these factors will be taken in turn in the paragraphs that follow. They will be drawn together in a short conclusion to this section.


As already indicated, the material in this section is largely drawn from my own work. Additional overviews of religion in Europe can be found in Timothy Byrnes and Peter Katzenstein (eds.) Religion in an Expanding Europe. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Jean-Paul Willaime, Le retour du religieux dans la sphère publique (Lyon: Olivétan, 2008); Effie Fokas, “Religion: Towards a post-secular Europe?” in Sage Handbook of European Studies, ed. Chris Rumford (London: Sage, 2009), 401-19; Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). More specific discussions of church and state can be found in John Madeley and Zsolt Enyedi (eds.) Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality (London: Frank Cass, 2003) and Gerhard Robbers (ed.) State and Church in the European Union (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2005).

Grace Davie


Cultural heritage The starting point reflects the undisputed role of Christianity in shaping European culture, bearing in mind that other factors (notably Greek rationalism and Roman organization) must also be kept in mind. One example will suffice to illustrate this fact: the Christian tradition has had an irreversible effect in determining the most basic categories of human existence (time and space) in this part of the world. Both week and year follow the Christian cycle, even if the major festivals of the Christian calendar are beginning to lose their resonance for large sections of the population. They are nonetheless retained as a framework for public holidays. Sunday, moreover, remains distinctive even if the notion of a “day of rest” has largely been discarded. The same is true of space. Wherever you look in Europe, Christian churches predominate, some of which retain huge symbolic value for the populations that surround them; and from the largest city to the smallest village, Europeans orient themselves with reference to religious buildings even if they seldom enter them for worship. This is not to deny that in some parts of Europe (notably the larger cities) the skyline is fast becoming an indicator of growing religious diversity. Europe is changing, but the legacies of the past remain deeply embedded in both the physical and cultural environment.

The historic churches Physical and cultural presence is one thing; a hands-on role in the everyday lives of European people quite another. Commentators of all kinds agree that, with very few exceptions, the latter is no longer a realistic aspiration for the historic churches of Europe. That does not mean, however, that these institutions have entirely lost their significance as markers of religious identity. The following terms are useful in understanding these ambiguities: first the notion of “believing without belonging”3 and, second, the concept of “vicarious religion.”4


Davie, Religion in Britain… Davie, Religion in Modern Europe; Grace Davie, “Vicarious religion: A methodological challenge”, in Everyday Religion: Observing Modern Religious Lives, ed. Nancy Ammerman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 21-35; Grace Davie, “Vicarious religion: A response”, Journal of Contemporary Religion 2. 25 (2010): 261-67. 4


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

One of the most striking features of religious life in contemporary Europe is the mismatch between different measurements of religiousness.5 There exists, first of all, a set of indicators which measure firm commitments to (a) institutional life and (b) credal statements of religion (in this case Christianity). These indicators, moreover, are closely related to each other in so far as institutional commitments – in the form of regular religious practice – both reflect and confirm religious belief in its “orthodox” forms.6 The believing Christian attends church to express his or her belief and to receive affirmation that this is the right thing to do. Conversely, repeated exposure to the institution and its teaching necessarily disciplines belief. No observer of the current religious scene disputes the fact that these dimensions of European religion are interrelated and in serious decline. Fewer Europeans go to church than they used to. As a result, the idea of a common narrative (of Christian liturgy or of Christian language and metaphor) becomes more and more tenuous almost by the day. What, then, are the consequences of this situation? The complex relationship between belief in a wider sense and practice is central to this discussion, for it is abundantly clear that a manifest reduction in the “hard” indicators of religious life has not, in the short term at least, had a similar effect on rather less rigorous dimensions of religiousness. For the time being, the latter remain relatively strong (the data are clear on this point). Between two-thirds and three-quarters of Europeans assent to “belief in God”, and roughly similar proportions touch base with the institutional churches at some point in their lives, often at times of crisis. It is precisely this state of affairs, which is captured by the phrase “believing without belonging”. That said, the connections between emergent patterns of belief and the institutional churches are complex. Not only do the latter continue to exist, they quite clearly exert an influence, both direct and indirect, on many aspects of individual and collective lives – even in Europe. The notion of “vicarious religion” is helpful in this context. By vicarious is meant the notion of religion performed by an active minority but on behalf of a much larger number, who (implicitly at least) not only understand, but appear to approve of what the minority is doing. The first half of the definition is relatively straightforward and reflects the everyday meaning of the term “vicarious” – that is, to do something on 5

Reliable statistical information at European and national level can be obtained from the European Values Study ( and the International Social Survey Programme (, both accessed 1 December 2012. 6 “Orthodox” at this point means the mainstream doctrine in the church in question.

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behalf of someone else. The second half captures the legacy of the state churches of Europe and is best explored by means of examples. Religion can operate vicariously in a wide variety of ways. For example, churches and church leaders perform ritual on behalf of others (at the time of a birth or a death for instance); if these services are denied, this causes offence – the more so amongst those who do not attend regularly. Church leaders and churchgoers believe on behalf of others and incur criticism if they do not do this properly. Once again it is, very often, the occasional churchgoer who articulates this disquiet most clearly, and the more senior the church leader, the worse the problem gets.7 Thirdly, church leaders and churchgoers are expected to embody moral codes on behalf of others, even when those codes have been abandoned by large sections of the populations that they serve. This is true particularly with respect to family life and is one reason for the widespread disgust that many Europeans (and indeed others) felt regarding the disclosures of child abuse among Catholic priests. Churches, finally, can offer space for the vicarious debate of unresolved issues in modern societies. If the latter were not the case, it is hard to understand the persistent scrutiny of their positions on a wide variety of topical issues, from changing views regarding the nature of sexuality to the difficult moral questions surrounding birth and death – which reflect in turn the meaning of life itself. An alternative way of illustrating the nature of vicarious religion is to consider the place of religion and the continuing role of religious institutions in European societies when they face the unexpected or the tragic. The reactions provoked by the death of Princess Diana in August 1997 offer a revealing illustration: what happened in Britain in the week following the car accident in Paris cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as either rational or secular, but nor was it conventionally religious. So what was it? One point is clear: a great deal of the improvised and markedly heterogeneous rituals that emerged among ordinary people at that time took place in the vicinity of centrally-placed churches. It was these churches, moreover, that housed books of condolence and facilities for lighting candles – ordinary people queued for hours to make use of these resources – and it was the established church (the Church of England) that took responsibility for her funeral. Even more important, however, is the fact that the reactions to Princess Diana’s death (or any number of more recent equivalents) are simply “writ-large” 7

The problem is nicely exemplified by the furore that greeted the Archbishop of Canterbury, following a much misinterpreted remark concerning shari’a law. See (accessed 22 December 2012).


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

versions of what goes on the everyday lives of individuals and communities all the time. People die, sometimes unexpectedly and communities suffer, sometimes with little apparent justification. What is to be done on these occasions and who is to do it?

From obligation to consumption Where, though, does this leave Europe’s diminishing, but still significant churchgoers – those who maintain the tradition on behalf of the people described in the previous section? Here an observable change is clearly taking place, best summarized as a shift from a culture of obligation or duty to a culture of consumption or choice. What was once simply imposed on Europeans (with all the negative connotations of this word), or inherited (which has a rather more positive spin), becomes instead a matter of personal choice. Religiously active Europeans now go to church or to another religious organization because they choose to, sometimes for a short period or sometimes for longer, sometimes regularly and sometimes less so, but they feel no obligation either to attend that church in the first place or to continue if they no longer want to. As such, this pattern is entirely compatible with vicariousness: the historic churches need to be there in order that Europeans may attend them if they so choose. Their nature, however, gradually alters, a shift that is discernible in both practice and belief, not to mention the connections between them. There is, for example, an easily documentable change in the patterns of baptism in the Church of England. The overall number of baptisms has dropped dramatically in the post-war period, evidence once again of institutional decline. In England, though not yet in the Nordic countries, or indeed in parts of southern Europe, baptism is no longer seen as a ritual associated with birth, but has become increasingly a sign of membership in a chosen voluntary community. In other words membership of the historic churches is changing in nature. They are becoming more like the growing number of free or independent churches that can be found all over Europe, though more in some places than in others. Voluntarism is beginning to establish itself de facto, regardless of the constitutional legacies of state churches. A second point follows from this. What are the most popular choices of modern Europeans when it comes to religious attendance? The answers to this question are doubly interesting in the sense that they not only indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the present situation, but reveal that the predictions of an earlier generation (both scholars and church people) were largely incorrect. Specifically, in the current period Europeans

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are disproportionately drawn to two kinds of religious organization: charismatic evangelical churches on the one hand and cathedrals or citycentre churches on the other. The former epitomizes firm commitments, strong fellowship and conservative teaching, offset by the warmth of the charismatic experience. The latter allows a much more individual (even anonymous) expression of religious commitment: in “cathedral-type” churches the appeal is often associated with the beauty of the building, the quality of the music and the traditional nature of the liturgy. The important point to grasp is that in both cases there is a noticeable experiential element, albeit very differently expressed. In the mid post-war decades, something rather different was envisaged. Conservative teaching was out of fashion and cathedrals were often classed as “dinosaurs” – less and less relevant to the modern world and very expensive to maintain. They are still expensive to maintain, but the data indicate that they are increasingly attractive to late modern populations, whether they come as regular worshippers, less regular worshippers, tourists or pilgrims – noting that the lines between these categories are distinctly porous.8 Conversely, rather more liberal forms of Protestantism, noticeably fashionable in the 1960s, have not fulfilled their earlier promise. There are, of course, important exceptions to this rule but by and large the purely cerebral has less appeal in the twenty-first century than many people thought would be the case.

New arrivals The fourth factor in this sociological “map” of religion in Europe concerns the growing number of newcomers in many parts of the continent, most notably west Europe. There are three stages in this process. The first was closely linked to the urgent need for labour in the expanding economies of post-war Europe – especially in Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The second wave of immigration occurred in the 1990s and included, in addition to the places listed above, the Nordic countries, Ireland and the countries of Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal) – bearing in mind that many of these had until very recently been countries of emigration rather than immigration. Indeed the shift from one to the other was extraordinarily rapid and took almost everyone by surprise. A third stage can be found in the movement from the east to 8

Theos, Spiritual Capital: The Present and Future of English Cathedrals (London: Theos Think Tank, 2012). In parenthesis, it is important to note that pilgrimage is an increasingly popular activity all over Europe.


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

the west of Europe which mostly took place after 2004 (or in some cases 2007), when the enlargements of the European Union permitted the easy movement of people from the countries formerly under communist domination to what is conventionally known as “the west.” All three phases have been subject to economic change, not least the financial crisis of 2008 which has had a visible impact on the flows of labour in Europe. None of these are primarily religious movements, but the implications for the religious life of the continent are considerable. The first point to grasp is that the consequences of this process vary from place to place, and depend as much on the host society as on the new arrivals themselves. Britain and France offer an instructive comparison in this respect. In Britain immigration has been much more diverse than in France, both in terms of provenance and in terms of faith communities. Britain is also a country where ethnicity and religion criss-cross each other in a bewildering variety of ways (only Sikhs and Jews claim ethno-religious identities). Thirdly, Britain is more ready than many of her European neighbours, to embrace diversity – a tradition that stretches back to a colonial past where rule through local elite was the norm. The situation in France is very different: here immigration has been largely from the Maghreb, as a result of which France has by far the largest Muslim community in Europe – an almost entirely Arab population. Rightly or wrongly, Arab and Muslim have become interchangeable terms in popular parlance in France. France, moreover, firmly rejects the notion of communautarisme, in the sense that French citizens are welcomed as such but their primary identity is to France, not to an intermediate group, be it religious or another. Once again the resonance with colonial policy is clear: French rule in the colonies meant direct rule from Paris. Beneath these differences lies however a common factor: the growing presence of other faith communities in general and of the Muslim population in particular, is challenging some deeply held European assumptions. The notion that faith is a private matter and should, therefore, be proscribed from public life – notably from the state, from welfare and from the education system – is widespread in Europe. Conversely, many of those who are currently arriving in this part of the world have markedly different convictions, and offer – simply by their presence – a challenge to the European way of doing things.

Europe’s secular elites The interactions described in the previous section raise, however, a further point: that is the extent to which the secular elites of Europe make use of

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these events to articulate alternatives (ideological, constitutional and institutional) to religion. In order to understand this point fully, it is important to grasp two things: firstly that such elites have re-emerged in European societies as a reaction to the renewed presence of religion in public debate (resurgent religion brings with it resurgent secularism); and secondly that these groups, just like their religious counterparts, vary markedly from place to place. As ever the nature of the religious and the nature of the secular go hand in hand. Key in this respect is an appreciation of the secularization process – specifically, an awareness that this has taken place differently in different European countries.9 For example, what in Britain, and indeed in most of northern Europe, occurred gradually (starting with a de-clericalization of the churches from within at the time of the Reformation), became in France a delayed and much more ideological clash between a hegemonic, heavily clerical church and a much more militant secular state. The result was “la guerre des deux Frances” (Catholic and laïque), which dominated French political life well into the twentieth century. The legacies still remain in the form of a selfconsciously secular elite, and a lingering suspicion concerning religion of all kinds – the more so when this threatens the public sphere. The fact that these threats are no longer Catholic but Muslim does not alter the underlying reaction. Norway offers a rather different illustration. Proportionally speaking Norway houses a surprisingly large number of humanists. Many of these are members of the Norwegian Humanist Association which campaigns for the separation of church and state and the full equality of all religions and life stances in Norway.10 Particular attention is paid to schools (including the place of religious education in the curriculum) and to young people – a separate youth organization was established in 2007. The Association becomes in fact a parallel institution to the state church and is, in many ways, similar to this. It is, for example, partly financed by the equivalent of “church” tax (there is also an annual membership fee). Above all the tone of the debate, despite some sharp differences in opinion, is distinctively Norwegian – it is very different from the French case.


David Martin, A General Theory of Secularization (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978). See for more details (accessed 22 December 2012). 10


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

Is Europe an exceptional case? The final factor introduces a rather different perspective. Indeed it reverses the essential question: instead of asking what Europe is in term of its religious existence, it asks what Europe is not. It is not (yet) a vibrant religious market such as that found in the United States; it is not a part of the world where Christianity is growing exponentially, very often in Pentecostal forms, as is the case in the global south; it is not a part of the world dominated by faiths other than Christian, but is increasingly penetrated by these; and it is not for the most part subject to the violence often associated with religion and religious difference in other parts of the globe – the more so if religion becomes entangled in political conflict. Hence the inevitable, if at times disturbing conclusion: that the patterns of religion in modern Europe, notably its relative secularity, might be an exceptional case in global terms. This point is all the more crucial if we remember that the paradigms of social science emerge from the European Enlightenment and are very largely premised on the notion that modern societies are likely to be secular societies. It follows that the traditional, European-based understandings of social science may be markedly less suitable for the study of religion in other parts of the world. Indeed they are not always helpful in terms of Europe itself given the intricacies of religious life in the early years of the twenty-first century.

Gathering the threads Each of the above factors merits careful consideration in its own right. One way of drawing them together, however, is to recognize that two things are happening at once in twenty-first century Europe. On the one hand are the increasing levels of secularity, which lead in turn to an inevitable decline in religious knowledge as well as in religious belief. On the other is a series of increasingly urgent debates about religion in public life, prompted by the need to accommodate new populations in Europe who bring with them very different ways of being religious. This largely unexpected combination is difficult to manage, both in the continent as a whole and in its constituent nations. This is hardly surprising in that European populations are losing their knowledge of religion (i.e. of vocabulary, concept and narrative) just when they need this most – given the requirement, on an increasingly regular basis, to pass judgement on the rights and obligations of the very varied religious actors, individual and corporate, which currently cohabit in this part of the world. The consequent

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debates all too often are both ill-informed and ill-mannered, as Europeans re-open questions that they had considered closed and for which they are inadequately prepared.

Three vignettes I have introduced the material contained in the previous section in many different parts of Europe. The presentation is almost always well-received as those who are listening quite clearly recognize both themselves and the situations of which they are part. That said the six factors resonate differently in different parts of the continent, depending for example on the degree to which a “market” in religion has been able to evolve. This varies, as does the relative strength of the historic church in question. It is equally clear that the former communist countries of east and central Europe have been subject to emigration rather than immigration and, for the most part, have not been challenged by forms of religion coming from outside – i.e. from a different cultural heritage. Secular reactions are also different in that secular elites in this part of Europe have had a distinctive engagement with history. More often than not, they were associated with the imposition of communism; religion, conversely, became an important channel through which to express dissent.11 The following vignettes are considered with this in mind. They are no more than pen portraits, but in visiting each of these places, I have been obliged to reflect on the appropriateness of the analysis presented above. Would this or would this not resonate for the audience in question? Different factors are highlighted in each case; the focus is necessarily selective and lies on the points most pertinent to the situation under review. The reasons for my visits can be found in the appropriate footnote.

The Republic of Ireland12 Ireland is technically a secular state. The preamble to the Irish Constitution begins, however, with an invocation to the Trinity; it is a heavily Catholic text. More importantly it is abundantly clear that Catholicism in Ireland became inextricably bound up with the maintenance of Irish identity – a crucial factor in the long and at times tortuous struggle for autonomy as the Republic disentangled itself from its larger Protestant neighbour. 11

David Martin, Forbidden Revolutions (London: SPCK, 1996). In Ireland, I was an invited speaker at a symposium on “Religious Practice in a Post Secular World” held in March 2011 at St Patrick's College, Maynooth. 12


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

Ireland, in fact, offers a classic example of the elision of national and religious identity; each reinforces the other to resist external pressure.13 For this reason, Catholicism remained of central importance to the daily lives of Irish people for considerably longer than it (or its equivalent) did in most of Europe. Evidence for this can be found in the markedly high levels of belief and practice that persisted into the late twentieth century and in a wide variety of institutional practices (secular as well as religious). Here, manifestly, was a Church that could still discipline the beliefs and behaviour of Irish people. Ireland, moreover, was a country of emigration rather than immigration. Wave after wave of Irish people left the island for economic reasons, taking their Catholicism with them. Significant numbers came to the industrializing cities of Britain; others went further afield to the United States and Australia. A pattern which seemed likely to perpetuate itself for the foreseeable future changed abruptly in the 1990s. An economic boom, encouraged by Ireland’s membership of the European Union, turned a country of emigration into a country of immigration almost overnight. Then shift was dramatic. Dublin, in particular, became a sought after place to live and work, attracting a wide variety of (often young) people, much less interested in the traditional ways of doing things. A heavily institutionalized Catholic Church was ill-placed to respond given the speed of change, a situation that led in turn to a rapid decline in religious practice. This is best described as a speeded-up version of secularization: the process that had taken several generations in most of Europe occurred extraordinarily fast in Ireland, just as it did in Québec in the 1960s. The parallels are very clear. The point should not be exaggerated. Figures from the 2011 Irish census reveal that Ireland is still overwhelmingly Catholic (84%), though the number indicating ‘no religion’ has grown considerably (albeit from a low base).14 There is in addition a small but significant community of Muslims, bearing in mind that most of those arriving in Ireland in recent years have come from Europe rather than the Muslim world. Since 2004, moreover, the Europeans have included a sizeable number of Poles who 13

In this respect, Ireland is very similar to Poland and to Québec. Polish identity was sustained by means of its elision with Catholicism at a time when Poland as a nation ceased to exist (in the late nineteenth century). There was a similar association in Québec, but for rather different reasons – a link that unravelled dramatically in the 1960s. 14 Details of the Irish census can be found on (accessed 20 December 2112).

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have brought with them a form of Catholicism that once again is strongly associated with national identity.15 The economic boom that encouraged these arrivals was, however, short-lived. For a multiplicity of reasons, Ireland suffered disproportionately after 2008, generating new waves of emigration as livelihoods collapsed. Equally devastating, though very different, are the revelations that have emerged regarding the misconduct of Catholic priests over several decades. In Ireland, as elsewhere, this has shaken the confidence both of the Church itself and of the population that it is called to serve. How then should we consider the factors set out above? That Ireland is culturally Catholic is indisputable; it is equally clear that the vicarious role of the Catholic Church remains strong. The status quo, however, is shifting noticeably as more and more people distance themselves from the Church and as the critical voices assert themselves. In little more than a decade, a situation that was almost universally taken for granted began to unravel. Ireland, in short, has become more like the rest of Europe; it is closer to the norm than it used to be.

The former East Germany16 If the Republic of Ireland has been seen as one of the strongholds of religion in Europe, the former East Germany is just the opposite. Simply a glance at the comparative figures for belief, practice and self-affiliation is enough to reveal the extent of secularization in this part of Europe.17 The former DDR is one of the least believing and least practising places in the modern world. It is tempting to explain this situation as the direct consequence of two generations of communism. The reality, however, is more complex. East German secularity is result of a specific and long-term combination of factors. These include a Protestant rather than Catholic tradition, and a long rather than short history of secularization. To understand this better, it is important to pay attention to historians of religion as well as to sociologists, noting in particular the painstaking


The 2011 Census recorded 122,585 Poles living in Ireland. See ensus2011profile6migrationanddiversity/ (accessed 22 December 2011). 16 In Germany, I was the guest of the Theological Faculty at the Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Greifswald. My seminar in June 2012 was part of an International Research Training Group entitled ‘Baltic Borderlands – Shifting Boundaries of Mind and Culture in the Baltic Sea Region’, which was established in 2009. 17 See, for example, the statistical sources referenced in note 2.


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

work of Hugh McLeod.18 Well before the advent of communism, the churches were significantly weakened, meaning that a downward spiral was already in train. It was hardly surprising that resistance to the regime was minimal.19 It would be easy to conclude in this situation that the notion of vicarious religion is no longer relevant. Here is a society that is effectively living without religion. There are still signs of a Christian heritage in culture, landscape and architecture (these are hard to eradicate), but the notion of an institution that carries a memory on behalf of a wider constituency is more difficult to sustain. Two facts, however, have caused me to question this interpretation. The first can be found in the critical months leading to 1989. It is quite clear that an important focus for resistance was located in the Lutheran Nicolaikirche in Leipzig, more specifically in the Monday meetings for prayer. These gatherings became larger and noticeably more political as the weeks passed, eventually spilling out into the streets – a protest that became bolder as the momentum grew. The story is well-known, but the underlying question remains. Why was it that East German people of many different persuasions gathered here rather than anywhere else? The answer lies in the fact that the churches – though much-reduced, infiltrated and under surveillance – were the only available space in which to express criticism of the regime. The following conclusion follows logically: that when necessary vicarious religion can maintain itself on pretty slim resources. My second point is more speculative and would require the skills of both theologians and musical scholars to be fully explored. I was invited to the University of Greifswald in June 2012. My visit more or less coincided with the annual Bach festival which has been held continuously since 1946. Plainly this was a major event in the Greifswald calendar. It is equally clear that a visit to the festival during communist times was prompted by political as well as musical motives. It was a way of signalling attachment to a distinctive set of values, which were not those of the regime. More profoundly, the continuing popularity of the music of Bach in this part of Europe should, I think, be seen in relation to a certain 18

Hugh McLeod, Religion and the People of Western Europe, 1789–1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); Hugh McLeod, Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848–1914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000). See also Paul Froese and Steven Pfaff, “Explaining a religious anomaly: an historical analysis of secularization in eastern Germany”, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 22 (2002): 397-422. 19 It is important to note, however, the countless acts of individual heroism that took place as East Germans resisted the impositions of communism.

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kind of Protestant piety – in itself such music becomes a carrier of religious identity even if the latter is rarely articulated. I have had a similar impression during recent visits to Uppsala in Sweden, where a different annual event stands out. This is the requiem that is traditionally performed in Uppsala cathedral on All Hallows’ Eve. Technically speaking this is a concert, in the sense that the public pay to go in, but the line between concert and liturgy is necessarily fine given the nature of the work and the time and place of performance. How then should we to categorize this event? Given that the cathedral is normally full to capacity in a country in which churchgoing is notoriously low, it seems sensible to conclude that most people think they are going to a concert. But the “experience” indicates otherwise. The latter interpretation is reinforced by the fact that the requiem takes place alongside what is clearly an “invented tradition”: that is the growing tendency for Swedish families to visit the graves of their family members over the same weekend. Together, they light candles and place them around the grave along with wreaths made of pine tree branches and cones. The combination is striking and sits uneasily alongside strong versions of the secularization thesis. My point is the following. If we are to grasp the nature of vicarious religion in even the most secular corners of Europe, we will require a more developed sociological imagination than is frequently the case. Davie20 discusses this approach in more detail.

Romania21 Romania offers a different combination of factors. Like the former East Germany, it was part of the communist bloc, but unlike East Germany, religion has remained strong in this corner of Europe. Romania moreover is overwhelmingly Orthodox, a form of Christianity in which the notion of symphonia (a system of co-reciprocity) underpins the close relations between church and state. Such relations are considered normal in this part of Europe, where autocephalous churches lend themselves easily to national definition. It should not be assumed, however that all Orthodox churches attract the levels of attachment that are found in Romania; 20

Davie, “Vicarious religion: A methodological challenge.” In Romania I was an invited guest at a conference on “Religion and Politics in the Globalization Era” sponsored by the Centre for Political Analysis at the University of Babes-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca in June 2012; the conference papers are published in this volume.



Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

Bulgaria, for example, is considerably more secular. The point to grasp is that each “story” is distinctive and depends to a considerable extent on the history of the country in question. The analysis presented in the early part of this chapter was initially worked out with reference to western (Catholic) Christianity. Would it apply in a part of Europe which has evolved rather differently? Specifically, Orthodox populations have not experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment and the Romantic revival, all of which are pivotal moments in the making of (western) Europe. Further east there has been an equally formative, but rather different evolution, within which the ebb and flow of Islam has been of greater significance. Its imprint can still be seen. In Romania, for example, there is a small but significant Muslim population in the Black Sea area, which has been there for centuries. It has nothing to do with recent immigration. Catholic and Protestant minorities also exist but are largely associated with ethnic groups (notably a significant Hungarian population, who found themselves inside Romania following the redrawing of national boundaries after World War 1). That said, the Orthodox churches of east Europe are similar to their western counterparts in the sense that they are not only historically dominant but are territorially defined at every level of society. In Romania this dominance continues. It is easily documented in terms of a comprehensive infrastructure and abundant personnel.22 Both, moreover, are growing: new churches are under construction and the age-profile of Orthodox priests is markedly different from that discovered further west. The notion of vicarious religion is equally resonant. Relatively speaking the Orthodox Church is a trusted institution in Romanian society, though less so than it used to be. Retrospective assessments of the role of Church during the Cold War are central to this ambivalence, as is evidence of continuing corruption among the clergy.23 That said levels of belief and practice remain high by European standards. An additional element should


Sebastian Nastuta, “Public religion in post-communist countries: The specificity of Romania”, unpublished paper presented at a conference on New Forms of Public Religion, Cambridge, 2012. 23 See for example the detailed and sometimes very critical accounts of role of the Orthodox Church during the communist period in Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) and Lucian Leustean, Orthodoxy and the Cold War: Religion and Political Power in Romania, 1947-63 (Basingstoke: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2009).

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also be noted: the cultural and artistic capital of the Romanian Church is not only well-developed, but is (justly) a source of national pride. Changes, however, are taking place. An open border since 1990 has meant the arrival of new forms of religious life, among them innovative forms of Protestantism. At the same time, existing forms of “dissent” have been able to affirm their presence. A recent doctoral thesis looked in detail at the consequences of this situation in a small village in the South of Romania.24 In this village, the majority of the population is Orthodox – as expected. In terms of practice however the situation looks rather different. Approximately 400 Adventists attend church every Saturday in three separate congregations, as do approximately 200 Baptists on Sundays (in two congregations). This compares with the 200 or so people who regularly attend religious services in the two Orthodox churches. Interestingly, Ionete suggests that the relatively few Orthodox people who do practice their religion on a regular basis also regard themselves as a “minority”, in the sense that their behavior is distinct from their less assiduous co-religionists. Such figures invite reflection regarding the norms of religious life in Romania. Equally thought-provoking are the attitudes of the local population to each other. A significant ambiguity emerges in this respect. At one and the same time, the Adventist minority evokes both mistrust and respect (as indeed do the Baptists). On the one hand, these individuals are closely watched; on the other, more is expected of them. Specifically, conduct (or more accurately misconduct) which is taken for granted in the wider population is carefully noted on the grounds that Adventists should know better. Hence the following paradox: members of minority groups set public standards of behaviour despite the fact that they are regarded with suspicion. Also worth noting is the readiness with which Adventists in particular have responded to post-communist economic life. The reason is clear: their insistence on observing the Sabbath (Saturday) during the communist period excluded them from any kind of “official” employment. In order to survive, they were obliged to develop alternative, currently very marketable, skills. It would be unwise to extrapolate from a limited case study in one village. This is only one piece in a complicated jigsaw. László Fosztó provides another, drawing on fieldwork undertaken in Transylvania, a very different part of Romania. The focus in this case is the conversion to Pentecostalism of significant sections of the Roma population – noting 24 Ionete, Catalin Religia Юi modernitatea: secularizare sau pluralism religios? Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2011.


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

that Pentecostalism is now the fourth largest religious group in Romania.25 In an interesting contribution to a collected volume, Fosztó26 sets the religious choices of the Roma community against the long-term evolution of religion and power in Romania. Once again, his conclusions give pause for thought. There are undoubtedly signs of change in the religious profile of Romania, but the process is uneven. Religious minorities are growing, but they are also harassed – notably with respect to the ownership of buildings. And given the close (almost organic) relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Romanian state, alongside the ethno-religious identities of the Hungarian communities, it would be seriously misleading to describe the current state of affairs as a market in religion.

Concluding remarks What can be said in conclusion? It is abundantly clear that the patterns of religious activity vary considerably across Europe. This is so in the heartland of the continent as well as at the periphery. I would suggest, however, that the factors set out in the first section of this chapter cover the range of questions which need to be asked in each case. That the answers differ is not the principal point. Tellingly, even the more extreme examples introduced in the second section are recognizably variations on the European theme. They “stretch” the framework that I have elaborated, but they do not stretch it to breaking point.

References Byrnes Timothy and Peter Katzenstein (eds.) Religion in an Expanding Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Davie, Grace. “Vicarious religion: A response.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 25, 2 (2010): 261-67. —. “Vicarious religion: A methodological challenge.” In Everyday Religion: Observing Modern Religious Lives, edited by N. Ammerman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 25

In the 2011 Romanian Census, 1.9% of the population (367,938 individuals) declared themselves Pentecostal. See (accessed 22 December 2012). 26 Lázló Fosztó, “Mono-ethnic churches, the ‘undertaker parish’, and rural civility in post-socialist Romania”, in The Postsocialist Religious Question: Faith and Power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe, ed. C. Hann (Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2006), 269-92.

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—. The Sociology of Religion. London: Sage, 2007. —. “Religion in Europe in the 21st century: The factors to take into account.” European Journal of Sociology 47 (2006): 271-96. —. Europe: The Exceptional Case: Parameters of Faith in the Modern World. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002. —. Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. —. Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. Fokas, Effie. “Religion: Towards a post-secular Europe?” In Sage Handbook of European Studies, edited by Chris Rumford, 401-19. London: Sage, 2009. Fosztó, Lázló. “Mono-ethnic churches, the ‘undertaker parish’, and rural civility in post-socialist Romania.” In The Postsocialist Religious Question: Faith and Power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe, edited by Chris Hann, 269-92. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2006. Froese Paul and Steven Pfaff. “Explaining a religious anomaly: an historical analysis of secularization in eastern Germany.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22 (2002): 397-422. Ionete, Catalin. Religia Юi modernitatea: secularizare sau pluralism religios? Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2011. Jenkins, Philip. God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe Religious Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Leustean, Lucian. Orthodoxy and the Cold War: Religion and Political Power in Romania, 1947-63. Basingstoke: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2009. Madeley John and Zzolt Enyedi (eds.) Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality. London: Frank Cass, 2003. Martin, David. A General Theory of Secularization. Oxford: Blackwell, 1978. —. Forbidden Revolutions. London: SPCK, 1996. McLeod, Hugh Religion and the People of Western Europe, 1789–1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. —. Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848–1914. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. Nastuta, Sebastian. “Public religion in post-communist countries: The specificity of Romania.” Unpublished paper presented at a conference on New Forms of Public Religion, Cambridge, 2012. Robbers, Gerhard State and Church in the European Union. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2005. Stan, Lavinia and Lucian Turcescu. Religion and Politics in PostCommunist Romania. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.


Religion in 21st Century Europe: Framing the Debate

Theos. Spiritual Capital: The Present and Future of English Cathedrals. London: Theos Think Tank, 2012. Willaime, Jean-Paul. Le retour du religieux dans la sphère publique. Lyon: Olivétan, 2008.


Introduction Until relatively recently it has often been assumed that in Western liberal democracies at least there is a widening gap between the secular public square and religious conscience and expression which is thereby increasing restricted to the private sphere. Discernibly a number of sociologists of religion have begun to question such a development as an inevitable process of binary differentiation between the secular and religious spheres that, in turn, was previously identified as a key indicator of long-term secularization. This paper considers how religion has increasingly been drawn into the public arena by the state through policies of accommodation and via the formation of civil rights protection and extended notions of citizenship related to equality and social inclusion. These issues are discussed through an examination of the far-reaching 2010 Equality Act in the UK. The Parliamentary Act raises important questions of not only the nature of religious minority rights but how such rights might actually or potentially clash with rights of other social constituencies and what the implications might be for the state in mediating and balancing the rights of individuals of faith and religious communities with the rights of other “protected characteristics.” In doing so, the paper will consider the significance of the state in defining religion in order to guarantee religious rights and how religion’s scope of operation is regulated and monitored. Furthermore, it will consider whether this function of the state effectively weakens and undermines the religious sphere.


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

Secularism and the Public Sphere As Calhiun et al.1 note in their re-thinking of the notion of secularism there has recently been an increasing academic interest in a so-called “religious resurgence”, leading to the questioning of the very nature of secularism itself with a particular focus on the apparent renaissance of religion in the public sphere. Partially this expanding interest is derived from a growing realization that the uncritical utilization of the categories of the “religious” and the “secular” severely limits the analysis of international politics and rapid social transformations throughout the world wrought by globalizing processes. The revisionist view of secularism ranges wider however. Talad Asad,2 following the work of Foucault, identifies the various forms of discourse focusing on genealogies of power whereby secularism shifts from a descriptive to normative discourse – remaining committed to an overall framework of the secular and accompanied by conventional understandings of religion. This secular-religious divide is imagined by liberal democracies to be universal in both relevance and application especially in the establishment of rigid boundaries by which secular structures divide the public sphere of political processes from private commitments to the values inculcated by religious conventions. Clearly events on the international scene, especially post-9/11, have generated an awareness of the enduring significance of religion and that outside of the Western World the religious and the secular are often fused in public life. Yet, until relatively recently it was almost taken for granted that in liberal democracies the public sphere was more or less secular. Certainly it was assumed in the academic world that economics, politics and culture could be addressed without reference to religion as if it commanded little or no authority in social policy or public debate. This view was underpinned by the conviction that secularism was an under-lying inevitable trajectory in liberal democracies. Indeed, sociological thinking around the secular and religious spheres led to a philosophical conviction that the latter should indeed be excluded from the former since a rigorous separation engendered the health of democracies. This was evident, for example, in the early work of Habermas3 (although he later reconsidered his position) 1

C. Calhiun, M. Juergenmeyer, and J. Van Antwerpen, “Introduction”, in Rethinking Secularism, ed. C. Calhiun et al. (Oxford & New York: OUP, 2011), 3. 2 T. Asad, Geneologies of Religion. Discipline and Reason of Power in Christianity and Islam (London: John Hopkins University Press, 1993). 3 J. Habermas, “Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Future of Religion”, Praxis International 12. 1 (1992): 1-19.

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who maintained that constitutional arrangements and normative presuppositions for a liberal democracy should be founded upon forging just democratic processes rather than substantive definitions of what might be regarded as the common good as expressed via reference to a transcendental notion of ultimate “truth.” This conviction pointed, among other things, to how in sociological theorizing the very use of the term “secular” suggested almost a dedication to a binary secular/religious divide and consequently defined the realm of both and almost by abstraction de-limited their fields of influence. In short, that the “secular” means the absence of religion, while what constitutes religion is open subjective interpretation frequently based on Western conceptions and classifications of religious systems. As both anthropologists have long pointed out, and discourse analysts have more recently confirmed, there are cultures and societies for whom “religion” has not been part of their native vocabulary, at least until the colonial period. Moreover, it was the colonial environment which permitted the subjective classification of particular forms of religious expression. For instance, there is increasing evidence that what is now referred to as Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism only became part of the so-called “World Religions” as late as the nineteenth and even early twentieth century. The matter of secular subjective interpretation of religion has been taken up by Asad as part of his critique of liberal secularism, suggesting that the “effort of defining religion converges with the liberal demand in our time that it be quite separate from politics, law, and science”,4 and, in effect, wrought the separation of religion from centres of power and authority. Mandair and Dressler 5 perceive this development as essentially one of “religion-making.” By expanding the discursive deconstructionism of Casanova,6 Mandair and Dressler consider the implications of reification and institutionalization of certain ideas, social formations, and practices as “religious” in the conventional Western meaning of the term, thereby subordinating them to a particular “knowledge regime” of religion and its political, cultural, philosophical, and historical interventions. They argue 4

T. Asad, Genealogies of Religion, 28. A. Mandair and M. Dressler, “Introduction: Modernity, Religion-Making and the Postsecular”, in Secularism and Religion-Making, ed. A. Mandair and M. Dressler (Oxford: AAR, 2011), 3. 6 J. Casanova, “Immigration and the New Religious Pluralism: A EU/US Comparison”, paper presented at the conference New Religious Pluralism and Democracy’, Georgetown University, April 21-22, 2005, (accessed May 29, 2012). 5


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

that by adopting the concept of “religion-making” in a variety of different geographical, religious and political contexts it is possible to explore the interconnected natures of religion and secularism in the modern world.

Reappraising Secularism In recent years there has been a notable shift in sociological thinking that has emerged from a critique of the secular-religious divide. A number of sociologists of religion have increasingly critically reflected on dominant theories of secularization even with reference to Europe which is often assumed, as measured by various indices, to be the most secular region of the world. Partly this new sociological enterprise has resulted from a realistic re-appraisal of the place of religion in the public sphere and political processes in Western democracies. While it is true there are a number of possible or actual patterns of state-religion relations which have been translated into various polices in the re-configuration of the public and religious spheres,7 it is clear that, notwithstanding the separation of Church and state which has varied considerably in European states, there is the increasing acknowledgment of the role that religion plays in public life, so that in reality a radical separatist model has not been adopted in many polities. Rather, it is argued, the sacred and the religious forge the site of intensely negotiated arrangement of sharing “space” in liberal democracies. This amounts to a matter of accommodation in statereligious relations obligating the state to actively support religion and provide the space for it to flourish in the polity as part of a pluralist society. This makes possible and requires that the state include religious need in planning law and is also evident in official discourses and clear, for example, in the policies found in the Netherlands and Germany where negotiated accommodation has resulted in constitutionally and socially embedded “positive” public strategies. Here the state redefines and seeks to reform the place of religion in contemporary politics and, so it is frequently conjectured, breaks down the binary between the secular and religion by framing policies of social inclusion. In essence, it is the state that draws in religion from the margins of social life through policy processes. This questioning of the significance of religion, especially in reconsidering the relationship between religious communities and secular politics, has subsequently led to a more nuanced survey of the interplay 7

S. N. Eisenstadt, “The Reconstruction of Religious Arenas in the Framework of ‘Multiple Modernities’”, Millennium 29. 3 (2000): 591-611.

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between both and generated more sophisticated treatments of secularizing dynamics on the one hand, and religious expression on the other. As Asad states: “If the secularization thesis no longer carries the conviction that it once did, this is because the categories of politics and religion turn out to implicate each other more profoundly than we thought, a discovery that has accompanied our growing understanding of the powers of the modern state.”8 Asad understands the secular as not only defining itself against religion, but being itself deeply implicated in the making of religion within the context of the nation state.9 He claims that secularism involves political projects actively involved in differentiating between the religious and secular spaces, symbols, bodies and practices. In particular, the nation state requires clearly demarcated spaces that it can classify and regulates differentiated spheres such as religion, education, health, leisure, work, income and justice, and it is the institutions of the state that represent dominant positions of power within public discourse. Moreover, as Asad argues, the space which religion may properly occupy in society has to be continuingly redefined by law because the reproduction of secular life within and beyond the nation state continually affects the discursive practice of that space.

Religion and State Policy in the UK The question arises as whether the complexities generated by the “accommodation” of religion by the state in liberal democracy truly empowers the sphere of religion. The United Kingdom provides one site of analysing the relationship between the secular and the religious. Here is evidence of the nation state defining what religion is while attempting to re-configure religions sphere of influence. While religion is increasingly discerned as a private concern, the UK state determines to some degree at least the space that religion legitimately inhabits in society, redefined by law through the reproduction of secular life within its national boundaries as well as being mindful of international protocols, thus impacting the discursive practice of that space. Legislative enactments in the UK constitute demands that secularism involves political undertakings that clearly differentiate between the religious and secular spaces, subsequently demarcating religious domains that it classifies and regulates.


T. Asad, Formulations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 201. 9 Asad, Formulations…, 201.


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

Prima facie it might appear that defining the rights of religion is a “neutral” enterprise and core to the nature of liberal democracies in providing protection of religion. There is no attempt here to chart the complex history of religious rights in the UK which in many ways have “evolved” over centuries but only relatively recently been formulated by particular legislative Acts of Parliament at least partially as a response to international conventions and protocols. This includes Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) which stipulates that: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching.” In addition, the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights is given binding weight in the UK by the Human rights Act (1998) within which Article 9 (for the right to freedom of religion) of the ECHR is adopted as a “right and fundamental freedom.” The far-reaching 2010 Equality Act, as we shall see below, confirmed and detailed these religious rights and many others in one comprehensive legislative enactment.10 However, it is clear that state policy behind the Act connected rights to broader concepts of citizenship. Here much exemplifies Bryan Turner11 detailed analysis of the changing connection between rights and citizenship, arguing that the association between the two has changed within the context of recent transformations including the organization of nation states and globalization of political issues. While early rights theory implied a “contract” of citizenship and civic obligation, balancing the protection of rights by the state, current developments have brought the issue of rights to the forefront of social and political debate and this is intimately linked with changing and contending concepts of citizenship. The 2010 Equality Act which seeks to balance rights with issues of discrimination and equality must be seen within this context and wider policies of citizenship extolled by UK governments of contrasting political persuasion. In the UK successive Labour governments (governing since 1997) had framed a series of policies around transforming inclusive 10

The Human Rights Act gives further effect in UK law to the rights for religious freedom afforded by the ECHR, and to make available in UK courts a remedy for breach of those Convention rights without the need to appeal to the ECHR in Strasbourg. 11 B. Turner, “Outline of a Theory of Human Rights”, Sociology 27. 3 (1993): 489512.

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concepts of citizenship that seemingly sought to integrate the religious into secular centres of power and recognized the pluralist context of a liberal democracy. In 2003, the Labour administration, as part of the wider policy of social inclusion, announced its intention of encouraging faith groups to participate more in the consultation process of decision-making. To this end the Faith Community Liaison Group was established to instill their views across the civil service and chaired by the Home Office minister responsible for “civil renewal” within a wide remit. The idea that citizenship suggests a wider public benefit is also implied in early policy pronouncement of the current Conservative/Liberal coalition elected to office in 2010. Prime Minister David Cameron has, for example, stated in expanding his notion of the “Big Society” that religious communities are a source of social inclusion particularly for many citizens “on the edge of society.”

The Equality Act 2010 The 2010 Equality Act, aiming to enhance civil rights and social inclusion, provides a unique opportunity to analyse the relationship between the secular and religious. It is evident that those citizens subscribing to a religion are designated as having a “protected characteristic” which in principle carries no more weight than other social categories such as those defined in terms of “race”, sex, sexuality, or disability. Each are designated as having common but in other respects distinct and even competing rights. The direct initiative for the 2010 Equality Act can be traced to the Labour Party Government’s stated official policy in 2005. Leading up to the general election of that year the administration advanced its on-going commitment to enhancing social equality and inclusion to which an Equality Act was integral. On re-election, the Labour Government created the Discrimination Law Review and Equality Review led by ministers for Equality and the Cabinet Office and undertaken by the Government Equalities Office located within the Home Office but working across other ministries. The Equalities Office’s mission statement emphasised the necessity for “concerted government action to tear down barriers to social mobility and equal opportunities and help to build a fairer society”, stressing a dedication to “improv(ing) equality and reduc(ing) discrimination and disadvantage for all, at work, in public and political life, and in


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

people’s life chances.”12 In many regards the 2010 Equality Act reflected this mission, marking an endeavour by Labour administrations, governing from 1997, to redefine equality which amounted to a minimal definition of the term as “equality of opportunity” – pointing towards a social model aspiring to social inclusion.13 The findings of the Equalities Review Panel reported in February 2007 and the details of the planned 2010 Act were formulated. Applicable to England, Wales and Scotland,14 the Equality Bill gained Royal Assent in April, 2010, becoming law in October of that year. Not only did it build upon the earlier 2006 Equality Act, but its significance lay in seeking to consolidate and simplify the complex and diverse range of preceding Acts and regulations (over one hundred different pieces of equality legislation amassed in 35 Acts, 52 statutory instruments, and 13 codes of practice) previously constituting the foundations of UK anti-discrimination and equality laws.15 Simultaneously, the 2010 Act brought the UK into line with principal Equal Treatment Directives (2008) advanced by the European Community (and some 15 further directives), namely, equal treatment in employment and occupation as well as outside these remits. Member states were encouraged by the EU to “introduce or maintain more protective provisions than the minimum requirements provided for in the Directive, as well as positive discrimination measures aimed at compensating for disadvantages in respect of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation.”16 In addition, the 2010 Act supplemented the UK 1998 Human Rights Act, confirmed support of the European Convention of Human Rights (1950, especially Article 9), and attempted to conform to the jurisprudence of both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice. 12

Government Equalities Office, (accessed May 12, 2012). 13 R. Levitas, The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and New Labour (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1998). R. Lister, “From Equality to Social inclusion: New Labour and the Welfare State”, Critical Social Policy 18. 2 (1998): 215-26. 14 The Act does not extend to Northern Ireland which retains many different Acts addressing discrimination. 15 This included the Equality Pay Act (1970); the Sex Discrimination Act (1975); the Race Relations Act (1975); the Disability Discrimination Act (1995); the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) and Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003; the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006; and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. 16 Equal Treatment Directives, the European Community, 2008.

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One of the most noteworthy aspects of the 2010 Equality Act was its sheer scope in areas of equality and discrimination addressed. There is not the opportunity here to detail all aspects of the Act, but in brief it requires equal treatment in private and public services and access to employment irrespective of a citizen’s social characteristic. Given particular focus was an array of “protected characteristics” redefined more precisely in relation to religion or belief age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, and sexual orientation. Part 2 of Chapter 2 of the Act establishes and defines “prohibited conduct” including discrimination, harassment, and victimisation of these “protected characteristics.”17 The Act deals with various forms of discrimination (the definitions and exceptions to the Act stretch to 239 pages) which can be simplified as: i) “direct discrimination” (when a person possesses/or has a combination of protected characteristics is treated less favourably than others without); ii) “indirect discrimination” (when a person is disadvantaged by a policy and/or practice rendering them less well treated on account of a protected characteristic; iii) “association discrimination” (against someone because of association with a person with a protected characteristic); and iv) “discrimination by perception” (entailing direct discrimination against a person who is perceived to possess a protected characteristic). “Harassment” is defined as occurring when a person engages in unwanted conduct against another based upon a protected characteristic violating their dignity and creating an intolerable environment of daily living. “Victimization” applies specifically to ill-treatment such an employer illtreating an employee making complaints of discrimination at work under the ordinances of the Act. The provisions of the 2010 Equality Act, in effect, summarises fundamental objective of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights that has responsibilities for enforcing anti-discrimination rules outlined in Section 3 of the earlier 2006 Equality Act related to religion or belief, sexual orientation, age and so on – areas not covered by previous commissions. The Commission also has a wider general responsibility for promoting equality including areas not covered by specific pieces of legislation, providing a single source of information and advice on all aspects of discrimination, while generating respect for socio-cultural plurality by encouraging mutuality between groups based on diversity, equality and human rights. 17 Sections 26 and 40 set out provisions prohibiting harassment on all grounds except marriage and civil partnership.


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

The Religious Sphere While the 2010 Equality Act guaranteed religious rights in the context of discrimination anti-measures, it did so by defining what religion actually is and what social expressions amounted to religion. It also attempted to regulate certain activities in an attempt to balance the rights of a range of social groupings with shared “protected characteristics.” In areas of religious rights the 2010 Equality Act added little to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and Equality Act 2006 which make it unlawful for someone to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s religion or belief (or because of no religion or belief) in any aspect of employment; when providing goods, facilities, services, and education; in using or disposing of premises; or when exercising public functions, although the Act introduced a public sector equality duty covering religion or belief with separate specific duties for England, Scotland and Wales.18 The 2010 Act prohibits discrimination and victimisation but not harassment because of religion or belief. However, many of the actions considered as acts of harassment may also be considered acts of direct discrimination, for which there is protection. The definition outlined in the Equality 2006 Act and confirmed in that of 2010 (Part 10) is that “religion” constitutes any religion or reference to religion, including a reference to a lack of religion and that “belief” amounts to any religious or philosophical belief (such as environmentalism) or reference to belief or to a lack of belief (non-religious and philosophical beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism and humanism).19 A religion or belief must be recognised as being cogent, serious, cohesive and compatible with human dignity (interpreted by courts with reference to relevant case law, including cases relating to the European Convention on Human Rights) 18

The Act also evoked the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 and amended the Public Order Act 1986, making it an offence to generate hatred on the basis of religious conviction. Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 places Northern Irish public authorities under a duty to have due regard to needs to promote equality of opportunity between people of different religious belief and political opinion. Public authorities are also required to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between people of different religious belief and political opinion. 19 This reflected Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protecting theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions.

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widely recognised in the UK (although not limited to these) including the Baha’i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Rastafarianism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism (and more recently Paganism). Denominations or sects within a religion are considered as religions, or religious beliefs, such as Catholicism and Protestantism divisions. It is evident that by classifying religion in this way gives no preference to the traditionally dominant religion, namely Christianity, and confirmed that the UK, by various measurements is a post-Christian society.20 That acknowledged, the need for the state to balance competing rights and to safeguard some traditional Christian viewpoints had led to so-called “religious clauses” related to the rights of non-heterosexual minorities in such previous legislation included the 2007 Equality Act which permitted restriction of provisions of goods, facilities or services by a Christian minister performing duties on grounds of religious conscience [Regulations 14, 4 (c)] (a Christian minister can refuse provision to non-heterosexual people on church premises). Similarly, the Employment Equality (sexual orientation) Regulations (2003) carried a clause late in the passage of the legislation allowing “a requirement related to sexual orientation” to be imposed when employment is “for the purposes of an organised religion.”21 A further concession in the 2006 Equality Act, subsequently, confirmed in the 2010 Equality Act, to religious groups was to guarantee prohibiting civil partnerships to include religious readings, music or symbols and for ceremonies to take place in religious venues. The 2010 Equality Act during its passage through Parliament also raised questions as to what precisely constituted a “minister of religion” and included a fresh definition of “the purposes of organised religion” to expressly include all “ministers of religion.” The matter was also related to sexual minority rights since the Anglican Church insisted that candidates for “small number” of “certain senior lay posts which involve promoting and representing the religion” be required “to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion” and which excluded practicing homosexuals.22 20

C. Brown, The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularization 18002000 (London: Routledge, 2001). 21 Neither of these phrases were defined any further. EU officials in 2009 issued a “reasoned opinion” which maintains that the wording used in Regulation 7(3) is too broad, going beyond the definition of a genuine occupational requirement allowed under the directive. 22 “Churches must not face further restrictions”, The Church of England, January 23, 2010, 230110.aspx.


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

While the 2010 Equality Act wished to protect religious conscience and expression via “religious clauses” it was evident that such rights clearly clashed with other rights including those of sexual minorities and the right to abortion. This put the state in a regulatory role in mediating between conflicting rights which limited religious expression in certain spheres. For instance, the Labour Government made it clear on introducing the 2007 sexual orientation regulations that there could be no exemptions from regulations for faith-based adoption agencies offering publicly funded services. This meant that such adoption agencies could not refuse child adoption to non-heterosexual couples.23 There are other limitations which arguably lowers the status of Christian churches and other faith groups. According to the 2010 Equality Act churches now fall under regulations for Voluntary and Community Sector Associations (Part 7) similar to those organized by and providing services to people characterized by disability, race, sexual orientation, etc. The Act bans these associations from discriminating, harassing or victimising people, or rejecting new members and establishing terms for joining or denying an associate. Associations with more than 25 members and a selection process can restrict their members to people with a protected characteristic (except race) but not discriminate against them.

Summary: Religious Rights and “Religion-Making” The UK 2010 Equality Act has been the focus of attention in this paper given that it raises some vital and intriguing questions regarding recent sociological theorizing around the binary of the secular-religious divide. Conventional secularization theory took for granted the increasing divergence between the secular and the religious, where the latter is reduced to the private sphere. By contrast, a recent emphasis has been on the secular in the way that it is engaged in “religion-making” – defining what constitutes a religion and its place in the public arena. The issue arises as to whether the ability of the state to be involved in the process of 23

This reflected the dictate of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) that “The freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” The consequences proved far-reaching with one Catholic adoption agency becoming entangled in litigation over whether it could continue. Rather than being embroiled in legal complexities two Catholic adoption agencies closed down and the remaining nine gave up those obligations the Church required.

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“religion-making” compounds the secular-religious binary, but in such a way as to weaken the latter by accommodating it into state policy and law making. It is clear that the policies of UK governments related to equality, social inclusion and citizenship moves beyond classical liberal democratic minimalist conceptions of religious liberties. Matters of equality, social inclusion and citizenship generate normative discourses of what religion amounts to, circumscribing religious activities where they impact the rights of other social constituencies. Such constituencies are differentiated by the state into stipulated areas such of which religious conviction and allegiance is merely alongside other “protected categories” such as “race”, age, disabilities and sexual orientation, all of which have rights and protections from discrimination. Moreover, each social category is defined in order that their rights can be clearly detailed. “Religion” therefore has to be defined so that its claim to rights can be detailed. In attempting to balance such rights the state, as an autonomous actor, mediates and attempts to compromise so that no one group is unduly advantaged or disadvantaged and in doing so stands, in theory at least, above competing claim to rights and citizenship with ultimate legitimacy and authority. Not to do so would raise the possibility of a “hierarchy” of rights might whereby some are subjectively held as superior to others, raising questions as to what implications might be, alongside possible clashes of crucial matters of majority and minority rights of competing pluralist groups. Religious rights are therefore “accommodated” and, again in theory, have no greater or lesser weight than other social constituencies. This is problematic for religious communities in as much as their influence in the secular space is increasingly “minimal” and restricted to religious concerns. The passage of the 2010 Equality Bill attracted controversies around a number of “religious clauses” whereby those adhering to more traditionalist religious views sought exemption such as the right not to administer public services in religious premises to people from sexual minorities on the grounds of religious conscience. Interestingly, such arguments were frequently advanced in terms of religious rights and secular discourse rather than couched in moral terms or reference to a transcendental notion of ultimate “truth.” For example two amendments to the 2010 Equality Bill as it passed through Parliament were tabled by Baroness Butler-Sloss, the country’s highest ranking female judge and practicing Anglican. The amendments posed the right to “conscientious objections” to sexual minority equality measures. The amendments related to allowing employees the right not to be “complicit with an action or


“Accommodating” Religious Rights in the UK

circumstance” which went against their beliefs on homosexuality.24 The demands for such clauses as marking “religious exemptions” have seeming become of more importance for those seeking to have their religious rights guaranteed.25 A further development has diluted the impact of religion in the public sphere and this too is related to the matter of rights. However they are constructed, religious rights are increasingly clustered, as in the 2010 Equality Act, with rights related to “belief” and conscience broadly defined.26 In turn, this plausibly indicates the further secularization of rights given that “beliefs” may constitute secular ideologies and atheistic convictions. In fact, the broad remit of “beliefs” and “conscience” is so broad as to legitimate and claim to a “right” and furnish the claim of any mobilised social community. Recent “revisionist” thinking around the binary secular/religious as marking a secularizing trajectory has focused on the way that politics and religion implicate each other in such a way as to break down this distinction. Often implied here is that in liberal democracies this mutual implication somehow empowers the religious sphere. This is so in that religion, itself defined by the state as part of the process of “religionmaking” is recognized as a legitimate sphere of social life and is strengthen in terms of rights. The emphasis in this reappraisal is on the power of the nation state. This is justified but must be seen in the light of the state’s ability to categorise and even define religion and frequently, as in the case of the UK, marks a response to the state requirement to conform and respond to international rights conventions and protocols.

References Asad, T. Formulations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003. —. Geneologies of Religion. Discipline and Reason of Power in Christianity and Islam. London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.


Lords Hansard Text, January 13, 2010, 25 N. Doe and R. Sandberg, “Religious Exemptions in Discrimination Law”, Cambridge Law Journal 66 (2007): 302-12. 26 D. de Jong, “The Legal Obligations of State and Non-State Actors in Respect of the Protection of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion or Belief”, Religion and Human Rights 3 (2008): 1-13.

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Brown, C. The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularization 1800-2000. London: Routledge, 2001. Calhiun, C., M. Juergenmeyer, and J. Van Antwerpen. “Introduction.” Rethinking Secularism, edited by Calhiun et al. Oxford & New York: OUP, 2011. Casanova, J. “Immigration and the New Religious Pluralism: A EU/US Comparison”, paper presented at the conference New Religious Pluralism and Democracy’, Georgetown University, April 21-22, 2005. (accessed May 29, 2012). de Jong, D. “The Legal Obligations of State and Non-State Actors in Respect of the Protection of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion or Belief.” Religion and Human Rights 3 (2008): 1-13. Doe, N. and Sandberg, R. “Religious Exemptions in Discrimination Law.” Cambridge Law Journal 66 (2007): 302-12. Eisenstadt, S. N. “The Reconstruction of Religious Arenas in the Framework of ‘Multiple Modernities’.” Millennium 29.3 (2005): 591611. Government Equalities Office, (accessed May 12, 2012). Habermas, J. “Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Future of Religion.” Praxis International, 12. 1 (1992): 1-19. Levitas, R. The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and New Labour. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1998. Lister, R. “From Equality to Social inclusion: New Labour and the Welfare State.” Critical Social Policy 18.2 (1998): 215-26. Mandair, A. and M. Dressler. “Introduction: Modernity, Religion-Making and the Postsecular.” In Secularism and Religion-Making, edited by A. Mandair and M. Dressler. Oxford: AAR, 2011. Turner, B. “Outline of a Theory of Human Rights.” Sociology, 27. 3 (1993): 489-512.


This paper provides an inquiry into the politicization of the religion of Islam to an Islamism, and it is based on a strict distinction between Islam, a faith, cult, and cultural system that generated a centuries-old highly respected civilization, and Islamism, a contemporary ideology of well organized political movements. The overall context of the theme under issue is religion and politics in the Globalization Era. In the past years, I have developed the concept of “religionized and weaponized politics” for the conceptualization of the return of religion to the public square as a return of the sacred to politics. This happens in defying Max Weber’s assumption of a universal secularization. Western scholarship is divided in this field in a partisanship caught in a pendulum between the extremes of Islamophobia and Islamophilia. The rise of Islamism to a political power over the course of the Arab Spring has complicated this already complex situation. Based on research conducted over thirty years that resulted in U.S. books,1 completed at Harvard, UC Berkeley, Cornell and last at Yale, I do not see a prospect of democratization if Islamism as a political religion prevails as a result of the empowerment of Islamist movements. If the shari’a-state were to be the outcome of this empowerment over the 1

These four published monographs on Islamism as religious fundamentalism and on religion and politics in Islam are the books by B. Tibi: First, The Challenge of Fundamentalism. Political Islam and the New World Disorder (Berkeley: The University of California Press 1998, updated edition 2002), second, the Harvard book: Islam between Culture and Politics (New York: published in association with Harvard WCFIA, by Palgrave 2001, updated 2nd edition 2005), third the Cornell University book: Political Islam, World Politics and Europe (New York: Routledge, 2008), and fourth, the Yale University research published under the title Islamism and Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press 2012).

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course of the Arab Spring, then there shall be no democracy. The present research paper seeks impartiality and avoids any twisting in the present polemical debates, as well as any engagement in ongoing topicalities of the Arab Spring. The impact of the Fundamentalism Project is acknowledged.2

Introductory remarks The birth year of Islamism was the year 1928. It took place in Cairo parallel to the foundation of the Movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.3 It emanated from a politicization of Islam that ended up claiming the order of an Islamic state based on shari’a. Some view the shari’a-state as a risk to international security; others share the Islamist view that the shari’aIslamocracy is an Islamic democracy.4 To be sure, the term shari’a occurs only once in the Qur’an-text in which there is no mention of the Arabic terms state/dawla or order/nizam, which are new Arabic terms. In a war of ideas, Islamists disguise themselves, present their ideology as the true interpretation of Islam and rebuff any distinction between Islam and 2 The present paper acknowledges the impact of the “The Fundamentalism Project” of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the years 1989-93, on my thinking. I was a member of this project. The findings were published by the chairpersons of the project Martin Marty and Scott Appleby (eds.), The Fundamentalism Project in 5 volumes. These are: vol. I (1991), Fundamentalisms Observed, vol. II (1993), Fundamentalisms and Society, vol. III (1993), Fundamentalisms and the State, vol. IV (1994), Accounting for Fundamentalisms, vol. V (1995), and Comprehending Fundamentalisms (all Chicago: Chicago University Press 1991-1995). Volume II includes the contribution by B. Tibi: “The Worldview of Sunni-Arab Fundamentalists”, 73-102. See also the two monographs on political Islam by B. Tibi, Der neue Totalitarismus. Heiliger Krieg und westliche Sicherheit (Darmstadt: Primus 2004) and “The Totalitarianism of Jihadist Islamism”, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 8.1 (March 2007): 35-54. I also acknowledge some drawing on my own fundamentalismlecture held at Yeshiva University, New York for the completion of the present paper. 3 See Richard P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers, referenced in note 19. 4 B. Tibi, “The Return of the Sacred to Politics. The Case of Sharia’tization of Politics in Islamic Civilization,” Theoria. A Journal for Political and Social Theory 55. 115 (April 2008): 91-119. For varying assessments see Noah Feldman, The Fall and the Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton NY: Princeton University Press, 2008) in contrast to Efraim Inbar and Hillel Frisch, eds., Radical Islam and International Security (London: Routledge 2008).


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Islamism. However, the distinction in point is essential in all terms. In recent years, there has been an upgrading of Islamism in the West in a drive to undo the Islam-bashing that followed the indiscriminate references to Islam in the aftermath of 9/11. One may add to this political correctness the proclivity to political expedience. This can be illustrated on Western Afghanistan policies. When U.S. politicians angered Afghan President H. Karzai and made him feel slighted, he threatened to shift sides and switch to the Taliban, which is an Islamist movement. To put this to rest and to please him as a “Western ally”, Karzai was invited in May 2010 to visit Washington. I lived in the same hotel in which he was hosted and was amazed to read May 12th in an op-ed commentary by Maureen Down in the New York Times “everybody here (in Washington) lies”; she refers to “Karzai’s serious flaws as a partner” and to how these were “put to rest,” while delaying the “inconvenient truth that Karzai wants reconciliation with Taliban leaders”. This kind of politics - a combination of “delaying inconvenient truth” (New York Times) and of an appeasement of Islamism - is also entering scholarship and is devastating the culture of academia based on the search for truth. If truth is inconvenient, it is delayed or even ignored. The truth is that there is no such thing as radical and moderate Islamists. In fact, to the Islamists who share the goal of an Islamic state as well as everything except the means to power, those Islamists who forego the resort to violence and approve electoral politics – wrongly viewed as “moderate” – are to be addressed as “institutional Islamists” (because they participate in institutions) in contrast to the Jihadists, who are also Islamists, but violent. To avoid confusion and ambiguities, I repeat my earlier proposition not only to distinguish between Islam and Islamism but also to acknowledge the distinction within Islamism between institutional and jihadist Islamism. Institutional Islamists foreswear violence, replacing the bullet with the ballot-box, but continue to disavow the values of democracy as a political culture of pluralism and power-sharing. The proposition in point entails abandoning the unspecific and misleading term “radical, or militant Islam” as well as “extremism, etc.” To start with, this study suggests looking at the terms political Islam, Islamism, Integrism, religious fundamentalism and Islamic awakening as different labels for describing the very same phenomenon of a politicization of Islam in a global process of the return of religion to public space. To be sure, religious fundamentalism is a general and global phenomenon not only restricted to Islamic civilization. It is articulated in the case of political Islam in a socio-cultural and world-political context as religious fundamentalism that has many varieties, which predate the end of

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the East-West conflict. Nonetheless, one can state in general that political religions have become a major concern in post-bipolar politics. Even though religious fundamentalism is also, in the case of Islam, embedded in a global context, it is neither an outcome of post-bipolarity nor derivates from local and regional conflicts, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, as often wrongly stated by some Western scholars. More pertinent for understanding the Islamic variety of the phenomenon is Islam’s inner crisis, which has been generated by the encounter with modernity. The related predicament5 has intensified after the failure of Islamic reform as well as after the decline of Islamic liberalism. The ensuing secular ideologies also failed to cope with problems of development. All of these factors have contributed to the politicization of religion in the search for an alternative and for more promising options with regard to a better future. The earlier launched secularization has been replaced by a process of desecularization carried out by Islamism. The outlined background determines the context in which political Islam presents itself as a solution in providing its concept of political order named hakimmiyyat Allah/God’s rule. In fact, a remaking of the world is one of the basic features of any religious fundamentalism. In an invention of tradition on the grounds of divine precepts, a return of the sacred is at work that assumes a political shape in the pursuit of a new order for the world. In this understanding, politicized religion is viewed as being embedded in a global socio-political context. To acknowledge this is not to reduce the worldview of the fundamentalists to the context in point. This would be a misleading reductionism that the present study utterly dismisses. The point of departure is therefore the insight that a proper understanding of the interplay between religion, as a cultural system, politics, society and socio-economic development is needed. Otherwise, no adequate grasping of fundamentalism in Islam is possible. This framework that leads the analysis and its assumptions is to be outlined while considering three contentions to be investigated. These can be formulated as hypotheses to be tested in the present chapter in the following succession:


For more details see B. Tibi, The Crisis of Modern Islam (Salt Lake City: Utah University Press 1988) and more recent Bernard Lewis, Crisis of Islam (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson 2003). Underlying this civilizational crisis is a predicament analyzed by B. Tibi, Islam’s Predicament with Modernity. Cultural Change and Religious Reform (New York: Routledge, 2009). The understanding of cultural modernity rests on Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge/MA: MIT Press 1986).


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First, for ordinary Muslims, Islam is a faith and a cultural system that determines their lives, i.e. not a framework for a political state order. By contrast, for Islamists, Islam is interpreted as an order for the state based on a totalizing shari’a. This thinking grows out of an invention of tradition which functions as a response of Islamic civilization to its exposure to a globalizing modernity, with the result of a crisis of modern Islam. From this point of view, Islamism is, basically, a variety of religious fundamentalism and reflects a defensive cultural response to modernity. In the course of its unfolding, it moves on to the offensive in a claim at a remaking of the world. The challenged become challengers. Islamism elevates shari’a to a comprehensive organic legal system, even to a constitutionalism. In this invented Islamist transformation, shari’a is not only in contrast to positive and legislative law, but it is also in conflict with democracy and human rights,6 being a totalizing shari’a. This shari’atized Islam not only alienates Muslims from the rest of humanity; it also creates divides within Islam. In contrast to polarizing Islamism, liberal Islam bridges the divides on all levels. Second, Islamism – understood as a variety of religious fundamentalism – is offensive for Muslims themselves, because it is an exclusive ideology that creates entrenchments as well as obstacles to development and cultural change. Islamism hinders Islamic civilization from joining an international community based on democratic peace. Stated in a nutshell, Islamism results from the politicization of Islam, which impedes peace between Muslims and non-Muslims and also inner-Islamic peace. Political Islam squanders chances for Muslims to build a better future in closing the window of opportunity open to Muslims. In my view, democratic world peace in the 21st century is the better alternative, both to institutional and jihadist Islamism. Third, there can be a democratization of Islam, but no Islamization of democracy. Democracy is not simply a ballot-box procedure, but above all, it is based on the values of a political culture of pluralism that all Islamists reject. To participate in the democratic peace, Muslims not only need to depoliticize their faith by dissociating it from fundamentalism and its concept of order but also to engage themselves in “rethinking Islam” through religious reforms. Introducing the concept of democratic pluralism requires a wholehearted effort to rethink Islam to accommodate it to cultural modernity. In view of its antisemitism, Islamism is incompatible with a liberal “open Islam”, because it is - as stated - a totalitarian ideology 6

See Ann Elisabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights (Boulder/Col.: Westview Press 1991) and B. Tibi, “Islamic Law/Shari’a, Human Rights, Universal Morality and International Relations”, in: Human Rights Quarterly 16. 2 (1994): 277-299.

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that fulfills most criteria set by Hannah Arendt in her study of totalitarianism.7 In my work, I refer to Hannah Arendt’s work on totalitarian movements and make an effort to employ her approach for the study of Islamism. In the West, there are scholars who try to appease Islamism and include Islamists in the democratic game. This paper does not buy into this thinking. Instead, Islamists, who are religious fundamentalists, are viewed as the new wave of totalitarianism. For instance, Hamas and Hezbollah go to the ballot-box but refuse to comply with the values and rules of the pluralist culture of democracy. This reality is not evidence for the consonance of Islamism and democracy but rather, gives ground for asking the question: Why can’t Islamist Parties be democratic?8 The distinction between institutional and jihadist Islamism helps to explain why Institutional Islamists do not fight physical jihad, but this does not give these so-called “moderate Islamists” any credit for any democratic legitimacy. Their reference to democracy is merely instrumental. In the Islamist pursuit, the ultimate goal is the Islamic shari’a based state, which is not a democracy. For Islamists, all means seem to be justified. On the grounds of a quarter of a century long study of political Islam,9 I fail to see in the order of “hakimiyyat Allah/God’s rule”, as envisioned by the Islamists, a political culture of democracy. The shari’a state is not a democratic state and its corresponding civil society. The separation between the public and the private in the polity is essential to democracy and the sheer objection to this separation by Islamism is a statement by 7

See Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Inc. 1951, reprint 1976). The book by B. Tibi, Der neue Totalitarismus. Heiliger Krieg und westliche Sicherheit (Darmstadt: Primus 2004), revives Hannah Arendt’s concept of totalitarism and applies it to Islamism viewed as the new variety of this phenomenon. See also by the same author: “The Totalitarianism of Jihadist Islamism”, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 8. 1 (March 2007): 3554. The identification of Islamism as totalitarian has been approved in the influential book by Paul Berman, The Flight of the Intellectuals (New York: Melville House 2010), 45-51. 8 See the debate on Islamist parties and democracy that consists of eight contributions published in Journal of Democracy 19. 3 (July 2008): 5-54. Among these contributions is B. Tibi, “Islamist Parties. Why they can’t be Democratic”, 43-48. For case studies see Matthew Levitt, Hamas. Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), and on Hezbollah see Hala Jaber, Hezbollah. Born with a Vengeance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997). Ever since, this fundamentalist party has become more powerful on all counts. 9 See Tibi, Der Neue Totalitarismus and “The Totalitarianism of Jihadist Islamism.”


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itself that belies the contention of some pundits concerning the shari’a state believed to be an expression of democratic constitutionalism. Nor is the Islamist Islamization of European antisemitism a reassuring sign of democracy.10 The inflationary and often inadequate use of the term “fundamentalism” prompted particularly among some Western scholars in Islamic studies a rejection of the entire concept. Robert Lee for instance states: “The word fundamentalism has been generally applied … I side with those who do not find this term helpful … I prefer the term Islamists to describe such groups ….”11 Well, Islamism is nothing else than the Islamic variety of the general phenomenon of religious fundamentalism, so where is the rational of this rejection? For conceptualizing religious fundamentalism, it is more than necessary to establish clarity in the debate about the notions employed. One should consult existing research12 and not reject the notion without having studied this research. In the present binary debate of politicized scholarship polemics prevail over research.13 Through the media coverage, the term “fundamentalism” not only became popular but, to the detriment of the issue itself, also hazy and unspecific due to the loose and sensational manner in which the term has been used to denote religious fanatics practicing terror. At the very outset, I want to refer to the established and authoritative research on this issue that was conducted at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and then, published in five seminal volumes, edited by Martin Marty and Scott Appleby.14 Both scholars recruited for the co-authorship of these volumes were established experts working in this field of study. It is sad to note that the analytical concept of fundamentalism employed in this bona fide 10

See B. Tibi, “Public Policy and the Combination of Anti-Americanism and Antisemitism in Contemporary Islamist Ideology”, The Current (Cornell University) 12 (Winter 2008): 123-146. In ignorance of this feature, Noah Feldman states in his book The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton/NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008) that the shari’a state is based on constitutionalism and thus, is compatible with democracy. This is wishful Western thinking. For a contrast, see the book by Paul Berman on Islamism, The Flight of the Intellectuals, in particular Chapters 2 to 3 on Islamist antisemitism. 11 Robert Lee, Overcoming Tradition and Modernity. The Search for Islamic Authenticity (Boulder/Col.: Westview, 1997), 21. 12 See Tibi, The Challenge of Fundamentalism; Tibi, Islam Between Culture and Politics; Tibi, Political Islam, World Politics and Europe, and Tibi, Islamism and Islam. 13 See Islamism. Contested Perspectives on Political Islam, ed. by Richard Martin and Abbas Barzegar (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010). 14 See The Fundamentalism Project, referenced in note 2.

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academic project faces difficulties in gaining access to academic circles. Often, the five volumes by Martin Marty and Scott Appleby on fundamentalism are simply ignored. For instance, one rarely finds references to this groundbreaking work in Islamic studies of the past decade. The reason is, at times, sheer ignorance; at other times, however, students of Islam intentionally disregard the study in an unscholarly manner out of intolerant disagreement. Clearly, this sentiment discards the academic spirit of the rule that “we agree to disagree.” Given the negative implications of the term “fundamentalism,” some Western academics, who understandably and rightly desire to free themselves from an assumed Islamophobia, hesitate about relating Islam to fundamentalism. Opening one’s own mind to other cultures and religions is a respectful and laudable endeavor. However, taking at face value all allegations coming from “the Other” without any further questioning, is a wrong conclusion drawn from this otherwise right endeavor. A Muslim myself, I had a very unpleasant experience in this regard. In submitting my work on fundamentalism to scholarly journals in the United States, I was dismayed, to say the least, that these articles were flatly rejected. The reason given for these rejections was the baseless argument that “there is no such thing as fundamentalism.” This is not scholarship but rather a censorship of a politicized academe. Among the obstacles in the way of a reasonable and balanced study of religious fundamentalism, one finds the accusation of Orientalism that seems to prevail in the deplorably biased and ideologically-loadened Middle Eastern studies in the United States. In the past decade, these studies have moved from the extreme attitude of “Orientalism” to the other extreme of an “Orientalism in Reverse” (Sadik al-Azm). This development took place under the impact of Edward Said.15 The critique of Orientalism derailed to a conspiracy theory that puts all of the blame on the West (and at times “world Jewry”) for the shortcomings of Muslims themselves. The present contribution on Islamic fundamentalism dismisses this thinking and rejects imposing any censorship of political correctness on writing about Islam. As a Muslim myself, I claim the freedom to think freely about my religion and the civilization related to it. It does great damage to scholarship to limit freedom of thought and to curtail free speech in 15

Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979). The critique on Edward Said’ thoughts as an “Orientalism in reverse” is included in Sadik J. alAzm, Dhihniyyat al-Tahrim (London: El Rayyes Books 1992), 17-86, but did not find its way to Western scholarship. On this issue, see also Chapter 4 in B. Tibi, Einladung in die islamische Geschichte (Darmstadt: Primus Verlag 2001), 136190.


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academia in the name of political correctness. The alternative to Islamophobia is not Islamophilia, but rather enlightenment about the issue, above all on the distinction between Islam and Islamism. In short, political Islam is a religious fundamentalism that challenges the secular world order, and it not only threatens secularism16 but also Muslims themselves in their search for a better future within humanity at large with its plurality of religions. Islamist fundamentalism rejects, as a totalitarian ideology, the principles of pluralism of cultures and religions.17

Islamism is the religious fundamentalism in Islamic civilization: what is Islamism? From the point of view of sociology, religion is a social reality, thus religious fundamentalism is viewed as a fait social, in Emile Durkheim’s sense. The politicization of religion is a phenomenon conceptualized as religious fundamentalism. This applies not only to Islam, as the media suggest, but stretches across religions; it is cross-religious, observable also in Christianity and in Judaism. Islamist movements, however, pursuing non-religious ends are a case in point. Those Western scholars dealing with Islamism, who do not come from Islamic studies and, therefore, lack the needed knowledge, often fail to understand the deeply religious implications of fundamentalism and thus, succumb to mere social interpretations. In contrast, we see that Islamic fundamentalists defend themselves as “the true believers.” For Islamists, fundamentalism means to subscribe to the true “usul/fundamentals” of religion. They wrongly present their ideology as the Islamic fundamentals, and thus, they consent to the term usuliyya.18 The reference to the “fundamentals” is, however,


Daniel Philipott, “The Challenge of September 11 to Secularism in International Relations”, World Politics 55. 1 (2002): 66-95. 17 See the contributions on the major world religions in: Arvind Scharma (ed.), Our Religions (San Francisco: Harper & Row 1993). On Islam’s predicament with this pluralism see the findings of the research project Pluralism and Legitimacy (2005) run at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore. The papers were presented at the ARI-conference on this subject and are published in the project’s volume, Islamic Legitimacy in a Plural Asia, eds. Anthony Reid and Michael Gilsenen (Routledge, 2007). In that paper, I cope with Islam’s predicament with democratic pluralism, which compels the rethinking of Islamic thought for averting fundamentalism. 18 See for instance Hasan Hanafi, al-Usuliyya al-Islamiyya/Islamic Fundamentalism (Cairo: Madubli 1989). This book by an Islamist who is also famous in the West

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mostly highly selective. In fact, the term “usuliyya/fundamentalism” is a recent addition to Arabic and other Islamic languages, but the phenomenon itself predates the introduction of the word now used to designate it. The first fundamentalist movement in Islam was established in the year 1928 under the name Movement of the Muslim Brothers.19 The phenomenon called religious fundamentalism is the same as Islamism or as political Islam. The French referred to it with the term “intégrisme.” Though Islamists accept the term usuliyya, they themselves prefer to speak of an “al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya/Islamic awakening”20 in the belief that their movement heralds the revival of the “usul/the fundamentals of Islam.” Put together, at issue is a political concept based on religion. In short: Islamism is the Islamic variety of religious fundamentalism,21 but it is not a true revivalism. What is it then, and why is it different from Islam? Before answering this question, it is pertinent to reject the historical line that the grandson of al-Banna,22 Tariq Ramadan, draws from the early Islamic revivalism of al-Afghani to the political Islam of al-Banna; this contention is wrong and devoid of foundations. Do not be mistaken; revivalism is not a religious fundamentalism. For recognizing what Islamism stands for, one has to look at the work of the representatives of political Islam, the latter being an invention of tradition. They themselves have coined a formula named “Din waDawla/the unity of religion and the state” that Islamic fundamentalists use to mean a political concept of order placed as a foundation of an Islamic awakening. However, this concept has no roots in any of the many Islamic traditions, nor does it occur in authoritative Islamic scripture. The term “dawla/state” is not included in the Qur’an nor does it exist in the hadith, i.e., the legacy of the prophet. The same applies to the term “nizam Islami/Islamic system.” These Islamist terms, including “hukumah Islamiyya/Islamic government”, are not among the common terms used in the language employed in the Islamic tradition. In asking, though, about the substance of the Islamic state and its order that the Islamists envision, smoothed the way for the Arab acceptance of the term “usuliyya/fundamentalism” in arguing it is the proper term for stating Islamic goals. 19 See the classic by Richard P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers (London: Oxford University Press 1969), a seminal work also available in a new reprint. 20 Mohammed Imara, al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya wa al-Tahddi al-hadari/The Islamic Awakening and the Civilizational Challenge (Cairo: al-Shuruq, 1991). 21 See the references in notes 1 and 2. 22 See the references in notes 34 and 35.


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one regularly gets this response: “tatbiq al-Shari’a/implementation of the Shari’a” is the basic feature of the “Islamic state” for which they strive. What is the overall context of religious fundamentalism in Islam? I argue that the contextual bed-rock of political Islam is globalization.23 This reference explains the contradiction that a tradition, itself invented, is imbued with modernity. Religion, embedded in a cultural system, can never be explained in a reductionist manner. Despite the reference to globalization, I refrain from interpreting political Islam as a mere reflection of constraining structures. Independent of globalization, the framework of the Islamic tradition is fully considered and included in the politicization of Islam; it leads to the emergence of a defensive culture that then moves to become a mobilizing force in the shape of an activist revolutionary internationalism. The Islamist, even the jihadist, is a political man; however, this male conceives of the self as a “true believer”, because the “meaning of religion” matters to him. The reference to religion is neither a pretext nor instrumental. The reference to the meaning of and within religion helps to avoid looking at Islamism just as a reflection of social reality. To state otherwise would be mere reductionism. Therefore it is not only silly but fully inappropriate to discard jihadism and its deeds as “un-Islamic”, as is often done. At issue is a combination of reality and meaning; it can be described in many ways, as listed in the heading of this chapter: Political Islam, Islamism, religious fundamentalism, integrisme (the French term) or – as already stated – the preferable Islamist label “al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya/Islamic awakening”, a formula coined by the Islamists themselves, even though the equation of fundamentalism and revivalism is utterly wrong. In fact, there are many perceptions and interpretations of Islam, indicating the diversity within Islam. However, the 2 billion people of a humanity of more than 7 billion share the same view of themselves as belonging to the imagined community of umma including Muslims in the diaspora in the West. The related worldview of Islamism reflects a political ideology, not the Islamic traditional faith, but it is also based in Islam. Even though the umma is characterized by a tremendous religious and cultural ever changing diversity, there exists a Salafi belief of an essential Islam shared by those involved in the politicization of Islam. Islamic religious fundamentalists do not only act at home; they are also

23 See my contribution on fundamentalism to The Globalization Reader, edited by Frank J. Lechner and John Boli (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), Chapter 43, 358-363.

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active in Europe and abuse the lack of integration of the Muslim diaspora24 to mobilize for their goals. Islamism is a cultural essentialism that reads the ideology of an Islamic state based on shari’a and jihad in an essentialist language into the Islamic past. In the post-bipolar age, a vision expressed earlier by Sayyid Qutb in the time of the East-West conflict becomes the core of a mobilisatory ideology in the service of Islamist movements. Sayyid Qutb25 is the rector spiritus of both, jihadist and peaceful institutional Islamism. The difference refers to the means – participation in institutions or jihad – not to the goal, which is the Islamic order and governance. As John Kelsay puts it: “In its broad outlines, the militant vision … is also the vision of critics … they do not dissent from the judgment … that the cure … involves the establishment of Islamic governance … the problem of militancy is not simply a matter of objectionable tactics. The problem is the very notion of Islamic governance.”26

This is exactly what religious fundamentalism is all about: the shari’a state as a manifestation of true Islamic governance. Here one can see the “family resemblance” of religious fundamentalisms despite all variations. This insight enables engagement in analytical generalizations. One can, in other words, apply a general concept in the study of religion to fundamentalism to view it as a general phenomenon. Yet, among the differences in religious fundamentalism, one finds those religious fundamentalists with universal 24

On the Islamic diaspora in Western Europe see B. Tibi, “Muslim Migrants in Europe. Between Euro-Islam and Ghettoization”, in Muslim-Europe or Euro-Islam eds. N. Alsayyad and M. Castells (New York: Lexington Books 2002), 31-52, and on the politics of Islamist recruitment see Lorenzo Vidino, al-Qaeda in Europe. The New Battleground of International Jihad (Amherst/NY: Prometheus, 2006). 25 Sayyid Qutb, al-Salam al-Alami wa al-Islam/World Peace and Islam (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq repr. 1992), 172-73, reinterprets jihad as an “Islamic world revolution”. The contemporary moderate Islamist Hasan Hanafi develops this idea with a claim for an Islamic lead in this phrasing: “In the past, Islam found its way between two falling empires, the Persian and the Roman. Both were exhausted by wars. Both suffered moral and spiritual crises. Islam, as a new world order, was able to expand as a substitute to the old regime. Nowadays, Islam finds itself again a new power, making its way between the two superpowers in crises. Islam is regenerating, the two superpowers are degenerating. Islam is the power of the future, inheriting the two superpowers in the present.” Quoted by Martin Kramer, Arab Awakening and Muslim Revival (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1996), 155-6. 26 John Kelsay, Arguing the Just War in Islam (Cambridge/MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 165-66.


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claims and others who lack such universalism in their religious outlook. Hindu fundamentalists, for example, are concerned only with an imagined Hindustan as the territoriality of Hindu civilization, while the Islamist universalist imagination of “dar al-Islam/abode of Islam” as a global entity is reflected in a worldview that extends it agenda to all humanity. Sayyid Qutb, rector spiritus of political Islam, thus pleaded for an “Islamic World Revolution” waged through a cosmic jihad that would bring about an Islamic world order. The “Islamic state” with its “Islamic order” is only one step in this direction and is not restricted to an imagined territoriality of dar al-Islam but rather considered to be valid for the world at large. Stated in a nutshell, the universal Islamist claim resembles Communist internationalism, albeit articulated on religious grounds. These related visions are in conflict with the opposed idea of global pluralism and democratic peace. The Islamist version for the world in the 21st century is based on the following major characteristics of political Islam (respectively Islamism or religious fundamentalism), which are: a) Politically: The concept of din wa-dawla, i.e., interpreting Islam as a political religion prescribing divine order for the state to be run by an Islamist government; b) Legally: The newly invented concept of shari’a which goes equally beyond the Qur’anic meaning of morality and beyond the traditional concept of Islamic law,27 which is, in its origin, a civil law for mu’amlat (interaction) as it covers marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. but is not for determining a state order. In contrast, the new shari’a is the totalizing state law of a political order. The new concept results from a politicization of religion within the framework of an invention of tradition; c) Culturally: The assumption that all Muslims create one monolithic umma reflects the view of an imagined community that is supposed to share the very same culture. This perception is an underpinning for an Islamic internationalism. Uniform Islamic clothing (veils for women) and symbols (beards for men) in addition to other features serve to support the claim for one Islamic culture that dismisses the cultural diversity, not only in the world at large, but also among Muslims themselves, denying them religious pluralism. In this understanding, the umma tends 27

The ultimate scholarly classic on the shari’a as Islamic law is by Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1979), see also the chapter on shari’a in my book referenced below in note 33.

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to become a perception of a unified gated community. However, this gated community (“Islam under Siege”) is not the end objective of Islamism. Islamists want to transform the umma into a leader of humanity. Through proselytism this umma community is envisioned to expand to encompass the entire globe. This objective, in reality, is not only an expression of religious imperialism but also of a totalitarian mindset; d) Militarily: The traditional Islamic concept of jihad, like the shari’a, is reinterpreted beyond its original Qur’anic and traditional meaning to a new jihad, which is a “jihadiyya/jihadism” that legitimates a war without rule – therefore the proposed term irregular war – in the understanding of holy terrorism, however for unholy ends.28 These listed general features are all roughly shared by Islamists of all varieties. However, there is one differentiation that applies to the phenomenon of political Islam. This distinction, already mentioned, is that between institutional Islamism and jihadist Islamism. The most prominent example for an institutional Islamism is moderate Turkish Islamists of the AKP who pursue their goals through political participation in existing democratic institutions. These “institutional Islamists” of the AKP continue the tradition of Turkish political Islam from the Selamet Partisi in the early 1970s to the present.29 Since 2002, they rule the secular Republic of Turkey. On the opposite extreme, we see jihadism30 as best presented in al-Qaida and its networks, which challenge international security. As a local case, the jihadism of Algerian political Islam is a well-


See the chapter on “War and Peace in Islam”, in The Ethics of War and Peace, ed. Terry Nardin (Princeton/N.J.: Princeton University Press 1996, reprinted 1998), 128-145, and also Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War Against Terror (New York: Basic Books 2003) on facing jihadism. 29 For a background on Islamism in Turkey, see Marvine Howe, Turkey Today. A Nation Divided under Islam’s Revival (Boulder/Col: Westview Press 2000), and for a recent update the articles by Zeyno Baran, “Turkey Divided”, Journal of Democracy 19. 1 (2008): 55-69, and B. Tibi, “Turkey’s Islamist Danger. Islamists Approach Europe”, Middle East Quarterly 16. 1 (2009): 47-54. 30 On the internationalist jihadism, see Peter Bergen, Holy War, Inc.. Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden (New York: Free Press 2001), and on the meaning of Islamism to national and international security after September 11, see B.Tibi, “Religious Extremism or Religionization of Politics? The Ideological Foundations of Political Islam”, in Radical Islam and International Security, ed. Hillel Frisch and Efraim Inbar (New York: Routledge, 2008), 11-37.


The Politicization of Islam in the Context of Fundamentalism

known example.31 What is the worldview that underlies the ideology of political Islam as religious fundamentalism?

The historical background, the worldview and the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism For a proper understanding of Islamism, the normative level (meaning of religion and its function as a doctrine), on the one hand, and the level of its incorporation in existing realities (religion as a fait social), on the other hand are more pertinent. Neither political Islam nor its jihadism can be discarded as “un-Islamic” as was the former British interior secretary Jacqui Smith when she was still in office.32 There need to be other ways for dissociating Islam and its believers from jihad-terror than this assessment. The virtual excommunication of Islamists out of the umma does not work. In fact, Islamists who view themselves as the “true believers” resort to “takfir/excommunication” of fellow Muslims who disagree with them. One should not do the same. The inherited Islamic worldview33 determines the ideology of the fundamentalists, however, in a new shape. The Islamist phenomenon is a political one, but it is also intrinsically imbued with a religious meaning. This must not be ignored, for the consequence would be to fall into the trap of reductionism, deriving fundamentalism from its social context which, though essential, is not its cause. In other words, an analysis of political Islam that is based exclusively on sociological variables is wrong. In so arguing, I am not ignoring the social environment of fundamentalism which is most important. I am only emphasizing that ideology and worldview do matter equally. To take this into consideration is by no means culturalism. Elaborating upon the religio-ideological background and its related worldview will prove helpful. One needs, firstly, to pinpoint the different historical stages in the rise of political Islam. In 1928, the first fundamentalist movement in the world of Islam, The Society of the Muslim Brothers was established. This movement was equally involved in the politicization of general Islamic beliefs for advancing the concept of 31 On local jihadism Algerian style, see Michael Willis, The Islamist Challenge in Algeria (New York: New York University Press 1996). 32 On this peculiar assessment, see the report by James Slack, “Terrorism? We’ll Call it Anti-Islamic,” Daily Mail (January 18, 2008): 8. 33 On the Islamic worldview, see B. Tibi, Islam between Culture and Politics (New York: Palgrave 2001, expanded in a new 2005 edition), Chapter 2. See the research findings in: B. Tibi, The Worldview of Sunni-Arab Fundamentalists.

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“Nizam Islami/Islamic order/government” and in promoting jihadism as terrorism. In this process, the religious doctrine of jihad and the concept of law/shari’a were given new meaning. In the course of this return of the sacred in a political garb, the traditional Islamic worldview changes as well. This process is documented in the writings of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna, and also in the work of Sayyid Qutb spread around the world of Islam far beyond the country of its origin, Egypt.34 Qutb provided the Movement of the Muslim Brothers with a firm ideological foundation. The other founder Islamist al-Banna was more an activist than a thinker, even though he left major essays. These are coupled with the writings of Qutb viewed as the cornerstone of Islamist ideology. It is a misconception of Islamic contemporary history when the founder of a totalitarian Islamist movement, al-Banna, is being put on equal footing with the Islamic revivalist of the 19th century, al-Afghani. This is done by Tareq Ramadan, the grandson of al-Banna, in his most controversial book published in French.35 In short, revivalism in Islam is not the same as the fundamentalism of al-Banna and Qutb. The ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood were Islamists, not revivalists. In its formative years between 1928 and the execution of Sayyid Qutb in 1966, the Movement of the Muslim Brotherhood36 established the seeds of this new direction within Islam addressed here as Islamic fundamentalism. This brotherhood was successful in spreading its ideology far beyond the boundaries of its country of origin, i.e., of Egypt, but it failed to generate a mobilizing ideology based on Islamism. In the years 1928-1967, political Islam remained, therefore, more or less on the fringe. The turning point was triggered by the Arab defeat in the Six-Days-War of 1967, the watershed event which created a legitimacy crisis in the Arab world.37 The secular 34

See Hasan al-Banna, Majmu'at Rasail al-Imam al-Shahid/Collected Essays of the Martyr Imam (Cairo: Dar al-Da'wa 1990). Herein the basic essay on jihad, 271292. Qutb, al-Salam al-Alami wa al-Islam, 172-73. 35 The Swiss born Muslim Tareq Ramadan wrongly states in his book Aux Sources du Renouveau Musulman. D’al Afghani à Hasan al-Banna. Un Siècle de Réformisme Islamique (Paris: Bayard Édition 1998) that there is a historical and intellectual continuity and a chain between the 19th century revivalist al-Afghani and his grandfather al-Banna. In fact, al-Banna was by no means a revivalist but truly the founder of jihadist Islamism. 36 See Richard P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers. 37 On the Six-Days-War, see B. Tibi, Conflict and War in the Middle East. From Interstate War to New Security (New York: St. Martin's Press 1993, 2nd edition, 1998), Chapters 3 and 4, and on the ensuing legitimacy crisis, see Fouad Ajami,


The Politicization of Islam in the Context of Fundamentalism

ideologies of Nasserism and Ba'thism, which prevailed until 1967, were now challenged by fundamentalists who received a boost in 1967. These events in the Arab world, the cultural core of Islamic civilization, generated great spill-over effects throughout the world of Islam. At this point, political Islam started to become a mobilizing power far beyond the Middle East, presenting the ultimate alternative of the “Islamic solution” to the “anzimat al-hazima/regimes of defeat” and supplying a concept of order for the whole world. Egypt continues to be the intellectual-religious core.38 The idea of the “Islamic state” has been advanced as the basic challenge to the nation-state order throughout the world of Islam. Tracing this historical development from al-Afghani to al-Banna is wrong. The earlier addressed family resemblance in the ideological currents of the global phenomenon of religious fundamentalisms can be stated in the two major goals shared by all fundamentalisms: first, a de-secularization39 and second, the de-Westernization of society within the framework of a new “Revolt Against the West”40 directed against Western values of cultural modernity as much as against Western hegemony. These two goals are intricately intertwined. These features are not well understood in the West by experts who confuse these two goals of Islamic religious fundamentalism. To reiterate for the sake of clarity: Islamists attempt to topple secular regimes as a step in their quest for a new world order. Islamic fundamentalists consider the first goal to be only a preliminary step. Challenging the secular world order, and thus the West itself, is their major overall target. The pronouncements and deeds of al-Qaida reveal a cosmic worldview. The religious sources of Bin Laden are the thoughts of Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb. The “deadly ideas” of al-Banna and Qutb are no longer a subject for a study of ideas. In a contemporary perspective, they are more meaningful in

The Arab Predicament. Arab Political Thought and Practice Since 1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981), 50-75, herein on fundamentalism, as well as Michael Hudson, Arab Politics. The Search for Legitimacy (New Haven: Yale University Press 1977), in particular the introduction, 1-30. 38 On the case of Egypt, see Carry Rosefsky Wickham, Mobilizing Islam (New York: Columbia University Press 2003) and my chapter on Egypt in the two volumes growing from the Culture Matters Project edited by Larry Harrison, Developing Cultures (New York: Routledge: 2006). 39 See B. Tibi, “Secularization and De-Secularization in Islam”, Religion-StaatGesellschaft 1. 1 (2000): 95-117, and Chapter Six in B. Tibi, Islam’s Predicament, 178-208. 40 Hedley Bull, “Revolt against the West”, in The Expansion of International Society, eds. Hedley Bull and A.Watson (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1984), 217-228.

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a “war of ideas”41 than the terror of al-Qaida itself. For a proper understanding of this political Islam the idea of “Hakimiyyat Allah/God's rule” is pertinent. In his book “Ma'alim al-Tariq/ Signposts Along the Road”,42 Qutb provides the road-signs not only for all Muslims but also for all humanity. Qutb made the two step strategy clear. The first step is to establish hakimiyyat Allah for dar al-Islam. This is considered to be a part of the Islamic world revolution to accomplish world peace under conditions of “siyadat al-Islam/supremacy of Islam” over the entire globe. This ideology promotes the idea of an Islamist internationalism. From the point of view of the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism, it is an “farida/obligation” to pursue a “World Revolution of Islam” in order to overcome the jahilliyya/pre-Islamic ignorance (i.e. “kufr/unbelief”) into which the world has fallen, since the decline of Islamic civilization and the rise of the West.43 Because this piece is written for Western readers, I support my statement with a reference to Roxanne Euben, an established expert on fundamentalism: “Qutb's prominence seems an accepted fact ... Qutb's influence is undisputed.”44 The impact of Qutb is not only restricted to the jihadist al-Qaida but extends also to institutional peaceful Islamism as in the case of Turkey. Educated Muslims know this well and need no supporting reference serving as evidence for Qutb’s impact. At issue is not a sect, but a major direction in contemporary Islam. David Cook states that Qutb acted: “from Egypt, the very center of Arab Muslim political, intellectual and religious debate, and his life and achievements parallel exemplify the rise of political Islam … he joined the Muslim Brotherhood … and quickly became its dominant intellectual figure.”45 It is most unfortunate that in Western Islamic studies, particularly in Europe, jihadist Islamism is not viewed as an interpretation of Islam but rather as an abuse of religion and as a distortion that has nothing to do with Islam. The political and economic concerns of the Islamists are either positively viewed – by some – as an expression of anti-globalism or negatively condemned as terrorism standing outside of Islam. However, a 41

Eric Patterson, ed., Debating the War of Ideas (New York: Palgrave, 2009). Sayyid Qutb, Ma'alim fi al-Tariq/Signposts along the Road (Cairo: Dar alShuruq, “legal edition”, reprinted 1989), 5-10, 201-2. See also Qutb, al-Salam alAlami wa al-Islam, 172-73. 43 For more details see Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (New York: Oxford University Press 2002). 44 Roxanne Euben, Enemy in the Mirror. Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1999), 54-55. 45 David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 102. 42


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careful study of this phenomenon cannot deny the fact that Islamism is based on an interpretation of religion, albeit a misleading interpretation. The Islamists are Muslim believers, not cynics who make an instrumental use of religion. Clearly, they view themselves as “the true believers” and deny this legitimacy to other Muslims through takfir. Despite political and jihadist links between Salafists and Islamists, the ideology and worldview of both are distinctly different. Unlike the Salafists, Islamists are not traditionalists. They refer to modern concepts that do not exist in the holy Islamic text and project/read them into Islam. They do not reject modern science and technology but, in their worldview and ideology, dissociate science from its related values. Their opposition to the secular state, alleged to deviate from the true Islamic faith, leads to a competition between religious and secular worldviews. This happens in a war of ideas46 that becomes the new cold war. In summing up the major components of Islamist fundamentalist ideology, it can be stated that Islam is for Islamists basically a system of government based on a concept of a divine order47 to be established at home and worldwide. This ideology is based on a dichotomous worldview (Muslims vs. infidels). The utopia of Islamic fundamentalism is to replace the prevailing Westphalian secular order of sovereign states48 with an Islamic one. It is for this reason that political Islam is a concern for international security. Given the fact that this variety of religious fundamentalism uniquely claims universality for its political claims, it puts people of Islamic civilization in conflict with the rest of humanity and thus, poses an issue for world politics. In fairness to political Islam, I shall raise the following question: is it hypocritical to support the universality emerging from Western civilization while countering the efforts of the competing universalism of the Islamic civilization to establish itself through Islamism? A Muslim myself, committed to Preventing the Clash of Civilizations49 and equally committed to the present secular world order, I must raise this question and face it squarely in the ensuing chapter.


See Eric Patterson, Debating the War of Ideas … This ideology is reflected in the major works by the influential Islamists Mustafa Abu Zaid Fahmi, Fan al-Hukm fi al-Islam/The Art of Government in Islam (Cairo: al-Maktab al-Masri al-Hadith) and Salim al-Awwa, Fi al-Nizam al-Siyyasi lildawla al-Islamiyya/On the Political System of the Islamic State (Cairo: al-Makthab al-Misri al-hadith 1981, reprinted 1983). 48 See Daniel Philipott, “The Challenge of September 11…” 49 The volume by Roman Herzog et al., Preventing the Clash of Civilizations (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), includes a contribution by B. Tibi on cross47

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The universality of the Westphalian order versus the universalism of political Islam: what choice? The question asked in the heading is a challenging question. For a proper understanding, some historical context must be established. Islamic civilization dominated major parts of the world from the 7th to the 17th century.50 The rise of the West changed the world. The West’s military revolution51 brought to a halt the Islamic jihad project and replaced it with European expansion. This is the process Bernard Lewis recounts in answering the question: “What Went Wrong?”52 Lewis’ question refers to the fact that, in the present world order, the West has indeed replaced Islamic dominance. Why is it wrong that Islamists want to reverse this historical development in their revolt against the West? Though the dominance of the West is an undeniable fact, if decoupled from Western hegemony, this dominance can be defended rationally. In the process of decolonization, Asians and Africans justifiably defied Europe. At the same time they drew their political thought from the European heritage. The present revolt against the West, however, “as best exemplified in Islamic fundamentalism”,53 is directed against Western values as such and not primarily against Western hegemony. The “cultural modernity” on which the universality of the modern world rests is something that ought to be distinguished from Western hegemony. The universality of “cultural modernity” (Habermas) admits – in principle – democratic pluralism and global civil society for all civilizations on equal footing, even though this is not yet the reality. In looking at the secular and rational principles of “cultural modernity”, one finds them acceptable to all humanity. Western hegemony can be criticized - not the principles of the present world order.

cultural bridging. By the time of the publication of that book, Herzog was the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. 50 See the comprehensive study on the inter-civilizational history of Islam, Christianity and the West completed at Harvard: B. Tibi, Kreuzzug und Djihad. Der Islam und die christliche Welt (München: Bertelsmann Press 1999, paperback edition 2001 published by Goldmann Verlag). 51 Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution and the Rise of the West 1500-1800 (Cambridge/UK: Cambridge University Press 1988) and Philip Curtin, The World and the West. The European Challenge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2000). 52 Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? 53 See Bull’s essay, “Revolt against the West”, 222f.


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By contrast, the universalism of political Islam, which is not even shared by all Muslims, aims to replace one hegemony with another. Islamism is not a liberation theology but for non-Muslims a real threat. What is labeled as Islamic tolerance includes the fact that non-Muslims are classified as inferior Dhimmitude.54 Therefore, Islamic supremacy is by no means acceptable. The difference between the universality of modernity and the hegemony of the West can be demonstrated by this example; one can rationally criticize the instrumentalization of human rights in hegemonic U.S. foreign policy without engaging simultaneously in a rejection of human rights values as a universal concern. U.S. foreign policy is one thing, and universal human rights are another! The secular nation-state challenged by Islamic fundamentalism is flawed by its failure to meet development demands, but the divine order Islamic fundamentalists advocate is not an alternative acceptable to nonMuslims. I agree with Huntington that “modern democracy, … is democracy of the nation-state and its emergence is associated with the development of the nation-state.”55 To go for the universality of this state pattern is an endorsement of the universality of democracy. Now, it is this very modern world order that Islamists reject. The emergence of this order goes back to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. The pre-eminent sociologist and social historian Charles Tilly comments on this issue in an early study that remains of seminal importance: “over the next three hundred years the Europeans and their descendents managed to impose that state system on the entire world. The recent wave of de-colonisation has almost completed the mapping of the globe into that system.”56

Continuing his research, Tilly writes five years later: “Something has changed in the extension of the European state system to the rest of the earth,” adding:


See the most revealing book by Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude. When Civilizations Collide (Cranbury/NJ: Associated Universities Press 2002). On Islamic tolerance, see Yohanan Friedman, Tolerance and Coercion in Islam. Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). 55 Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave of Democratization in the Twentieth Century (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press 1991), 13. 56 Charles Tilly (ed.), The Formation of the National States in Western Europe (Princeton/N.J.: Princeton University Press 1985), 45.

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“Europe created a state system that dominated the entire world. We live within that system today. Yet the world outside Europe resembles Europe 57 no more than superficially.”

The message is this: the nation-state is not well established in nonWestern civilizations. This is a fact. What conclusions are to be drawn? Even though the present world order rests upon the globalization of the nation-state, nation-states in non-Western civilizations lack substance. They are only in a nominal sense nation-states, really quasi-states.58 In International Relations research, the expansion of the West is presented as an expansion of international society.59 In this context, most parts of Asia and Africa were first colonized and then, emerged during their postcolonial development as sovereign states. Through de-colonization they obtained sovereignty, nominally evolving into nation-states, and therewith, became legally mapped into the modern international system. This pattern of development applied also to the world of Islam, a civilization in itself with a particular worldview shared by its people. In the past, Islamic civilization had its own imperial growth viewed by some historians as a pattern of imperialism.60 When the Islamic imperium decayed, the world of Islam fell subject to European colonization. The dar al-Islam is today no more than an imagined community, because it is, in reality, subdivided into nation-states. In the course of its de-colonization, the world of Islam made an effort to accommodate the new international environment by joining the international system of nation-states. Today, Islamists want to reverse this historical process through a return to Islamic unity. This is the meaning of the Islamist reversal of the prediction “End of history” into “Return of history.”61

57 Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States (Cambridge/M.A.: Basil Blackwell 1990), 191. 58 See Robert Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1990). On these “nominal states” in the Arab world, see B. Tibi, “The Simultaneity of the Unsimultaneous. Tribes and Imposed Nation-States”, in Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East, ed. Khoury/Kostiner (Berkeley: University of California Press 1990), 127152. 59 Bull & Watson (eds.), The Expansion of International Society. 60 Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism. A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006) and the book by Alan Jamieson, Faith and Sword. A Short History of Christian-Muslim Conflict (London: Reaktion Books, 2006). 61 For more details on this claim of a return to Islamic glory as an expression of a return of history, see B. Tibi, Political Islam, Introduction and Chapter Five.


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In the case of the Arab Middle East, former Ottoman provinces reemerged after decolonization in the shape of a number of nation-states designed along the Western model. From the outset, new Arab states were challenged by pan-Arabism, secular Arab nationalism and now by political Islam.62 They were plagued by two problems: firstly, the existing tension between universal Islamism as well as pan-Islamism (both varieties are often wrongly equated with one another) and the nation-state; and, secondly, the conflict between existing territorial sovereign states (e.g. Syria, Iraq, etc.) and the vision of a pan-Arab state, which challenged the legitimacy of existing nation-states. The Arab state-system, therefore, was from the beginning a troubled one. I have coined the term “nominal nation-state” to designate states like these which lack most of the basic requirements for a substantial nation-state: Polity, civil society, citizenship and a related national identity.63 These nominal nation-states, for example in the Arab world, are now challenged by Islamic fundamentalism. To return to the question asked in the heading about endorsing Western universality and rejecting the universalism of political Islam, one has to relate the question to the legitimacy of the Western nation-state. The fact that this Western model did not work in the Arab Middle East, where existing nation-states have been ridiculed both by realists and idealists alike as “tribes with national flags” is not prima facie evidence for the allegation that the model itself is wrong. In the footsteps of Qutb, the leading Egyptian Islamist and Muslim Brother Yusuf Qaradawi addresses these shortcomings today.64 In a three volume work entitled “al-Hall alIslami/the Islamic solution,” Qaradawi revives, as a global TV mufti, the earlier tradition of political Islam in Egypt. Living in the Gulf state of Qatar, he exerts a great impact from there through his numerous books and his weekly appearance on al-Jahziraa-TV, spreading Islamist propaganda on a global level, reaching even the Islam diaspora in Europe. Qaradawi dismisses anything coming from the West, including democracy, as a “hulul mustawradah/imported solution.” The misleading argument, hululmustawradah, serves as a formula for blaming the West for all of the ills in the world of Islam. On these grounds, he pleads for a wholesale de-

62 B. Tibi, Arab Nationalism. Between Islam and the Nation State (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 3rd edition 1997). 63 See Jackson, Quasi-States…, and Tibi, “The Simultaneity of the Unsimultaneous”, 127-152. 64 Yusuf al-Qaradawi, al-Hall al-Islami/The Islamic Solution, 3 volumes. First volume: al-Hulul al-Mustawrada/The Imported Solutions (Beirut: al-Risalah, reprinted 1980).

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Westernization to purify Islam as a precondition for the Islamization of the entire world. Qaradawi calls for the return to Islam, but his Islam is not authentic. It is based on an invention of tradition. Moreover, Qaradawi is a Sunni Islamist, and there exists another call for an Islamic solution, namely a Shi’i one coming from the Iranian Revolution that took place in 1979 and which has generated spill-over effects all over the Islamic world. Of course, there have been sectarian forces constraining its impact, for there is a competition between the Sunni and the Shi’i elements of Islamic fundamentalism. Despite these differences, the Islamic Revolution in Iran not only successfully demonstrated that Islamists are able to seize power and establish an “Islamic state” but also to advance this state to a nuclear power.65 The Bush administration helped Iran inadvertedly in the Iraq war to become a regional power. In the case of Iran, one can also argue that Islamists failed to deliver what they promised in their pronouncements. Nonetheless, the example of North Africa supports the statement made by François Burgat: “The revolution of Khomeini breathed life into Islamist movements everywhere.”66 One has to be wary, however, of rhetoric - breathing life means reinforcing an ongoing process, not putting a new life into it. The Islamic Revolution in Iran was and continues to be a Shi’i event, and this sets limits to its impact. It reinforced the unfolding of Islamic fundamentalism but did not give birth to political Islam, which existed in a powerful Sunni variety a half century before. Nevertheless, the Iranian Revolution presented itself as a model for the entire world of Islam, but, after three decades, this revolution has failed and other models are sought. In this context, I suggest the option of joining forces with the democratic peace to be more promising for the future of Islamic civilization than any Islamic internationalism aimed at changing the current international nation-state system. However, Sunni jihadists compete in offering other options, while Shi’i clerics continue to challenge the West and to view their Islamic Republic, soon to become a nuclear power, as the “center of the universe.”67

65 On the nuclear threat posed by the Shi’i Islamic fundamentalism embodied by the Islamist Republic of Iran, see Alireza Jafarzadeh, The Iran Threat. President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (New York: Palgrave, 2007). 66 Francois Burgat, The Islamic Movement in North Africa (Austin/Texas: The University of Texas 1993), 185. 67 See Graham Fuller, The Center of the Universe Iran. The Geopolitics of Iran (Boulder/Col: Westview 1991).


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In concluding this section, it can be stated that the switch from traditional Islamic universalism and from the 19th century pan-Islam to contemporary political Islamist internationalism directed against the present international system rarely presents an acceptable alternative to the present world order in crisis. The Islamist ideology and its worldview, be it Sunni or Shi’i in character, are in contradiction to the universality of pluralism, a better option for Muslims as well as for the rest of humanity. Pluralism is better than any religious absolutism elevated to an internationalism. This insight underlines the conclusion of this section in stating that all varieties of Islamic religious fundamentalism in general generate a kind of a New Cold War against the secular nation-state and do not contribute to the democratic peace, i.e., to the solution the world needs after bipolarity. The related war of ideas is not a clash of civilizations but rather a competition between the pluralism of democratic peace and religious neo-absolutism emerging from fundamentalist ideology. At issue are rival models, not rival civilizations, and this is the substance of the “war of ideas.”

Religious fundamentalism in Islam and the return, not the end, of history After the end of the East-West conflict, Francis Fukuyama was believed to have foreseen some promising future prospects and coined in this context the term “the end of history”,68 by which he meant the final victory of Western values. This did not materialize. What is happening seems to be quite the opposite: the revival of Islamic doctrines and precepts that, in turn, rekindle the classical-historical tensions between Islam and the West as civilizations. The Islamist revolt against the West is breathing new life into this historical rivalry.69 It is true this revolt has generated a new phenomenon, but this new phenomenon, nevertheless, has historical roots. It is not “constructed”, as some politically correct-minded scholars wrongly suggest. The reality is that religious fundamentalism in Islam


See Tibi, Political Islam, Introduction and Chapter Five, and Francis Fukuyama, The End of History (New York: Avon Books 1992). Already back in 1995, in my book: Der Krieg der Zivilisationen (Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe 1995), I argued that there is rather a sign for a return of history in the shape of reviving the historical competition between civilizational models, than an end of history. 69 Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations (New York: Allen Lane 1994).

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heralds a quest for a new world order based on religion. This agenda resumes a part of the history that involves Islam and Christian Europe.70 “Much of the contemporary return to Islam is driven by the perception of Muslims as a community … having a mission to fulfill. That this perception sometimes leads to conflict is not surprising. In encounters between the West and Islam, the struggle is over who will provide the primary definition to world order. Will it be the West, with its notions of territorial boundaries, market economies, private religiosity, and the priority of individual rights? Or will it be Islam, with its emphasis on the universal mission of a transtribal community called to build the social order founded on the pure monotheism natural to humanity? The question for those who envision world order, then, is, ‘Who determines the shape of order, in the new international context?’ The very question suggests a competition between cultural traditions with distinctive notions of peace, order, and justice. It thus implies pessimism concerning the call for a new 71 world order based on notions of common humanity.”

Scholars who combine the narrative of history with an effort at socialscientific conceptualization may accept my suggestion, that it was Islam, and no other civilization, that, long before the West, triggered a process that can be viewed as globalization, i.e., to impose its own model on the rest of the globe. Islamic expansion was the first model of globalization, though it was not fully successful in mapping the entire world into its territoriality. The globalization of the “Islamicate”72 in medieval history is a historical fact. The Islamic caliphate did not become the dominant order of the world. This Islamicate came into being when Arab Muslims first engaged themselves in the futuhat (i.e. opening) wars of jihad73 that began in the 7th century. This was continued onwards throughout the 17th century by Muslim Turks. In that historical period, the pronounced goal was to expand their civilization across the globe. After the Arab decline, the ascending Turks continued this early Islamic expansion until the rise of the West, until its military revolution 1500-1800,74 replaced this jihad pattern 70 See Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism… and Alan Jamieson, Faith and Sword… and also the interpretation included in B. Tibi, Kreuzzug und Djihad. 71 John Kelsay, Islam and War (Louisville/Kentucky: John Knox Press 1993), 11518. 72 This term was coined by Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam. Conscience and History in a World Civilization, 3 volumes (Chicago: Chicago University Press 1974). 73 Fred M. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton/NJ: Princeton University Press 1981). See also Tibi, Political Islam. 74 See Parker, The Military Revolution…, and Curtin, The World and the West… .


The Politicization of Islam in the Context of Fundamentalism

of Islamic expansion with Western globalization. This is the history revived by contemporary Islamic fundamentalism which blames not only Christianity and the West but also a “Jewish conspiracy” for the decline of the Islamic jihad. Sayyid Qutb called for a world revolution to accomplish peace and prosperity under Islamic rule, which includes “Ma’rakatuna ma’a al-Yahud/ Our Struggle with the Jews”. For this reason, Islamist fundamentalism also includes an agenda of a new antisemitism based on the Islamization of a European ideology that led to the Holocaust.75 In their perception, Islamists compete with “world Jewry” in the quest to rule the world in a claim for a return of history. This claim is based on an “Invention of Tradition” (Hobsbawm), however, with an utterly new meaning. As much as jihadism is not the classical jihad, Islamism is not Islam, but both have nevertheless “Islamic roots.” Given this connection with Islam, one cannot stress enough how utterly wrong it is to claim that the thinking and deeds of Islamic fundamentalists are “anti-Islamic.”76 The claim for a return of past history is based upon projecting a modern meaning into Islamic traditions by political Islam. The invented tradition is used to mobilize support in the Islamist revolt against the West. The internationalist Islamism is an Islamic variety of religious fundamentalism. The West continues to prevail in the world at large politically, economically and also militarily, but its values are culturally questioned. Fukuyama’s assumption about “the end of history” as the victory of European values has proven to be wrong. The return of the history of civilizations after the collapse of the East-West bipolarity is a backlash against the ideologically-driven repression of history and of culture of the other. Those people, Muslims among them, once considered by arrogant Westerners as “people without history”,77 are now rising. Unfortunately, this return of history has the pitfalls of anti-Westernism, anti-Americanism,


The pamphlet by Qutb: ”Ma’rakatuma Ma’a al Yahud/Our Struggle with the Jews” (Cairo, reprint no date) is the source of this new antisemitism. For more details, see B. Tibi, “The Combination of Anti-Americanism and Antisemitism in Contemporary Islamist Ideology”, The Current (Cornell University) 12. 1 (2008): 123-146. 76 See James Slack, “Terrorism? We’ll Call it Anti-Islamic…”. 77 Eric R. Wolfe, Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley: University of California Press, new edition 1997).

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even antisemitism. Therefore, this trend is not a sign of a promising future, as it ignites tensions and hatred that led to conflict and even to violence.78

Conclusions: Islamic civilization between political Islam and democratic peace The inquiry into religion and politics in the globalization era has to take account of the fact that the politicization of religion under conditions of the exposure to modernity is a major feature of the present time. This can lead peacefully or violently to related occurrences. At issue is a crossreligious phenomenon. The Islamic variety of the phenomenon is Islamism. One branch of it is peaceful. The other, jihadism, is an irregular warfare which is only one dimension of the phenomenon. Islamism is a political Islam that basically features the pursuit of establishing a divine order, not necessarily violence. The uniqueness of Islamism is its pertinence internationally through its vision to set up an Islamic world order. This Islamist internationalism entails a design for remaking the world.79 The Qutb-call for an “Islamic World Revolution” gives the phenomenon in point character for a challenge to democratic peace. Global jihad is an Islamist response to globalization that overlooks the fact that the West is a partner, not an enemy. In Ankara, U.S. President Obama made it clear: “The U.S. is not at war with Islam.” The Islamist challenge is an agenda of de-secularization. What is named a post-secular society is an anti-Western development, giving religion a new role in world politics. This development raises great concerns. As already argued, it is not a renaissance of religious ethics but brings rather an expression of a variety of fundamentalisms, mostly in non-Western civilizations. To be sure, this phenomenon also exists in Western Christianity. In the Islamic case in point, which is the most serious variety of the process of the politicization of religion, internationalism is at work. Unlike subsiding universalist Christianity in post-Christianity, the universalism of Islam is still alive and kicking, assuming a political shape. This happens on two levels: religious fundamentalism in Islam pertains to domestic government and politics, focusing on issues of order on the home front with the goal to topple. 78 See B. Tibi, “Islam: Between Religious-Cultural Practice and Identity Politics”, in Conflicts and Tensions, ed. Y. Raj Isar and Helmut Anheier (London: Sage, 2007), 221-231. 79 On Islamist internationalism, Sunni and Shi’i, see B. Tibi, Political Islam, Chapters 4 and 5.


The Politicization of Islam in the Context of Fundamentalism

Next, political Islam disclaims the present world order and offers an Islamic alternative to it. The Islamic civilization is in a state of crisis that requires a solution from Islam itself.80 This present crisis-ridden world of Islam gives boast to Islamic fundamentalists that propagate that the “crusaders and Jews” are the source of all existing evil. The call for establishing governments of religious dictatorship under “God’s rule”, legitimated by divine politics, is also a call for purification. Thus, Islamism divides, rather than unifies, humanity. What Muslims need is not political Islam. Rather, they need to come to terms with their own crisis and to join in the effort to build a democratic peace. In my view, Islamist fundamentalism is not only a threat to world peace, but it also threatens inner-Islamic peace. Iraq is a case in point where Muslims kill one another. What Muslims really need is to dissociate their religion from Islamist shari’a politics in order to address the real issues underlying the crisis of their civilization. At present, there is a war of propaganda in which Islamists have succeeded in stigmatizing their critics as purveyors of xenophobia and Islamophobia. In fact, neither Islamophobia nor a brand of Orientalism is at issue here, and among Western scholars, there are only a few who understand fundamentalism properly and dare to criticize this totalitarian ideology. The late Ernst Gellner understood fundamentalism and had the integrity to criticize it. This Jewish Holocaust survivor called for reviving Enlightenment against the challenge of fundamentalism. For doing this, he was defamed by Edward Said in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS). In this regard, Gellner wrote: “Religious fundamentalism ... gives psychic satisfaction to many ... It is at present quite specifically persuasive and influential within one particular 81 tradition, namely Islam.”

In the better days of Islamic civilization, during medieval times, Jewish and Muslim rational philosophers, like Maimonides and Averroes, could share the same cultural heritage.82 In the age of Islamic fundamentalism, which also carries with it a new antisemitism, the sentiments are much

80 See Ali A. Alawi, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). See also the references in note 5 on the crisis and the related predicament. 81 Ernest Gellner, Religion and Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1992 ), 84. 82 Franz Rosenthal, The Classical Heritage of Islam (London: Routledge 1975).

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different. The return of the sacred in the shape of religious fundamentalism reveals “The Limits of Pluralism”83 and the weakness of cultural relativism. The alternative to the clash of civilizations is democratic peace in its Kantian meaning.84 Islamism is, unlike civil Islam that allows democracy and human rights, an obstacle to this need of democratic peace. Islamist fundamentalism is viewed in this paper as the most recent variety of totalitarianism,85 and it also touches on Europe. The world of Islam is the most important part of the European neighborhood.86 Islamism undermines European efforts to integrate Muslims into citizens of the heart.87 The result is ethnicity of fear.88 To avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy of “clash of civilizations,” the West needs to see the distinction between Islam and Islamism. In two historic addresses to the world of Islam “ending the clash of civilizations”, U.S. President Obama engaged in bridging, but he did not mention fundamentalism. However, he referred to seven sources of tensions. These sources of tensions are elevated by Islamism to an inter-civilizational conflict.89 The dialogue for bridging that U.S. President Obama90 has proposed in Ankara and in Cairo back in 2009 is an indication of a new policy that can only be successful if achieved as a conflict resolution.91 83 See the proceedings of the Erasmus Foundation: The Limits of Pluralism. Relativism and Neoabsolutisms (Amsterdam: Praemium Erasmianum Foundation 1994) that includes contributions by E. Gellner, Schlomo Avineri and B. Tibi. 84 See Immanuel Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden, reprint (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1978) revived by Bruce Russet, Grasping Democratic Peace (Princeton/NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993). 85 See the references in notes 7 to 10. 86 See the contributions to the book published by the EU think tank CEPS/Center for European Policy Studies, Democratization in the Neighborhood, ed. Michael Emerson (Brussels: CEPS, 2005), herein my chapter on political Islam as an obstacle to this envisioned democratization. 87 See the essay by B. Tibi, “A Migration Story: From Immigrants to Citizens of the Heart”, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 31. 1 (2007): 147-168. 88 B. Tibi, “Ethnicity of Fear? Islamic Migration and the Ethnicization of Islam in Europe”, Studies on Ethnicity and Nationalism 10. 1 (April 2010):126-57. 89 This conflict is elaborated upon in Chapter Five in: B. Tibi, Islam’s Predicament. 90 On this bridging envisioned by U.S. President Barack Obama, see the report about his Cairo speech (June 4, 2009) under the heading: “Obama Invites Muslims to Dialogue”, International Herald Tribune (June 5, 2009), frontpage, and earlier in International Herald Tribune, editorial, “Ending the Clash of Civilizations”, with a reference to Obama’s speech in Ankara, April 13, 2009. 91 See B. Tibi, Islam in Global Politics. Conflict and Cross-Civilizational Bridging (New York: Routledge, 2012), Chapter One.


The Politicization of Islam in the Context of Fundamentalism

This task cannot be accomplished if the West succumbs to Islamism and to its denial of a distinction between the tolerant religion of Islam (faith and ethics) and the totalitarian ideology of Islamism. It is deplorable that the engagement with Islamist movements in the context of Arab Spring has been elevated to an empowerment. It is most distressing to note with Paul Berman that “the Islamists movement, in prospering, has succeeded in imposing its own categories of analysis over how everyone tends to think”; with this outcome, “Islamist judgments end up getting adopted by Western and non-Islamist journalists”,92 and I may add, scholars as well. Does politics make a difference? The two major speeches of U.S. President Barack Obama in Ankara and Cairo can be appreciated as a laudable effort at intercivilizational bridging of existing divides. If this were aimed to be policy-guidance and more than mere rhetorics spoken for the gallery, the Obama administration needs to acknowledge what Islam, in substance, aims to embrace. Is it Wahhabi-Salafist Islam, or is it a liberal-democratic Islam to rest on the precious tradition of Islamic humanism and rationalism? In Ankara, in Cairo and elsewhere, U.S. President Barack Obama failed to announce a policy based on the distinction between Islam and Islamism. Western policy-makers need to understand that jihadism is not about a terrorism that wrecks havoc; it is much more than that. Like those peaceful institutional Islamists praised as “moderate,” the violent jihadists are aimed to establish a shari’a based Islamic state. If intercivilizational bridging overlooks the war of ideas that revolves around the democratic order of pluralism vs. the divine order of hakimiyyat Allah, then the related policies are doomed to be a selfdefeating self-deception.93 There can be an Islamic ethics compatible with democracy, pluralism and civil-society94 – of course – in the context of achieving religious reform and cultural change.95 This truly moderate Islam is, however, not to be confused with Islamism, which is the ideology


Paul Berman, The Flight of the Intellectuals, 285. B. Tibi, “Bridging the Heterogenity of Civilizations: Reviving the Grammar of Islamic Humanism”, Theoria. A Journal of Political and Social Theory 56. 120 (2009): 65-80. 94 See Eric Patterson, ed., Debating the War of Ideas (New York: Palgrave 2010). It includes a chapter by B. Tibi. 95 See Chapter Seven on democracy in B. Tibi, Political Islam, World Politics and Europe and also the chapter “Islamism and Democracy” in B. Tibi, Islamism and Islam. 93

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of the Islamic shari’a-state. Only when Islamists abandon this order, then one can qualify them as post-Islamists.96

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Euben, Roxanne. Enemy in the Mirror. Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. Fahmi, Mustafa Abu Zaid. Fan al-Hukm fi al-Islam. Cairo: al-Maktab alMasri al-Hadith, 1981. Feldman, Noah. The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State. Princeton/NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008. —. The Fall and the Rise of the Islamic State. Princeton NY: Princeton University Press, 2008. Friedman, Yohanan. Tolerance and Coercion in Islam. Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History. New York: Avon Books, 1992. Fuller, Graham. The Center of the Universe Iran. The Geopolitics of Iran. Boulder/Col: Westview, 1991. Gellner, Ernest. Religion and Postmodernism. London: Routledge 1992. Habermas, Jürgen. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge/MA: MIT Press, 1986. Hanafi, Hasan. al-Usuliyya al-Islamiyya. Cairo: Madubli, 1989. Hodgson, Marshall G.S. The Venture of Islam. Conscience and History in a World Civilization, 3 volumes, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1974. Howe, Marvine. Turkey Today. A Nation Divided under Islam’s Revival. Boulder/Col: Westview Press, 2000. Hudson, Michael. Arab Politics. The Search for Legitimacy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977. Huntington, Samuel P. The Third Wave of Democratization in the Twentieth Century. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991. Husain, Ed. The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left. London: Penguin Books, 2007. Imara, Mohammed. Al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya wa al-Tahddi al-hadari. Cairo: al-Shuruq, 1991. Inbar Efraim and Hillel Frisch (eds.) Radical Islam and International Security. London: Routledge, 2008. Jaber, Hala. Hezbollah. Born with a Vengeance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Jackson, Robert. Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Jafarzadeh, Alireza. The Iran Threat. President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis. New York: Palgrave, 2007.

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Jamieson, Alan. Faith and Sword. A Short History of Christian-Muslim Conflict. London: Reaktion Books, 2006. Kant, Immanuel. Zum ewigen Frieden. Reprint, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1978. Karsh, Efraim. Islamic Imperialism. A History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Kelsay, John. Arguing the Just War in Islam. Cambridge/MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. —. Islam and War. Louisville/Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993. Kramer, Martin. Arab Awakening and Muslim Revival. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1996. Lee, Robert. Overcoming Tradition and Modernity. The Search for Islamic Authenticity. Boulder/Col.: Westview, 1997. Levitt, Matthew. Hamas. Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Lewis, Bernard. Crisis of Islam. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2003. Marty, Martin and Scott Appleby (eds.) The Fundamentalism Project, 5 Volumes, vol. I (1991), Fundamentalisms Observed, vol. II (1993), Fundamentalisms and Society, vol. III (1993), Fundamentalisms and the State, vol. IV (1994), Accounting for Fundamentalisms, vol. V (1995), and Comprehending Fundamentalisms (all). Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991-1995. Martin, Richard and Abbas Barzegar (eds.) Islamism. Contested Perspectives on Political Islam. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010. Mayer, Ann Elisabeth. Islam and Human Rights. Boulder/Col.: Westview Press, 1991. Mitchell, Richard P. The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London: Oxford University Press, 1969. Parker, Geoffrey. The Military Revolution and the Rise of the West 15001800. Cambridge/UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Patterson, Eric (ed.) Debating the War of Ideas. New York: Palgrave, 2009. Philpott, Daniel. “The Challenge of September 11 to Secularism in International Relations.” World Politics 55. 1 (2002): 66-95. Qutb, Sayyid. Al-Salam al-Alami wa al-Islam. Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq repr. 1992.


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—. Ma'alim fi al-Tariq. Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, “legal edition”, reprinted 1989. Ramadan, Tareq. Aux Sources du Renouveau Musulman. D’al Afghani à Hasan al-Banna. Un Siècle de Réformisme Islamique. Paris: Bayard Édition, 1998. Rosenthal, Franz. The Classical Heritage of Islam. London: Routledge, 1975. Russet, Bruce. Grasping Democratic Peace. Princeton/NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979. Schacht, Joseph. An Introduction to Islamic Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979. Scharma, Arvind (ed.) Our Religions. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1993. Slack, James. “Terrorism? We’ll Call it Anti-Islamic.” Daily Mail, January 18, 2008. Spencer, Robert. Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America. New York: Regnery Publ., 2003. Tibi, Bassam. “Bridging the Heterogenity of Civilizations: Reviving the Grammar of Islamic Humanism.” Theoria. A Journal of Political and Social Theory 56. 120 (2009): 65-80. —. “Cultural Change in Islamic Civilization.” In Developing Cultures, vol.1 of 2, edited by Larry Harrison. New York: Routledge, 2006. —. “Ethnicity of Fear? Islamic Migration and the Ethnicization of Islam in Europe.” Studies on Ethnicity and Nationalism 10. 1 (2010). —. “Inter-civilizational Conflict between Value Systems and Concepts of Order: Exploring the Islamic Humanist Potential for a Peace of Ideas.” In Debating the War of Ideas, edited by Eric Patterson, John P. Gallagher. New York: Palgrave, 2010. —. “International Morality and Cross-Cultural Bridging.” In Preventing the Clash of Civilizations, edited by Roman Herzog et al. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. —. “Islam and cultural modernity: in pursuit of democratic pluralism in Asia.” In Islamic legitimacy in a plural Asia, edited by Anthony Reid and Michael Gilsenan. London: Roudledge, 2007. —. “Islam, Freedom and Democracy in the Arab World.” In Democratization in the Neighborhood, edited by Michael Emerson. Brussels: CEPS, 2005. —. “Islam: Between Religious-Cultural Practice and Identity Politics.” In Conflicts and Tensions, edited by Y. Raj Isar and Helmut Anheier, 221-231. London: Sage, 2007.

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—. “Muslim Migrants in Europe. Between Euro-Islam and Ghettoization.” In Muslim-Europe or Euro-Islam, edited by N. Alsayyad and M. Castells, 31-52. New York: Lexington Books, 2002. —. “Public Policy and the Combination of Anti-Americanism and Antisemitism in Contemporary Islamist Ideology.” The Current 12 (Winter 2008): 123-146. —. “Religious Extremism or Religionization of Politics? The Ideological Foundations of Political Islam.” In Radical Islam and International Security, edited by Hillel Frisch and Efraim Inbar, 11-37. New York: Routledge, 2008. —. “Secularization and De-Secularization in Islam.” Religion-StaatGesellschaft 1.1 (2000): 95-117. —. “The Challenge of Fundamentalism.” In The Globalization Reader, edited by Frank J. Lechner and John Boli, 358-363. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. —. “The Simultaneity of the Unsimultaneous. Tribes and Imposed NationStates.” In Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East, edited by Philip S. Khoury and Joseph Kostiner, 127-152. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. —. “Turkey’s Islamist Danger. Islamists Approach Europe.” Middle East Quarterly 16.1 (2009): 47-54. —. “War and Peace in Islam.” In The Ethics of War and Peace, edited by Terry Nardin, 128-145. Princeton/N.J.: Princeton University Press 1996, reprinted 1998. —. “A Migration Story: From Immigrants to Citizens of the Heart.” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 31.1 (2007): 147-168. —. Arab Nationalism. Between Islam and the Nation State. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 3rd edition, 1997. —. Conflict and War in the Middle East. From Interstate War to New Security. New York: St. Martin's Press 1993, 2nd edition, 1998. —. Der Krieg der Zivilisationen. Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe, 1995. —. Einladung in die islamische Geschichte. Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 2001. —. Islam between Culture and Politics. New York: Palgrave, 2001, expanded in a new 2005 edition. —. Islam in Global Politics. Conflict and Cross-Civilizational Bridging. New York: Routledge, 2012. —. Kreuzzug und Djihad. Der Islam und die christliche Welt. München: Bertelsmann Press 1999, paperback edition 2001 published by Goldmann Verlag.


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Introduction In 1916 orientalist Samuel Graham Wilson stated in the preface to his book Modern Movements among Muslims, that: “In one year three autocratic Moslem rulers were dethroned. A spirit of Nationalism is growing.”1 Almost a century later, his words would not be found out of place if used to describe the political reality which characterized the extensive changes that were unfolding in some of the most important Arab countries. It is true enough that nowadays it is not a spirit of “Nationalism” which is emerging, but one that rather anticipates a shift towards democratization. While having already missed the previous three waves of democratization, the Arab world seems to be quickly catching up, proving right, at least in part, Samuel Huntington’s assertion that, democracy had time on its side. Reversion to authoritarianism or most probably to a new form of authoritarianism, different than the one already vanishing from the Arab world, is not out of the picture despite the fact that, at this point, there are strong indications that democracy is the expected result.2 Should such a scenario occur and all plausible possibilities are at this time open, 1 Samuel Graham Wilson, Modern Movements among Moslems (London: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1916), 5. 2 See Samuel P. Huntington, “Democracy’s Third Wave”, Journal of Democracy 2 (1991): 12–34. A similar perspective to ours is expressed by the Kenyan intellectual and political scientist Ali A. Mazrui, in an interview conducted by Nirvana Tanoukhi in the summer of 2011, in which he states that: “…the most interesting aspects is that this is liberal pro-democratic uprising, rather than either nationalist or socialist or Islamic. Most of the values that are articulated are values connected with liberty, open society, and objection to detention without trial.” (Ali A. Mazrui and Nirvana Tanoukhi. “Arab Spring and the Future of Leadership in North Africa: an interview with Ali A. Mazrui conducted by Nirvana Tanoukhi July, 2011”, Transition 106.1 (2011): 148).


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

its implications will far exceed the limited spectrum of either regional or national significance. The true nature of this impact will become evident in the changing of a long-established perception pointing to an uncompromising antithesis between Islam and democracy.3 Recent history, on the other hand, testifies to the fallacy of such a perception, offering a number of occasions when democracy and Islam became perfectly attuned in a working synthesis. While the duration of these sequences was limited to more or less the first decade following independence, and their experience incompletely assimilated by the societies in question, they still remain a powerful argument in supporting Islam’s compatibility with democratic practices and institutions. In this case, though it is not Islam per se that will challenge democracy but rather one of its most uncompromising political expressions, termed most commonly “political Islam.” The current events in the Middle East might give way to a new phase in the clash between democracy and political Islam, or, in a more optimist view, to a new synthesis.4 Ironically, as it is the case with most revolutions or large scale revolts, it is not only the ancien régime which is taken by complete surprise but also those who, by the nature of their interest, are more attuned with the realities of the societies in question, scholars,5 pundits or journalists. As it has been observed in countless instances, the starting point of each 3

Such views are shared by scholars like Elie Kedourie, Democracy and Arab Political Culture (London: Frank Cass, 1994); Maurice Barbier, La modernité politique (Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 2000); Daniel Pipes, In the Path of God, Islam and Political Power (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2003). 4 See the article of I. William Zartman, “Democracy and Islam: The Cultural Dialectic”, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 524 (November 1992): 181-191. 5 In his very much acclaimed and also contested work, The Clash of Civilizations…, S. P. Huntington establishes a clear connection between Islam’s civilizational assertiveness and its prolific demography. Using historian Jack Goldstone’s theory that the Protestant Revolution was ultimately the result of an impressive “youth movement”, he points to a future where last decades high demographic rates, recorded in most Muslim countries, will continue to fuel the basis of the Islamic resurgence. Reading his work in the light of 2011 events, we might concede that S. Huntington has managed to express a certain premonitory disposition when he wrote that, “young people are the protagonists of protest, instability, reform, and revolution”, even though he made no reference to a democratic outcome resulting from the future wave of protests. See, Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon&Schuster, 1996), 102-121.

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revolution or revolt has little in common with the extensive range of demands and objectives that later fuel its development. Though there is hardly any connection between the objectives of these two phases, both of them are articulated by the same impetus of challenging the prevailing order. At this point the issue which we must clarify beforehand is that using the term “revolution”6 when analyzing the Arab Spring is in some ways misleading. The regime changes that occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen are up to this point political in their nature, meaning that their impact on the rest of the parts that comprise the social machinery has yet to be unraveled. Though these changes are sufficient to satisfy at least some of the current definitions at work in the social sciences concerning the nature and impact of revolutions, the equivocal nature of the term demands a measure of caution. Still from a historical standpoint it is clear that the true value of a revolution is given by the changes that it brings, irrespective of the number of measurable indicators it manages to achieve in its infant forms of development. In our opinion the Arab Spring will become a Revolution only if it generates extensive and fundamental changes in the way the MENA societies work and act both internally and internationally. Of course in defining the extremely heterogeneous nature of the political and social changes that swept the entrenched nonmonarchical regimes of the Middle East,7 any sort of terminology ascribed becomes at times inadequate when confronted with their impressive social and political aleatory dynamism. Nevertheless, the Arab Spring (or in some accounts The Arab Awakening8) is a unique event in recent history, one which can hardly be described as a revolution, rather one that points to the completion of the long process of modernization that the Middle 6

See, J. Milton Yinger, Mark N. Katz, “Revolution: Refining its Defining”, International Journal of Group Tensions 30. 4 (Winter 2001): 349-367; Dale Yoder, “Current Definitions of Revolution”, American Journal of Sociology 32. 3 (November 1926): 433-441. 7 For our purposes in using the term Middle East, we include also the North African countries that are traditionally referred to as the Maghreb. While recognizing steep regional differences in terms of population, ethnicity, economy, politics and nevertheless geography, the usage of the term reflects only a matter of convenience. 8 This collocation has been most probably borrowed from the title of George Antonius’s influential book, The Arab Awakening. The Story of the Arab National Movement (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1955). The period covered by the Lebanese historian, culminating with the Arab involvement in the First World War, bears a measure of resemblance to the current events in the Middle East, though it would be wise not to force the limits of such an assumption without making the necessary distinctions.


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

Eastern world engaged in almost two centuries ago. By all accounts, it is an event which needs not be “demystified”,9 for it has already acquired the imposing status of a historical yardstick, rather analyzed and understood through the medium of a perspective that is debased of its particular “obscuring lenses.”10 In this case, asthenic forms of civil coagulation, both cultural and institutional, economic ossification generated by reliance on state indicative planning patterns, poverty doubled by low literacy scores, high demographic rates, a repressive political culture linked especially to cultural imperatives imposed by the religious sphere, and lack of viable democratic actors in the region,11 all play an important role in constructing a synergetic reality responsible for obstructing, to a certain extent that is, the deeper layers of the historical context in which the Arab Spring emerged. Although there is no reason to abandon pursuing such explanations, it is of little benefit for us to do so without integrating and interpreting them in the wider historical landscape. Unlike other chronological delimitations, such a historical landscape would have to be defined by its focus on a particular period of Islamic history – a period marked by its encounter with Western modernity. If the Arab Spring is conceptualized as one of the concluding moments of this encounter, one that ushers a social renaissance of such a magnitude that any paths resembling former attempts to integrate the categories of modernity in an Islamic context become obsolete, then a multitude of historically ascendant and descendent connections and patterns become visible. Evaluating the strength and impact of these patterns towards modernity will, in our opinion, provide a clear and unbiased understanding on the historical importance and viability of the Arab Spring.

The shattering of certitudes At the beginning of the 21st Century a number of scholars could find enough empirical evidence to state in unequivocal terms that something


Lisa Anderson, “Demystifying the Arab Spring Parsing the Differences Between Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya”, Foreign Affairs 90.3 (May/June 2011): 2-7. 10 See, François Burgat, “Veils and Obscuring Lenses,” in Modernizing Islam, Religion and the Public Sphere in Europe and the Middle East, ed., John L. Esposito and François Burgat (London: Hurst&Company, 2003), 17-41. 11 The inventory that we make reference to was very skillfully assembled in the introductory part of Eva Bellin’s article, “The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective”, in Comparative Politics 36. 2 (January 2004): 139-141.

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went wrong12 with the Muslim world. Though the nature of these statements was construed in a manner that capitalized on the cultural impulses generated by the austerity of an old scholarly Orientalist13 tradition, still they described a reality which, at least from a quantitative point of view, could hardly be challenged. In this perspective most of the countries with a Muslim demographical majority, especially those from the Middle East, suffered from what appeared to be a “modernization deficit”.14 Expressed through the medium of poor “socioeconomic indicators of modernization” this deficit was ultimately the result of a larger and deeper failure - that of integrating modernity within an Islamic context. But as this culturalist approach made use of data that focused mostly on economic and political indicators, it could hardly account for the intellectual, cultural and institutional changes that were transforming the Muslim world ever since. These changes were the result of a modernization process that started roughly two centuries ago, and continued relentlessly, despite some serious setbacks and delays. Indeed the argument of civilizational specificity makes it impossible for advancing Western patterns of modernity, but it becomes void of content when the fluidity and adaptability15 of such patterns becomes evident. On the one hand, the modernization of Muslim societies failed to produce working democracies, economic prosperity or at least any quantifiable attribute of a successful state apart from very diligent security and surveillance apparatus doubled by a rapacious bureaucracy, but it did change them in a fundamental and utterly profound manner. It is especially this metamorphosis that becomes visible once Mohamed Bouazizi’s act of self-immolation put into action a chain of events that would ultimately “change the course of Arab political history.”16 For our purposes it is necessary to ask ourselves what was the course of the Arab political 12 See Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). 13 See Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979). 14 Shireen T. Hunter, „Introduction”, in Modernization, Democracy, and Islam, ed. Shireen T. Hunter and Huma Malik, (Published in cooperation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D. C.) (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2005), 1. 15 Bill Ashcroft, “Alternative Modernities: Globalization and the Post-Colonial”, ARIEL: A Review Of International English Literature 40.1 (2009): 81-105, (accessed June 2012). 16 Larbi Sadiki, “The Bouazizi 'big bang'”, Al Jazeera, December 29, 2011, (accessed May 2012).


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history? If it had any course at all, it would have been very difficult to extract it from a circular but nevertheless static pattern that was extremely familiar to most culturalist approaches. To a certain extent, such arguments were in their right to disregard any incoherence that might put their argumentative circularity17 to the test. For instance, following such a historical assessment, one could hardly find any notable difference, apart from those imposed by a changing global context, between the “defensive modernization”18 programs of Muhammad `Ali (1805-48) founder of the Egyptian khedivial dynasty, and those of Gamal Abdel Nasser or his successors. The same can be said of the Ottoman Sultans starting with Selim III (1789-1807) or in a Persian context the last Shahs of the Qajar dynasty (1848-1925). Indeed, in all these cases, the 20th century saw these endeavors being pursued with renewed force and at times extreme violence by new secular leaders of military extraction, determined to give their countries a political, economic and social modernity à la européenne. Due to their relative independence in respect to the European powers, the Ottoman Empire and Qajar Persia, took different roads as opposed to the Arab provinces and later states, which, after the colonial period, found themselves arrested in their development by the strong grip of authoritarian regimes. These regimes were thus conceived as a reiteration of a long established “Mamlukian”19 tradition of statehood and government 17

Muhammad Khalid Masud and Armando Salvatore, ”Western Scholars of Islam on the Issue of Modernity,” in Islam and Modernity Key Issues and Debates, eds. Muhammad Khalid Masud, Armando Salvatore and Martin van Bruinessen (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 50. 18 Crawford Young uses this process in describing one of the patterns in which a number of Afro-Asian states internalized the European idea of progress, thus managing to stave off Western imperialism when they were confronted with its full force during the nineteenth century. In its crude form it was a process of adaptation and survival that required selective borrowings from a more advanced material civilization while striving to maintain or at least preserve many of the cultural imperatives of the native society. In our perspective this process was transformed into a “political catechism” and became the norm to be emulated by any Middle Eastern ruler long after the colonial period came to an end. To some extent many of the residual left overs of this process of modernization still pollute the political discourse in the countries that have been unable to fully depart from its legacy. See Crawford Young, “Ideas of progress in the Third World Progress and Its Discontents”, in Progress and its Discontents, eds. Gabriel A. Almond, Marvin Chodorow & Roy Harvey Pearce (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 83-92. 19 Richard W. Bulliet, “Neo-Mamluk Legitimacy and the Arab Spring”, Middle East Law and Governance 3 (2011): 60–67.

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that has been symptomatic for any polity that at one time or another became prominent in the Middle East.20 If tradition and political quietism21 could justify their longevity and success while the ever-present discourse of external threat combined with a distant promise of economic prosperity ensured a certain level of legitimacy, it is not exactly clear in what way the Arab Spring managed to shatter such deeply established social and political behaviors. In our understanding the roots of this unprecedented social upheaval are not to be looked for in such paradigmatic regional malaises as poverty, political quietism or authoritarianism. For most of their modern history, the majority of the Middle Eastern societies were largely accustomed to poverty, and the same can be said about lack of economic perspectives, endemic corruption, authoritarian rule and so on. What has been really at change was the way in which these social malaises were perceived and more importantly the way in which their cause was associated to and singled out as a direct repercussion of a dictatorial political system. A political system that was defined by longevity and fear of abrupt changes – in a word defined by “too much political stability at the top,”22 which soon began to impose its transformation into a dynastic paradigm. In such a vein, from a distant point of view Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen even Libya could have been regarded as “islands of stability in one of the most troubled areas of the world”23 though as in the case of the original statement made just before the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, nothing could have been farther from truth. The reason resides in the fact that, in order to remain “islands of stability”, and thus maintain the West’s appeal in supporting them, the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East 20

L. Carl Brown, Religion and State. The Muslim Approach to Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 61-67. 21 Brown, Religion and State, 3. 22 Glenn E. Robinson, “Palestine After Arafat”, The Washington Quarterly 23. 4 (Autumn 2000): 77. 23 The expression, part of a discourse that President Jimmy Carter delivered in his last state visit to Pahlavi Iran just before the fall of the Shah, has become one of the most used literary forms of expressing the frailty that characterizes even the strongest Middle Eastern regimes. A larger excerpt of the discourse runs as follows: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.” See, Jimmy Carter: “Tehran, Iran Toasts of the President and the Shah at a State Dinner,” December 31, 1977, online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. (accessed June 2012).


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

had to make significant changes in the way they controlled one society or another. The first of them was reflected in a process that described a certain amount of political hybridization between the old established model of strong authoritarian rule based on a single-state party and a tendency to allow a multi-party electoral process. This turn toward democratization was of little impact when compared to the larger spectrum of global changes that brought authoritarian rule to an end in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, it generated a certain amount of stability and legitimacy that these regimes, especially those of Tunisia, Egypt and Syria used to improve their economic position via state-controlled economic liberalization. This move was instrumental for the regime in extending its basis of support from the old bureaucratic and military elites towards a new entrepreneurial and private sector that was made prime beneficiary of the privatization schemes.24 Thus far from ending their rule, most of these governments found new ways in adding to their arsenal of social control that already enlisted a wide range of institutions and policies. The most successful of them remained those associated with the surveillance and repression apparatus that was extremely efficient in controlling already deep ethnic and sectarian divisions.25 Apart from this, though other social actors continued to be excluded from the political and economic process their voice of discontent, if ever truly heard, was stifled using a method coined by the Yemeni scholar Abdul Nasser Al Muwaddah as “the sword and the gold.”26 Hardly refined over decades, it remained a reliable tool in keeping opposition voices at a minimum, apart from those that found their way into exile. At times, even religious zealots could count on it, when the regime considered that it would bolster its standing by transforming itself into an appendix of religious courts. The case of the Egyptian Professor Nasr Hamid Abu Zeid, forced into exile for his work on reinterpretation of Islamic thought, based on a new reading of Islamic fundamental texts involving a hermeneutical process that was shaped by social context and history, is not singular. A few years before Nasr Abu Zeid’s ordeal, in 1987, another scholar, Ahmed Mansour, up to his imprisonment an Al Azhar academic, shared the same faith of persecution and discrimination 24

See, Stephen J. King, The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009). 25 Jill Crystal, “Authoritarianism and Its Adversaries in the Arab World”, World Politics 46. 2 (January 1994): 262-265. 26 The Yemeni scholar Abdul Nasser Al Muwaddah is quoted in Lina Khatib’s article, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate Your People”, Jadaliyya, March 26, 2011, _20110331 (accessed March 2012).

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for his liberal views.27 In the interest of the argument it is not without purpose to remember that in 1926, the brilliant scholar of Arabic literature Taha Husain faced a milder fate losing only his teaching position at the Cairo University, as a result of his inflammatory book on the pre-Islamic poetry’s chronology.28 It is therefore clear that in all these countries both society and regime were changing and transforming themselves long before the Arab Spring, and in most cases not for the better. Although internally, support was fading and had to be negotiated with any group that might strengthen their position, even with Islamists if it served their purpose, externally, Middle Eastern autocrats were in high demand after 9/11. And indeed, the level of Western support they enjoyed was taken to such extent that, even after President Ben Ali was ousted from Tunisia, French president Sarkozy would still declare: “Behind the emancipation of women, the drive for education and training, the economic dynamism, the emergence of a middle class, there was a despair, a suffering, a sense of suffocation. We have to recognize that we underestimated it.”29 To say that the French diplomacy underestimated the force of the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, would be an understatement, as long as an offer to send French security forces in the aid of Ben Ali was made by the French foreign minister just three days prior to him leaving the country.30 On the other hand it was not only the French government that was showing reluctance and restrain in supporting or at least encouraging the wave of civil unrest that was spreading across the region from Maghreb. In their quest for “stability” and of course fearing “Islamist alternative” the


Robert Fisk: “After the Arab Spring, an Islamic Awakening?,” The Independent (27 April, 2012), (accessed June 2012). 28 Charles C. Adams, Islamic Modernism in Egypt. A Study of the Modern Reform Movement Inaugurated by Mu‫ۊ‬ammad `Abduh (New York: Russell&Russell, 1968), 244-260. 29 Angelique Chrisafis, “Sarkozy admits France made mistakes over Tunisia”, The Guardian (24 January, 2011), (accessed June 2012) 30 Ian Traynor and Kim Willsher, “Tunisian protests have caught Nicolas Sarkozy off guard, say opposition”, The Guardian (17 January, 2011), (accessed June 2012).


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

Western governments accepted to promote and foster ties with the benevolent dictators of the Middle East.31 Out of this equation what was left out were the people themselves. Its coming to the stage needs to be understood in terms of a major societal breakthrough revolving around a number of well-articulated and nevertheless potent social coagulants. In demanding a democratic form of government, social justice and dignity, the heterogeneous masses that made up the great bulge of protesters expressed a social consensus of a rarely achieved scale.32 In order to describe this consensus it is of great help to make use of a concept drawn from Bjorn Wittrock’s cultural definition of modernity, namely what he calls “promissory notes.” In his perspective the ‘promissory notes’ that a society comes to manifest at one time or another lay at the basis of the institutional project of modernity. Under such auspices “promissory notes” represent a cluster of desiderata and hopes of a society which are well articulated, supported by powerful values, in which both individual and community consider themselves free and entitled to decide and manifest their will on “the proper forms of polity and social belonging.” Though common and embodied by any form of polity, in what we have come to call modernity, promissory notes find their truest expression in the “public spheres.”33 For that matter, the public spheres that the Arab Spring brought into existence after what appeared to be a long social lethargy subjected the social and political status-quo to an inexorable antithesis with their own envisioned forms of polity and social belonging. And this is mostly proven by the fact that, apart from other slogans that quickly infested the discursive metaphors employed during protests, in the end it was “the people” who wanted to “bring down the regime.”34 It is of importance to state here that the events of the year 2011 were not a singular moment in the history of Muslim societies. In the last century, a number of revolutionary movements came close to what the 31

Justin D. Martin, “Tunisia and the myth of the ‘benevolent dictator’”, The Jerusalem Post (01/17/2011), /Article.aspx?id=204044 (accessed June 2012). 32 Asef Bayat, “Arab Revolutions and the Study of Middle Eastern Societies”, International Journal of Middle East Studies 43, (2011): 386. 33 Bjorn Wittrock, “Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition,” Daedalus 129. 1 (Winter 2000): 31-38. 34 Chad Spindel, “The People Want to Topple the Regime: Exploring the Arab Spring in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan” SAGE Open 1-7, 11 November, 2011, (accessed May 2012).

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Arab Spring managed to express in terms of modern social reflexes. As historian Jack A. Goldstone suggested, the Arab Spring may not show much resemblance to other major revolutionary moments like those described by the year 1848 or 1989, the great difference being singled out not only by historical context but especially by the different nature of the focus of social discontent. It was not a traditional monarchy or a communist government that came to an abrupt end during the spring of 2011, but the regimes established by “modern sultans.”35 While European experiences, Western or Eastern, seem unable to provide a clear crosstemporal pattern for comparison, Islamic history has had its fair share of revolutions against modern sultans, or in another more appropriate formulation “modernizing sultans.” Those that easily stand out are to a certain extend separated by a clear temporal rift, though in their manifestation and level of social involvement remain very similar with current events. Indeed, the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 19061909,36 as well as the Young Turk Revolution of 190937 took place in a different espace culturel than that geographically ascribed to the Arab world, but their impact was felt nevertheless. Both marked a level of social involvement and commitment which bears significant similarities to the Arab Spring. Both were directed against modernizing autocrats, and both managed to ensure a wide social and nevertheless ethnical and religious compromise in fulfilling a modern political objective. In the case of the Persian Revolution, the consensus was mostly social while the Turkish precedent involved a more prominent military presence. Their later evolution was disappointing due mostly to the fact that their modern liberal political objectives were far too advanced for their time. The international context also played an important role if we are only to consider that foreign intervention was responsible for their failure. There is also another connection that is indicated by these two revolutions and can be useful in understanding at least one facet of the Arab Spring. This lies in the fact that at one time or another any modernizing project that is


Jack A. Goldstone, “Understanding the Revolutions of 2011, Weakness and Resilience in Middle Eastern Autocracies”, Foreign Affairs 3 (May/June 2011): 816, (accessed May 2012). 36 See, Edward G. Browne, The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910). 37 See, E. F. Knight, Turkey, The Awakening of Turkey. The Turkish Revolution of 1908 (Boston: J. B. Millet Company, 1910); Charles Roden Buxton, Turkey in Revolution (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909).


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

imposed from above upon a society, be it in an Islamic context or not, is bound to bring that society to the threshold of revolt or revolution.

A brave new Arab world? It is therefore clear that the Arab Spring is the result of a long evolution by which a number of Middle Eastern societies managed to bypass the authoritarian regimes strong hold on public discourse. If we define politics as a symbolmaker, “a struggle over people’s imaginations, a competition over the meaning of symbols”, as Dale F. Eickelman suggests,38 we are struck by the fact that the protesters were always one step ahead of the authorities in defining the agenda and aims of this struggle. In all its forms the basis on which this struggle was being carried out was in the least alien from what the Arab governments were used to dealing with in the past decades. And it is most likely that in this novelty we can identify their blunt ineffectiveness in putting down the revolts. In the spring of 2011, the main challenge came not from an Islamist organization, or from a disgruntled section of the security apparatus, not even from disparate advocates of human rights, but rather from a unified civil sphere that emerged in the streets of large cities, and would not abandon their claims, irrespective of the means employed to disperse them. To understand the cohesion and depth of such claims, it might be of use to take as a reference the fact that already in 2006, a Gallup poll which surveyed 10 Muslim countries, representing almost 80% of the world Muslim population, found that predominant sections of these societies expound a desire towards democratization, while also seeing Islam and democracy as being able to merge into one functional political structure.39 Therefore, sooner or later, these desiderata were bound to find their expression in a program aimed at contesting the current state of affairs. And indeed, the level of contestation was to such a degree that even feeble attempts at handing down the power to the heir-apparent could not bring protests to a halt. Had such a move been accepted, it would have signaled a certain routinization of leadership and most likely a renewed process of elite and powerbase stabilization in which the new leader, be it Gamal Mubarak, Saif Gaddafi or Ahmed Saleh, would have sacrificed any democratic or reformist agenda he might 38

Dale F. Eickelman, “Islam and the languages of modernity”, Daedalus 129.1 (Winter 2000). 39 Dalia Mogahed, “Islam and Democracy”, Special Report: Muslim World, Gallup Inc., 2006, mandDemocracy030607rev.pdf (accessed May 2012).

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have begun with in order to solidify his rule. As battle rages on in Syria, the only regime that made a successful transition from father to heir seems to find itself facing its greatest test yet. In the eventuality that the Assad “dynasty” loses its grip on the country, then the heir apparent tactic can be categorized as being more painful for a society than the simple overthrowing of an aging autocrat. 40 At this point, a major development which needs to be explored regards the extent to which new forms of social media have become instrumental in overpowering state monopoly on public political discourse. Such a step is required by the fact that, up to this point, we have conceptualized the Arab Spring as an event ushered by the advent of public spheres in which institutionalized forms of political and social behavior have become contested and later replaced by a new discourse focused on a number of issues that were antithetic to the continuous existence of authoritarianism. To some observers, social media was directly responsible for the escalation of the wave of discontent that spread from Tunisia, to such a degree that the Arab Spring became almost synonymous with a media revolution.41 In breaking state monopoly on public political discourse, the only tool that the protesters seemed to have had on their side was the force of the Internet. They mastered the freedom provided by the virtual space to a higher degree than any other form of censure that the state authorities were capable of enforcing. In any case such a perspective is not only misleading but also one-dimensional. Its precarity stems from what Christian Fuchs42 calls the fetishist valence that technology is endowed with, especially when assessing its impact on human societies. In this case it was the new social media which assumed such a role, and more specifically the way it was portrayed by mainstream media channels as one of the sole determinants of the Arab Spring. Depending on where civil unrest takes place and the role that social media plays in the context, we are presented with the two sides of the techno-deterministic ideological coin. On the one hand, if a revolt or a revolution, connected or supported 40 See also, Daniel L. Byman, “The Implications of Leadership Change in the Arab World,” Political Science Quarterly 120.1 (Spring, 2005): 59-83. 41 Philip N. Howard et al., eds., “Opening Closed Regimes What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring?,” (Study conducted by the Project on Information Technology & Political Islam at the University of Washington's Department of Communication), Working paper, (2011): 1-30, 20During%20the%20Arab%20Spring.pdf (accessed June 2012). 42 Christian Fuchs, “Behind the News. Social media, riots and revolutions,” Capital & Class 36. 3 (2012): 383–391.


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by new technologies based on new social media tools, takes place in an authoritarian political environment, most of observers seem to point out the utopic side of social media. On the other hand, if the same level of civil unrest is recorded in a democratic setting, say for example the 2010 London riots, the impact of the same means of mass communication is evaluated in a techno-pessimistic manner.43 Paradoxically, in the case of Arab Spring the main role in strengthening the ties connecting civil spheres did not fall on the new “social media”, though its initial contribution is indisputable, but rather on the traditional media outlets, in particular television. As Wadah Khanfar, the former director of Al Jazeera Network stated in an interview with Jane Kinninmont, Senior Research Fellow at Chattam House, during the Arab Spring a remarkable symbiotic relationship evolved between new social media and traditional media, in which the former complemented the latter when news coverage was made impossible by government restrictions in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya.44 By using media content provided by protestors, bloggers and other social actors, the satellite TV stations located outside the main areas of revolt, especially Al Jazeera, and indeed to some extent Al Arabiya, managed to establish themselves as the credible providers of media content in the frontline of events. Following political calculations45 or simply engaging in one of the most brilliantly coordinated journalistic campaigns, these two TV networks steered the course of Arab Spring and kept its momentum going. Overall, traditional media benefited extensively from the social media output, and in return added a slight touch of credibility to its already flourishing mythology. The great absentee from the Arab Spring was not Islam but rather the Islamist parties or movements. Their later coming to the stage is not surprising but rather an effect of the political freedom brought by the demise of the authoritarian regimes. What resembled an apparent silence during the protests was quickly countered by an enhanced visibility in the 43

Fuchs, “Behind the News…”, 383-385. Wadah Khanfar and Jane Kinninmont, “Al Jazeera and the Arab Spring: an interview with Wadah Khanfar (Director General, Al Jazeera network (2003-2011) conducted by Jane Kinninmont (Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House) at Chatham House on 19 January, 2012”, transcript available at: scripts/190112khanfar.pdf (accessed July 2012). 45 Ahmed E. Souaiaia, “Qatar, Al Jazeera, and the Arab Spring”, Monthly Review (17.11.2011), (accessed May 2012). 44

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political arena in the aftermath of the revolts.46 While it is almost certain that their march to power will not be stopped as in the past by military cues, in the long term it is expected that their policies if not ideology will be subjected to a process of pragmatic political responsabilization. Any attempt at challenging such an argument needs to take into consideration that while some Arab societies got rid of their authoritarian rulers, the underlying economic and social problems of these societies remain to be tackled in the near future. Irrespective of their ideological background, be it Islamist or democratic, the ruling parties or coalitions will be confronted on the long term with the same “recipe for revolution”47 that ultimately ignited the Arab Spring. In this case, any attempt at buying up large sections of the society in order to ensure stability using the old scheme of state subsidies programs or the same formula employed by their authoritarian predecessors will only delay a new wave of protest and possibly, revolts.

Conclusions In a number of ways the Arab Spring brings to the Middle East what the First World War brought almost a century ago. In calling it an Awakening, for it bears nevertheless such a tone, one might feel the need to put some distance from what may appear as falling into orientalist duplicity. When it comes to terminology, the connection between the Arab Spring and the Arab Awakening of the Great War, so eloquently described by George Antonius, is intended. Pivoting between the coagulation of Arab nationalism and the unfortunate Hashemite family political adventure, the Lebanese historian’s book follows another, more significant and unifying theme. And that mostly revolves around the great opportunities that the end of the Ottoman domination brought to the region, something that the Arab Spring seems to bring now, by concluding the rule of autocrats. On the other hand, as it is sometimes the case, great expectations are at times followed by great disappointment, and most of the countries in the Middle East know this only too well. Nevertheless, unlike the Great War, or the ones that followed, the year 2011 marks a sharp departure from a legacy that was considered to be at the base of the region’s exceptionalism. The 46

Daniel Steinvorth, “Islamist vs. Secularists. The Post-Revolution Struggle for the Arab Soul,” Spiegel Online International, December 04, 2012, (accessed June 2012). 47 Alanoud Al Sharekh, “Reform and Rebirth in the Middle East,” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 53. 2 (2011): 52.


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

end of the long standing dictators was not the result of outside military intervention, of local military coups, or of intra-elite power struggles, but that of the actions of ordinary people, coming from all walks of life, men and women, Muslims and Christians determined to stand for change and dignity. While the path that most of these countries take now is not an easy one, if we are only to take a glimpse at the Eastern European countries that shacked the communist regimes in 1989, indeed their future will bear little resemblance to their past. And here we can probably identify a number of elements that will define this, as well as the process of reaching any sort of stable political arrangement. In any case, the most important of them, as well as the most unstable has to do with the future behavior of the urban young generation that has already played an immense role in the uprisings. If their desire for change is not met by the new elected legislatures, their appetite for protest will rise again. Through restating of already successful political aspirations and slogans, these groups are sure to find a large support both internally and throughout the region. Educated, internet savvy and completely attuned with the desires of their generation worldwide, they will pose a major threat to any political authority unwilling to take major steps towards democratization and economic prosperity. A second issue has to do with the international and regional context, which in any case has not improved significantly in the last decades. And while most of these countries express certain reluctance in dealing with Western powers, their recent history providing enough reasons, it is precisely the local actors that pose the biggest danger to their stability. Regional power games involving rising stars like Turkey or Iran will probably play an important role in the final outcome, adding to recurrent problems derived from latent or ongoing conflicts. At one point or another, a choice will have to be made between the economically successful, and still largely secular model, that Turkey brings forth and that of the uncompromising Iranian Islamic Republic. Then again, any choice expressed via democratic processes, Islamist or secular will enjoy for a while the support of some important parts of the society, while discontent and revolt will continue to represent a gloomy alternative in the eventuality that living standards continue to plummet. The third issue is connected with the role that elites, be they military, tribal or economic, will play in the future power algorithm. Their desire for maintaining influence must not be underestimated, and it is possible that, amid renewed waves of protest, the old power base that supported one or another autocrat might again influence or even try to monopolize the political process. To some extent, such a move will not be completely without benefits if only it managed to ensure a higher degree of stability

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necessary for implementing reforms. On the other hand, while stability, a word dear to all dictators, is necessary and desirable, any move coming from the old powerbase will seem suspicious and deemed to fail, unless enforced with extreme coercion. The full extent of changes that will ultimately define the Arab Spring is difficult if not impossible to be assessed. As of this writing Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have managed a mostly peaceful transition, while Libya has descended into a civil war that ultimately gave the international media the cruel display of another Ceau‫܈‬escu style execution. Syria continues to be thorn apart by a large scale conflict in which the pro-Assad forces are engaging an increasingly professionalized military force. The resilience of the regime is to be appreciated, especially when contrasted with its diplomatic and military setbacks. Nevertheless, discontent reverberates across the region and it is has become a daily reality in most monarchic regimes that not so long ago were considered the cornerstone of the region’s stability. Most of the Arab monarchs have managed to stay afloat amid the storm, either by cracking down on revolts or by sacrificing their cabinets while reluctantly advancing a number of reforms. Apart from Syria, Bahrain appears to be next piece to fall in the domino deck, up to now being saved only by the hasty security intervention of its neighbors. In the long term these solutions, endorsed in some cases by a considerable increase of state subsidies, will be exhausted by the impressive range of problems still left unresolved. Future waves of protest that are sure to sweep the region, are, at this point, only a matter of timing and conjunction of coherent conditions to set them in motion. Only this time the level of social engagement will be much higher and will most likely surpass the events of 2011. Thus, by routinizing protest, the Arab Spring gave one final “gift” to future governments or leaders attracted by the idea of authoritarianism. In the eventuality that new or old regimes fail to deliver on their promises, an outcome that unfortunately is to be expected, a new set of promissory notes will soon become very desirable and appealing to those parts of the society that have already been instrumental in delivering change.

Acknowledgements This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-IDPCE-2011-3-0481.


What Went Right? Islam, Modernity and the Arab Spring

References Adams, C. Charles. Islamic Modernism in Egypt. A Study of the Modern Reform Movement Inaugurated by Mu‫ۊ‬ammad `Abduh. New York: Russell&Russell, 1968. Anderson, Lisa. “Demystifying the Arab Spring Parsing the Differences Between Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.” Foreign Affairs 90.3 (May/June 2011): 2-7. Antonius, George. The Arab Awakening. The Story of the Arab National Movement. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1955. Ashcroft, Bill. “Alternative Modernities: Globalization and the PostColonial.” ARIEL: A Review Of International English Literature 40. 1 (2009): 81-105, 81 (accessed June 2012). Barbier, Maurice. La modernité politique. Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 2000. Bayat, Asef. “Arab Revolutions and the Study of Middle Eastern Societies.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 (2011): 386-386. Bellin, Eva. “The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective.” Comparative Politics 36. 2 (January 2004): 139-157. Brown, L. Carl. Religion and State. The Muslim Approach to Politics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Browne, G. Edward. The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. Bulliet, W. Richard. “Neo-Mamluk Legitimacy and the Arab Spring.” Middle East Law and Governance 3 (2011): 60–67. Burgat, François. “Veils and Obscuring Lenses.” In Modernizing Islam, Religion and the Public Sphere in Europe and the Middle East, edited by John L. Esposito and François Burgat, 17-41. London: Hurst&Company, 2003. Buxton, Roden Charles. Turkey in Revolution. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909. Byman L. Daniel. “The Implications of Leadership Change in the Arab World.” Political Science Quarterly 120.1 (Spring 2005): 59-83. Carter, Jimmy. “Tehran, Iran Toasts of the President and the Shah at a State Dinner,” December 31, 1977. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. (accessed June 2012).

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Chrisafis, Angelique. “Sarkozy admits France made mistakes over Tunisia.” The Guardian, 24 January, 2011. (accessed June 2012). Crystal, Jill. “Authoritarianism and Its Adversaries in the Arab World.” World Politics 46 2 (January 1994): 262-289. Eickelman, F. Dale. “Islam and the languages of modernity.” Daedalus 129.1 (Winter 2000): 119-135. Fisk, Robert. “After the Arab Spring, an Islamic Awakening?.” The Independent (April 27, 2012). (accessed June 2012). Fuchs, Christian. “Behind the News. Social media, riots and revolutions.” Capital & Class 36. 3 (2012): 383–391. Goldstone, A. Jack. “Understanding the Revolutions of 2011, Weakness and Resilience in Middle Eastern Autocracies.” Foreign Affairs 3 (May/June 2011): 8-16. understanding-the-revolutions-of-2011 (accessed May 2012). Howard, N. Philip, Aiden Duffy, Deen Freelon, Muzammil Hussain, Will Mari, Marwa Mazaid (eds.) “Opening Closed Regimes What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring?.” Study conducted by the Project on Information Technology & Political Islam at the University of Washington's Department of Communication, Working paper, (2011): 1-30. %20Media%20During%20the%20Arab%20Spring.pdf (accessed June 2012). Hunter, T. Shireen. “Introduction.” In Modernization, Democracy, and Islam, ed. Shireen T. Hunter and Huma Malik, 1-18. (Published in cooperation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D. C.) Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2005. Huntington, P. Samuel. “Democracy’s Third Wave.” Journal of Democracy 2 (1991): 12–34. —. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon&Schuster, 1996. Khanfar, Wadah and Jane Kinninmont. “Al Jazeera and the Arab Spring: an interview with Wadah Khanfar, Director General, Al Jazeera network (2003-2011) conducted by Jane Kinninmont (Senior Research


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Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House) at Chatham House on 19 January, 2012.” ng%20Transcripts/190112khanfar.pdf (accessed July 2012). Kedourie, Elie. Democracy and Arab Political Culture. London: Frank Cass, 1994. Khatib, Lina. “How to Lose Friends and Alienate Your People.” Jadaliyya, March 26, 2011. eople_20110331 (accessed March 2012). King, J. Stephen. The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. Knight, E. F. Turkey, The Awakening of Turkey. The Turkish Revolution of 1908. Boston: J. B. Millet Company, 1910. Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Martin, D. Justin. “Tunisia and the myth of the ‘benevolent dictator’.” The Jerusalem Post, 01/17/2011. (accessed June 2012). Masud, Khalid Muhammad and Armando Salvatore. “Western Scholars of Islam on the Issue of Modernity.” In Islam and Modernity Key Issues and Debates, eds. Muhammad Khalid Masud, Armando Salvatore and Martin van Bruinessen, 36-53. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. Mazrui, A. Ali, and Nirvana Tanoukhi. “Arab Spring and the Future of Leadership in North Africa: an interview with Ali A. Mazrui conducted by Nirvana Tanoukhi July, 2011.” Transition 106.1 (2011): 148-162. Miquel, André. L'Islam et sa civilisation: VIIle–XXe siècle. Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1968. Mogahed, Dalia. “Islam and Democracy.” Special Report: Muslim World, Gallup Inc., 2006. IMSTUDIESIslamandDemocracy030607rev.pdf (accessed May 2012). Pipes, Daniel. In the Path of God, Islam and Political Power. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2003. Robinson, E. Glenn. “Palestine After Arafat.” The Washington Quarterly 23. 4 (Autumn 2000): 77-90. Sadiki, Larbi. “The Bouazizi 'big bang'.”, Al Jazeera, December 29, 2011. 0692.html (accessed May 2012). Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979.

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Sharekh, Al Alanoud. “Reform and Rebirth in the Middle East.” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 53. 2 (2011): 51-60. Souaiaia E. Ahmed. “Qatar, Al Jazeera, and the Arab Spring.” Monthly Review (17. 11. 2011). (accessed May 2012). Spindel, Chad. “The People Want to Topple the Regime: Exploring the Arab Spring in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.” SAGE Open (11 November 2011): 1-7. (accessed May 2012). Steinvorth, Daniel. “Islamist vs. Secularists. The Post-Revolution Struggle for the Arab Soul.” Spiegel Online International, December 04, 2012. (accessed June 2012). Traynor, Ian and Kim Willsher. “Tunisian protests have caught Nicolas Sarkozy off guard, say opposition.” The Guardian, 17 January, 2011. (accessed June 2012). Wilson, Samuel Graham. Modern Movements among Moslems. London: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1916. Wittrock, Bjorn. “Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition.” Daedalus 129.1 (Winter 2000): 3160. Yinger, J. Milton and Mark N. Katz. “Revolution: Refining its Defining.” International Journal of Group Tensions 30.4 (Winter 2001): 349-367. Yoder, Dale. “Current Definitions of Revolution.” American Journal of Sociology 32.3 (November 1926): 433-441. Young, Crawford. “Ideas of progress in the Third World Progress and Its Discontents.” In Progress and its Discontents, eds. Gabriel A. Almond, Marvin Chodorow & Roy Harvey Pearce, 83-104. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982. Zartman, I. William. “Democracy and Islam: The Cultural Dialectic.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 524 (November 1992): 181-191.


The question of global ethics and human rights in relation to religious belief and practice has become increasingly poignant in recent times, where mediatized clashes have sometimes been expressed, in a willfully simplistic manner, as “religion versus democracy.” At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a wide spectrum of understandings insinuates nuances that stretch from attempting to integrate religion and democracy to the attempt to completely separate them.2 It is our overall perception that religion is at best tolerated by democracy, if not simply portrayed as an enemy of human rights. Karl Marx was among the first to help set the tone for regarding religion as an opiate of the people, and many communist countries were active about religion as an unnecessary placebo, a quasi-dangerous human invention or a tool of manipulating the masses that would “wither away eventually.”3 However, an observed change is to consider religion as a cause of hostilities. This attitude not only misrepresents the history of the religious life of humankind, it is also an impediment in accessing the rich positive resources for freedom, equality and fraternity that the Judeo-Christian tradition has to offer. We believe that, despite the negative image the media sheds on religion in general, and consequently on Christianity as well, and despite occasional reactionary acts carried out in the name of religion, sincere religious perspective has done much to alleviate the call to war. 1 We would like to express our gratitude towards Simona Sav, whose invaluable contribution helped bring the article to its present form. 2 See Jeffrey W. Robbins, Radical Democracy and Political Theology (Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2011). 3 See Miroslav Volf, “A Voice of One’s Own : Public Faith in a Pluralistic World”, in Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism, ed. Thomas Banchoff (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

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The aim of this article is to identify and reclaim a number of JudeoChristian elements that have indirectly contributed to the development of modern democracy, especially in the Western European and North American contexts. We are conscious of the difficulties of such a particularly sensitive task, therefore the first section is dedicated to an exploration of the terms modern democracy, indirect influence and doctrine for the purposes of steering clear of the sins of exaggeration, reductionism and inaccuracy. A number of biblical references that exemplify essential Judeo-Christian understandings of freedom, equality and solidarity, etc. will follow a necessary summary of previous approaches to this topic. The same structural pattern is adopted in our discussion of Judeo-Christian elements that pre-date and could sustain human rights: after a delimitation of pre-existing opinions, we will take a closer look at explicit references concerning the rights of all humans in general, and the special cases of women, slaves and foreigners both in the Mosaic Law and also in the New Testament understandings.

Preliminary assumptions The term “democracy” is of Greek provenance, and many scholars relate the term to the Athenian4 organization of the polis. Without insisting on its etymology, we have to admit that the locution “people rule” (demos, people; kratos, power or rule) is overly used and abused. Starting with the original meaning of the term, American President Lincoln, in his address at Gettysburg in 1863, defined democracy as the “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”5 All the same, a question that begs an answer is “in fact, did people ever govern in ancient times?” Did people govern, for instance, in Pericles’ Athens? The idealized description of the Athenian democracy, made by Pericles in the funeral discourse held with the occasion of the burial of several heroic generals who had died in the battle of Salamis, depicted a type of political regime that, as Thucydides noted in the History of the Peloponnesian War, was led not by few but by many citizens. Setting aside that ideal picture sketched by Pericles, the realities of the Athenian, ancient democracy beg the question: “In fact, who was this people that had 4

According to Eric W. Robinson, although Athenian democracy was the most famous example, it was by no means the only one in ancient Greece. See Robinson, The First Democracies – Early Popular Government Outside Athens (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997). 5 A nuanced analysis of that definition can be found in Giovanni Sartori, Teoria democratiei reinterpretata (Ia‫܈‬i: Polirom, 1999), 55-56.


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

the power to rule?” Historical records seem to indicate there were around half a million people living in Athens at that time. However, seeing as women, slaves and foreigners were a priori excluded from the decisions of public life, the citizenship status, which translated to the right to participate in the civic and public life, was held by approximately forty thousand people, which constitutes less than 10% of the total population. Out of those 40,000 citizens,6 barely five or six thousand people were actively involved in the making decisions, since the rural population was rarely present in the agora, despite the fact that they held on to their Athenian citizenship. Therefore, in other words, only about 1% of the Athenian inhabitants were actively involved in the public affairs counsel. This was the Greek demos. Regarding the effective exercise of power, the ruler of the city had the final word. It is true that there was the possibility of ostracism for different kinds of power abuses, but that did not represent a viable solution. Pericles himself, whom the European tradition perceived as the most notable exponent of Greek democracy, was subjected to such practice. As a result of recent archeological excavations at Acropolis, American researchers discovered several tablets that recorded a number of cases where Pericles was ostracized because of abuse in power. This leads us to conclude that the Greek leader was simply a more thoroughbred, enlightened tyrant. Thus, we can affirm, as Hegel pointed out, that democracy was a rare flower in the Greek cities, most of which were ruled by either oligarchic or tyrannical regimes or by a mixture of the two. Ancient Athenian direct, unmediated, participative democracy may have been among the first to display the attempt to empower the people in the name of freedom and equality (though subjected to a natural order that excluded a great portion of the population7); yet modern, Western, representative democracy is not built exclusively on that particular model. In many discussions, the term “democracy” is used quite loosely to mean anything from a society that values freedom, tolerance or human rights, to a constitutional state governed by the rule of law, from an egalitarian society that rejects medieval hierarchies, to a reductionist fashion of constructing “modern” society. Most definitions present 6

Sue Blundell states: “It is estimated that there may have been as many as 100,000 slaves in Athens by 431 BC, while the adult male citizen population may have been around 40,000.” See Blundell, Women in Ancient Greece (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 96. 7 See Johannes A. van der Ven, “Religious Freedom - Challenge for the Church” in Christianity and Human Rights – Christians and the Struggle for Global Justice, ed. Frederic M. Shepherd (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2009).

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democracy as a type of political regime, as an assembly of institutions and formal regulations: multiparty political organizations, popular election of political rulers, universal voter franchise, right to association, establishment of parliament, empowered opposition, etc. Both Greek and Roman understanding of citizenship and its inherent entitlements, of equality and of freedom played a part in inspiring the formation of the modern democracy. In fact, the entire civilization, culture and history of Europe were profoundly shaped by the Greco-Roman legacy. To these two, we need to add the role played by the Judeo-Christian perspective. Were we to use a metaphor, we could say that Europe is founded on three hills: the Acropolis, the Capitol and Golgotha.8 Is this fact, however, sufficient for making a direct connection between the Judeo-Christian perspective and modern democracy? If we were to refer to democracy only as a type of political regime, it would be indeed difficult to make such a claim. However, in its complex sense, democracy does not stop at a certain number of policies; democracy it is a philosophy of life, a lifestyle, a moral-political value, and a mentality. In this respect, it hinges on a series of non-political factors: spiritual, anthropological, cultural, social, moral, economic, psychological, etc. Also, in this complex equation an important role is played by the manner in which people approach spiritual reality, divinity, comprehension of human ontology, freedom, equality, human rights, good and evil, work, nature, etc. Therefore, when we set out in this article to discuss the indirect influence of the Judeo-Christian perspective, we mean to operate with the broader definition of modern democracy that includes the intricate network of meaning that Christianity and its Judaism helped shape in the Western European and Northern American contexts. Without being a political ideology or a political doctrine, the prevalent religion of Europe, Christianity, with its Judaic roots, as well as other complex factors already mentioned, contributed to the formation of a culture that was fecund for the birth of modern democracy. A final clarification point concerns the use of the term “doctrine”, which we feel obliged to define in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. Although there are many alternative definitions, the one we will be employing envisions the Judaic and the Christian perspective in an approach that bypasses ulterior traditions in favour of a return to the biblical text. Thus, a number of scriptural references will be provided in 8

Indeed, one would have a hard time imagining what Europe would have been like without the Greek philosophy, the Roman civil law and the Decalogue, although such speculative meanderings of the imagination have been attempted.


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

order to sustain and exemplify our arguments. .

Judeo-Christian doctrines and democracy Judeo-Christian doctrines did not invent modern or ancient democracy; as a matter of fact, we can perceive the absence of any explicit mention of the term in the Bible. This is in stark contrast with the word “law”, for instance, which is mentioned more than five hundred times (541 times to be precise), or the word “peace” that appears 148 times. The only political regimes mentioned in the Bible are theocracy and monarchy in their respective historical contexts, from the Pharaonic period to the time of the Roman Empire. The book of First Samuel describes the transition of the Hebrew people from theocracy to monarchy while the historical and the prophetical books of the Bible offer numerous depictions of the Israeli kings, before and after the nation was split into the Southern Kingdom and the Northern Kingdom, during King Rehoboam’s rule. Similarly, the New Testament does not include explicit references to democracy or human rights, and, indeed, it talks very little about the political sphere at all, despite the occasional Pauline exhortation to obey the “principalities” or “authorities” of the day. This has led to a certain ambiguity concerning the interaction between religion and politics. On the one hand, there are authors, such as Miguel de Unamuno, who argue that there is no legitimate connection between politics and Christianity or between Christianity and democracy. Unamuno considered that Jesus was not interested in politics, economics, democracy or patriotism as his goal was to preach the Kingdom of God that is not of this world. Concerning this “invention” called Christian democracy, the Spanish scholar considered that the concept was similar to that of “blue chemistry”,9 to which he alluded in his essay, The Agony of Christianity. In this work, he argues that democracy, civil freedom or dictatorship have nothing to do with Christianity, as “Christianity is a-political.”10 On the other hand, other scholars interpret this ambiguity differently, considering that Christianity and politics have not always and should not be completely separated. In fact, some would go as far as to claim that democracy and human rights are evangelical in their essence and inspiration. Among them, we mention Alexis de Tocqueville, philosophers Henri Bergson and Jacques Maritain, or politicians like the U.S. president 9

See Miguel de Unamuno, The Agony of Christianity (New York: Princeton University Press, 1984). 10 Unamuno, Agony, 87.

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Theodore Roosevelt, Vice-President Henry A. Wallace, and Robert Schuman, French foreign affairs minister and the architect of the postWorld War II European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor of the current EU. Tocqueville dedicated three chapters of his book Democracy in America to the role Christian religion had played in the development of the American democracy.11 Paraphrasing him, we could say that Americans superposed Christianity and freedom so completely that it was almost impossible to persuade them that those are separate concepts.12 He noted that democracy is equality of political rights and equality before the law. Society endeavors to set up the institutions which would allow and help the poor overcome the low condition in which they find themselves. In a sentence, democracy means liberty combined with equality.13 Tocqueville operated with this definition, and saluted Christianity’s role in setting these values. Despite the demand for a passive obedience in the matter of dogma, Tocqueville saw Christianity as the most favorable to liberty among all religious doctrines, because it addressed only the spirit and the heart of those who want to submit to it. Tocqueville also called Christianity the most favorable to equality, as only the religion of Jesus Christ considered that mankind’s greatness, which can be attained by everyone, resided in fulfilling its obligations, the only religion prepared to accept poverty and unhappiness as an almost divine fact of life. Historian Samuel P. Huntington believed that “the American systems or government rests on a religious base”,14 while philosopher Henri Bergson considered that democracy is of evangelical essence, its engine being love. In his view, Christianity alone proclaims the duty and responsibility of a human being toward another fellow human. He agrees that, even before Christ’s teaching, there were others who hailed the precept of “love your neighbour” but, in their case, they were thinking of 11

It makes for a complex issue of research, as Marie Ann Eisenstein notes: “Thomas Jefferson defined the relationship between American politics and religion as one of absolute separation between church and state. Not only did he famously call for a high ‫ދ‬wall’ between the two, but the Supreme Court repeatedly has applied his ‫ދ‬wall of separation’ in its interpretation of church-state relations.” See Eisenstein, Religion and the Politics of Tolerance – How Christianity Builds Democracy (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008), 6. 12 See Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). 13 See Marcel Prélot and Georges Lescuyer’s work, Histoire des idees politiques (Paris: Dalloz, 1994). 14 See Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (New York: Simon& Schuster, 2004), 104.


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

people of the same nation, tribe, family; only Christianity saw in the term “neighbour” any human being that must be loved equally. In the same line of thought, Jacques Maritain asserted that the democratic spirit of the state and democratic philosophy were formed under the “evangelical ferment.”15 Furthermore, we don’t want to forget Robert Schuman, who played a vital role in the development of the European Community. He believed that people are called to follow the Christian basics of Europe by forming a democratic model of governance which through reconciliation develops into a community of nations living in freedom, equality, solidarity and peace, a community which is deeply rooted in Christian basic values. Whether people situate themselves at one of these two extremes or try to negotiate a middle ground position can often be summed up as the attempt to make heads or tails of the difference between theory and practice, in other words, between church doctrine and church history. In practice, the failure on the part of the Protestant Church in Germany to disentangle itself from Nazi influence and the somewhat ambiguous attitude of the Roman Catholic Church during the Second World War are just more events on a long list of “sins” against humanity, perpetrated in the name of religious purity or in the name of God. In theory, Christianity is represented not only by the Golden Rule but also by human dignity, fraternity, justice and, above all these, the unconditional agape love that the Apostle Paul described as love that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”16 From a doctrinal point of view, Judeo-Christian perspectives incorporate principles that could be conducive to the formation of a democratic culture. A perspective on limited political power for the rulers - Friedrich A. Hayek in his trilogy Law, Legislation and Liberty contends for the importance of limited political power: “The effective limitation of power is the most important problem of social order. Government is indispensable for the formation of such an order only to protect all against coercion and violence from others. But as soon as, to


See Jacques Maritain, Christianity and Democracy (North Stratford: Ayer Publishing House, 1972), 15. 16 The biblical reference can be found in 1 Corinthians 13: 7. For this present paper, we are using the New International Version Bible, and therefore, all our quotes will rely on the NIV translation, unless we specifically state the use of another version.

Vasile Boari and Aurel Abrudan


achieve this, government successfully claims the monopoly of coercion and violence, it becomes also the chief threat to individual freedom.”17

An unlimited democracy undermines its own foundations. In Christian doctrine, power is limited by the fact that it is God who bestows it. God gives power and authority to act to various people, but this power does not translate into a license to do anything they want. The received authority is within limits, as clearly stated in Romans 13: 4-5: “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” God is seen to bestow political power for clear purposes, for example in order to have somebody responsible and accountable for the welfare of the members of a community and also in order to punish possible wrongdoers. Saint Augustine observed this paradox of political power that comes from God (Omnis potestas a Deo), but is carried out by people. Christianity limits the power by considering the one who exercise it to be “God’s servant.” Therefore, the first level of power limitation is the respect for God and his will. A man who fears God will not make abusive use of his power, but will actively attempt to apply God's redemptive, just principles and commandments in all the actions undertaken. This deep-rooted idea that power to rule comes from God and it is He who legitimates and controls it was embraced by Hebrew culture of the Old Testament times. Any excessive exercise of power was punished sooner or later, in one way or another. Even King David, who was called “a man after God’s heart” was confronted and submitted to punishment because of his abuse of power in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah,18 incident narrated in 2 Samuel 11. If we take a closer look at the Hebrew political system, we glimpse an analogy, albeit imperfect, with vital democratic characteristic19 of separation 17 Friedrich A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 3, The Political Order of a Free People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 128. 18 In the biblical narrative, David falls in love with Bathsheba, the young, beautiful wife of Uriah who was, at the time of the romance and adultery, engaged in the military service. As the last possible resort, David sends letter to have Uriah killed on the battlefield so he could marry the widow, who was with child. 19 According to Graham Maddox, “[b]etween tribal or pre-state Israel and democratic Athens, there were resemblances of a ‘democratic’ nature, although the term can only be applied accurately to Athens.” See Maddox, Religion and the Rise of Democracy (New York: Routledge, 1996).


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

of powers in a state: the king, the executive power, was subject to law with his responsibilities limited to the area of politics. The High Priest, priests and Levites were the legislative power – although the Law was God-given, they had the role of developing, explaining, interpreting and teaching it. Finally, God’s prophets were the judicial power in the nation, sent by God to confront both wrongdoing and wrongdoers and to pronounce judgment. Anyone wishing to usurp a position that was not rightfully his was firmly punished as we can see in the case of King Saul who, having impatiently waited for the prophet Samuel to no avail, decided to bring the sacrificial offering himself. His hasty action was considered as interference in the responsibilities of the High Priest and constituted an offence. Another explicit dissociation between spiritual and temporal power, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar, between Church and State is emphasized by Jesus himself in his well known maxim: “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Mathew 22: 21) and later the apostle Paul explicitly addresses the concept in his epistle to the Romans 13: 6-7: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” That distinction between the two entities will become a condition sine qua non for the modern democracy. The perspective of freedom as a divine gift to humankind – the theme of freedom is often encountered under different understandings. In the book of Genesis, God endowed man with freedom while setting some limits as, without boundaries, freedom tends to be self-destroying. Montesquieu grasped this truth in The Spirit of the Laws, where he described freedom as the right to do whatever the laws of the state permit, and not whatever the citizens desire. If everyone acted according to their own desires, we could easily find ourselves in situations where we are true to our cravings and wishes but legally culpable and punishable by law; even worse, if a citizen could do what the laws prohibit, he or she would not have freedom anymore because the other citizens could do the same. Freedom, in the biblical sense, does not so much follow a liberal sense where people can act according to their choices only, but it is laden with a spiritual meaning. The value of human freedom is asserted as the need to have restraints on human behaviour. This is the paradox of freedom. If the person doesn’t have restraints imposed by moral codes, he or she ends up with license to anarchy, which is in fact adversarial to freedom.

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The perspective of fraternity20 - promoted by the Mosaic Law can be well seen in the way the foreigner, sojourner or non-Hebrew resident had to be treated in the land. There were strict regulations which show no infringement on their rights. For example: “the community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord: the same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.” (Numbers 15: 15-16; also other aspects of life in Exodus 12: 48-49; 22: 22; Leviticus 23:22; 24:1922; Deuteronomy 24: 6, 10, 12-13, 17, etc.). If we move forward in time we can see that the role of Christ, as the second Adam, fortifies and enlarges the view that all believers, with their specific gifts, are equal members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:26; 14:12) – a reality that transcends race, gender, nationality and social statute – forming together one edifice, the Church.21 Early writings of the Church fathers emphasize rights and responsibilities that we would nowadays call positive human rights, because they saw these not simply in terms of compassion, but as a matter of fundamental justice. Augustine made that point very clearly when he argued that the things which the wealthy see as overflow would, in fact, satisfy the needs of the poor. Furthermore, when some people possess an overabundance of goods, it translates into the fact that others are dispossessed of their rightful the property.


The term “fraternity” has often been equated with “solidarity” even though the latter has its roots in the Roman law and practice. See Kurt Bayertz, “The Four Uses of ‫ދ‬Solidarity’” in Solidarity, ed. Bayertz (London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999). As for “fraternité”, it knew a brief moment of uncertain glory immediately pre and post revolutionary, being held by the French Revolution as a pivotal value, together with “liberté” and “égalité”. Paul Spicker quotes the golden rule of fraternity as it was defined after the French Revolution, in the constitution of year III: “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you; do constantly to others the good which you would wish to receive from them,” which bears much resemblance to the biblical passage: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) See Spicker, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Bristol: The Policy Press, 2006). In fact, some saw in fraternity an avatar of Christian charity, as Mark Hunyadi explains in “Dangereuse Fraternité” in Justice, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité : Sur quelques valeurs fondamentales de la démocratie européenne, ed. Olga Inkova (Geneva: Institut européen de l’Université de Genève, 2006). 21 See Biblical references such as: Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 12; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 3:9-22; 1 Peter 2:5, etc.


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Along the same lines, Saint Ambrose believed that the earth belonged to all, not only to the rich landowners. Therefore, giving charity to the poor man cannot be considered a good deed; in fact, it is a simple reimbursement of a debt, a return of what is due. Chrysostom went a step further when he called the resistance to share one’s resources as nothing more than robbery or theft. Thus, Judeo-Christian perspectives support the idea that any single individual human life deserves our explicit protection and, therefore, rights and obligations are necessarily interdependent because mankind is united in a universal fraternity. The perspective of equality of all human beings rooted in the transcendent - this equality derives from the fact that all people are created by God and he shows no favouritism, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.22 This section will be explained in more detail later, in the section dedicated to the theme of human rights. A perspective on good and evil based on the premise that good can overcome evil – a perspective which is antagonistic to Machiavelli’s ethics of power, a concept which still dominates politics in insidious forms, developed in The Prince. His reasoning was straightforward and clear: human beings are ontologically evil, a change of nature is impossible; therefore evil can be overcome by generating a greater evil than the previous one. Contrarily, Christianity starts with the premise that corrupt human nature is a reality which can be subjected to redemptive transformation through faith in Christ. Christian ethics envisions the remedy for evil through good, a concept described by the apostle Paul: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 17-21). Another proposal that Christianity brings to the table is agape love, the essence of genuine Christianity: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In his epistles, the Apostle John describes and gives salience to the concept of love and loving each other as human beings. According to Anders Nygren, professor of theology at the University


See Romans 2: 11 and Matthew 5: 45.

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of Lund, agape love is the fundamental inducement of Christianity.23 Agape love, unlike eros, phileo and storge, the other Greek words for love, is the altruistic, non-conditional love that God generously bestows on his children. This type of love is not theoretical, nor is it based on feeling; it is self-sacrificial action amply described in chapter 13 of the first epistle to the Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7). This kind of seemingly ideal love was nevertheless wonderfully put in practice in the work of extraordinary men and women such as Mother Theresa, diligently fighting for the dignity of the poorest of Indians, Mahatma Gandhi who placed love at the core of his non-violent strategy to free India from colonial domination and Martin Luther King Jr. who, inspired by Gandhi’s experience, chose love as a means of resolving human conflict. Loving one’s neighbour with agape love, which constitutes Christianity’s proposal, is a solid argument for human rights. The concept of neighbourly love is not entirely new; it was affirmed in the Mosaic Law, in the book of Leviticus. Jesus' teaching, reported in the Gospels, draws on this reference, when he urged the young rich ruler to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 38-40). Furthermore, Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute is a sample of the radically inclusive agape love: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5: 43-48).

23 See Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Judeo-Christian doctrines and human rights There exists a general consensus about the concept of rights as the product of European political thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although there is significant debate between historians as to when exactly the notion came to fruition. Human rights are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. Human rights are conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law. Because of this fact, the strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights continue to provoke considerable skepticism and debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights. Indeed, the question of what is the meaning of “rights” is itself controversial and the subject of continued philosophical debate. Although there is no explicit biblical mention of the term human rights, Christians often appeal to the opening chapters of Genesis and the creation of human beings in the very image of God, which implicitly makes a connection with the issue of human rights. Therefore, the association between the Judeo-Christian traditions and human rights has been repeatedly made compellingly. However, here too, opinions are split about both the role that Judeo-Christian values have played in the formation of human rights and about the role that the former can still be attributed in the future.24 The celebrated Polish philosopher and historian, Leszek Kolakowski, affirmed:


Rosalind I. J. Hackett makes discusses this issue in her article “Human Rights and Religion: Contributing to the debate”: “First, human rights are claimed to have Western provenance, and therefore are culturally and politically meaningless to the non-Western world. There is generally a sharp divide between those who argue that human rights have religious, i.e. biblical, roots (Witte 2001; Stackhouse and Healey 1996), and those who entertain only modern, secularist origins (Henkin 1998). Fortunately this has been problematized by those seeking to demonstrate the evolution of the human rights concept in other (non-Western) cultural and religious traditions (An-Na’im 1996; Bauer and Bell 1999). Alternatively, some scholars have tried to transcend foundational pitfalls by positing a more flexible approach (An-Na’im 2002; Cahill 1999-2000).” See Hackett in eds. Binderup, Lars and Tim Jensen, Human Rights Democracy & Religion In the Perspective of Cultural Studies, Philosophy and the Study of Religions (Odense: The Institute of Philosophy, Education, and the Study of Religions University of Southern Denmark, 2005).

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“It is often stressed that the idea of human rights is of recent origin, and that this is enough to dismiss its claims to timeless validity. In its contemporary form, the doctrine is certainly new, though it is arguable that it is a modern version of the natural law theory, whose origins we can trace back at least to the Stoic philosophers and, of course, to the Judaic and Christian sources of European culture. There is no substantial difference between proclaiming ‘the right to life’ and stating that natural law forbids killing. Much as the concept may have been elaborated in the philosophy of the Enlightenment in its conflict with Christianity, the notion of the immutable rights of individuals goes back to the Christian belief in the autonomous status and irreplaceable value of the human personality.”25

Human rights are legal rights grounded in moral insight. John. W. Montgomery considered that human rights are legal rights grounded in a transcendental source.26 Rene Cassin, who, in 1968, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, identified their origin in the Decalogue. Sir Fred Catherwood, Vice-President of the European Parliament between 1989 and 1992, made the case for Christian engagement in shaping the European Union in his book, Pro-Europe. He clearly states that Europe's unity had been made possible only by the common Christian worldview, developed and applied progressively for over two millennia. Christian influence, overwhelming in Europe, was displayed in the wholly Christian inspiration of the European Convention of Human Rights. Fred Catherwood challenged the participants at Europa 92, a gathering of European evangelical leaders in Brussels in 1992, to go through each right and identify a Christian doctrine backing it up. In his book, The Idea of Human Rights, Michael J. Perry strongly argues for the religious roots of the idea of human rights: “There is, finally, no intelligible (much less persuasive) secular version of the conviction that every human being is sacred; the only intelligible versions are religious. (To say that the only intelligible versions of the conviction are religious is not to say that any religious version is persuasive or even plausible.) The conviction that every human being is 25 See Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial, apud. Michael J. Perry in The Idea of Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3. 26 See John Warwick Montgomery, Drepturile omului si demnitatea umana (Oradea: Editura Cartea Crestina, 2003), 103. As we have found Montgomery’s work very pertinent for our analysis, this particular section of the article relies on his ideas, as expounded in his work Human Rights and Human Dignity (in Romanian, Drepturile omului si demnitatea umana).


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition sacred is, in my view, inescapably religious—and the idea of human rights, therefore, ineliminably religious. Contrary to what some might think, I do not load the dice by using the term ‘sacred’; the word ‘inviolable’ would do as well.”27

However, before exploring our theme, we need to pause for one brief analysis of what is nowadays known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).28 The French jurist Karel Vasak proceeded to a pertinent classification of human rights into three generations, using the three slogans of the French Revolution “liberté”, “égalité”, and “fraternité”, as a basis of his distinction, classification which is explained by John W. Montgomery as follows: The first generation of rights, prompted by the concept of “freedom”, incorporates the civil and political liberties that played a fundamental role in the eighteenth century French and American revolutions. These rights have a place of honour in the constitutions of Western states. At the same time, these civil liberties are incorporated in the UDHR (articles 2 to 21) and they delineate the political ideal of individual freedom against the abusive power of the state.29 The second generation of rights, prompted by the concept of “equality”, refers to economic, social and cultural rights and has the concept of social equality at its core. Articles 22 to 27 from the Universal Declaration specify many of those rights: the right to work, leisure, paid holidays, social security, education and protection of literary and scientific innovations.30 The third generation of rights, prompted by the term “fraternity”, or 27

See Michael J. Perry, The Idea of Human Rights – Four Inquiries (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 5. 28 James R Lewis and Carl Skutsch incorporate several additional elements, besides the UDHR, that expand the concept and the understanding of human rights: “Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been widely cited as an authoritative document, it was not until the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) entered into force that the international human rights movement really emerged into its own. These Covenants are treaties, meaning that, for the states that sign them, they have the binding force of international law. Collectively, these two Covenants, together with the UDHR, are referred to as the International Bill of Rights. While the UDHR provides a more specific delineation of the rights outlined in the UN Charter, the ICCPR and the ICESCR further elaborate the content of the UDHR.” See Lewis and Skutsch, The Encyclopedia of Human Rights (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2001). 29 See Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 25. 30 See Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 25-26.

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“solidarity”, is more recent and consequently, seems more nebulous and controversial. These rights, broad in their scope, include global cooperation, national self-determination, the right to economic and social development, the right to benefit from the “common inheritance of mankind”, a clean environment, the right to peace and the right to humanitarian aid in case of natural calamities and disasters.31

The Judeo-Christian doctrines of creation, incarnation and atonement32 The doctrine of Creation - the first chapters of Genesis narrate the story of how God created Adam and Eve in a special, personal way: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). After that, God created Eve from Adam’s rib: “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs, and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21-22). This direct divine involvement in the creation of Adam and Eve would want to emphasize our “otherness” in respect to animals, despite obvious rapprochements. Thus, men and women should be considered privileged creatures, conceived and formed according to a divine mold: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’[…] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1: 26-27). Though there is a rich debate about what it means to be made in God’s image and after His likeness, we find Wayne Grudem’s definition compelling: “The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.”33 Consequently, the brief Genesis account of creation places a wonderful emphasis on the importance of human beings in distinction to the rest of the universe. The Apostle Paul tells the Greeks gathered in the Areopagus that every human being is “God’s offspring” (Acts 17: 29), which raises the dignity of humankind to the highest level. Imago Dei represents a valid source of the rights human beings have. In fact, in the depiction in the Sermon of the Mount, the righteous do not have more rights than the unrighteous, and vice 31

See Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 26-27. See Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 187-216. 33 See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity Press and Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 442. 32


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

versa: “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”(Mathew 5: 45). Of course, as a result of the inclusion of the believers in the body of Christ, they receive new “rights” in relation to other believers and even in relation to God (Galatians 6:10; Romans 8:28), but these intra-church rights do not add nor take away from the biblical catalog of rights. The status offered by God to human beings has implied consequences with respect to human rights; every human being is sacred, inviolable, and has inherent dignity and worth. Now, because every human being is sacred, certain choices should be made and certain other choices rejected; in particular, certain things ought not to be done to any human being and certain other things ought to be done for every human being. The doctrine of the Incarnation is another essential pillar for the justification of the values that human rights are asserting. The Fall, human’s initial failure to obey God’s command in the Garden of Eden, does not make redemption and restoration impossible. The incarnation34 was the act of God the Son whereby he became human in order to atone for sins. “We may summarize the biblical teaching about the person of Christ as follows: Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever”35 states Wayne Grudem. Through incarnation, by taking a human body in the person of Jesus Christ, God is showing again the value of the human condition, sanctifying it by his embodiment. Paraphrasing Roland de Pury, the French pastor engaged in the spiritual resistance movement helping persecuted Jews in France during the Second World War, in Jesus Christ divine rights and human rights are fused together and become inseparable. To violate the rights of a creature of God, in the name of divine right, means serving another god and that is falling into the sin of idolatry. The doctrine of the atonement is the third major pillar that legitimates the concept of human rights. “Atonement is”, according to Wayne Grudem’s definition, “the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our


He was ready to limit himself, to humiliate himself: “[Christ] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2: 6 – 8). 35 See Grudem, Theology, 529. The Scriptural material supporting this definition is extensive at pages 529 – 563.

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salvation.”36 Jesus Christ stated this intention: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19: 10), and also in Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, “because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3: 25-26). These three major Christian doctrines (one of which is shared with the Judaic tradition) are sometimes seen as an important resource in legitimizing the idea of human rights. In their essay, The Spirituality of the Talmud, Ben Zion Bokser and Baruch M. Bokser state: “From this conception of man's place in the universe comes the sense of the supreme sanctity of all human life. He who destroys one person has dealt a blow at the entire universe, and he who sustains or saves one person has sustained the whole world.”37 They go on to say: “The sanctity of life is not a function of national origin, religious affiliation, or social status. In the sight of God, the humble citizen is the equal of the person who occupies the highest office. As one Talmudist put it: ‘Heaven and earth I call to witness, whether it be an Israelite or pagan, man or woman, slave or maidservant, according to the work of every human being doth the Holy Spirit rest upon him’ […] As the rabbis put it: ‘We are obligated to feed non-Jews residing among us even as we feed Jews; we are obligated to visit their sick even as we visit the Jewish sick; we are obligated to attend to the burial of their dead even as we attend to the burial of the Jewish dead.’”38

However, these three doctrines are joined by the vital outlook of the JudeoChristian tradition on crucial matters such as freedom, which we have already referred to, equality and fraternity. Quoting Hilary Putnam, we consider that the moral image central to the Jerusalem-based religions “stresses equality and also fraternity, as in the metaphor of the whole human race as One Family, of all women and men as sisters and brothers.”39

36 Grudem, Theology, 568. An extensive description of the doctrine can be found at 568 – 603. 37 See Ben Zion Bokser & Baruch M. Bokser, The Talmud: Selected Writings (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1989), 7. 38 Bokser, Talmud, 30-31. 39 See Hilary Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism (Chicago: Open Court, 1987), 60-61.


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

The Judeo-Christian perspective on equality “All people are equal before God”, is the dictum that coherently sums up the Christian understanding of equality. Duncan Forrester, Emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at the Edinburgh University, considered that as each person is of infinite, and hence equal, worth, everyone should be treated as such. Contemporary discussions about equality often stall around arguments over definitions of various means of understanding distributive equality in terms of income, wealth, opportunities, natural abilities, etc. In an article on government and equality, Andrew Bradstock discusses the core theme in the creation narratives in the book of Genesis which is that human beings are endowed with an equality of worth and status by virtue of their being created by God. All are subjected to differentiation in terms of gender, ethnicity, size or physical or intellectual ability, therefore “equality” does not mean “sameness.” When Adam speaks of his companion, Eve, as being bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, he expresses their inherent equality. In the Mosaic law, also, God doesn’t make a difference in worth according to the social status of the humans: “The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives” (Exodus 30: 15). The apostles, in their writings, state again that God shows no favoritism, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (Ephesians 6:9). And in Christ, “you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 26-28). This is perhaps the most often quoted passage that supports the idea of general, universal equality, beyond gender, social status or nationality. It is, in fact, a revolutionary idea for the first century context, where gender roles, working conditions and citizenship were deeply anchored and set. It is with this need to understand the way in which Judeo-Christian doctrines sought to redeem human dignity, when compared to the way in which people that were categorized as second-class beings (and here we refer to women, immigrants and slaves) were being treated, that we will proceed with our analysis. Feminist theories have repeatedly pointed out the blatant discrimination

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against women,40 their relegation to the private sphere and the lack of flexibility in allowing women to become involved in matters outside of their homes; these ideas seem to be sustained by biblical references41 such as: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1Timothy 2:12). This verse seems to be supporting deeply engrained cross-cultural taboos that placed women in a position of inferiority in relation to a man. Aristotle,42 Jean-Jacques Rousseau,43 Immanuel Kant and many other philosophers endorse this discrimination, in the name of a self-evident, “natural law.” Yet, despite a hierarchy of function, the biblical texts bestow women with an equality of value, based on both creation and atonement; this constitutes a redeeming of the image of the women, when compared to ancient times to the point where not only women are asked to submit to men but also men are supposed to submit to women: “submit to one 40 Feminist reactions vary between critique of the theological tradition to rejection of Christianity itself, the latter finding one of its most ardent supporters in Mary Daly’s work who, according to Francis Martin “developed her critique of Christian belief and theology as inherently patriarchal and oppressive to women;” see Martin, The Feminist Question: Feminist Theology in the Light of Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), 161. Also see Pears, Angela Feminist Christian Encounters: The methods and strategies of feminist informed Christian theologies (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004). 41 Catherine Villanueva Gardner states: “One central element […] is a critique of the Christian view of women, in particular how a paradigmatic image of Eve was used to justify the subordination of women, because they were seen as a source of sin.” See Gardner, Historical Dictionary of Feminist Philosophy (Plymouth: Scarecrow Press, 2006), 45. 42 For Aristotle, a slave would have no deliberative power, but a woman would; however, the woman would lack the authority, and therefore be a defective human being. See Deborah K. W. Modrack, Aristotle: “Women, Deliberation and Nature” in Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings into Plato and Aristotle, ed. Bat-Ami Bar On (New York: State University Press of New York, 1994). 43 Rousseau advocated for a restraint of women as “in all human beings, passion was natural and necesssary, but in women it was not controlled by reason, an attribute of the male sex only.” See Cora Kaplan “Pandora’s Box: Subjectivity, class and sexuality in socialist feminist criticism” in Feminisms: An Antology of Literary Theory and Criticisms, eds. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997), 962. He argued that girls are more docile than boys and that they do not naturally feel the urge to be taught abstract notions but, instead, they would prefer to perfect themselves in stitching, embroidery and the likes; see Rousseau On Women, Love and Family, eds. Christopher Kelly and Eve Grace (Lebanon: University Press of New England, 2009).


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another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). This verse, read in its first century context, constitutes a revolutionary idea. Concerning the rights of the immigrants, there were a number of prohibitions in relation to their participation in the act of religious worship. However, when it comes to social justice, the alien had the same rights to just trial as an Israelite: “Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you” (Deuteronomy 1:16). The law also specifically prohibited abuse against immigrants: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them” (Leviticus 19:23) and instead encouraged an attitude of love: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34). The final issue is that of slavery in the Old Testament. The practice of slavery seems to have been taken for granted in those times and many people nowadays often wonder why it is not more clearly condemned. However, a closer look uncovers the fact that in the Mosaic law treats slaves as human beings rather than as property, which is a very different approach than elsewhere in the ancient Near East. David L. Baker’s thorough study on wealth and poverty in the Old Testament revealed that the predominant attitude towards slavery in Old Testament law was negative because of the deeply anchored belief that all Israelites were considered brothers and sisters. In fact, he suggested that the word slave had a very different meaning than the one that is taken for granted: “The Hebrew word translated ‘slave’ means literally a ‘worker’, whereas the Akkadian equivalent means ‘one who has come down’ in social position. Slavery did not fit well with the ideals of Israelite society, and laws were designed to reduce the number of people in slavery and protect slaves who were not actually freed.”44

Baker is strongly arguing that slavery, though never abolished completely, was discouraged in the Hebrew community. This could be due to the way in which God presents Himself as the one who frees the 44

See David L. Baker, “The Humanization of Slavery in Old Testament Law”, Ethics in Brief 12.4 (Autumn 2007): 1 ( William Westerman also suggests that the system in place in ancient Israel was quite different from slavery as it was understood in other cultures. See Westernman, The Slave System of Greek and Roman Antiquity (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1955).

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captives, as John W. de Gruchy notes: “biblical faith begins with the liberation by Yahweh of the Israelite slaves from the bondage of Egypt. Yahweh, by definition, is the God who emancipates slaves, liberates the oppressed and leads them to the land of promise (the original, biblical 'concrete Utopia').”45 In Israel, slaves enjoyed a certain number of rights and were not considered property but human beings, as exemplified in the fact that slaves were entitled to holidays. Also, fugitive slaves “were to be given asylum instead of being returned to their masters. Forcible enslaving was strictly forbidden, and voluntary slavery was limited in term and ended with generous provision for the freed slave.”46 These provisions and rights were not only a simple matter of theoretical entitlement, but they were clearly stated in the law. In fact, there are a number of provisions designed to protect and enhance the rights of slaves in the ancient times. We already mentioned the right to asylum for fugitives – in order to prevent slaves running away, a common practice in the Near East was to place them in bondage or shackles, besides branding or tattooing a mark on their flesh47. If slaves escaped, rewards were offered to anyone who returned them. In fact, aiding a slave escape deserved capital punishment.48 This was in stark contrast with the Mosaic Law: “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16). Thus hospitality and a safe refuge were to replace the duty of returning the runaway slave. The right to rest, which provided leisure time for slaves, was an entitlement stipulated in the Decalogue: “Six days you shall labour, and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or your resident alien who is in your town, so that your male or female slave may rest as you do” (Deuteronomy 5:13-15). The Sabbath was to be observed by the entire community, including slaves. Protection from abuse – the existing laws against abuse were designed to compensate the master for property loss or damage. Old Testament law, however, emphasized that ownership of slaves restricted a master from killing or injuring them. “Anyone who beats their male or female slave 45

See John W. De Gruchy, Christianity and Democracy – A Theology for a Just World Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 236. 46 Gruchy, Democracy, 4. 47 See Baker, Humanization, 2. 48 See David L. Baker, Tight Fists or Open Hands? Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament Laws (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2009), 36.


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with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result” (Exodus 21:20). Beating with a stick or rod seems to have been a common method of discipline but the law stipulated that masters needed to be “sensitive to the physical condition of their slaves and administer punishment accordingly.”49 If the masters misjudged the situation, bringing about the death of the slave, they were to be punished, term which probably referred to death penalty. Therefore, killing a slave made one a murderer, which entailed that he would suffer the same punishment as though he had killed a free person, thus recognizing the life of a slave to be “of equal value to that of any other human being.”50 Another law dealt with permanent bodily injury: “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth” (Exodus 21:26-27). In the Hammurabi code (§199), masters were compensated for injury to their slaves by third parties and there was not mention of compensation for the slaves themselves. In Israel, the master himself was punished for abusing his slave, by being made to renounce to a valuable worker, as the slave was to be freed.51 Prohibition of kidnapping practices – no person had the right to deprive another member of the covenant community of their freedom:52 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession” (Exodus 21:16). In the case of voluntary slavery, due to the need to pay a debt or as a result of having fallen on financially hard times, the law insisted on a limited period of work: “If any of your people - Hebrew men or women sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free” (Deut. 15:12). What’s more, when the six years were up, the slaves had to be granted capital in order to smooth and insure the transition to an independent life,53 as without this provision, there was the risk that the freed person was forced into slavery once more. Therefore, despite having to obey commands and work for a period of six years, the slave was as a brother or sister for the owner, a concept which sustains the idea of “fraternity.” The Judeo-Christian perspective also lays out a significant number of


Baker, Humanization, 2. Baker, Humanization, 2. 51 Baker, Humanization, 2. 52 Baker, Tight Fists, 116. 53 Baker, Tight Fists, 80. 50

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the general rights54 that are found in the UDHR : Right to a procedurally just trial: (articles. 5, 6, 7, 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights): Deuteronomy 16:19: “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Also, 1Timothy 5: 19-20: “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning, you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.”55 Right to life: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Right to a family and to protection: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Timothy 5:8). Right of protection from ill treatment: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry” (Exodus 22: 22-23). Right to social security: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:22, 35-37; Deuteronomy 23: 24-25; 24: 6, 10, 12-13, 17). Also, the New Testament asserts this “right” in 1Timothy 5: 3-4: “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” Right to education: “Impress [the commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up […] Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7; 11:19). Right to work and to fair remuneration: “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin” (Deuteronomy 24: 14-15; also Luke 10:7,


These rights were listed by John W. Montgomery. See Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 166-167. 55 Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 166.


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1Timothy 5:18).56 Right to protection of honor, personal reputation, and private and family life: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16),57 etc. These and many more verses displays concern for the protection of animals, of species, and of earth itself (the latter is made obvious when people are asked to sow and harvest a particular piece of land for no more than six years in a row, the seventh being a Sabbath year for the soil).

Conclusions Establishing indirect links between the Judeo-Christian perspective and democracy is a task that some would find over-the-top in its claims and that others would accuse of being insufficient, depending on whether they reject or highlight its role in the formation of modern democracy. Our approach has not been a historical one; instead, we focused on doctrinal aspects relating to equality, fraternity, freedom and on the many aspects of human rights. The picture that was painted was that of a reservoir of respect of both individuals and communities, in the spirit of care for the vulnerable and of love for anyone wishing to be part of that community (indigenous population or immigrants). There have been many failures on the part of religious institutions to implement doctrines, without falling prey to contextual situations and interpretations; yet the culture that these doctrines helped produce benefitted from a perspective that upholds human dignity, limitation of political power and civic involvement in the name of solidarity and love. Therefore, we consider that, given our preliminary discussion of the terms, we can speak of an indirect link between the Judeo-Christian perspective and modern democracy, understood in its broad sense. The research of the doctrinal aspects is, nevertheless, important for more than an outlook on the past; it bears the potential for examining future horizons in the relationship between modern democracy and the Judeo-Christian tradition and values that can sustain the former.

56 57

Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 166. Montgomery, Drepturile omului…, 167.

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Acknowledgements This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-IDPCE-2011-3-0481.

References Baker, David L. “The Humanization of Slavery in Old Testament Law.” Ethics in Brief 12.4 (Autumn 2007), ub.pdf. —. Tight Fists or Open Hands? Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament Laws. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2009. Bayertz, Kurt, ed. Solidarity. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999. Blundell, Sue. Women in Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. Bokser, Ben Zion and Baruch M. Bokser. The Talmud: Selected Writings. New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1989. Eisenstein, Marie Ann. Religion and the Politics of Tolerance – How Christianity Builds Democracy. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008. Gardner, Catherine Villanueva. Historical Dictionary of Feminist Philosophy. Plymouth: Scarecrow Press, 2006. Ghanea, Nazila et al, eds. Does God believe in Human Rights? Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007. Gruchy, John W. de. Christianity and Democracy – A Theology for a Just World Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity Press and Zondervan Publishing House, 2000. Hackett, Rosalind I.J. “Human Rights and Religion: Contributing to the debate.” In Human Rights Democracy & Religion In the Perspective of Cultural Studies, Philosophy and the Study of Religions, edited by Binderup, Lars and Tim Jensen. Odense: The Institute of Philosophy, Education, and the Study of Religions University of Southern Denmark, 2005. Hayek, Friedrich. Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 3, The Political Order of a Free People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. Hunyadi, Mark. “Dangereuse Fraternité.” In Justice, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité : Sur quelques valeurs fondamentales de la démocratie


Democracy and Human Rights in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

européenne, edited by Inkova, Olga. Geneva: Institut européen de l’Université de Genève, 2006. Huntington, Samuel P. Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon& Schuster, 2004. Kaplan, Cora. “Pandora’s Box: Subjectivity, class and sexuality in socialist feminist criticism.” In Feminisms: An Antology of Literary Theory and Criticisms, edited by Warhol, Robyn R. and Diane Price Herndl. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997. Kelly, Christopher and Eve Grace. Rousseau On Women, Love and Family. Lebanon: University Press of New England, 2009. Lewis, James R and Skutsch, Carl. The Encyclopedia of Human Rights. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2001. Maritain, Jacques. Christianity and Democracy. North Stratford: Ayer Publishing House, 1972. Martin, Francis. The Feminist Question: Feminist Theology in the Light of Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994. Maddox, Graham. Religion and the Rise of Democracy. New York: Routledge, 1996. Modrack, Deborah K. W. “Aristotle: Women, Deliberation and Nature.” In Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings into Plato and Aristotle, edited by Bat-Ami Bar On. New York: State University Press of New York, 1994. Montgomery, John Warwick. Human Rights and Human Dignity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986. —. Drepturile omului si demnitatea umana. Oradea: Editura Cartea Crestina, 2003. Nygren, Anders. Agape and Eros. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. Pears, Angela. Feminist Christian Encounters: The methods and strategies of feminist informed Christian theologies. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004. Perry, Michael. The Idea of Human Rights – Four Inquires. New York: Oxford University Press,1998. Prélot, Marcel and Georges Lescuyer. Histoire des idées politiques. Paris : Dalloz, 1994. Putnam, Hilary. The Many Faces of Realism. Chicago: Open Court, 1987. Robbins, Jeffrey W. Radical Democracy and Political Theology. Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2011. Sartori, Giovanni. Teoria democratiei reinterpretata. Ia‫܈‬i: Polirom, 1999. Spicker, Paul. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Bristol: The Policy Press, 2006. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Indianapolis: Liberty

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Fund, 2010. Unamuno, Miguel de. The Agony of Christianity. New York: Princeton University Press, 1984. Volf, Miroslav. “A Voice of One’s Own: Public Faith in a Pluralistic World.” In Democracy and the New Religious Pluralism, edited by Thomas Banchoff. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Westernman, William L. The Slave System of Greek and Roman Antiquity. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1955.


This paper will examine the relationship between religion and democracy in the traditions of the Old Testament. Historically, scholars have argued that “democratic” thinking appeared after 800 B.C.E., in the Greek colonies of Asia Minor and also within the semi-independent cities of the Greek league. Scholars have argued that the fragmented geographical environment of ancient Greece seems to have shaped the independent mindset of its inhabitants. It has been shown that the geographical separation from mother Greece and the economic prosperity that merchants brought to the colonies influenced the attitude of their inhabitants toward philosophy and politics. Our study will focus mainly on the religion, culture and history of the Hebrew nation, as it is depicted in the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Bible. Our purpose is to show that the unique religious vision of the ancient Hebrews had a significant impact upon the development of the “democratic” consciousness of what later became the civilization of the Western world. To achieve this goal, we will trace and analyze the role that biblical religion played as a catalyst in the movement for improving the rights of the dispossessed and the socially marginal classes of ancient Israel. We will argue that biblical religion shaped the attitude of the worshippers toward authority (political or ecclesial) in such a way that tyranny – though present at all stages of history– was always sanctioned. In the later part of the study, we will show how this ideology impacted the thinking of Christian authors who had a crucial role in shaping the foundations of democratic thinking.

Elements of Old Testament thought Is it efficient and practical to discuss the relevancy of the Old Testament in the context of democratic thinking, when the Reformers sought to rethink

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civil law and political and social institutions apart from the Mosaic law (which they considered superseded and abrogated by the Gospel)?1 We believe that the Old Testament had a noticeable contribution in the shaping of the political landscape of Europe and Continental America. The reason was that, beginning with the Reformation period, the Scripture took its place among the texts that influenced the political thinking of future generations. As such, we will approach this subject with two purposes in mind: firstly, to examine the institutions of “democracy” that functioned in the Old Testament; secondly, to examine the works of the Reformers and their followers in order to discover how much credit they gave the writings of the Old Testament.

The image of God Wayne Grudem points out that creation justifies the “concept of the equality of all people in the image of God.”2 One of the biblical doctrines that has fascinated and influenced theologians throughout the history of the church is the concept of Imago Dei. Genesis 1:26 states that God made Adam and Eve “in the image of God, after His likeness.” The reason we’ve raised this question here is because this teaching was revolutionary in the context of the Ancient Near Eastern World. As we will argue later, in Egypt and Mesopotamia the king claimed divine status. The Pharaoh was believed to be the embodiment of the god on earth and the bearer of the god’s image. This status, however, was available only to Pharaoh, not to the common man.3


Thus, P.D.L. Alvis, “Moses and the Magistrate: a Study in the Rise of Protestant Legalism”, Journal of Ecclesial History xxvi/2 (April 1975): 149-172. Alvis shows that both Luther and Calvin acknowledged the validity of a number of Mosaic laws for the civil and criminal law of German lands. Alvis notes that among the Protestant groups, the separatists were more open toward giving the Old Testament authority in matters of civil and criminal law. 2 W. Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 105-116. Grudem draws a parallel between the biblical principle of rights by virtue of creation and the second paragraph of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, namely: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” 3 Thus, J. Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations (New York: Continuum Publishing, 2002), 92.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

Now, the Old Testament did not develop this notion into a full-fledged theology, but the New Testament did it in a unique way.4 Church fathers, Medieval scholastics and Protestant theologians devoted much time and effort into probing the depths of this doctrine.5 Mangawaldi pointed out that the biblical view of man as created in the image and likeness of God influenced the values of the Renaissance. In this sense “the Renaissance’s new vision of man was inspired by the ancient church fathers, especially St. Augustine,” whose view of man “in turn, was derived from the first chapter of the Bible: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”6 We will argue that one of the elements that gave shape to the modern concepts of equality and rights was the Biblical doctrine of creation. We will point out ways in which the Protestant thinkers incorporated this theme into their political thinking as well.

The social status of the family and community A second theme that appears in the writings of Protestants thinkers was the notion of Ancient Israel as a model for the optimal society. In order to understand better the social reality of the Old Testament, we will point out several aspects that characterized the Ancient Near Eastern society in the 3rd and 2nd millennium. For example, Jacobsen noted that “in the early, post-Imperial times...the highest judicial authority was not vested in any one individual, but resided in a general assembly of all colonists.”7 In this sense, one may assume that the Mesopotamian society was more diverse prior to the emergence of the great monarchies in the early 2nd millennium. Jacobsen shows that in the early period of Babylon, justice at the level of 4

Thus, Romans 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49; 2 Cor 3:18, 4:4, 6; Gal 4:19; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10 – passages that describe a new dimension of the image of God in humanity, namely, the inward “icon” (likeness) of Christ. 5 For a representative list, see A. Motyer, Look to the Rock (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1996), 63-80; K.A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 126-72; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 volumes (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1967), 2:131-50; “Tselem” , “Demut”, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, L. Koehler, L. Baumgartner (Leiden: Brill, 1994-2000); F.J. Stendenbach, “Tselem”, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. XII, ed. G.H. Botterweck (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 386-395; E. Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 169-74. 6 V. Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 67-75. 7 Jacobsen, “Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 2, 3 (July 1943): 161-62.

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small towns and villages could be administered by the town assembly.8 In this sense, given the fact that the power was not concentrated in the hands of a single individual, one may characterize the judiciary organization as “democratic in essence.” This system appears to be in function in the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the elders of the assembly served as the counselors of the king and exerted a high level of authority.9 Jacobsen, however, acknowledges that these efforts toward sharing the power of decision in the context of the assembly were possible only in the prehistoric era of the Mesopotamian society. Once the Sumerian and (later) the Babylonian civilizations advanced, the political system took on “autocratic” forms.10 It is against this context that the principle of the separation of powers in the Old Testament must be judged. Concerning Israel, from the time of Exodus onwards, the nation saw herself as a diverse gathering of tribes. Even though scholars have debated the terminology for the social arrangement of the twelve tribes, most have agreed that the tribes understood themselves as independent communities that were united by common religious and historical traditions.11 Wright pointed out that early in the 2nd millennium, the Canaanite society that was neighboring Israel was organized “along ‘feudal’ lines, with power residing at the elite top end of a highly stratified social pyramid.”12 Wright and Gottwald argue that the Canaanite cult revolved around a strict hierarchy of gods, a construct which was reflected in the structure of


Jacobsen, “Primitive Democracy …”, 162-65. Jacobsen shows, however, that women – though part of the city population – were “not likely to have participated in the assembly” and thus, be part of the judicial process. 9 Jacobsen, “Primitive Democracy …’’, 166-69. Jacobsen also shows that a similar structure operated in the religious myths of the Babylonians. He cites the myth of Enlil and Ninlil and the council of the seven gods who deliberate and determine the destinies of others. 10 Jacobsen, “Primitive Democracy…”, 172. 11 On the issue of the unity and independence within ancient Israel, see H.D. Preuss, Old Testament Theology, vol. 1 (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1991), 55-64; 12 C.J.H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004), 55-61. Wright points to N. Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel. 1250-1050 (New York: Continuum Publishing, 1999), 608ff., for the fact that Israel’s religion had a direct impact upon the democratization of society. Gottwald refers to the “mutual reinforcement of Yahwism and social egalitarianism.”


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

society. In this sense, polytheism supported the “centralized political rape of human and natural resources and energies by a small elite.”13 In contrast, Israel was a “tribal” society, based on a “threefold division into tribes, clans, and households.”14 The religious significance of this aspect should not be neglected, since “the family household is at the center of the relationship between Yahweh, greater Israel and the land.”15 In other words, the God of Israel was the God of the family and of the individual. Since no hierarchy existed within the divine world, each person related directly to Yahweh. This theological truth gave birth to an “egalitarian” mentality and shaped the political consciousness of ancient Israel. The early Israelite society enjoyed “social freedom, was socially decentralized and non-hierarchical.”16


Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh, 616. Note also Sachs, The Dignity of Difference, 132, for the idea that “the divisions in society were seen as mirroring the hierarchy of the gods or planets or elemental forces.” 14 On the social stratification of ancient Israel, see also W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 volumes (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1967), 2, 231-267; C.J.H. Wright, God’s People in God’s Land (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 71-103; Ibid., “Family (Old Testament)”, in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. N.D. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 761-69; J. Blenkinsopp, “The Family in First Temple Israel”, in Families in Ancient Israel, ed. L.G. Perdue (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1997), 48-103; V. Matthews, “Family Relationships”, in Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, T.D. Alexander ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 291-99; H. Ringgren, “ABH”, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, H. Ringgren ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 1:1-18; P.J. King, L.E. Stager, Life in Biblical Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 2001), 21-38; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 19-23. 15 Blenkinsopp, “The Family in First Temple Israel”, 243. 16 Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, 55, and V. Fry, “Democracy”, Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. W.E. Mills (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 208, for cases like those of “the Israelites assembled in front of the Tabernacle or tent of meeting to deal with matters concerning the whole nation (Num 8:9; 10:3)” and “the people of a city met at the city gate to decide issues concerning the city (Ruth 3:11; 4:1-4; Deut 21:18-21).”

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The status and role of the king The concept of kingship remains an important subject in this debate because of its ramifications to the debate about rights, freedom and private property in the Old Testament.17

Kingship in the Ancient Near East The institution of the kingship stood at the very centre of the Ancient Near Eastern world. In most societies, the king held absolute control over political, religious, socio-economic and military life.18 The Egyptian pharaohs “were respected and honored on account of their status as gods.” Scholars have noted that the Pharaoh was both king and High Priest, which means he held absolute control over the land and the people. As the supreme High Priest, the Pharaoh was “the main link between gods and men, and thus guaranteed the triumph of order over chaos on earth.” The authority of the monarch extended equally over political and religious life.19 The Pharaoh not only sustained the cult but could also depose or institute the priests. He was “identified with a god, both in life and in death”, in the sense that he walked the earth as the “embodiment of a form of the god.”20 Since his authority derived from the divine world, the Pharaoh was not only revered, but actively sustained in power for the very 17

Thus, J. Sachs The Dignity of Difference, 93, for the idea that God, in the Hebrew Bible, “seeks the free worship of free human beings, and two of the most powerful defences of freedom are private property and economic independence.” 18 J. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 278. Similarly, W. Von Soden, The Ancient Orient (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 67-69. R.J. Lepronon, “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Pharaonic Egypt”, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. I-II, ed. J.M. Sasson (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 273-87, points out that as “chief justice, he was thought to be the fount of all laws and thus the foundation of moral righteousness.” 19 Thus, Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 51-52. 20 L. Gahlin, Egypt: Gods, Myths and Religion (New York: Barnes and Nobles, 2002), 89; Lepronon, “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Pharaonic Egypt”, 274; H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods, 51; C. Roebuck, The World of Ancient Times (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1966), 66; The Context of Scripture. Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, ed. W. Hallo (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 470-77. In some Temple reliefs, the king would appear surmounted by the god Horus, whose name became one of the five names that kings receive when they were crowned.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

benefit of the land. In essence, monarchy was a religious institution with inevitable political, socio-economic and military implications.21 For the most part, scholars have argued that, unlike the Pharaoh of Egypt, in Mesopotamia the king was held to be mortal like any others.22 This is only partially true, but, even if the person of the king was not divinized, his participation in the Temple cult put him in direct contact with the gods, and it assured “his ascension into the divine realm.” The government was “universally in the hands of a single ruler.”23 In this sense, the king controlled not only the political but also the religious structures, in the sense that he “was primarily responsible for the community’s maintenance of the temples and for propitiating the deities.”24 In Egypt, the king embodied the very presence of the gods. In Mesopotamia, he was the chief officer of the Temple, who sustained the cult and deposed or instituted the priests. One important corollary to the phenomenon of absolute kingship is the notion of “private property.” The belief the land belonged to the gods was shared by most cultures of the Ancient Near East, not just by ancient Israel.25 At times of crisis, Oriental kings could claim absolute rights over landed property and the domain of economics. In ancient Egypt, as it was the case in Mesopotamia as a whole, the king and the social elites owned the majority of the land within the city-state. The king could appropriate 21

Thus, S. Morenz, Egyptian Religion (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973), 35-36, 89. A.J. Heschel, The Prophets, vol. II (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 254-60, noted that the king could also be called “husband of goddesses.” Other texts stated that the kings had initially come from the sexual union of the gods. 22 Yet, see Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 280, for the Sumerian belief that kings descended from heaven. 23 J.N. Postgate, “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Sumer and Akkad”, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. I-II, ed. J.M. Sasson (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 395-411, esp. 398, and K.M. Heim, “Kings and Kingship”, in Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books, ed. B.T. Arnold (Downers Grove, MI: Intervarsity Press, 2005), 610-23. This meant control over land property as well, which the king could divide among the military and political supporters. In fact, forced conscription, enforced labor for public projects, and “the confiscation of real estate for the king’s use” were current in the Ancient Near Eastern World. 24 Postgate, “Royal Ideology…”, 397. 25 Thus, R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 164; A. Westenholz, “The Summerian City State”, in A Comparative Study of Six City-State Cultures: An Investigation, vol. 27, ed. M.H. Hansen (Copenhagen: Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selska, 2002), 23-42, esp. 26.

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large areas of the land as well. During the reign of king Sargon (22702215), “large tracks of agricultural land were expropriated and redistributed in favor of Akkadian military colonists.”26 As we will point out, the notion that an Israelite king like Ahab had no legal means nor the power to expropriate the land of a simple man was inconceivable in the world of Akkad, Egypt or Assyria.

Kingship and human rights in the Old Testament Understanding this reality helps us grasp the significance of the request of Israelites to be ruled by a king, after the pattern of the Oriental monarch. The description they received from the prophet matches the pattern we have sketched above: “He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day" (1Sam 8:1118).”

In Israel, kingship shared some characteristics with the Mesopotamian and Egyptian models but was different in significant ways as well. 27 First of all, the earliest sources in the Old Testament affirm unequivocally the 26 Thus, Postgate, “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Sumer and Akkad”, 395-411, and D. O’Connor, “The Social and Economic Organization of Ancient Egyptian Temples”, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. J. Sasson (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 319-329, for the fact that, in the first millennium, the government, including the temples, owned most of the land. 27 H-J. Fabry, “Melek”, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. VIII, ed. G.H. Botterweck (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 346-75; K.W. Whitelam, “King and Kingship”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, ed. D.N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 40-48; K.M. Heim, “Kings and Kingship”, 610-23.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

human origin and social statute of the king. In fact, the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, shared a rather modest social statute; especially David, who was initially ignored even by Samuel, the prophet who was supposed to identify and anoint the future king of Israel (1Samuel 16). Second, in the Old Testament, the character of the king was always measured against the moral standard of the Law. One would be hard pressed to find a morally flawless king in the Old Testament. In this sense, not only did biblical authors not idealize or divinize the king, but they often revealed disturbing weaknesses in the life of the monarchs.28 One almost never reads about weaknesses or sins of the great kings of Sumer, Akkad, Egypt, Babylon and Asyria. Third, even before Israel had her first king, the Law imposed well-defined limits on the monarchy.29 Obviously, we need to ask what is the explanation that accounts for the differences that existed between ancient Israel and the rest of her neighbors with respect to the institution of kingship. To answer this question, we must view the office of the biblical king against the context of the Law.

The status of the law To begin, the biblical sources attest that the formation of the nation of Israel took place after the twelve tribes came out of slavery from Egypt. The experience of the Exodus left a profound and everlasting impact on the religious conscience of Israel, because it enforced an egalitarian vision of society.30 According to the narrative, all Hebrew people were slaves,

28 The Old Testament draws a very candid portrait of David, arguably the most important king in the history of Israel. He was a man of great courage and unwavering faith, but had “blood on his hands,” and because of his illicit affair with Batsheba and the killing of her husband Uriah, God punished the house of David. 29 Heim, “Kings and Kingship”, 616, on the role of Deuteronomy 17 to “counteract ‘rights’ such as those associated with the ‘king like all the other nations’ described in 1 Samuel 8:11-17. A number of scholars have argued that the Book of Deuteronomy was written in the 7th century B.C.E. and thus, reflects the political reality of the late monarchy in Israel. However, since the social fabric of Israel was egalitarian from its earliest sources, there would be no reason for Deuteronomy 17 not to reflect the historical context of the 14th century B.C.E. The limits imposed on the king would have made sense at every stage of Israel’s history, especially in the earlier times. 30 Thus, Albright, From The Stone Age to Christianity (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957), 289, for the fact that, “while the Israelites maintained their loose confederation...depending for guidance on spontaneously arising leadership...

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and all became free at once. Furthermore, the religious experience of Israel was exclusively based on the belief that the laws that governed society came from God, not from priests or the king. Crusemann pointed out that the Law of Moses allowed the judiciary a certain degree of independence from monarchy, because it was based on divine revelation. “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that 31 the LORD your God is giving you (Deut 16:18-20).”

Levinson argued that this legislation establishes an “independent judiciary” while bringing even the monarch under the full authority of the law.32 It is the Torah that enforces the judiciary with authority and confers autonomy upon it.33 Likewise, Crusemann notes that in the law of Deuteronomy 17, “the power of the king is doubly limited, by the people being addressed and by the Torah.” 34 As Grudem pointed out, the judges derived their legitimacy from the fact that they had to apply a law that Edomites, Moabites, and Amonites all had kings” who seemed “to have been tyrants after the Aegean model.” 31 Crusemann, The Torah (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 234-38, states that “this law is at the pinnacle of all institutional laws; it is also their foundation.” In essence, the Israelite judiciary is based on the principle that “the people set up judges.” Later, the king had the authority to install judges but “he did not sep court.” 32 Bernard M. Levinson, “The First Constitution: Rethinking the Origins of Rule of Law and Separation of Powers in Light of Deuteronomy,” Cardozo Law Review 27 (2006): 1853-88, and H.W. Titus, “Biblical Principles of Law”, The Lonang Institute (November 18, 2010), electronic edition. 33 Levinson identifies here two cornerstones of “the modern idea of the constitutional government:” First, the division of “political powers into separate spheres of authority.” Second, the “subordination of each branch to the authority of the law.” 34 F. Crusemann, The Torah, 234-235, 238. In other words, God addresses the entire nation, not just Moses, the Legislator. That is why, later on, in Deuteronomy 17:16f. “the political possibilities of the monarchy are extremely limited.” Likewise Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 117-18, 124, notes the difference that the belief in divine revelation makes with respect to upholding the Law. In this sense “it was God’s law that ultimately ruled over the nation, not the king.”


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

essentially was “external to themselves:” thus “in a dispute, they shall act as judges, and they shall judge it according to my judgments” (Ezekiel 44:24). Crusemann identifies this vision as “Theocracy as Democracy.”35 It was empowered by God’s liberation of the people from slavery and the giving of the Law as Constitution.36 The belief that the origin of the Law was ultimately divine enforced the principle of the checks and balances that became so evident in the ministry of the prophets and their condemnation of abuse by the kings.37 The notion of “checks and balances” was not completely foreign to Mesopotamian kings, as they too depended to a certain extent on the support of the elites and the people. But, the notion that the king and the common people were subject to the same Law and that the king could be held responsible by common people was “astonishing in the ancient Near East.” 38 For Israel, freedom was not a concept, but a practical experience in the context of escaping foreign oppression and suffering. This reality was made possible through “the power of God,” and in this sense, it is “the foremost gift.” That is why in ancient Israel there was no “institutionalized power above the people who were addressed as ‘you.’”39 In this sense “human rights, basic rights, constitutional principles, etc., are above shifting majorities and constellations.” Flavius Josephus, who coined the word “theocracy”, later wrote: “Now there are innumerable differences in the particular customs and laws that are among all mankind, which a man may briefly reduce under the following heads: Some legislators have permitted their governments to be under monarchies, others put them under oligarchies, and others under a republican form; but our legislator had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our government to be what, by a strained expression, may 35

See also The Torah, 247. For Crusemann, this “is a civil society, but one in which power is widely distributed, and where significant amounts of authority resides with those whom the law addresses.” He draws a number of parallels with the system of ancient Greek democracy, noting also the differences made apparent by the unique role of the religious authorities in Israel. 37 Likewise, Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 103-05, 124, for the notion that “the principle of ‘rule of law’ means that no king or president or prime minister would have unchecked power.” For the obligations that the “divine Law” imposed on people see also Preuss, Old Testament Theology, 80-81. 38 Note also Irwin’s argument, “The Hebrews”, 352, that the Law was a “defense of the common man against the arrogance of the monarchy and the...constitutional limitation of royal power” typical of the later English constraints placed upon the monarchy in England. 39 Crusemann, The Torah, 249. 36

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be termed a Theocracy, [20] by ascribing the authority and the power to God, and by persuading all the people to have a regard to him, as the author of all the good things that were enjoyed either in common by all mankind, or by each one in particular” (Flavius Josephus, Contra 40 Apionem, 2:19-20).”

The belief that the king himself was subject to the same Law as the people explains why they could hold him responsible for failing to fulfill his social, religious and economic responsibilities. When king Rehoboam refused to heed the requests of the ten northern tribes, they turned their backs on him (1 Kings 12:1-16).41 David faced the same reaction when “all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri” (2 Sam 20:1-2). The actors here are the individual communities (formed, among others, by free, land owning peasants) and the king. The conflict demonstrates that individual communities in Israel not only were conscious of their freedom and rights but also possessed the mechanism and the freedom of conscience to sanction the abuses of the king. The fact that the individual tribes would offer to recognize the authority of the king and support him, only if he agreed to “lighten the hard service” of his father upon them, indicates that, at the grassroots level, a sentiment of primitive democracy was alive in monarchical Israel.42 Likewise, for Grudem, events like these show that Israel was aware of the power of the “consent of the people” in relation to the continued legitimacy of the king. Grudem defines “theocracy” in light of the fact that Israel was “unique because it was to be for God ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exod 19:6).”43 Gottwald too points to the way Israel practiced her faith, reflecting the belief that the religion of Yahweh had to be “the religion of a particular egalitarian social system.”44 40

Text from the Guttenberg Project, 41 Politics According to the Bible, 103-105. For Grudem, these texts appear to support the idea of “some form of government chosen by the people themselves.” Grudem is only partially right, since King Rehoboam had not been elected democratically by the tribes, even though their consent was vital to his continuing rule. Grudem shows that in the American Constitution the Government derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” 42 Thus, W.A. Irwin, “The Hebrews”, The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man, ed. H.A. Frankfort et al. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1946, 1977), 223-360, esp. 348, for the idea that “there were danger signals for any ruler not blinded with an exaggerated sense of his regal rights.” 43 Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 84. 44 Gottwald, Tribes of Yahweh, 59.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

However, this scenario has not been interpreted literally by all commentators. Levinson denies the historical accuracy of Deuteronomy 17 and argues that the authors wrote much later, when they had the Temple replace the authority of the elders in order to deny this authority to the monarchy.45 He states – rightly so – that “ensuring justice was one of the defining attributes of kingship throughout the ancient Near East.”46 It was for this reason, to prevent the monarchy from controlling justice, that the framers of Deuteronomy viewed the Temple as a separate power in the politics of ancient Israel. As such the “sole potent authority is the Deuteronomic Torah”, which makes even the king “answerable to the law.” We believe that Levinson’s scenario complicates, rather than solves, the problem.47 The reason why the Law possessed this authority in the first place is because people believed the Law was sovereignly revealed by God. If this belief appeared late in the history of Israel, then one cannot explain how and why Israelite leaders were sanctioned by the community long before the Temple was built. For example, Irwin argues that the election to leadership practiced in the days of the Judges “exemplified primitive democracy”, in that the leader first had to win the “free consent and loyal following of the clans.”48 It was the institution of the popular assembly that “nurtured that independence of spirit which marked Hebrew life.” The book of Judges presupposes the existence of the Law to begin with. We have already referred to the universal belief of land as the “property of the gods” in the Ancient Near East. This belief empowered kings to claim absolute rights over land, priority when purchasing land, or the right of expropriation of property in times of crises. Also, in Israel, God was believed to own the entire land (Lev 25:23; Josh 22:19; Ps 24:1), which gave him the right to offer it as a possession to his people (Gen 45 “The First Constitution: Rethinking the Origins of Rule of Law and Separation of Powers in Light of Deuteronomy”, 1878. 46 “The First Constitution…”, 1878-82. Levinson points out that sources at Ugarit and Babylon describe the king as the supreme authority in matters of justice, since the gods endowed him with “particular legal acumen” to judge difficult cases. 47 One need not assume that Deuteronomy is a late, revisionistic, reworking of the law. All Israelites, including Moses himself, had to be subject to the law is a concept presupposed by the earliest strata of the legal literature of the Bible. 48 W.A. Irwin, “The Hebrews”, esp. 344ff. For Irwin, this experience “constitutes the most remarkable theory of government that came out of the ancient world and at the same time an ideal that rebukes and challenges the distressing imperfections of our boasted modern democracy.”

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12:7; Ex 32:13; Ps 44:44). The land was divided among the twelve tribes and among the “kin groups” and the individual families within the tribes. Since “landed property” was the gift of God, the king could not lay claim to it, regardless of the reason he may have invoked to expropriate it. This principle was “nothing less than a revolution against the ancient world and the power it gave rulers to regard the property of the tribe or the people as their own.”49 This background helps us better understand why King Ahab hesitated to expropriate the land of Naboth, even though – living in Samaria – he felt no direct pressure from the Temple of Jerusalem. The reason must be because ancient Israelites knew about the Law and had already accepted that it was beyond human authority, because it was divine. We agree, however, with Levinson’s assumption that the Deuteronomistic Law functioned as a “Constitution of ancient Israel, which helped laid the foundations for the later concept of a “constitutional monarchy.”50 “By conceiving of each individual institution as equally accountable to Torah (rather than as self-justifying), Deuteronomy creates a legislative structure that ensures the full autonomy and proper independence of each institution. This vision, moreover, provides a historical precedent for the later idea of an independent judiciary. Only when the judiciary stands on equal ground with the monarchy — as it does in Deuteronomy — is it possible to protect the judiciary from the monarchy, or, to shift into more modern language, to ensure the autonomy of the judicial branch in relation to the executive branch. Continuing the translation into the modern context, the same vision would prevent Church or Temple from being reduced to simple organ of the state; yet it would, just as effectively, preclude domination by either Church or Temple of the judicial system, of the executive branch, or of the public sphere more broadly... .”

The status of the prophet and the “separation of powers”51 With the advent of David, most kings in Israel received their throne through hereditary passing of authority. The society had now changed 49

J. Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilization, 92. Levinson, “The First Constitution…”,1884-87. In this context, “the monarch stands neither in initial nor final position in the sequence of offices, neither first nor last in rank, since the order is not governed by rank.” Levinson argues that “Deuteronomy’s subordination of the monarch to a sovereign legal text that regulates his powers and to which he is accountable has no known counterpart in the ancient Near East.” 51 This expression belongs to A. Heschel, The Prophets, 2: 255. 50


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

from a nomadic, to a tribal and finally, to a kingship-based society, ruled by the king. However, what set Israel apart from Mesopotamia and Egypt even more was the status of the prophets and their relationship with the king. Various scholars have noted that, in the biblical context, the “prophetic mission was closely associated with moral and political reformation as well as purely religious revival.” This call to reformation included criticism of various institutions and the pronouncement of judgment.52 As Levinson observed, the Old Testament prophecy was characterized less by the ability to foretell the future and perform miracles, and more by the purpose to hold the people accountable to the Law of God.53 The Old Testament lists several of the greatest kings of Israel who were sanctioned openly by prophets or by ordinary subjects, without attempting to silence or punish the messengers.54 Ahab complained about, but took no measures against, the prophet Micah, who “never prophecies good concerning me, but evil” (1Kings 22:8).55 Similarly, when Ahab was confronted and condemned by an anonymous prophet, he “went to his house vexed and sullen” (1Kings 20:43). And, when the ordinary citizen Naboth refused to sell Ahab his property, the king vented his fury only in private, by refusing to get off the bed and eat his food. The fact that Ahab’s wife Jezebel asked incredulously, “Do you not govern Israel?”, reveals her amazement that in Asia Minor, 9th century B.C.E., a powerful king was impotent against the will of a simple man, just because the law protected him. 52

W.F. Albright, From The Stone Age … , 305. See also K. Moller, “Prophets and Prophecy”, Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books, ed. B.T. Arnold (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2005), 825-29, and especially Heschel, The Prophets, 2:1-47, for the transference of the experience of “pathos” from God to the prophet. See also Preuss, Old Testament Theology, 2:81-82; J. Goldingway, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 680-84; R. Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period, vol. 1 (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1994), 163-80; Eichrodt, Old Testament Theology, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1961), 345-391. 53 Levinson, “The First Constitution”, 1883. 54 Thus, Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 1:362, for the belief of the prophet, that “the good is simply what Yahweh commands; and because he commands it, it is of absolute obligation.” Obviously, there were cases when the prophets were silenced, imprisoned or even murdered (1Kings 19:10; Jer 38:4-6). 55 Goldingway, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 661, argues that Ahab and other kings like him were not always “too amenable to prophetic pressure.”

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The inability of Ahab to deal with Naboth justifies our assumption that King Ahab ruled a kingdom in which checks and balances existed and were enforced.56 Ahab was evidently aware of two things: there existed a higher Law which stated that the land was a gift from God (Lev 25:23; Josh 23:3) and consequently “every man should live ‘under his vine and under his fig-tree’ (1Kings 5:5; Mi 4:4; Zac 3:10).”57 On the other hand, his wife Jezebel was a Phoenician princess, who had grown up in the royal house of King Ethbaal, her father. In her view, the oriental king was invested by the gods with ultimate, unquestionable authority.58 As we argued earlier, in the Canaanite society, the king was the law and the ultimate authority in social, economic and religious matters. In essence, what set prophets apart from most of their counterparts in the neighboring cultures was criticism of the king, as the following table illustrates: Prophet confronting the king Samuel (1Sam 13:11-14)


Offense of the king



Saul lost kingship

Anonymous (2Chr 25:15) Nathan (2Sam 12:7)


Gad (2Sam 24:12) Anonymous (1Kings 13)


Cultic illegitimate animal sacrifices against the command of God Religious idolatry Social – adultery and indirect homicide Social – taking the census Religious idolatry




Amaziah was assassinated Loss of family, civil war, loss of kingdom Pestilence killed 70 men

Thus, R. Bauchkam, Politics in the Bible (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1989), 28, for the notion that “Israelite landowners were really only tenants of the land which belonged to God (Lev 25:23).” That is why, since property was ultimately a gift entrusted by God to tribes, households and families, ”no individual landowner had an absolute right to the produce of his land...a religious principle [which] made private ownership of land acceptable only in close connection with public responsibility for the landless.” 57 Note R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 164-66. 58 Thus, Goldingway, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, 660, who points to Jezebel’s background and status as a Tyrian princess “who would also be a high priestess and thus patron of Baal worship in Samaria.”


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

Jehu (1Kings 16:1)


Religious idolatry

Jehu (2Chr 19:1)


Eliezer (2Chr 20:37)


Hanani (2Chron 16:7)


Elijah (1Kings 18:18) Anonymous (1Ki 20:42)


Elijah (1Ki 21:20)


Political – illegitimate alliance with idolatrous King Ahab Political illegitimate alliance with “wicked” King Ahaziah Political – illegitimate alliance with Syria Religious idolatry Political – setting free the king of Syria against the command of the Lord Social - murder and confiscation of property

Micah (1Ki 22)


Religious idolatry

Isaiah (Isaiah 39)


Religious – foolish display of wealth and alliance with Babylon


His son Elah and the rest of his house were assassinated

Lost the ships he obtained through the alliance

Lost his life in battle Lost his life in battle

Lost his life in battle Assassination of wife Lost his life in battle Loss of all treasures

The fact that a prophet could anoint, “dethrone some of Israel’s rulers” (1 Sam 15:28; 1 Kings 14:7-18; 21:19) or condemn a king would have been “very unusual within the surrounding cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Assyria.”59 In Israel, however, the deification of the king was


Thus, Brett, “The Hebrew Bible and Human Rights,”

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unthinkable.60 Given the fact that in Israel the king had to obey the Law, just like every commoner, made him subject to divine evaluation. However, not all kings respected the Magna Charta of Deuteronomy 17, nor did they comfortably take the criticism of the prophets. A number of texts raise the question of whether all Israelite kings, at all times and in all places, respected or even cared for the criticism of the prophets. Or whether all prophets modeled the impartiality and courage that Elijah, Micah, Gad, Nathan, Jeremiah and (later) John the Baptist embodied in their ministries. And, the answer is “No.” As Irwin noted, “to the end the supremacy of the monarchy appears to have been undisputed.” 61 Furthermore, perhaps the majority of prophets in the Old Testament functioned as “servants of the king.” Working “within the structures of an institution” made them vulnerable to manipulation, whether through material enticements or by threats against one’s life,62 which is why one may wonder whether the prophetic independence of spirit and the courage to challenge abuses by the king were the exception or the norm.63 Nevertheless, the example of integrity and the sacrifice of the prophets, such as Elijah, Micah, Gad, Nathan, Jeremiah and John the Baptist, confirm our hypothesis; namely, that there existed and functioned checks and balances within the social and political structures of ancient Israel. Evidently, examples such as these do not prove that ancient Israel invented democracy, practiced it liberally, or that their social institutions resembled the democratic societies of today. In fact, the phenomenon of prophetic criticism might fit better in a “theocratic” not (necessarily) a (August, 2012). Moller, “Prophets and Prophecy,” 826-828, shows that, contrary to the role of “court prophets” in other cultures, the link of prophet Nathan with the royal court did not prevent him from “censuring” the king, as “is illustrated by Nathan’s condemnation of David’s conduct in the affair with Bathsheba (2Sam 12:1-25). 60 Heschel, The Prophets, 2:256-59. Heschel quotes Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 – prophetic attacks against foreign kings – to illustrate this principle. He also points to Amos’ attack against king Jeroboam, with the words “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from this land.’ In any Oriental monarchy, words like these represented “an act of high treason.” As Albertz pointed out, History of Israelite Religion, 170, a monarch who flaunts the Law of God he “no longer has any divine legitimization.” 61 Irwin, “The Hebrews,” 349-59. 62 Goldingway, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, 685-86. 63 For example, Ahab had over 450 prophets who only prophesized about what the king liked to hear. Thus, Goldingway, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, 685-87.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

“democratic” context. The fact that one could openly confront the king on behalf of God did not automatically imply that he or she represented (democratically) the will the people.64 This prophetic or popular critique was a sentiment that emerged out of the spiritual, not the political, worldview of ancient Israel. But, the fact remains that prophets confronted the kings, and they did so whenever kings trampled the Law of God.65 Or, as J.G. McConville argued, when they misread the nature of power.66

Echoes of the Old Testament in the political thought of the 16th-18th centuries The Image of God and the Mandate to Work the Land: Individual and Property Rights As we have noted the concept of “inner rights” is a theme that may have been influenced by the Biblical vision of creation: namely, the creation of humanity after the image and likeness of God and the implications that derive from this teaching. As Brett argued, from their reading of Scripture and of the Greek and Roman classics, Reformed, Puritan and later Protestant thinkers introduced the notion of “natural rights” into the vocabulary of politics. This notion offered them a basis to argue in favor of the equality of all believers in the Kingdom of God.67 Likewise Novak views the truth of human rights in the context of the notion that “the nature of each and every human being is 64

In fact, more often than not the prophets found themselves to be solitary dissenters, working in the midst of a majority who disagreed with them and embraced the religious policies of the king. This clearly was the case of Elijah and Jeremiah. Elijah rebuked the people for “wobbling on two crutches” a veiled but sharp condemnation of the syncretism sponsored by King Ahab: worshipping Yahweh and Baal at the same time (1Kings 18:21). And, Jeremiah, who criticized the entire political hierarchy of Jerusalem (Jer 1:18 – the prophet against people, officials, priests, and kings), was often times accused by his own family (Jer 12:6). 65 Thus, Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, 59, summarizing the questions that Elijah and the anonymous prophet must have raised when they confronted King Ahab: “was Israel to be a land safe for Naboths to live in, or a land where kings and queens took what they wanted, through murderous injustice?” 66 McConville, God and Earthly Power: an Old Testament Political Theology (London: Continuum Publishing, 2008), 166. 67 “The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and Human Rights”,

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unique”, because humanity was created in the image and likeness of God (30-32).68 Mangawaldi described the contribution of Francesco Petrarca (13041374), Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406), Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457), Pico Della Mirandola (1463-1494), to the Renaissance humanist view of humanity as endowed with freedom of will. They did so on the basis of the biblical notion of man having been created in the image and likeness of God.69 Held argued that the theologies of Luther and Calvin “contained at their very heart an unsettling conception of the person as ‘an individual.’”70 Their view “helped stimulate the notion of the individual agent as ‘master of his destiny’.” In Held’s view, this development “constituted a major new impetus to reexamine the nature of state and society.”71 Scholars have noted that Roger Williams and John Locke emphasized the notion of “natural rights” and may have influenced subsequent thinkers in this respect.72 Another corollary of the concept of creation is the notion of the individual calling to work and have dominion over the earth. Genesis 1: 26-27 states that: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of


D. Novak, “A Jewish Theory of Human Rights”, in Religion and Human Rights: an Introduction, J. White ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 27-41. Similarly, H.H. Cohn, Human Rights in the Bible and Talmud (Tel Aviv: MOD Publishing, 1989), 27-29; B. Greenberg, “Reconceptualizing the Relationships Between Religion, Women, Culture and Human Rights”, Religion and Human Rights: Competing Claims?, ed. C. Gustafson and P. Juviler (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1999), 140-74; P. Daly, “Rights of Creation to Rights of Revolution”, Religion and Human Rights: Competing Claims? (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998), 53-56, for the implications of creation to the responsibility of human beings. 69 Mangawaldi, The Book That Made Your World, 69-72. 70 D. Held, Models of Democracy (Cambridge: Polity, 2006), 58. 71 Note also, Mangawaldi, The Book That Made Your World, 69-72, for. 72 In this sense, J.P. Byrd, The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution and the Bible (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2002), 28-48.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen 1:26-28; italics mine).”

The responsibility to work is a mandate from God and the individual calling of each person. Luther emphasizes the idea of “individual calling,” which influenced Protestant thinking for the years to come.73 Likewise, work dignifies the human being and must be performed for the sake of God.74 Scholars have noted the fact that Calvin was influenced by the Old Testament “work” ethic.75 There is a wide consensus that Calvin’s vision for work had a profound impact upon the economic development of Protestant countries.76 In turn, the cultural and social dimensions of society were affected positively as well.77 A number of scholars have argued that in Europe, countries with a historical Protestant population have fared better economically than countries with a Catholic majority. Sachs pointed out that until the Reformation, the leaders of Europe were France, Spain, the north of Italy and the Vatican.78 Following the spread of Protestantism, Holland, Prussia, Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries, and North America “took over the reins of leadership.”79 This assertion has been tested and confirmed in 73

Note R. Bainton, Here I Stand (Tring, Herts: Lion Publishing, 1978), 233-34, for the fact that the notion of “vocational calling” comes from the theology of Martin Luther. Thus, “each man must attend to the duties of his own calling.” 74 Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 123-24. 75 For the Calvinist responsibility to work, but being frugal with one’s income, see R.M. Glassman, The Middle Class and Democracy in Socio-Historical Perspective (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 96. 76 Thus, M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Courrier Dover Publications, 2003 ed.), 165; C.A. Montaner, “Culture and the Behavior of Ellites in Latin America”, Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, De Lawrence Harrison ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 56-64, esp. 54. Note also Sachs, The Dignity of Difference, 96, for the notion that work “gives a person independence, one of the essentials of a free society.” 77 Anckar, Religion and Democracy: A Worldwide Comparison (New York: Routledge, 2012), 32, 38-39, for the notion that Protestantism helped introduce the Capitalist system, economic growth, the sense of individualism, egalitarianism and a “negative attitude toward a strong state.” 78 C.A. Montaner, “Culture and the Behavior of Ellites in Latin America”, in Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, ed. Lawrence Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 54. 79 Note also R. Inglehart, “Culture and Democracy”, in Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, ed. Lawrence Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 80-97, esp. 90, who correlates economic

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modern studies as well.80 In turn, statistics have shown that the impact of Protestantism on democratic thinking led to lower levels of corruption than in other, non-Protestant, societies.81 It is also important to note that John Locke (Two Treaties of Government) derived his principle of the right to private property from the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 1, 9; Psalm 115:16).82 He argued that: “revelation, us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah, and his sons, it is very clear, that God, as king David says, Psal. cxv. 16. has given the earth to the children of men; given it to mankind in common....Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labor of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his

development with “interpersonal trust”, and shows that “virtually all historically Protestant societies rank higher on interpersonal trust” non-Protestant societies. He also examines the relationship between interpersonal trust and the level of GNP/capita, with the result that Protestant countries scored higher on the GNP/capita. 80 Note Woodberry and Shah, “The Pioneering Protestants”, 55, who argue that “statistical research suggests that both in Africa and in other former colonies, areas with more Protestants have greater post-colonial economic growth rates;” citing Robin Grier, “The Effect of Religion on Economic Development: A Cross-national Study of 63 Former Colonies”, Kyklos 50 (February 1997): 47–62. 81 Mangawaldi, The Book That Made Your World, 252ff.; R. Edgerton, “Traditional Beliefs and Practices: Are Some Better Than Others?” in Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, De Lawrence Harrison ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 126-140. Edgerton, however, notes that this reality obtained more in the earlier period of Europe and that recent studies show a tendency of leveling between Protestant and Catholic countries in Europe. For the notion that there exists a direct correlation between Protestant culture and the flourishing of democracy see M. Htun, “Culture, Institutions and Gender Inequality in Latin America”, in Culture Matters, 189-201, esp. 190, and Inglehart, “Culture and Democracy”, 91, for ways in which this theory has been criticized. 82 Note K.I. Parker, The Biblical Politics of John Locke (Waterloo, ON: Wilfried Laurier Univ. Press, 2004), for an analysis of Locke’s main political theories and the biblical basis on which he derived them. See also J. Mitchell, “John Locke: a Theology of Religious Liberty”, in Religious Liberty in Western Thought, ed. N.B. Reynold (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 143-160.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness labor with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.” 83

Locke had a profound influence on Founding Fathers like Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson.84 Scholars have shown that Jefferson’s phrase “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” was, in fact, inspired from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.85 Next, the themes of the rights to freedom and equality – as they played out in the lives of the “people of Israel” – appear to have influenced a number of Protestant authors as well. The concept of human rights appeared in Medieval works as early as 1269, when St. Bonaventure argued in his Defense of the Mendicants that “some rights cannot be renounced because they arise ‘from the right that naturally belongs to man as God’s image and noblest creature.’”86 Mangawaldi pointed out that the Exodus event instilled in the Israelite consciousness the attitude of respect for human rights.87 We also note Rossiter, for the concept of the reliance of incipient American democracy on the Old Testament, on the themes of Law, the Covenant, freedom from slavery, and the Promised Land.88 The concept of bearing the image of God is intimately linked with the idea of “self-evident truths”, a phrase of 83

In John Locke, “On Property: 34”, The Second Treaty of Government, ( 84 Jefferson confessed that “Bacon, Locke and Newton...I consider them the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundations of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences.” From Jefferson’s letter to Richard Price, 85 Thus, J.C. Munday, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: History of Inalienable Rights”, Freedom Council Seminar (Virginia: March 17, 2012), In his study, Munday traces the history of this phrase and of the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence to Jefferson, who was influenced by Samuel Adams, who, in turn, confessed his debt to the writings of John Locke. 86 M. Brett, “The Hebrew Bible and Human Rights”, quoting O’Donovan, Oliver & O’Donovan, J.L., From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought 100-1625 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 317. 87 Mangawaldi, The Book That Made Your World, 357, because “biblical cultures highly value freedom as the essence of God and of his image – humanity.” 88 C. Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic: the Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1953), 55. Rossiter notes the importance of the Covenant as a “contract” and the “higher law.” As such, “American democracy has been and remains a highly moral adventure.”

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Lockean origins, used by Jefferson in the Constitution.89 For Locke, democracy and human rights must be derived from reason and revelation, a notion that influenced subsequent developments of the formulation of democratic principles.90

The Law and the Social Construct of Leadership and the Community Our study has established the fact that the social make-up of the community in the Old Testament was conducive to libertarian and democratic thinking. Mordecai Roshwald exemplifies a number of concepts from the Old Testament that may have influenced the practice of democracy in modern times.91 Among these, he points to the importance of the “assembly” and of the “covenant” in the Old Testament, institutions that play an important role later, in the writings of key figures in the history of the formation of democracy.92 In essence, the institution of the elders functioned not as entity independent of the ruler, but as a body of authority that represented the individual people of a given tribe. 93 89

See L.M. Bassani, “Life, Liberty and:...Jefferson on Property Rights”, Journal of Libertarian Studies 18. 1 (Winter 2004): 31–87, esp. page 34. In this sense, Parker, The Biblical Politics of John Locke, 150, shows that according to Locke, “God created a world inhabited by free, rational, equal subjects, and the proof is in the Bible;” J. Dunn, The Political Thought of John Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 122, 240. 90 Thus, Parker, The Biblical Politics of John Locke, 151, in that “the theological framework for Locke’s political ideas constitutes a crucial component for understanding the basis of early modern political thought and, by extension, the basis for contemporary liberal democracy.” 91 M. Roshwald, “The Biblical Roots of Democracy”, Diogenes 53 (November 2006): 139-151. 92 RAÍCES BÍBLICAS DE LA DEMOCRACIA, translated into Spanish by Joseph Messa, Selectiones de Teologia, 47-58, , 49ff. For a more critical evaluation of Roshwald, see C. Anckar, Religion and Democracy: A Worldwide Comparison, 32ff. 93 J. Conrad, “zqn”, The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. J. Botterweck (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980), 4:122-131; R. North, “Palestine, Administration of (Judean Officials)”, in Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. N.D. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 5:86-90; M.R. Jacobs, “Leadership, Elders”, in Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, ed. D. Alexander (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 515-18. Goldingway, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, 411, notices the aspect of “egalitarianism” in the social structure of ancient Israel, “all clans have the same status.”


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

Our study has also raised the question of the importance of the Law in the life of Israel, in the context of the Covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. A number of scholars have drawn attention to the presence of the idea of “covenant” in the early period of American Colonialism.94 McLaughlin argued that both the Mayflower settlers, as well as other succeeding waves of immigrants, used a “covenant” as the basis of the first constitution in the New World. It was drawn after the Old Testament model, which covered and regulated the social, economic and religious dimensions of life in the Land, and clearly stipulated the obligations and the rights/blessings of the people.95 The Covenant covered both the “Civil Affaires” and the spiritual observances.96 McLaughlin clarifies the fact that even though the Covenant evidently lacked the “qualities of a modern state constitution”, it formed the basis of the subsequent constitutions. One may also note Miller’s argument, that the Puritans in early New England took the Old Testament “with devastating literalness.”97 It is critical not to ignore the fact that the Protestant settlers viewed biblical texts and theology in general as a vital aspect “of the political and social order.”98 94

A.C. McLaughlin, The Foundations of American Constitutionalism (New York: New York Press, 1932), esp. 3-30. McLaughlin cites several models of the Covenant, although the two most important ones were the Mayflower Compact and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. 95 For example, “The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts” contain laws that reflected features of Biblical laws and quotation of the passages from which they came. The first colonists believed that “covenanting was the Lord’s chosen method for social and religious combination.” 96 McLaughlin, Foundations of American Constitution, 28, cites the following: “they thereupon provided for two general assemblies each year, for the election of a Governor and magistrates, for the use of a written ballot, for a nominating system; and in other ways they outlined a fairly comprehensive system of government.” 97 P. Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeen Century (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 197, 377. 98 Miller, The New England Mind …, 397. See, however, the position of Roger Williams, who criticized the Puritan “imitation of Israel” and their using “civil power to enforce religious observance.” Byrd, The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution and the Bible, 54-56. For the view that Williams submitted each Old Testament teaching to the filter of the New Testament, see A. Delbanco and A. Heimert, The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 199. Still, Delbanco and Heimert, The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology, 194, point to the Synod of New England using the model of the Old Testament Israel and covenant

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Greenfeld also argues that King Henry VIII’s break from Rome, and the emergence of Protestant thought in England, furthered the development of England’s national conscience. He shows that in the years of the great upheaval of the Puritan Revolution, the reformers “believed themselves to be the second Israel,” that is, “a light to the world because every one of its members was a party to the covenant with God.”99 In the context of the theme of “freedom of expression,” we noted that Old Testament prophets often times refused to submit to the king and were very critical of his abuses. Cohn characterizes the ministry of prophets of the Old Testament as the “typical manifestation of freedom of speech in ancient Jewish history.”100 We may note, however, the position of M. Galchinsky, who celebrates “the prophets’ practice of shaming Israelite kings who engaged in injustice,” but shows that subsequent Jewish thinkers like Baruch Spinoza “did not value the prophets who criticized the reigning powers.”101 In this context, Luther had harsh words for princes who transgressed the commands of the Scripture, arguing that the Christian has the right to disobey orders to wage unjust wars and, ultimately, must obey his conscience at all costs.102 In this sense, he remains a moderate precursor of the notion of the “freedom of conscience”, even though it took the Western world two more centuries before this principle was put into practice in Europe and Colonial America.103 with God, and John Davenport, who “remained faithful to the Pauline ideal that grace was a transcendent and identifiable experience that had nothing to do with inheritance.” 99 L. Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 52-54, also argues that the Old Testament played a major role in the publications of the 16th century, especially due to the themes of the “priesthood of all believers” and of the “covenant nation.” 100 H.H. Cohn, Human Rights in the Bible and Talmud, 90-94. One may note Anckar, Religion and Democracy, 33, who points to Genesis 18:16-33, and the argument between God and Abraham, as proof for the importance of freedom of speech in the Old Testament. 101 M. Galchinsky, Jews and Human Rights: Dancing at Three Weddings (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 10-11. Because of this ambivalence and the difficulty of “selecting a usable past” from ancient traditions, Galchinsky prefers to focus on the role of Judaism in the modern movement for human rights. 102 Bainton, Here I Stand, 243-44. 103 Note G. Ward, Religion and Political Thought (New York: Continuum International, 2006), 64-67, for the notion that Luther “anticipates modernity in terms of equality, proto-democratic forms of political action, individualism and freedom of conscience.”


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

For Calvin, the King’s Charter of Deuteronomy 17 circumscribes the “potestas of kings” within certain limits, “’lest [the king] relying on the glory of the imperium, should exalt himself beyond measure.’”104 God restricts and restrains the dignity of kingship so that it would not become “’a pretext for unlimited might (immensae potentiae).’” Calvin did not reject the monarchy as an unbiblical form of government but neither did he envision the ideal form of government as monarchical. On biblical grounds, he admitted that monarchs could be appointed by God, a natural corollary to the teaching of predestination.105 He exhorted all to “entertain the most honorable views” of the office of kings and rulers.106 At the same time, he urged earthly judges to emulate the Old Testament and be inspired by the fear of the Lord in their service.107 In his view, “any form of political resistance to a tyrannical monarch should therefore proceed only from lower, popular magistrates (populares magistratum) working in concern with one another.”108


H. Hopfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Archive, 1985), 169, and The Institutes 4.20.9. 105 Boer, Political Grace: the Revolutionary Theology of John Calvin (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2009), especially 80, and Hopfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 161. Calvin appealed to the classic passages of Romans 13, but also to the Book of Proverbs 8:15-16: “By me kings reign and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth” (Inst. 4.20.4). 106 Institutes, 4.20.22, where Calvin justifies this obligation by citing Proverbs 24:21: “My son, fear the Lord and the king,” and Romans 13:5, where St. Paul states: “Be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” 107 Thus, 2 Chron 19:6-7; Deut 1:16: “Take heed what you do: for you judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment...For there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts” (Inst. 4.20.6). It is interesting to notice the degree to which Calvin quotes the Old Testament to define the political limitations of kings. Thus, Jer 22:23 (“do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood” (similarly Psalm 82:3-4); Jer 21:12 (“the prophet enjoins kings and other rulers to execute ‘judgment and righteousness”); Deut 1:16 (“you shall bear the small as well as the great”); Deut 17:16-20 (“that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren”); Ps 101:4-6 (“he that walks in a perfect way, he shall serve me”). 108 Lim, John Milton (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2006), 49-50, and Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Volume 2: The Age of Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 232. One may note that Calvin was criticized and vilified for his political views. He was called “the arch-inquisitor of Protestantism” and “dictator of Geneva”, but also a “pioneer of the freedom of conscience and human rights;” Boer, Political Grace,

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“So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannize and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinances of God, they are its appointed guardians” (Institutes 4.20.31).

Milton “invoked Deuteronomy 17:14 to underscore his point that it is the people’s right to choose their form of government.”109 In fact, Milton strengthened his argument by insisting that in the Old Testament the monarchy “had never been God’s choice for the governing of a nation to begin with.” In particular, he referred to the book of 1Samuel 8, where the elders of Israel requested the prophet Samuel to appoint for them a king, “to judge us like all the nations.” For Milton, God allowed the monarchy as an adjustment to the stubbornness of Israel, not as the perfect plan he had devised from the beginning.110 As Erik Nelson noted, this Old Testament “exegesis” was adopted by 17th century Protestants who argued for the benefits of a Republican, rather than a monarchical, society.111 One will note that in his The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, King James I had insisted that “if the king is to be punished, that punishment can only come from God himself;” in essence, James I declared that “the monarch is answerable to nobody on earth.”112 Milton wrote several works in which xii-xxiv. It is interesting, however, that Rousseau and even John Adams pointed to Geneva as an example of the “politics of religious liberty, Servetus notwithstanding.” 109 W.S.H. Lim, John Milton, Radical Politics and Biblical Republicanism, 48. For a similar argument, see Roshwald, RAÍCES BÍBLICAS DE LA DEMOCRACIA, 54. For a critique of Milton, Lim cites Filmer’s argument (Patriarcha) that Deuteronomy 17 represents the validation of monarchy by the people and the manifestation of their allegiance, not the free democratic election of a king. 110 For the notion that monarchy had always been the divine plan in the Old Testament and not a compromise, see D. Howard, “The Case for Kingship in the Old Testament Narrative Books and the Psalms”, Trinity Journal 9 (1988): 19-35; An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1993), 158-163, and E. Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament, 138. In essence, Howard and Merrill argue that God exerted his rulership over the earth through human kings. That is why Deuteronomy 17 justifies, not contradicts, the legitimacy of kingship in Israel. 111 The Hebrew Republic, 24-26, for the way Thomas Hobbes interpreted 1Samuel 18 in the Leviathan and the critical reactions that emerged against this “deconstructionist” reading of the Bible. 112 Lim, John Milton, Radical Politics and Biblical Republicanism, 49; E. Tuttle, “Biblical reference in the political pamphlets of Revelers and Milton, 1638-1654”, Milton and Republicanism, ed. D. Armitage (Cambridge: Cambridge University


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

he justified the punishment of any form of tyranny, on biblical and extrabiblical grounds.113 Every human being is subject to one universal, absolute law which originates from God. In relation to this truth, Milton appealed to Genesis 1:26-28 to justify the equality of every human being on the basis of having been created in the image and likeness of God.114 Scholars have also pointed to the 17th century and the context of the emergence of modern political thought. It was a time in which Scripture reentered the discourse on politics.115 Nelson argues that “during this period, Christians began to regard the Hebrew Bible as a political constitution, designed by God himself for the children of Israel.” It was this encounter that transformed the political climate by challenging the legitimacy of the monarchy and legitimizing the “republican” system. Accordingly, Christian Protestants adopted a Rabbinic reading of passages, such as Deuteronomy 17 and 1 Samuel 18 (about the origins of the monarchy): in essence, an “exegesis” which called into question the legitimacy of the monarchy.116

Press, 1998), 63-81, and Nelson, The Hebrew Republic, 37-39, showing that, for Milton, “’God was angry not only because they wanted a king in imitation of the gentiles, and not in accordance with his law, but clearly because they desired a king at all.’” 113 Thus, in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates,, Milton asserted that “proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through the ages, for any, who have the Power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked King, and after due conviction, to depose, and put him to death; if the ordinary MAGISTRATE have neglected, or deny’d to do it. And that they, who of late so much blame Deposing, are the Men that did it themselves.” A cursory reading of the Tenure will highlight the extent to which Milton depended on the Old Testament in his arguments against tyrannical rule and in support for the freedom of expression and of conscience. 114 Roshwald, RAÍCES BÍBLICAS DE LA DEMOCRACIA, 54-55. 115 E. Nelson, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 2, shows that “there are fewer than ten Biblical citations in the entire course of Petrarch’s Qualis esse debeat rem publicam regit, and there are none at all in Bruni’s Laudatio Fiorentinae urbis” (works of reference for the late Medieval political discourse). In contrast, there is hardly a page in any of the seventeen century texts “from authors like Grotius, Milton, Pufendorf, Locke and others, that “does not contain several Biblical citations.” 116 See especially chapter 3 of The Hebrew Republic, where Nelson discusses the Rabbinic interpretation of these passages and the way 17th century Protestants adopted this reading.

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Mirroring the spirit of the Old Testament prophet, Edmund Burke, who urged the English crown to make peace with the American colonies, affirmed the Protestant ideology of the early Americans in the following manner: “The people are Protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion.... All Protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of is the dissidence of dissent, and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion. This religion, under a variety of denominations agreeing in nothing but in the communion of the spirit of liberty, is predominant in most of the northern provinces.”117

Apparently what gave Protestants a convincing platform to undermine the supreme authority of the king in Europe was the belief that the king did not stand above the Law (as had been the case in the Ancient Near East and in certain kingdoms of Medieval Europe).118 The prophetic (biblical) confrontations on these claims offered the Protestants a legitimacy that was not easy to combat. True, in some communities the Reformers attempted to institute a “theocratic” regime, which fell into the very extreme practices they had opposed in the first place. Overall, however, one can make a compelling case that biblical thinking did influence the political views of authors like Williams, Locke, Milton and many others.

Conclusions As Greenfeld pointed out, many of the 16th century Englishmen were barely literate, but the translation of the Bible in the vernacular spurred reading to unprecedented levels. For many, “the Bible was not simply a book they all read, but the only book they read.”119 The argument that a society with a Puritan majority could hinder the growth of democracy is only partially true, not necessarily false. Other scholars have noted the


E. Burke, Fundamental Documents, “Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies.” 118 Thus, Heschel, The Prophets, 255-56, for the notion that the monarch had plenitutde potestatis and had the liberty to work supra jus et contra jus, et extra jus. 119 Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, 60-62, also points to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1554, 1583) as second to the Bible in importance and the “most articulate statement of the identity of the English national and Protestant interests.” The book exerted a powerful impact during the time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and stability, helping the English see themselves as God’s covenant nation.


The Biblical Milieu and the Shaping of the Democratic Consciousness

dangers that any majority would pose to the practice of true democracy.120 At the same time, modern research has established fairly conclusively that modern liberal democracy was born and matured in societies with a Christian majority: most often, though not exclusively, a Christian Protestant majority. Now, E. Nelson stated that “even if Hobbes, Locke, Milton and others relied on the Hebrew Bible to justify their political ideas, ‘it does not follow ... that they should be justified that way in the contemporary world.’”121 We disagree and note that the development of the institution of democracy reached its present form precisely because of the influences of Hobbes, Locke, Milton, and countless others who, in turn, used the Bible to give their ideas support and authority. The question we considered is not whether one must rely on the Hebrew Bible to reach political decisions but whether the political systems that the Western world relies on today have been influenced by authors who had a biblical worldview and whether their worldview left an imprint in the forms that democracy took in later years. Our argument takes into account the fact that the vision of the New Testament was shaped by the Old Testament.122 In turn, the New Testament exercised a profound influence on Medieval and (especially) Protestant thought. For example, Luther’s teaching of the priesthood of all believers has its origins in the Old Testament and was reformulated by the New Testament. In essence, this teaching helped the Reformation emphasize the equality and responsibility of all – which, in turn, had an impact on the development of democracy. Our analysis has shown that modern democracy has had a long and convulsed history. Arguably, no single author could claim absolute originality to his or her contributions to the development of democracy. All authors, more or less, had been influenced by their predecessors, in the 120

Note Anckar, Religion and Democracy, 34ff., and the arguments of Tocqueville and Kessler on this matter. Overall, Tocqueville held a positive view on role of Protestantism in the democratic life of America. 121 Quoted by E. Herschthal in “Did the Hebrew Bible Give Birth to Democracy?” The Jewish Week (04/27/2010), at cy_0. Herschthal also quotes Jack Rakove of Standford University who argues that “the very idea of revolution against the British had as its premise, at least in part, Christian ‘resistance theory,’ which holds that Christian Americans believed they had a God-sanctioned right to oppose tyrannical rule.” 122 Note Sachs, The Dignity of Difference, 93, for the conclusion that long before Hobbes, Locke and Jefferson ...biblical Judaism is a theory of limited government.”

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way they arrived at a mature understanding of “democracy.” The question we raised was whether the Old Testament and the Bible in general influenced the way these authors thought about democracy. Perhaps one may describe the state of modern democracy as an ocean into which many rivers – including the Bible – have flown, rivers which, in turn, were swelled throughout history by the flowing of countless, unknown springs and creeks.

References Albertz, R. A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period, vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1994. Anckar, C. Religion and Democracy: A Worldwide Comparison. New York: Routledge, 2012. Albright, W.F. From The Stone Age to Christianity. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Alvis, P.D.L. “Moses and the Magistrate: a Study in the Rise of Protestant Legalism.” Journal of Ecclesial History xxvi/2 (April 1975): 149-172 Bainton, R. Here I Stand. Tring, Herts: Lion Publishing, 1978. Bassani, L.M. “Life, Liberty and:...Jefferson on Property Rights.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 18. 1 (Winter 2004): 31–87. Boer, C. Political Grace: the Revolutionary Theology of John Calvin. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2009. Brett, M. “The Hebrew Bible and Human Rights.” (August, 2012). Bauchkam, R. Politics in the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1989. Burke, E. Fundamental Documents, “Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies.” Byrd, J.P. The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution and the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2002. Blenkinsopp, J. “The Family in First Temple Israel.” In Families in Ancient Israel, edited by L.G. Perdue, 48-103. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1997. Cohn, H.H. Human Rights in the Bible and Talmud. Tel Aviv: MOD Publishing, 1989. Conrad, J. “zqn.” In The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, edited by J. Botterweck, 122-131. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980. Crusemann, F. The Torah. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992.


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Daly, P. “Rights of Creation to Rights of Revolution.” In Religion and Human Rights: Competing Claims? Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998. De Vaux, R. Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997 Delbanco A., Heimert, A. The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. Dunn, J. The Political Thought of John Locke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Edgerton, R. “Traditional Beliefs and Practices: Are Some Better Than Others?” In Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, edited by Lawrence Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, 126-140. New York: Basic Books, 2001. Eichrodt, W. Old Testament Theology, vol. 1. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1961. —. Theology of the Old Testament, vol. 1. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1967. Fabry, H-J. “Melek.” In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. VIII, edited by G.H. Botterweck, 346-75. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997. Fry, V. “Democracy.” In Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, edited by W.E. Mills. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990. Gahlin, L. Egypt: Gods, Myths and Religion. New York: Barnes and Nobles, 2002. Galchinsky, M. Jews and Human Rights: Dancing at Three Weddings. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Glassman, R.M. The Middle Class and Democracy in Socio-Historical Perspective. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Goldingway, J. Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003. Gottwald, N. The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel. 1250-1050. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1999. Greenberg, B. “Reconceptualizing the Relationships Between Religion, Women, Culture and Human Rights.” In Religion and Human Rights: Competing Claims?, edited by C. Gustafson and P. Juviler, 140-74. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1999. Greenfeld, L. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992. Grier, R. “The Effect of Religion on Economic Development: A Crossnational Study of 63 Former Colonies.” Kyklos 50 (February 1997): 47–62.

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Grudem, W. Politics According to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Held, D. Models of Democracy. Cambridge: Polity, 2006. Herschthal, E. “Did the Hebrew Bible Give Birth to Democracy?” The Jewish Week (04/27/2010) th_democracy_0. Heschel, A.J. The Prophets, vol. II. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. Heim, K.M. “Kings and Kingship.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books, edited by B.T. Arnold, 610-23. Downers Grove, MI: Intervarsity Press, 2005. Hopfl, H. The Christian Polity of John Calvin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Archive, 1985. Howard, D. “The Case for Kingship in the Old Testament Narrative Books and the Psalms.” Trinity Journal 9 (1988): 19-35. —. An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1993. Htun, M. “Culture, Institutions and Gender Inequality in Latin America.” In Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, edited by Lawrence Harrison, 189-201. New York: Basic Books, 2001. Inglehart, R. “Culture and Democracy.” Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, edited by Lawrence Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, 80-97. New York: Basic Books, 2001. Irwin, W.A. “The Hebrews.” In The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man, edited by H.A. Frankfort et al., 223-360. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1946, 1977. Jefferson, T. Jefferson’s letter to Richard Price, Jacobsen, T. “Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 2, 3 (July 1943): 161-62. Jacobs, M.R. “Leadership, Elders.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, edited by D. Alexander, 515-18. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003. King, P.J. L./E. Stager. Life in Biblical Israel. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 2001. Lepronon, R.J. “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Pharaonic Egypt.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. I-II, edited by J.M. Sasson, 273-87. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.


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Levinson, B.M. “The First Constitution: Rethinking the Origins of Rule of Law and Separation of Powers in Light of Deuteronomy.” Cardozo Law Review 27 (2006): 1853-88. Lim, W.S.H. John Milton, Radical Politics and Biblical Republicanism. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2006. Locke, J. “On Property: 34,” The Second Treaty of Government, Mangalwadi, V. The Book That Made Your World. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011. Matthews, K.A. Genesis 1-11:26. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1996. Matthews, V. “Family Relationships.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, edited by T.D. Alexander, 291-99. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003. McConville, J. God and Earthly Power: an Old Testament Political Theology. London: Continuum Publishing, 2008. McLaughlin, A.C. The Foundations of American Constitutionalism. New York: New York Press, 1932. Merrill, E. Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2006. Mitchell, J. “John Locke: a Theology of Religious Liberty.” In Religious Liberty in Western Thought, edited by N.B. Reynold, 143-160. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Miller, P. The New England Mind: The Seventeen Century. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983. Moller, K. “Prophets and Prophecy.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books, edited by B.T. Arnold, 825-29. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2005. Montaner, C.A. “Culture and the Behavior of Ellites in Latin America.” In Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, edited by Lawrence Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, 56-64. New York: Basic Books, 2001. Morenz, S. Egyptian Religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973. Motyer, A. Look to the Rock. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1996 Munday, J.C. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: History of Inalienable Rights.” Freedom Council Seminar. Virginia: March 17, 2012. Nelson, E. The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

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Novak, D. “A Jewish Theory of Human Rights.” In Religion and Human Rights: an Introduction, edited by J. White, 27-41. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. North, R. “Palestine, Administration of (Judean Officials).” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by N.D. Freedman, 86-90. New York: Doubleday, 1992. O’Connor, D. “The Social and Economic Organization of Ancient Egyptian Temples.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by J. Sasson, 319-329. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995. O’Donovan, O. and J.L. O’Donovan From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought 100-1625. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. Parker, K.I. The Biblical Politics of John Locke. Waterloo, ON: Wilfried Laurier Univ. Press, 2004. Postgate, J.N. “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Sumer and Akkad.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. I-II, edited by J.M. Sasson, 395-411. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995. Preuss, H.D. Old Testament Theology, vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1991. Ringgren, H. “ABH.” In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, edited by H. Ringgren, 1-18. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974. Roebuck, C. The World of Ancient Times. New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1966. Rossiter, C. Seedtime of the Republic: the Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1953. Roshwald, M. “The Biblical Roots of Democracy.” Diogenes 53 (November 2006): 139-151. —. RAÍCES BÍBLICAS DE LA DEMOCRACIA, Joseph Messa, Selectiones de Teologia, 47-58, oshwald.pdf, Sacks, J. The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. New York: Continuum Publishing, 2002. Skinner, Q. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Volume 2: The Age of Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978. Stendenbach, F.J. “Tselem.” In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. XII, edited by G.H. Botterweck, 386-395. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003. Titus, H.W. “Biblical Principles of Law.” In The Lonang Institute (November 18, 2010), electronic edition.


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Tuttle, E. “Biblical reference in the political pamphlets of Revelers and Milton, 1638-1654.” In Milton and Republicanism, edited by D. Armitage, 63-81. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Von Soden, W. The Ancient Orient. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994. Walton, J. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006. Ward, Religion and Political Thought. New York: Continuum International, 2006. Weber, M. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Mineola, NY: Courrier Dover Publications, 2003. Westenholz, A. “The Summerian City State.” In A Comparative Study of Six City-State Cultures: An Investigation, vol. 27, edited by M.H. Hansen, 23-42. Copenhagen: Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selska, 2002. Whitelam, K.W. “King and Kingship.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, edited by D.N. Freedman, 40-48. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Wright, C.J.H. God’s People in God’s Land. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990. —. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004. —. “Family (Old Testament).” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by N.D. Freedman, 761-69. New York: Doubleday, 1992.


Introduction It is probably right to say that two or three decades ago few people would have tried to connect and/or relate in any meaningful way to religion and politics. In recent times, however, there is a remarkable movement towards, and a growing interest in, finding appropriate ways to understand and relate the two aspects of life. The question of religion and politics has become an important and urgent issue for those interested in both religious phenomena and political life. Suffice here only to refer to the increasingly influential political role of the religious/fundamentalist groups in the Islamic countries or to the significant political influence of the American right. Thus, whether one thinks of the re-emergence model or the new visibility of religion model, one thing is clear and beyond any doubt: religion has become a major factor in the social and political arena.1 Specialized, empirical studies also show that religion is becoming particularly influential, as a potential factor for social stability/ instability, as the motivation for individual conduct, indeed as an “absolute necessity for democracy.”2 The results of a decade of empirical studies conducted by Emory University throughout the world on religious sources and dimensions of human rights and democracy have confirmed that religion is a vital dimension of any democracy, as it offers the highest framework of reference and values, and gives content and coherence to the structure of 1

See, for example, Graham Ward and Michael Hoelzl (eds.), The New Visibility of Religion. Studies in Religion and Cultural Hermeneutics (London/New York: Continuum, 2008) who present these two models and argue for the new visibility model. 2 Christoph Von Schönborn, Oamenii, Biserica, Tara. Crestinismul ca provocare sociala (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Anastasia, 2000), 87.


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human communities and cultures.3 More specifically the study revealed that, “Religion is an ineradicable condition of human persons and communities. Religion invariably provides universal sources and scales of values by which many persons and communities govern and measure themselves. Religion invariably provides the sources and scales of dignity and responsibility, shame and respect, restitution and reconciliation that democracy and human rights need to survive and to flourish. Religions must thus be seen as indispensable allies in the modern struggle for human rights and democratization. Their faith and works, their symbols and structures, must be adduced to give meaning and measure to the abstract claims of democratic and human-rights norms.”4

Since it becomes obvious that one cannot ignore religion in the public domain, one has to look for appropriate ways to relate the two, for ways to integrate in a meaningful way religion and politics as two distinct yet very important dimensions of existence. In this paper, we will explore the way in which the integration of religion and politics in antiquity could represent a model for our understanding of the dynamic relationship between religion and politics in contemporary society. The structure of the paper is simple; it begins with a brief presentation of religion and politics in antiquity, and then, it looks more specifically at the way in which Apostle Paul understands and presents this relationship in his writings. The last part of the paper will be devoted to a Pauline interpretation of “principalities and powers” in the context of Roman imperial ideology. We conclude with a note on the relevance and contribution that a Pauline concept of “powers” could bring to the discussion of religion and politics in contemporary Christianity.

Religion and Politics in Antiquity Contrary to what our modern pervasive assumptions and cultural background teach us, religion and politics were not two separate areas of life in the ancient world, but rather, they were very closely connected and integrated into a large, holistic picture of reality. This fact is clearly illustrated by the dynamics of the widespread first century Roman imperial 3

The findings of these projects were published in various journal publications and in a two-volume work entitled Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective (The Hague and London: Martinus Nijoff, 1996). 4 John Witte Jr., “Introduction: Pluralism, Proselytism, and Nationalism in Eastern Europe”, Journal of Ecumenical Studies XXVI (1999), 1.

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cult – especially in the relationship between the divine nature of the Emperor and his political power. Even a cursory look at this phenomenon will reveal that religion, politics, and power were closely interrelated issues in the ancient world.5 The Roman Imperial Cult. An abundance of archaeological discoveries of Roman imperial temples, coins and statues of emperors and many texts inscribed on stones from the first century Mediterranean world, especially in Asia Minor, offer a clear picture of the cult of the Roman emperor in all the details of actual practices, its purposes and theoretical framework. The cult of Caesar represented a rather developed way by which the new Roman provinces were controlled and governed. The imperial cult was primarily “an important expression of loyalty and gratitude toward the emperor…The cult both articulated the position of the emperor in the world and provided provincial elites with a language for diplomacy and strategy for developing relations with this powerful figure.”6 In the Mediterranean Hellenistic world, the cult of the Roman emperor was created on the basis and forms of traditional Greek religion with the purpose of promoting and conveying piety towards the emperor – who was counted among the gods and for whom temples and shrines were erected and honors and sacrifices offered as to a “god.”7 In Paul’s days, the imperial cult and its corresponding ceremonies were not irregular, private and temporary events but institutionalized public rituals performed regularly for the emperor in local communities through public celebrations, especially in big cities such as Corinth and Ephesus. The cult was present everywhere and was manifested in varied forms from place to place – sanctuaries, imperial temples and statues, coins, public ceremonies, sacrifices, processions, donations, honors, etc. – as shown in the text of this inscription illustrating the benevolence of an individual for the imperial family: 5

The material in this and the next section is a summary presentation from the chapter “The political context of Paul”, in Corneliu Constantineanu, The Social Significance of Reconciliation (London/New York: T&T Clark Continuum, 2010). 6 D. A. deSilva, “Ruler Cult”, in Dictionary of New Testament Background (from now on abbreviated as DNTB), ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Electronic Edition, Logos Library, 2000). 7 S. Price, “Rituals and Powers”, in Paul and Empire, ed. Richard A. Horsley (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997), 47- 71. Two other essays in the same collection are extremely insightful and offer excellent illustrations and supported documentation of the proportions and extent of the spread of the Roman imperial cult: P. A. Brunt, “Laus Imperii”, 25-35, and Paul Zanker, “The Power of Images”, 72-86.


Christ and Caesar “In the magistracy of Gaius Caesar, son of Augustus, leader of the youth, he sacrificed again at [the festivals of] the Nedameia and Sebasta and offered sweet-meats to the citizens and Romans and foreigners. In the magistracy of Apollonodotus, when news came of the safety and victory of Augustus he sacrificed at the good news [gospel] to all the gods and goddesses and feasted at the sacrifice the citizens, the Romans and the foreigners and gave to those mentioned a bottle of wine and three pounds of bread. He also dedicated to the sons of Augustus a sanctuary and temple from his own money in the most prominent part of the square, on which his name was also inscribed, wanting to show his gratitude and piety to the whole [imperial] house. … He also founded at the harbour of the market a temple to Augustus god Caesar, so that no table place should lack his goodwill and piety to the god [Augustus].”8

It is remarkable to observe that all the essential elements of honors, temples, festivals, sacrifices, goodwill, and piety offered to the traditional gods are now also offered to the emperor – whose actions are explicitly compared with those of the gods. Paul’s near contemporary, Philo of Alexandria, writes highlighting the same truth: “The whole inhabited world voted him honors usually accorded the Olympian gods. These are so well attested by temples, gateways, vestibules, and colonnades that every city which contains magnificent works new and old is surpassed in these by the beauty and magnitude of those appropriated to Caesar.” 9

Augustus was perceived more and more as a benefactor of the whole world and the imperial rule as providing an overarching umbrella within which all people could live.10 And, as Price argues, all these rituals are not simply “honors” offered to the emperor, but they represent rather a cognitive system which defines the nature of the king and of the state, “a way of conceptualizing the world”; all the temples, sacrifices, processions


“A Catalogue of Imperial Temples and Shrines in Asia Minor” quoted in Price, “Rituals and Powers,” 48-49. 9 Philo, Embassy to Gaius (electronic ed., Logos Librarys, 1997). 10 This is how Nikolas of Damascus, a contemporary of Augustus, described the reaction of the Greeks towards Augustus: “The whole of humanity turns to the Sebastos (i.e., Augustus) filled with reverence. Cities and provincial councils honor him with temples and sacrifices, for this is his due. In this way do they give thanks to him everywhere for his benevolence.” As quoted by Zanker in “Power of Images”, 72.

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and images are “crucially important collective constructs to which the individual reacts.”11 The essential framework of the imperial cult was given by the regular imperial festivals. And, it was during these festivals and their rituals that “the vague and elusive ideas concerning the emperor, the “collective representations”, were focused in action and made powerful.”12 The incorporation of the imperial cult in the public life of the cities is illustrated by the location of the imperial temples and sanctuaries in the most prominent and prestigious places within the city. In addition to temples and altars erected for the emperor in the civic centres, there was also a special imperial space provided in the main squares of the cities, which further illustrates the impact of the emperor on the city and the desire to give him the greatest possible prominence. The birthday and various anniversaries of the emperor became important dates in the calendar of Greek cities and were publicly celebrated with various ceremonies, while the imperial image became ubiquitous and started to be venerated. The fact that both diplomacy and the imperial cult – which were ways of representing the emperor and were both concerned with power – used religious language, is a clear indication that politics (diplomacy) and religion (the imperial cult) were not separate but closely interconnected spheres.13 As Price points out, Roman ambassadors served often as the priests in the imperial cult, and there were instructions given by the city officials as to the way they should address the emperor: “they were to address Augustus as one who had attained the eminence and power of the gods, and were to promise further divine honors which would ‘deify him even more.’”14 It was not unusual, then, that some ambassadors addressed the emperor as “unconquered hero” while others presented divine honors to him. This is another expression of the fact that “the political-religious 11

Price, “Rituals and Powers”, 50-51. Price further contends that even though politics and religion were so closely connected in antiquity, starting with Origen in the 3rd century, a distinction has been made between religious and political honours and so the imperial cult was subsequently inadequately interpreted simply as an expression of political loyalty (51-52). 12 Price, “Rituals and Powers”, 57. 13 Hafemann points out that the spectacular parades of the conqueror emperor entering Rome through the Porta Triumphalis after a great military victory, had become, by the time of the New Testament, “the most important and well-known political-religious institution of the period” (italics added). In “Roman Triumph,” in DNTB (electronic ed., Logos Library). See also D. W. J. Gill, “Roman Political System”, in DNTB (Electronic ed., Logos Library). 14 Price, “Rituals and Power”, 69.


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institutions in which power relations were constituted were virtually inseparable from the local social-economic networks of imperial society.”15 Thus, in the first century world, religion was not perceived primarily as a search for the “salvation of the soul” into eternal life – though there is evidence that some forms of religion, especially the “mystery cults”, did focus on the inwardness and privacy of worship, on the salvation of the individual through initiation of specific mysteries.16 Similarly, politics did not simply mean the exercise of power by a complex military and administrative apparatus of “state officials.” This dichotomy between religion and politics is a modern conventional imposition on two spheres of life, which had, at that time, a fundamental correspondence. The cult of the emperor represented an integral part of Roman imperial society, provided the means for cohesion and unity among different cities and provinces in the Roman Empire, and generated social order. From our discussion above, it is possible to think that Paul might have formulated his gospel also in reaction to the widespread claims of the emperor’s cult and the broader imperial ideology.

Paul and Politics In the traditional, classical interpretations of Paul, it was claimed that the Apostle was not concerned with the social, political realities of the world but rather with solely preaching the gospel of salvation. Further, the claim goes, Paul expected the imminent end of the world, and so, he did not care much about what happened with the wider world. However, more recent studies show that this is not an accurate view of Paul. Far from an escapist mentality, it is shown that Paul’s creational theology, i.e., his understanding of God’s relation to and sovereignty over creation, over nations and over history and the way this reality was irreversibly affected by God’s intervention in Christ, gave Paul a positive view of the world and of the place and role of the larger structures of society. Furthermore, the way he formulated his gospel shows that Paul was well acquainted with the religious, cultural, social, and political matrix of the GrecoRoman world with which he thoroughly engaged. Within this larger 15 Richard Horsley, “The Gospel of Imperial Salvation – Introduction” in Paul and Empire, 11. Cicero also indicated the intimate relationship of religion and politics in his time: “There is really no human activity in which human virtus approaches more closely the divine power of the gods that the founding of new states or the preservation of those already founded.” Quoted by Horsley, ibid., 14. 16 Marvin W. Meyer, “Mystery Religions”, in D. N Freedman (ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary (electronic ed.). (Doubleday: New York 1996).

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framework of reference, it is plausible, indeed necessary, to enquire about the social and political dimensions of Paul’s writing, since his theology, like much of the theological discourse of the NT, was meant not simply to “offer salvation” in a narrow spiritual sense but also to affect moral dispositions, to shape particular communities, to determine specific behavior and a particular way of being in and for the world. For Apostle Paul and for all first century Christians, there was one realm of reality in which body and soul, religion and politics, private and public, individual and social aspects of reality were intermingled in a complex, unified vision of life. It was primarily by our own presuppositional “assignment” of Paul to the “sacred” or “spiritual/religious” realm that we were unable to perceive him as being interested in social and political issues, as well. Once we become aware of the unified worldview of Paul and attempt to read him on his own terms, we may discover a new facet of Paul. Indeed, recent trends in Pauline studies argue that Paul was more profoundly political than is usually perceived and that the gospel he preached had significant social and political dimensions.17 It is true, the extent of such concerns and the basic orientation of Paul’s political thought is a matter of debate in recent scholarship, and there is a wide spectrum of views among scholars regarding Paul’s attitude to and reflection on social and political issues.18 What is becoming clearer, 17

The most recent and significant studies include two excellent books edited by Richard Horsley, Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2000), and Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997). There are also a few very significant monographs: Bruno Blumenfeld, The Political Paul: Justice, Democracy and Kingship in a Hellenistic Framework (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001); Neil Elliott, Liberating Paul: The justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995); Mark Strom, Reframing Paul: Conversation in Grace and Community (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000); R. A. Horsley and M. A. Silberman, The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997); Elsa Tamez, The Amnesty of Grace: Justification by Faith from a Latin American Perspective (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993); Robert Grant, Paul in the Roman World: the conflict at Corinth (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001). 18 On the one hand, there are those who interpret Paul as having a basic conservative attitude towards to social and political dimensions of reality (among which R. Grant, E.E. Ellis, D. Tidball, B. Blumenfeld). On the other hand, there are those who argue that Paul had a more profound political thought reflected in his letters (T. Gorringe, W. Wink, D. Georgi, N. Elliott, M. Strom, R. Horsley, N.T. Wright and others).


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however, is the fact that the gospel Paul proclaimed was not in any way detached from everyday reality, and that it also had a political message at its heart. Further still, some studies show that the political dimension of the gospel was not secondary or accidental to Paul’s writings but rather an integral and fundamental element of it. The gospel of the crucified and resurrected Christ, it is claimed, not only has few “social and political implications” but is rather political at its core.19 Paul’s immediate or primary concern with the formation of Christian communities does not mean that he was not preoccupied also with issues of society at large or, especially, with aspects of Christian living in the world. On the contrary, with his unified vision of life, there is no dichotomy in Paul’s mind regarding the life of Christians inside and outside of the Christian community: that is, there are not two different sets of morals for the believers, i.e., one for life within the church and another for their life in the world. For Paul, it is absolutely clear that the beliefs of Christians are not (cannot be) separated from the life of the Christians in their own contexts but are, in fact, deeply integrated into one comprehensive worldview and way of life. In many cases where commentators of Paul regard him as a-social and a-political, this is not because of Paul but because of a long history of domesticating Paul to the power interests of Christians and their own purposes. It is for the same reason that we find ourselves, at times, unable to see beyond what we are accustomed to seeing and hearing regarding Paul’s attitudes to social and political issues. One could hardly disagree with Käsemann’s powerful assertion that “the history of Pauline interpretation is the history of the apostle’s ecclesiastical domestication.”20 Paul’s Political Terms. Against the background of Roman Empire, on the one hand, and of a Hellenistic popular philosophy on the other, many of Paul’s terms and concepts like euangelion, dikaiosounei, ekklesia, knoinonia, pistis, eireinei, polis/politeia/politeuma, katallasso/katallagei, etc., can be seen in a completely different light – not as simply religious and spiritual concepts but also as having a very concrete social and 19

These are the initial findings of two research groups, one in the USA, “Paul and Political Group” led by Richard Horsley (published in the two volumes Paul and Politics and Paul and Empire), and the other in the UK, “Scripture and Hermeneutics Group” led by Craig Bartholomew, particularly the third volume, A Royal Priesthood? The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically. A Dialogue with Oliver O’Donovan (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002). 20 Used as the motto by Neil Elliott for his chapter entitled “Paul in the service of Death”, Liberating Paul, 1.

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political dimension. This is, for example, one of the major conclusions of a recent and thoroughly documented study by Bruno Blumenfeld, The Political Paul: Justice, Democracy and Kingship in a Hellenistic Framework, which analyzes and places Paul within the tradition of political reflection of Hellenistic Pythagoreans.21 In a similar fashion, Margaret Mitchell discusses the “political” nature of 1 Corinthians and argues persuasively that Paul responds to the evident factionalism in Corinth (schismata – an inherently political problem entangled with religious aspects and motivations) with a strong, deliberative rhetoric of reconciliation by drawing on contemporary political terms.22 These studies show that to neglect the political dimension of Paul’s thought means not only that his theology cannot be fully understood or appreciated but also that a simply apolitical reading de-contextualizes him and gives us a false impression regarding his thought.

Christ and Caesar: Power, religion and politics in Pauline writings A significant element in trying to explore the question of religion and politics in the Pauline writings is a proper understanding of Paul’s missionary concerns within the framework of Roman imperial ideology. The letter of Paul stands out not simply as Paul’s mature, theological thinking and reflection but also as an illustration of his major concern with a unique message and ministry: to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world. His distinctive call was driven by a vision of a united community “in Christ,” made up of Jews and Gentiles, transcending barriers of ethnicity, nationality, gender and social class. But, equally 21

Bruno Blumenfeld, The Political Paul: Justice, Democracy and Kingship in a Hellenistic Framework (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001). Blumenfeld argues that Paul’s views in general, and especially in Romans and Philippians, “are structurally, argumentatively and conceptually coherent with Classical and Hellenistic political thought” (12). Even though, as I hope to show later on, Blumenfeld leaves out other important dimensions of Paul’s thought (particularly his theology) and takes a rather questionable approach which leads him to similar conclusions (especially about Paul’s attitude and stance vis-à-vis Roman empire), his study is important as it highlights the pervasive political aspect in Paul’s theology. 22 Margaret Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians (Tubingen: Mohr, 1991). See also Robert Grant, Paul in the Roman World: the conflict at Corinth (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001).


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significant, the larger framework within which Paul conducted most of his ministry was the Roman Empire with its ideology and rhetoric of “peace and security”, of “justice”, of “salvation” that were radically different from the message of the gospel of Christ. Inevitably, in the process of relating the gospel to the world of his day, Paul challenged and critically engaged with the dominant cultural values of his day from the unwavering principle of his total surrender and obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10: 4). From this perspective, we are probably right to say that, whatever else Paul is doing in his letters, he is also formulating the gospel as an implicit and sometimes explicit response to the dominant culture with its widespread cult of the emperor, challenging but also engaging it from the perspective of God’s intervention in the world through Jesus Christ.23 Wright states that “[Paul] engaged with the wider Hellenistic culture of his day, both in partial affirmation and in substantial critique, operating on the principle…of taking every thought captive to obey the Messiah.”24 Paul argued forcefully that those who are “in Christ” have the possibility and responsibility to leave behind their sinful past and live a new life of peace and reconciliation on the basis of their being a “new” community guided by a new system of values and principles (Romans 5-6). This alternative way of perceiving the world and living out such convictions in the midst of it has, no doubt, determined strong reactions from the world, which led to various forms of suffering for the new community. The story of Christ and of the new community has been from the very beginning a “counter-story to the standard imperial narrative of Roman history reaching its climax in Augustus Caesar.”25 The new transformed life of the community of those gathered “in Christ” lived in front of a watching and hostile world is a life of total allegiance to Christ and not to Caesar. However, this is not to be confused with a life of anarchy and rebellion against the powers that be, as Paul’s argument in Romans 13 makes clear. On the contrary, guided by the life and example of Jesus’ death on the cross, the proper response to the powers is a life of discernment, engagement and of self-giving love as worship to the only 23

Particularly relevant for this discussion and argument are several studies by N.T. Wright, “Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans”; “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire”; “God and Caesar, Then and Now” and his “Gospel and Empire” chapter in his latest book Paul: Fresh Perspectives, 59-79. Also the books edited by Richard Horsley, Paul and Empire; Paul and Politics and his latest Paul and the Roman Imperial Order. 24 Wright Paul, 59 (italics added). 25 Wright, Paul, 78.

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Lord, Jesus Christ, worship expressed in genuine love shown in concrete manifestations towards the other. The very living together of Jews and Gentiles and their overcoming of traditional barriers and separations to join as one family in the new community in Christ, represents a strong and undeniable sign of the working power of God in their midst and a powerful message to the powers that the ultimate purpose of life is accomplished by other means than those propagated by the imperial ideology. One way in which we can explore Paul’s view of the correlation between religion and politics is to analyze carefully his concept of “principalities and powers.” It seems that Paul not only spoke about the existence of such “powers” but also about the fact that they are important to be considered, that they are part of God’s creation and play a significant role within the structures of existence and that the work of Christ has fundamentally altered their involvement in the world. The main texts that are usually considered in the Pauline corpus related directly to his understanding of Powers are the following: Romans 8:38-39: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor present nor future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:8: “None of the rulers of this age understood this [the hidden wisdom of God]; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He will have dethroned every rule, every power and dominion. For He must reign as king, until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be dethroned is death.” Ephesians 1:20-21 “by raising Him from the dead and making Him sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, above every rule and power and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this, but also in the coming age… .” Ephesians 2:1-2 “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which is now at work in the children of disobedience.” Ephesians 3: 10 “...through the church the manifold wisdom of God shall be known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not have to wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the evil spirits in heavenly places.” Colossians 1: 16 “For in Him are all things created, which are in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones,


Christ and Caesar dominions, principalities, powers; all things are created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them thereby.”

Even at a surface reading of these passages one can observe several distinctive characteristics. First, Paul uses different terms for what we may call his concept of “Powers”: “principalities/ rulers” (archai); “powers/authorities” (exousiai); “powers” (dynameis); “rulers” (archontes); “thrones” (thronoi); “dominions/powers” (kyrioteites); “world rulers/powers” (kosmokratores); “elemental principles” (stoicheia); “spiritual forces” (pneumatika). Second, it is not very clear whether these terms indicate different types of Powers or different functions or even whether they represent different names for a broader, more inclusive concept. Neither is it clear whether they are personal or impersonal forces, or perhaps both. Third, what seems to be somewhat clearer is the fact that Paul indicates that there are various numbers of diverse Powers; that they have been created by God; that they play, somehow, an obvious role in one’s faith and life in Christ, especially by their constant effort to separate the believers from God; that the church, by its very existence is a constant challenge to these Powers; and that they will, ultimately, come under the lordship and reconciliation of Christ.

Powers as Authorities and Structures of Human Existence A particular line of interpretation in Pauline scholarship regarding the ‘powers’ has emphasized also their social and political dimension in addition to the spiritual one, maintaining that the concept of “Powers” is a much broader concept in the Pauline writings and that it cannot be limited to strictly spiritual beings.26 Among the most influential interpreters who understand the Pauline concept of “Powers” as “structures of human 26

Among the most representative scholars holding this view we mention Heinrich Schlier, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament (New York: Herder & Herder, 1961); G. H. C. MacGregor, “Principalities and Powers: The Cosmic Background of Paul's Thought” in New Testament Studies 1 (1954): 17-28; E. Gordon Rupp, Principalities and Powers: Studies in the Christian Conflict in History (London: Epworth, 1952); G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956); William Stringfellow, Free in Obedience (New York: Seabury Press, 1964), and An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Waco: Word Book, 1973); Markus Barth, Acquittal by Resurrection (New York: Holt, 1964); Richard Mouw, Politics and the Biblical Drama (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976); Ronald. J. Sider, Christ and Violence (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1979).

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existence” are Hendrikus Berkhof, John Howard Yoder and Walter Wink.27 It is beyond the scope of this paper, of course, to go into a detailed analysis of the Pauline concept of powers.28 Instead, we would like to offer only the most important elements of Paul’s presentation of “powers” that will enable us to have a better understanding of the correlation between religion and politics for a constructive Christian engagement in contemporary society. From such texts as Romans 8:38-9 and 1 Cor. 3:22, it is clear that Powers are not simply angels or classes of angels since these names are listed by Paul alongside other nouns which do not designate spiritual beings. Paul’s aim is to point out that our earthly existence is conditioned by various realities, whose roles are ones of domination. Even in 1 Cor. 2:8, where the Powers have a definite personal aspect (“the rulers of this age”), Paul’s emphasis seems to lie on the connection or function of the Powers in human history. The same holds true for Col. 2: 8-23 and Gal. 4:1-11. The life of those outside of Christ is ruled by these Powers (stoicheia) identified by Paul as “human traditions”, “public opinion”, “ethical and religious regulations.” Whether they are conceived as persons or impersonal structures, it seems that the Powers form a category of their own. Though Paul is stressing over and over again that by his cross Christ has unmasked and disarmed the power of such structures, they still continue to have dominion by “enslaving” people in various ways. Here is Berkhof’s summary: “Paul observes that life is ruled by a series of Powers. He speaks of time (present and future), of space (depth and height), of life and death, of politics and philosophy, of public opinion and Jewish law, of pious 27

Hendrikus Berkhof, Christ and the Powers (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1977); John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, second edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). It is probably right to say that among the contemporary scholars who dealt with this topic, Walter Wink make the most significant contribution to a better and more complex understanding of the Pauline concept of powers – among his most important writings on this subject are, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), and The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (New York: Doubleday, 1998). 28 For a comprehensive analysis of the major lines of interpretation of the concept of “principalities and powers” in the Pauline writings see Corneliu Constantineanu, “The Pauline concept of powers: trends in interpretation”, Studii Teologice (2013), forthcoming.


Christ and Caesar tradition and the fateful course of the stars. Apart from Christ man is at the mercy of these Powers. They encompass, carry, and guide his life. The demands of the present, fear for the future, state and society, life and death, tradition and morality – they are all our "guardians and trustees," the forces which hold together the world and the life of men and preserve them from chaos.”29

Powers in the Creation, Fall and Preservation At a closer examination of the statements on Powers, we see that Paul speaks of them in relation to the creation, fall, preservation, consummation and in relation to the church. Col. 1:15-17 testifies to the creative will of God, to the positive significance of Powers and to the fact that they have been created through and for Christ. It is the crucified and risen Christ that is the ultimate ground of being, and the goal of creation and the Powers, by their very nature, were intended to be instruments of God’s love in Christ. Berkhof puts it well: “the Powers serve as the invisible weight-bearing substratum of the world, as the underpinnings of creation. By no means does Paul think of the Powers as evil in themselves. They are the linkage between God's love and visible human experience. They are to hold life together, preserving it within God's love, serving as aids to bind men fast in His fellowship; intermediaries, not as barriers but as bonds between God and man. … they are the dikes with which God encircles His good creation, to keep it in His fellowship and protect it from chaos. …It is precisely when they do this that they fulfill their own destiny. Therefore the believer's combat is never to strive against the Orders, but rather to battle for God's intention for 30 them, and against their corruption.”

However, much else that Paul has to say about Powers throughout his letters refers to their fallen state and to their being turned away from their created purpose. They are no longer instruments of God’s love in creation, but they are in opposition to God’s purposes - they separate people from God (Rom. 8:38-9). The Powers present themselves as the ultimate reality, “asking” a total allegiance from human beings: “The Powers are no longer instruments, linkages between God's love, as revealed in Christ, and the visible world of creation. In fact, they have become gods (Galatians 4:8), behaving as though they were the ultimate ground of being, and demanding from men an appropriate worship. This is 29 30

Berkhof, Christ and the Powers, 22. Berkhof, Christ and the Powers, 28-29.

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the demonic reversal which has taken place on the invisible side of creation. No longer do the Powers bind man and God together; they separate them. They stand as a roadblock between the Creator and His creation. … They are "the rulers of this age" (I Corinthians 2:6). In their desire to rule they are in enmity toward the Lord of glory, who can suffer them only as instruments, not as lords…Ephesians 2:1; 6.12" (30). …Nor should it be difficult for us to perceive today in every realm of life these Powers which unify men, yet separate them from God. The state, politics, class, social struggle, national interest, public opinion, accepted morality, the ideas of decency, humanity, democracy – these give unity and direction to thousands of lives. Yet precisely by giving unity and direction they separate these many lives from the true God; they let us believe that we have found the meaning of existence, whereas they really estrange us 31 from true meaning.”

What is important to note, however, is that according to Paul even in their fallen state the Powers maintain a part of their ordained function by continuing to be the framework of creation and, thus, preserving it from disintegration.

The Powers in Redemption and Consummation By the cross and resurrection of Christ, the domination of Powers has been exposed and their power conquered – and this represents the centre of Paul’s perception of Powers. Colossians 2:13-15 is the most significant text expressing this conviction, namely that Christ has “disarmed” the principalities and powers, which he had made “a public example of them” and that he “triumphed over them.” I will give a longer quote from Berkhof in which he excellently elaborates on these three different words that Paul uses to express more adequately the effect of the cross on the Powers: “He ‘made a public example of them.’ It is precisely in the crucifixion that the true nature of the Powers has come to light. Previously they were accepted as the most basic and ultimate realities, as the gods of the world. Never had it been perceived, nor could it have been perceived, that this belief was founded on deception. Now that the true God appears on earth in Christ, it becomes apparent that the Powers are inimical to Him, acting not as His instruments but as His adversaries. The scribes, representatives of the Jewish law, far from receiving gratefully Him who came in the name of the God of the law, crucified Him in the name of the law. The priests, servants of His temple, crucified Him in the name of the temple. 31

Berkhof, Christ and the Powers, 32-33.


Christ and Caesar The Pharisees, personifying piety, crucified Him in the name of piety. Pilate, representing Roman justice and law, shows what these are worth when called upon to do justice to the Truth Himself. Obviously, ‘none of the rulers of this age,’ who let themselves be worshiped as divinities, understood God's wisdom, ‘for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory’ (1 Cor. 2:8). Now they are unmasked as false gods by their encounter with very God; they are made a public spectacle.”32

Christ has “triumphed over” the power, and it is in the resurrection that the triumph of the cross is manifested. Christ’s work is central; through his heat on the cross, he has disarmed the Powers wherever this event is being preached, and the Powers are unmasked and disarmed. To be sure, the fact that the Powers have been disarmed by Christ at the cross does not mean that they stopped their wicked working. They will continue to frustrate, to deceive and to dominate. However, it is certain that because of the cross and resurrection the final triumph of Christ will become effective and the Powers will ultimately be dethroned: “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after dethroning every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). There are two other important passages which speak about the Powers and consummation: Colossians 1:19-20 – “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross”; and Ephesians 1:10 – “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” These are clear indications that, at the end of times, there will be a restoration of proper relationships in a broader sense and that the Powers will be brought back to their proper function within the lordship of Christ. For the time being, Powers are still present and seek lordship for themselves. However, Paul is in no doubt that there is a clear limitation to their power, given by the very presence of the church. Given the lordship of Christ over history, the Powers cannot ultimately achieve their goal, and so, they cannot do anything that go beyond God’s plan. Indeed, as Paul makes it very clear in Romans 13, the powers are simply God’s instruments.


Berkhof, Christ and the Powers, 38.

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The Church and the Powers Because the Powers are constantly engaged in seducing and intimidating, the church is called to take a definite stance towards them, a stance grounded in the fact that believers are enabled to “discern the spirits” and resist their power of delusion. By the power of the Spirit, through faith, the believer sees the Powers exactly for what they are, in their true proportions, simply as one segment of creation, with clear attributes and limitations given by God. Ephesians 3:10 points to the responsibility of the church vis-à-vis Powers: “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places." The manifold wisdom of God is the “mystery” hidden for ages but revealed now, the miraculous coming together of Jews and Gentiles in one body and their reconciliation. And, this is exactly what the church announces to the Powers: that the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles, their living together in fellowship, as one body, is a sign that the Powers have been conquered and their unbroken dominion has ended for all those united in Christ. The responsibility of the church is not to destroy the Powers but to unmask their pretentions to dominion and enslavement, to resist their power of seduction and deception, and to challenge their false pretense, thus making them relative and modest.

Conclusion: Religion, Politics and Contemporary Christianity In conclusion, we would like to offer some reflections on the relevance of the Pauline concept of powers for contemporary Christian thinking, especially as it relates to the question of religion and politics, of church and society.33 Paul’s Jewish matrix provided him with a worldview, which 33 Even though the space does not allow us to elaborate on this, I would like, at least, to make reference to a very significant resource for those interested in this subject for the Romanian context, namely the series of book from Theologia Socialis published by Eikon publishing house in Cluj-Napoca. Through its books this series offers an excellent framework for debate about the role of religious communities in the public arena but also a solid, theological argument for the social and political dimension of the Gospel, for the public nature of Christian faith. From among its significant titles I would like to mention just a few: Radu Preda, Revenirea lui Dumnezeu. Studii socio-teologice (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2010); Iuliana Conovici, Ortodoxia în România post-comunistă. ReconstrucĠia unei identităĠi publice (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2010); Radu Carp, Religia în tranziĠie. Ipostaze ale României creЮtine (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2009) and Dumnezeu la


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shaped fundamentally his thought and praxis. Particularly, his strong belief in a creational monotheism gave him an understanding of the world as God’s good creation in which God is present and active and in which God’s people should be actively engaged towards its eschatological transformation. Equally significant in terms of the relation to the outside world, Paul encourages a positive engagement. While Christians should maintain their different and specific identity, this should not cause them to separate or be indifferent towards the outside world but rather to be engaged in its renewal and transformation. The gospel Paul preached had a significant political dimension, which cannot be ignored in a proper interpretation of his writing. It could not have been otherwise, since, in the first century, religion and politics were closely intertwined, and it was not possible to think or comprehend one without the other. The cult of the emperor illustrated this point well. We have also noted that Paul’s missionary endeavors brought him up against the imperial ideology, which he challenged. However, we concluded that Paul’s relation to the wider political world cannot be properly described as simply confrontational. In his engagement with the wider world, Paul both partially affirmed and critiqued the dominant culture. Paul’s political terms are a clear and strong support for the suggestion that his message was not restricted to the “spiritual” dimension but addresses the entire domain of human existence. By way of summary, we could capture Paul’s understanding of powers in three fundamental assertions encapsulated in his letters and which are made in the language and categories of his own time: (1) the powers were created by God. It was God’s intension that human life should be structured by a network of norms and patterns, thus making life possible; (2) the Powers have rebelled and are fallen. They refused to conform to God’s creative purposes and presented themselves as ultimate reality. Values and structures that were necessary and were meant for the good of life and society claimed for themselves an autonomous and idolatrous status, thus succeeding to enslave humanity and make it subservient to false gods; (3) despite their fallen status the powers are ultimately under the sovereignty of God. They are still used by God for his good purposes

Bruxelles. Religia în spaĠiul public European (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2009); Mihail NeamĠu, Elegii conservatoare. ReflecĠii est-europene despre religie Юi societate (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2009); Radu Carp, Dacian GraĠian Gal, Sorin Mure‫܈‬an, Radu Preda, În căutarea binelui comun. Pentru o viziune creЮtină a democraĠiei româneЮti (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2008).

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and, despite their persistent attempts, they cannot hinder God’s ultimate plan for creation. Our short overview of the Pauline concept of Powers has shown that according to Paul’s vision of redemption, the church, as the paradigmatic community of the new creation, is called to be actively engaged in society, to have a constructive relationship to the Powers and structures of authority, confessing and witnessing the lordship of Christ over the entire reality in the anticipation of the ultimate redemption of God’s creation. Paul’s concept of Powers is not at all outmoded and irrelevant but actually may prove to be extremely useful in a thorough analysis of church, society and history. No other concept would better enable one to maintain simultaneously the fallen condition of humanity and the continuing providence of God. And, it will also be under the heading of “Powers” that we can understand the way in which the structures of our existence find their value, meaning and coherence in Christ. In other words, a Pauline concept of Powers would offer an adequate backdrop against which we can envision, define and explicate an active, Christian social and political engagement in the world. The Pauline vision of the church and its place in the world starts with the premise that the church’s very existence represents its primary task. As a community of reconciled people the church demonstrates by its own existence that the rebelliousness of the Powers has been conquered, and by its very presence and life, it proclaims the lordship of Christ to the powers. Just as we have shown in this paper, the church does not need to find herself on the frontline of battle (because that is Christ’s place) but rather concentrate on resisting the seduction of Powers. That is why it is vital that, in order for the church to have a significant ministry to society in general, it should embody in her life the message she proclaims. A particular significance of the Pauline concept of Powers concerns the relationship of church and state. According to the teaching of apostle Paul, most evident in Romans 13, the Christian commitment to love is not limited to individual relationships but also includes the believers living as responsible citizens in the society at large, within its given structures. What is significant, however, is that Paul relativizes the claims of the Powers to ultimate authority; by presenting the “authorities” as God’s instruments and so making them answerable to God, Paul overrides their claim to being the ultimate and highest point of reference and their demand for total and unqualified obedience. It is, thus, Paul’s strong theological basis that legitimizes and limits the authority of the government at the same time. Paul’s complex understanding of the


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dynamic of the relationship of Christians to the powers that be is an appeal to Christians for a discerning, critical engagement in the life of the city. The fundamental mission of the people of God in engaging the world is to embody the reality of redemption in love and service to the world, and to proclaim the lordship of Christ over everything – the hope of the final transformation of the world through Jesus Christ. But, it is true that one cannot even begin to address these issues without dealing with the dynamics of society, with the various social, political and religious structures. And, as we have seen in this presentation, the concept of Powers offers an excellent way of dealing with the serious questions of social evil and structures within the overall framework of the creation, fall, redemption and reconciliation. Finally, the concept of Powers is also useful in that it provides a way to integrate into a holistic picture Paul’s understanding of reality, of God’s dealing with the world and humanity, and helps in dealing more adequately with the more general questions of gospel and culture, church and society, Christianity and politics. An understanding of Powers will be extremely useful when tackling social reconciliation in particular contexts, since one has to address concrete questions vis-à-vis issues of identity, structures, social evil, truth, and justice.

References Barth, Markus. Acquittal by Resurrection. New York: Holt, 1964. Bartholomew, Craig, ed. A Royal Priesthood? The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically. A Dialogue with Oliver O’Donovan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. Berkhof, Hendrikus. Christ and the Powers. Scottdale: Herald Press, 1977. Blumenfeld, Bruno. The Political Paul: Justice, Democracy and Kingship in a Hellenistic Framework. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. Brunt, P. A. “Laus Imperii.” In Paul and Empire, edited by Richard A. Horsley. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997. Caird, G. B. Principalities and Powers. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956. Carp, Radu. Religia în tranziĠie. Ipostaze ale României creЮtine. ClujNapoca: Eikon, 2009. —. Dumnezeu la Bruxelles. Religia în spaĠiul public European. ClujNapoca: Eikon, 2009. Carp, Radu, Dacian GraĠian Gal, Sorin Mure‫܈‬an, Radu Preda. În căutarea binelui comun. Pentru o viziune creЮtină a democraĠiei româneЮti. Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2008.

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Conovici, Iuliana. Ortodoxia în România post-comunistă. ReconstrucĠia unei identităĠi publice. Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2010. Constantineanu,Corneliu. The Social Significance of Reconciliation. London/New York: T&T Clark Continuum, 2010. —. “The Pauline concept of powers: trends in interpretation.” Studii Teologice (2013), forthcoming. de Silva, D. A. “Ruler Cult.” In Dictionary of New Testament Background. Edited by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter. Electronic Edition, Logos Library, 2000. Elliott, Neil. Liberating Paul: The justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995. Grant, Robert. Paul in the Roman World: the conflict at Corinth. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001. Hafemann, Scott J. “Roman Triumph.” In Dictionary of New Testament Background. Edited by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Electronic edition, Logos Library. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000. Horsley, Richard, ed. Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997. —. Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2000. Horsley, R. A. and M. A. Silberman. The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997. Mac Gregor, G. H. C. “Principalities and Powers: The Cosmic Background of Paul's Thought.” New Testament Studies 1 (1954): 17-28. Meyer, Marvin W. “Mystery Religions.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by D. N Freedman. Doubleday: New York 1996. Mitchell, Margaret. Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians. Tubingen: Mohr, 1991. Mouw, Richard. Politics and the Biblical Drama. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976. NeamĠu, Mihail. Elegii conservatoare. ReflecĠii est-europene despre religie Юi societate. Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2009. Philo of Alexandria. Embassy to Gaius. Electronic edition. Logos Library Systems, 1997. Preda, Radu. Revenirea lui Dumnezeu. Studii socio-teologice. ClujNapoca: Eikon, 2010. Price, S. “Rituals and Powers.” In Paul and Empire, edited by Richard A. Horsley. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997.


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Rupp, E. Gordon. Principalities and Powers: Studies in the Christian Conflict in History. London: Epworth, 1952. Schlier, Heinrich. Principalities and Powers in the New Testament. New York: Herder & Herder, 1961. Sider, Ronald. J. Christ and Violence. Scottdale: Herald Press, 1979. Stringfellow, William. Free in Obedience. New York: Seabury Press, 1964. —. An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. Waco: Word Book, 1973. Strom, Mark. Reframing Paul: Conversation in Grace and Community. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000. Tamez, Elsa. The Amnesty of Grace: Justification by Faith from a Latin American Perspective. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993. Von Schönborn, Christoph. Oamenii, Biserica, Tara. Crestinismul ca provocare sociala. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Anastasia, 2000. Ward, Gaham and Michael Hoelzl, eds. The New Visibility of Religion. Studies in Religion and Cultural Hermeneutics. London/New York: Continuum, 2008. Wink, Walter. Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. —. Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986. —. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992. —. The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium. New York: Doubleday, 1998. Witte Jr., John. “Introduction: Pluralism, Proselytism, and Nationalism in Eastern Europe.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 24 (1999): 1-6. Wright, N.T. Paul: Fresh Perspectives. London: SPCK, 2005. —. “God and Caesar, Then and Now.” In The Character of Wisdom: Essays in Honour of Wesley Carr. Edited by Martyn Percy and Stephen Lowe. London: Ashgate, 2004. —. “Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans.” In A Royal Priesthood? The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically. Edited by Craig Bartholobew et al. Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2002. —. “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire.” In Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretatio, edited by Richard A. Horsley. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2000. Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus. Second edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.

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Zanker, Paul. “The Power of Images.” In Paul and Empire, edited by Richard A. Horsley. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997.


Introduction Recalling Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who, in the context of the Third Reich’s abominable crimes, argued that “only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants”, Jürgen Moltmann asserted, in an article entitled Political Theology, published in 1971,1 that “the memory of what happened at that time has made us increasingly aware that we also have no right to speak of God and with God, if we do not do it in the midst of the conflicts of our political world.”2 To be sure, in saying this, Moltmann had no intention to legitimize either the use of pulpits by preachers to make political statements instead of preaching the Word of God, or the substitution of politicians’ political programs with religious and pious speeches. What he wanted to argue, however, was that Christian theology is necessarily a theologia publica, being preoccupied with issues of general concern, “in the light of hope in Christ for the kingdom of God”3 and that Christians should engage with the affairs of the polis on the basis of their theological commitments. Political theology, as defined by Moltmann, “does not want to make political questions the central theme of theology or to give political systems and movements religious support. Rather, political theology designates the field, the milieu, the environment, and the medium in which Christian theology should be articulated today.”4 For the Protestant theologian, political theology represents a hermeneutical category, a 1

Jürgen Moltmann, “Political Theology”, Theology Today 28.6 (1971): 6-23. Jürgen Moltmann, “Political Theology”, 7. 3 Jürgen Moltmann, God for a Secular Society. The Public Relevance of Theology (London: SCM Press, 1999), 1. 4 Jürgen Moltmann, “Political Theology”, 8. 2

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political hermeneutics of the biblical tradition, meant to identify the sociopolitical applications of the biblical texts for the contemporary context.5 Building on these Moltmannian premises, and in line with Cavanaugh and Scott’s formulations exposed in the introductory section of the Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, we will conceive political theology broadly as an analysis and critique of the political structures of the world (including the social, economic, cultural and psychological aspects) in light of the plan God has for the world.6 Apart from theologians who have identified themselves or have been identified by others explicitly as political theologians, such as Jürgen Moltmann or Johann Baptist Metz, for instance, to whose names post-war political theology is linked,7 the Peruvian theologian, founder of Liberation Theology - Gustavo Gutiérrez -, or German feminist and liberation theologian, Dorothy Sölle, one can identify many other theologians or theologies that intersect with contemporary political, social, economic and cultural life and as such can belong to the broad category of political theology. Our aim in this paper is to investigate comparatively two Christian political-theological projects in light of their particular way of understanding the relationship between Christianity and politics and of their contributions to the building of a better social order: the Christian Reconstruction movement, probably the most radical expression of Dominion Theology and John Howard Yoder’s radical pacifist theology. Our analysis aims to prove the continuing relevance of Christian political theologies that serve as guides and as sources of inspiration for Christian engagement in the politics of the world and that set the limits of what it can achieve in the temporal realm of everyday affairs, in hoc saeculum. One of our premises is that even in secularized societies, such as the ones we live in, Christian community can continue to speak in a way that is relevant to political problems, as Christianity provides social principles and models on which a better social order could be built. In this respect, the response crafted by John Howard Yoder has, in our perspective, a fascinating appeal and will most probably continue to inspire more insights and interpretations in the future. At the same time, by including the case of a radical form of Dominion Theology, we seek to warn against one of the most common dangers 5

Jürgen Moltmann, “Political Theology.” William T. Cavanaugh and Peter Scott, „Introduction”, in Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, ed. William T. Cavanaugh & Peter Scott (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 1, 2. 7 Although the term was coined by Carl Schmitt, after World War II, political theology was defined differently by the mentioned theologians. 6


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confronting political theologies: that of the instrumentalization of faith, of using faith as a tool for advancing a particular political agenda. The Christian Reconstruction movement is an example of politicized Christianity and its supporters seek to direct the affairs of the world and shape the temporal lives of people in a more or less coercive manner, according to their own understanding of the Christian revelation. In the process, however, they stop being what they were called to be: an alternative restored society, a renewed community of disciples, the Church of Christ.

Christian Reconstructionism and Dominion Theology Christian Reconstructionism is a Calvinist expression of the broader Dominion theology,8 which is dedicated to a “reconstruction” of the world for the purpose of instauring the Kingdom of God on earth. 8

One can identify two major branches of Dominion Theology: Christian Reconstructionism and the Kingdom Now Theology (which builds on the previous Latter Rain Theology). The main distinction between Christian Reconstructionism and Kingdom Now Theology is the emphasis the latter puts on supernatural gifts – while the Reconstructionists are mainly cessationists, denying that spiritual gifts are still operating nowadays, the adherents of the Kingdom Now Theology (who are mainly neo-Charismatics) believe these gifts are still available to contemporary Christians. But, like Reconstructionism, it is also postmillennial and, although less developed and less consistent compared to the former, this theology also ascribes to the church (under the leadership of apostles and prophets, whose offices have to be restored along with those of the evangelists, pastors and teachers – the so-called fivefold ministry) the responsibility to take over the world and establish God’s kingdom here and now. See, for instance, the books of C. Peter Wagner (the founder of one of the most prominent movements associated with this theology, the New Apostolic Reformation movement, whose teachings have penetrated numerous Charismatic churches, which are, according to the church growth analysts, the fastest growing segment of Christianity), such as: Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), or Bill Hamon’s (one of the most prominent “prophet-apostles” in this movement, along with Wagner) Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. God’s EndTime Plans for His Church and Planet Earth (PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2002). In this book – which has a foreword written by C. Peter Wagner -, Hamon argues that before Christ’s return Christians have to organize themselves as a “militant army” to subdue the earth and establish the kingdom of God in the world’s governments, under the leadership of the new “apostles and prophets” – see especially chapter 17 on the “Army of the Lord and Eternal Judgment”, where Hamon attributed the Church the calling of an “invincible, unstoppable, unconquerable, overcoming Army of the Lord that subdues everything under Christ’s feet.” (p. 251). The Church has always been God’s Army, argued Hamon,

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Dominion Theology draws inspiration from a text found in Genesis 1:26, 28 where God grants mankind dominion over the entire earth: “And God said: Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. … God blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” While many Christians interpret this biblical passage in terms of the responsibilities humans have towards creation (man as a steward of creation), the particular interpretation of Dominion Theology ascribes to Christians the duty to take dominion over human civil affairs: home, education, church, arts and culture, state, business, and bring them into submission to the Biblical law. According to this theology, modern society should be entirely governed in accordance with the biblical law, and Christians are mandated to occupy and transform secular institutions before Christ returns. Commentators9 concerned with the analysis of this particular theology distinguish between two forms of Dominionism: a “hard” one, which seeks to Christianize the society by imposing the Biblical Law over it and a “soft” one, which seeks to extend Christian influence and ethics in society, although not necessarily by imposing the Biblical Law over it. Christian Reconstruction is the main representative of “hard” Dominionism. According to Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, it is “a theology and social ethic that advocates restructuring civil society according but it has gone through stages of “active” and “inactive” cold wars and full-fledged wars, being “reactivated into a militant army at the beginning of the “Period of the Great Restoration of the Church” (that is nowadays). The present period of time is marked by the fact that “we (i.e. Christians) crossed Jordan and entered a war that will not cease until all the enemies of God are destroyed out of the Church’s Canaan Land (earth) and Christ and His Church Army have established God’s kingdom over all the earth.” And, continues Hamon, “God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written Judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven. The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly army.” (pp. 251, 252) This branch of Dominion Theology has developed much wider than the Reconstruction Movement but it is still in the refining process, so that few charismatics have a clear recipe for this dominionist enterprise – they are just beginning to feel its taste. Most of them understand the warfare they are engaged in as a spiritual one and therefore it precludes the use of “worldly” means. 9 Such as Frederick Clarkson, “The Rise of Dominionism: Remaking America as a Christian Nation”, The Public Eye magazine 19.3 (Winter 2005).


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to the laws contained in the Hebrew Bible”10 – not only the Ten Commandments, but most of the other laws contained in the Old Testament (a view called theonomy).11 The leadership and inception of Christian Reconstruction can be traced to Rousas John Rushdoony, the American son of an Armenian immigrant family. In 1973, Rushdoony published12 his Institutes of Biblical Law – the founding document of Reconstructionism, in which he set forth his views of governance. Rushdoony’s Institutes serve as sort of a Bible for Reconstructionists, and the moment of their publishing is often considered by Reconstructionists themselves as the completion of the first stage of Christian Reconstruction’s development.13 Rushdoony’s work is continued, after his death in 2001, by other prominent Reconstructionists, such as Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, Joseph Morecraft, David Chilton, Gary DeMar, Andrew Sandlin, Kenneth Gentry and others, each concentrating on particular aspects of Reconstructionism. The major think-tank of Christian Reconstruction is the Chalcedon Foundation (considered by Newsweek as a think-tank of the Christian Right in the U.S.14), founded by Rushdoony in 1965, which is dedicated to 10

Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, s.v. Reconstructionism (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press), 568. 11 John R. Vile, Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments, and Amending Issues, 1789-2002, 2nd edition (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 6667. 12 Rushdoony has actually published several dozens of books over the years. Among them: By What Standard? (1959); Van Til (1960); Intellectual Schizophrenia (1961); The Messianic Character of American Education (1963); This Independent Republic: Studies in the Nature and Meaning of American History (1964); The Nature of the American System (1965); The Mythology of Science (1967); Foundations of Social Order: A Study in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church (1968); The Biblical Philosophy of History (1969); Myth of Over-Population (1969); Politics of Guilt and Pity (1970); Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation (1970); Law and Liberty (1971); The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy (1971); Institutes of Biblical Law (1973); Bread Upon the Waters (1974); The Politics of Pornography (1974); The Word of Flux (1975); Revolt Against Maturity: A Biblical Psychology of Man (1977); Tithing and Dominion (1979); The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (1981); Salvation and Godly Rule (1983); The Roots of Reconstruction (1991) and others. 13 Gary North, “Preface”, in Christian Reconstruction. What It Is, What It Isn’t, ed. Gary North and Gary DeMar (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economic, 1991), xiii. 14 Adam C. English, “Christian Reconstructionism after Y2K. Gary North, the New Millennium, and Religious Freedom”, in New Religious Movements and

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“equipping to advance the kingdom”, and “devoted to researching, publishing, and promoting Christian reconstruction in all areas of life.”15 The basic idea promoted both by the Chalcedon Foundation, by the above mentioned authors, and by many other similar institutions, which entertain dominionist ideas, is that all areas of life - the individual, the Church, the family, the state, the school, the arts, the laws and economy and every other sphere of the social life - have to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ, through the instrumentality of responsible Christians who assume the so-called Cultural Mandate, or Dominion Mandate. The common denominator of all these is a postmillennialist view of history, according to which the world will eventually be Christianized, and the Millennium will settle in as a result of the active involvement of Christians in taking dominion over all social spheres.16 The Reconstructionists consider themselves “theological revolutionaries”, hoping to ultimately achieve a social revolution (preferably, but not necessarily, by non-violent means). And, seeing that “producing a true revolution requires the support of many kinds of printed materials, from pamphlets to thick, technical volumes”, it is imperative, as Gary North said, that the leaders of the revolution provide the theoretical foundation and the fundamental answers to specific historical problems, so that “after the dust settles, the heirs of the revolution will be able steadily to restructure society in ways that are consistent with the ideals of the revolution.”17 Consequently, Reconstructionists are extremely prolific writers. They vigorously disseminate their ideas through publishing thousands of individual and collective volumes and articles in journals, such as the Journal of Christian Reconstruction or Remnant Review, so that it is almost impossible to keep up with their tremendous literature. (Besides the diversity of thought among Reconstructionists, this would be one of the difficulties standing in the way of an accurate general assessment of the movement). The apex of reconstructionist attraction was reached in the 80s, when many fundamentalist churches in the U.S. accepted some of the reconstructionist ideas (the “softer” ones in general), and some important Religious Liberty in America, ed. Derek H. Davis and Barry Hankins (Texas: Baylor University Press, 2003), 112. 15 I quoted from Chalcedon foundation’s own presentation on its website: 16 Many dominionists, however, recognize that the process could take hundreds, possible thousands of years. 17 Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, TX: lnstitute for Christian Economics, 1990), 3, 4.


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Christian publishing houses, such as Crossway and Thomas Nelson, began publishing volumes pertaining to reconstructionist authors. In the same period, prominent Evangelical leaders, such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franky Schaeffer V displayed dominionist influences in their thought.18

The intellectual framework of Christian Reconstruction Despite the diversity of thought within Christian Reconstructionism, one can identify several pillars on which it is built, among which we count: Calvinist theology (known by the acronym TULIP), presuppositional apologetics (Christian faith is the only basis for all rational thought, the truth of Christianity must be presupposed, not demonstrated), postmillennial eschatology (Jesus Christ will return to earth after a millennium of righteousness during which Christians have a delegated authority to apply biblical laws in individual and institutional governments – selfgovernment, family government, civil government, etc.), theonomy (enforcement of the Old Testament law in every sphere of social life), decentralized social order (minimal state) and the concept of Cultural Mandate.19 One of the key Calvinist tenets used by Reconstructionists is that of God’s sovereignty. In his Christian Manifesto, Rushdoony stated that sovereignty was an attribute of God alone – God alone is sovereign over state, school, family, society and everything else - and he gave the Bible as the common law of men and nations. Accordingly, “The whole Word of God must be applied to all of life. It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion.”20 Through a synthesis of the “creation mandate” of Genesis (where Adam and Eve were given the mandate to subdue the earth) and the Great Commission of the New Testament (the command that Jesus gave to his 18

English, “Christian Reconstructionism after Y2K…”, 112. See Greg L. Bahnsen, “Foreword”, in Gary DeMar, Debate over Christian Reconstruction (Atlanta, Georgia: American Vision, 1988), xvi, and Andrew Sandlin, “The Creed of Christian Reconstruction,” available at: html (retrieved at 16.04.2011). 20 R. J. Rushdoony, Chalcedon Report No. 225, “A Christian Manifesto”, April 1984 (for a summary see /#Manifesto). 19

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disciples, to carry the Gospel to every creature and make disciples of all nations), Rushdoony derived and promoted “God’s Cultural Mandate”,21 a phrase that expresses the duty of Christians to take dominion over the entire society, “to create the society God requires.”22 “The cultural mandate is thus the obligation of covenant man to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it under God. … The law is the program for that purpose and provides the God-ordained means of improving and developing plants, animals, men, and institutions in terms of their duty to fulfill God’s purpose. In every age, men have a duty to obey God and to train and improve themselves, i.e., to sanctify themselves, in terms of God’s law. All enemies of Christ in this fallen world must be conquered.”23 In the same vein, George Grant argued that it was the Christians’ obligation and “holy responsibility” to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ: “Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land - of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the 21 The concept of Cultural Mandate, a mark of Dominion Theology is common to all dominionists, “hard” and “soft” ones equally. We find it in the New Apostolic Reformation teachings as well. C. Peter Wagner, for instance, explains the Cultural Mandate in the following terms: in the Garden of Eden, God has given Adam dominion over the entire earth, but he has made the wrong choice by giving dominion to Satan for thousands of years. The trend was permanently reversed by the second Adam – Jesus Christ – who came to destroy the works of evil and restore what had been lost in Eden by Adam – namely dominion - and he delegated establishing his kingdom to the Church, which was trained to take charge when he left. Consequently, even though Satan has been losing ground for 200 years, the process is about to speed up in the following 100 years, because 2001 opened the second apostolic age and the government of the Church is in place. According to the Seven Mountain theology to which Wagner and his numerous disciples adhere there are seven mountains to be conquered by the Church in order to establish God’s plenary kingdom on earth: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. Rushdoony, in his turn, has argued that “The purpose of the new Adam (i.e. Jesus Christ) is to undo the work of the fall, restore man as covenant-keeper, make of man again a faithful citizen of the Kingdom of God, and enable man again to fulfill his calling to subdue the earth under God and to restore all things to God’s law and dominion. Those who submit to this calling and dominion inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).” But while Adam had to subdue only the Garden of Eden, the second Adam had to subdue much more: “the nations and empires of the world were to be brought under the dominion of Christ and His members” [Roussas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1. (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1999), 728, 730]. 22 Rushdoony, The Institutes…, vol. 1, 4. 23 Rushdoony, The Institutes…, vol. 1, 725.


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Kingdom of Christ. It is to reinstitute the authority of God's Word as supreme over all judgments, over all legislation, over all declarations, constitutions, and confederations. True Christian political action seeks to rein the passions of men and curb the pattern of digression under God's rule.”24 Dominion is therefore the ultimate objective: “But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest... .”25 Against those critics who accuse them of religious extremism, of holding totalitarian views and of concoting a plan to change society by a top down approach, Reconstructionists defend themselves by affirming their belief in human internal regeneration as a condition for social change (a sort of bottom-up approach): “civil government at the top will change when government at the bottom changes: from self-government to civil governments at all levels”,26 and by advancing the idea of “dominion by consent.”27 However, in Reconstructionists’ understanding, even the idea of man’s regeneration points to dominion. According to Rushdoony, “the purpose of regeneration is to re-establish man in his creation mandate, to exercise dominion and to subdue the earth. The purpose of the law is to give man the God-appointed way to dominion. The purpose of the call to obedience is to exercise dominion.”28 According to Rushdoony, there are several phases in the exercise of the Cultural Mandate: first, humans have to hear the word of God and be regenerated by him. Second, all humanistic, evolutionary and idolatrous theories that oppose the dominion of Christ have to be demolished and “the world and men must be brought into captivity to Christ, under the dominion of the Kingdom of God and the law of that kingdom.” The third 24

George Grant, The Changing of the Guard. Biblical Blueprints for Political Action (Ft. Worth Texas: Dominion Press, 1987), 50-51. David Chilton also asserted that taking dominion over every sphere of life is a duty of the church (to be more precise, of those who had been elected by God, according to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination). According to Chilton, the promise of dominion with Christ is not only a future hope, because, “although the dominion is progressive through history until the final consummation, … Christ has entered upon His Kingdom already; He has disarmed Satan and demons already and we are kings and priests with Him already; and just as He conquered, so we are to go forth, conquering in His name.” [David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance. An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Ft. Worth: Dominion Press, 1987), 139.] 25 Grant, The Changing of the Guard …, 51. 26 Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction …, 93. 27 Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction …, 93. 28 Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, vol.1, 450.

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step would be to “administer justice upon all disobedience”, keeping in mind that “to deny the cultural mandate is to deny Christ and to surrender the world to Satan.”29 Before closing this section, we should not to forget that Reconstructionism adheres to a Calvinist theology, which considers that God has predestined some people for salvation, by offering them the irresistible grace, and others to damnation, by withdrawing them from his grace.30 Taking this element into account, a logical conclusion of the above stated arguments would be that those “regenerated” people, who had been “re-established into creation mandate”, according to the sovereign will of God, will subdue the earth and “administer justice” on the disobedience of the “unregenerated” ones, whom God has withdrawn from his grace.

State and democracy in the Reconstructionist view The decentralization of the social order is a crucial point on the Reconstructionist agenda. The state has a limited place in a godly society, according to Reconstructionists, as it is not the government, but one form of government among many, others being the self-government of the Christian man, the family, the school, the church, vocations and society. According to Gary DeMar, another prominent Reconstructionist, the very “purpose of getting involved in politics, as Reconstructionists see it, is to reduce the power of the State” and implicitly to massively reduce taxation.31 In a society built on reconstructionist ideas, income taxes would not exceed 10 percent of gross income and would gradually be abolished, there would be no more minimum-wage laws, no Social Security for young workers, and the entire economic system would be built on radical libertarian principles. The main role of the civil power would be to “sanction public immorality, beginning with a ban on all abortions.”32 All other services traditionally provided by the state, such as health care, education, welfare, social security, etc., would be taken over by the family and the church.33 In Reconstructionists’ view, there is an inherent conflict between the state and the church, because of the different religions they nurture. The state has progressively established Humanism as its religion to the 29

Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 725. See Rushdoony’s chapter (chp. 39) on limited atonement, in the third volume of The Institutes of Biblical Law, 107-108. 31 Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction …, 92. 32 Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction …, 92. 33 Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction …, 92. 30


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detriment of Christianity, despite professing neutrality concerning the issue of religion; therefore, to restore order, Christians “must assert the priority of God’s law-word as binding on all of life, including church, state, and school” and “must once again take over government in education, welfare, health, and other spheres.”34 For the Reconstructionists, democracy is a heresy.35 Rushdoony explicitly affirmed that “Christianity is completely and radically antidemocratic” and “committed to a spiritual aristocracy.”36 He also stated that “Christianity and democracy are inevitable enemies” and they cannot be otherwise, because “in the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions.” That would be inconceivable for the Reconstructionists who see no place for other religions in the reconstructed society. Moreover, committed to Mosaic penology, they support the reinstalment of the penal sanctions of the Mosaic law, including death penalty for homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one’s virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry, apostasy,


We quoted some excerpts from Rushdoony’s Christianity and the State, summarized on Chalcedon Foundation’s web page: (accessed on 23rd May, 2013) 35 As opposed to Reconstructionists, the New Apostolic Reformation movement considers democracy “the best form of human government before Jesus returns”, because it allows Christians and those entertaining “Kingdom values”, to win influential positions in society and thus shape the life of the nations from top to bottom. This propagation and implementation of Christian values by a government which is “in the hands of the right people” is not theocracy, according to Wagner, but “a normal outworking of democracy.” Therefore, says Wagner, “taking dominion or transforming society does not imply a theocracy. … Taking dominion comes about by playing by the rules of the democratic game and, fairly and squarely, gaining the necessary influence in the seven molders of culture to ultimately benefit a nation and open society for the blessings, prosperity and happiness God desires for all people.” [All quotations are from C. Peter Wagner’s book: Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2008.)] For all that, what Wagner basically promotes is a way of “employing democratic procedures to institute theocracy by means of an elected oligarchy” and this sort of events happened before in history (Iran is a case in point). (See P.J. Tierney, Theocracy: Can Democracy Survive Fundamentalism?: Resolving the Conflict Between Fundamentalism and Pluralism (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012) 152.] 36 Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, 594.

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blasphemy, abortion, etc.37 For some of the most radical Reconstructionists, stoning would be the preferred method of execution, because, as Gary North explains, stones are cheap, plentiful and convenient. In the Reconstructionists’ view, civil government exists to implement God’s law, and, as Rushdoony affirms, “God's government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.”38 A Christianly “reconstructed” world would indeed be a world of pluralism, but of “a very special kind of pluralism”, as Gary North explains: “plural institutions under God's single comprehensive law system.” It is not a “pluralism of law structures, or a pluralism of moralities, for this sort of hypothetical legal pluralism (as distinguished from institutional pluralism) is always either polytheistic or humanistic.”39 For all that, Reconstructionists argue that their efforts to reconstruct society on the basis of the Old Testament laws do not represent a topdown enterprise, but a grassroot movement and as such the whole project depends on majority rule.40 In accordance with the postmillennialist Calvinist theology to which they adhere, Reconstructionists believe that a great majority of people will be converted to Christianity, as the “Holy Spirit will impose His will on the recalcitrant hearts of huge numbers of people, just as He has always imposed His will on each recalcitrant heart every time He has saved anyone from his sins”, because “God is utterly sovereign in election and salvation” (the doctrine of irresistible grace). Therefore, it is not human institutions that have to coerce men’s hearts and minds, because “such coercion of human will is a monopoly that belongs exclusively to God.”41 If we make a number of logical inferences, it follows that, at one point in history, God would have coerced the hearts and minds of a sufficient number of men, re-establishing them in the creation mandate (to exercise dominion over the earth and society), to allow them to reconstruct the social order on the basis of biblical laws, and, as a majority, they will administer justice on the minority recalcitrant ones, based on a biblical

37 See Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformers Pub Co, 1984) and Greg L. Bahnsen, No Other Standard. Theonomy and its Critics (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), 221. 38 Rushdoony, Institutes…vol. 1, 237. 39 Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 51. 40 Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 55. 41 Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 57.


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“moral absolutism”, so much praised by the Reconstructionist authors North and DeMar.42 On the other hand, there might be a consolation: “If postmillennialism is incorrect, and the Holy Spirit does not act to bring huge numbers of people to eternal life,” admits Gary North, “then Christians must be content with only partial social reconstruction, and only partial external blessings from God, and then we will not see the pre-second coming advent of a holy commonwealth in which God's laws are honored.” 43

The political significance of Christian Reconstructionism Although Christian Reconstruction may seem at first a rather exotic movement in the religious and political landscape, not worthy of being seriously studied, we argue that ignoring it would be perilous, because this movement, which has redefined Christianity in terms of a power politics, and which is hardly any different from other extremist ideologies, has an internationalist perspective; furthermore, dominionist ideas – either in their soft or hard form – have managed to infiltrate politics, governments and many churches, not just in the U.S. but elsewhere as well. As Rob Boston observes, Christian Reconstructionists are a small, but influential part of the Religious Right in the U.S., and dominionist ideas are very influential among it, although its leaders say they don’t go as far as Reconstructionists.44 Among the prominent religious figures entertaining at least partially reconstructionist ideas one can enumerate Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson (Christian Coalition),45 Randall Terry, or John W. Whitehead (Rutherford Institute) - who advocates “the rewriting of American legal codes to conform with Mosaic law”,46 for instance. One of the well-known organizations with strong ties with Christian Reconstructionism is the Coalition on Revival, founded by Jay Grimstead, who drafted a Coalition on Revival Manifesto, including a pledge to “work to Christianize America and the world.”47 Some scholars attributed some of the policies and laws adopted by George W. Bush – especially the controversial faith-based initiative - to reconstructionist/dominionist 42

North and DeMar, Christian Reconstruction, 10-23. Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 58. 44 Rob Boston, “The ADF’s Reconstructionist Ties: Enforcing God’s Law?” in Church and State 57.6 (June 2004). 45 See Garry Wills, Under God: Religion and American Politics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007). 46 Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, 595. 47 Balmer, Encyclopedia…, 594, 595, 177. 43

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influences.48 Marvin Olasky, a prominent figure in the George W. Bush administration was also included in the category of those thinkers influenced by Reconstructionism.49 There are also links between the so-called New Apostolic Reformation movement (a Charismatic brand of a softer and less developed form of Dominionism discussed succinctly in some of the previous footnotes), and some prominent politicians in the U.S., among them Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.50 The New Apostolic Reformation is also dedicated to transforming society towards the kingdom of God on earth by conquering the “Seven Mountains” of society (business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion) and by “placing Christian leaders into positions of leadership influential enough to shape our culture.”51 48

Joan Bokaer ( Stephen Bates, A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004), 54. 50 P. J. Tierney, Theocracy: Can Democracy Survive… . 51 See C. Peter Wagner, Dominion!: How Kingdom …. The “Seven Mountains Dominion” theology (7MD) or the seven mountains mandate promotes the idea that Christians have to pursue dominion in seven “mountains” of the society: family, church, education, government, arts and entertainment, business and media (which are about the same areas where Rushdoony, in his Institutes of Biblical Law, called Christian Reconstructionists to engage in), either overtly or covertly. According to New Apostolic Reformation motivational speaker, Lance Wallnau, “these seven fields of influence are so powerful that he who occupies the top of these mountains can literally shape the agenda that forms nations.” According to this line of thought, Christians have the mandate not only to preach the Gospel, but also to transform the nations by reclaiming these seven mountains. If Christians don’t do that, what will happen (what is actually happening now, according to Wallnau) is a global recession of democracy which is worrisome, because when democracy is failing, economy is not operating properly either. So Christians must set biblical principles at the root of these mountains, they must preach and teach nations how they should run all these spheres. Democracy is strongly linked with honoring God, because, according to Wallnau, freedom is where the Spirit of the God is - so if one wants democracy, one has to honor God, because Satan is actually just waiting for democracies to fail so that he can raise totalitarian popular movements. ( So, basically Christians have to preach and to teach nations. When they preach, demons are cast out of the systems, so that they can “occupy” these mountains with the kingdom Gospel (Christians have an anointing to cast demons out of these mountains and to “fix the problems” of their nations, according to Wallnau. See Wallnau puts in antithesis the gospel of salvation and the gospel of the kingdom: when you 49


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Although Reconstructionism/Dominionism originated in the U.S. and is most prominent here, its perspective is internationalist, and its adherents believe that God calls the entire world to join in the efforts of purifying the world for Christ. Through mission, publications, and Christian schools, Dominion theology penetrates other parts of the world, especially the developing countries. (One could probably identify it in Europe too, but, so far, we are not familiar with the existence of large scale studies concerned with this issue). Some studies have identified such influences in Guatemala and other parts of Latin America, for instance,52 and others have established direct ties between some very active South African organizations (such as Pestalozzi Trust) and Christian Reconstruction.53 African Christian Action, Zambian Christian Action,54 Frontline Fellowship are just a few other such dominionism-oriented organizations acting in full vigor in Africa. Given that Christianity is proliferating in the same areas of the developing countries as Islam, this fact is not without potential explosive consequences. In light of these developments, we believe that there is a great likelihood that Dominionism will constitute one of the many challenges associated with the recent increased visibility of religion in the public arena.

John Howard Yoder and the politics of an alternative polis John Howard Yoder was an American Mennonite theologian and ethicist, well known for his defense of radical Christian pacifism. He was Professor preach the former to the people, you actually encourage them to flee, says Wallnau. Instead, Christians should be taught to assume their apostolic assignments and occupy the most influential places of these mountains, they should heal and deliver nations by taking up the six top strongholds of the demonic powers that are tormenting the earth and take them down: sex, racism, poverty, AIDS, undrinkable water, illiteracy ( 52 Susan D. Rose and Steve Brouwer, “The export of fundamentalist Americanism: US evangelical education in Guatemala”, Latin American Perspectives 17.42 (1990): 42-56. 53 See the projects developed by the Institute for Comparative Religion in Southern Africa, University of Cape Town (the Comparative Religion Project and the Religion and Public Education Project), (accessed on 3rd May, 2012). 54 See Paul Gifford's book African Christianity: Its Public Role (London: Hurst and Co., 1998).

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of Theology at the Catholic University of Notre Dame and a Fellow of the Institute for International Peace Studies. He was an extremely prolific writer,55 and his fields of interest included not only pacifism, for which he is most known, but also a series of other theological themes, from church history to worship, from ecclesiology to ecumenism, etc., so that scholars coming from several fields of research find in Yoder an engaging conversation partner.56 55

Some of his books include: The Christian and Capital Punishment (1961); Christ and the Powers (1962); The Christian Pacifism of Karl Barth (1964); The Christian Witness to the State (1964); Discipleship as Political Responsibility (1964); Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Pacifism (1968); Karl Barth and the Problem of War (1970); The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (1971); Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism (1971); The Politics of Jesus (1972); Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution: A Companion to Bainton (1983); What Would You Do? A Serious Answer to a Standard Question (1983); The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (1984); When War Is Unjust: Being Honest In Just-War Thinking (1984); He Came Preaching Peace (1985); The Fullness of Christ: Paul's Revolutionary Vision of Universal Ministry (1987); The Death Penalty Debate: Two Opposing Views of Capital Punishment (1991); A Declaration of Peace: In God's People the World's Renewal Has Begun (with Douglas Gwyn, George Hunsinger, and Eugene F. Roop) (1991); Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (1991); The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical (1994); Authentic Transformation: A New Vision of Christ and Culture (with Glen Stassen and Diane Yeager) (1996); For the Nations: Essays Evangelical and Public (1997); To Hear the Word (2001); Preface to Theology: Christology and Theological Method (2002); Karl Barth and the Problem of War, and Other Essays on Barth (2003); The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited (2003); Anabaptism and Reformation in Switzerland: An Historical and Theological Analysis of the Dialogues Between Anabaptists and Reformers (2004); The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking (2009); Christian Attitudes to War, Peace and Revolution (2009); Nonviolence: A Brief History—The Warsaw Lectures (2010). 56 One can identify, at first inspection, several dozen books engaging with Yoder’s work, published within the last 15 years (apart from those written by Stanley Hauerwas and James McLendon Jr., whose theologies were greatly influenced by Yoder): Mark Thiessen Nation, John Howard Yoder. Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Conviction (2006); Craig Carter, The Politics of the Cross: The Theology and Social Ethics of John Howard Yoder (2001); Earl Zimmerman, Practicing the Politics of Jesus: The Origin and Significance of John Howard Yoder’s Social Ethics (2007); “Essays & Tributes. John Howard Yoder 1927-1997”, in Conrad Grebel Review 16.2 (Spring 1998); Ben C. Ollenburger úi Gayle Gerber Koontz (eds.), A Mind Patient and Untamed: Assessing John Howard Yoder’s Contributions to Theology, Ethics and Peacemaking (2004);


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Although he did not deny his ethnic and denominational origins, Yoder did not articulate theology from a specific Mennonite perspective. In his writings, he promoted peace as the focal point of the Christian Gospel, as preserved in the orthodox Christian faith,57 and plenarily embodied in Jesus Christ’s life, teachings and death on the cross. Yoder also argued that his views concerning discipleship were founded on the Scriptures and catholic tradition, and, as such, they are a call for all Christian believers, regardless of denomination.58 Yoder’s theology is therefore ecumenical, in the sense that it was articulated so that it may be relevant for all kinds of Christians.59 Yoder was in fact one of the frequent interlocutors in ecumenical dialogues, representing the pacifist position. For more than two decades, starting with 1961, Yoder was engaged in the World Council of Churches’ activities, and by his contributions, he opened Anabaptism towards the ecumenical world.60 Yoder was also one of the promoters of the first ecumenical dialogues between free/pacifist churches and state Protestant churches, especially on the subject of the relationship between State and Church and the problems of war and peace – crucial concerns in light of

Richard Bourne, Seek the Peace of the City: Christian Political Criticism as Public, Realist and Transformative (2009); Paul G. Doerksen, Beyond Suspicion: Post-Christendom Protestant Political theology in John Howard Yoder and Oliver O’Donovan (2009); Nigel Goring Wright, Disavowing Constantine: Mission, Church and the Social Order in the Theologies of John Howard Yoder and Jurgen Moltmann (2006); Michael Northcott, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, (2004); Chris K. Huebner, A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge and Identity (2006); David Toole, Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo: Theological Reflections on Nihilism, Tragedy and Apolcalypse (2001); Alain Epp Weaver, States of Exile: Visions of Diaspora, Witness and Return (2008); Jeremy M. Bergen & Anthony G. Siegrist (eds.), Power and Practices: Engaging the Work of John Howard Yoder (2009); Peter Dula & Chris K. Huebner (eds.), The New Yoder (2010); John Nugent, Radical Ecumenicity: Unity and Continuity after John Howard Yoder (2010). 57 Craig Carter, The Politics of the Cross: The Theology and Social Ethics of John Howard Yoder (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Brazos Press, 2001), 49. 58 John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 4-8. 59 John Howard Yoder, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Nashville: Dicipleship Resources, 1991), x. 60 William Klassen, “John H. Yoder and the Ecumenical Church”, Conrad Grebel Review 16 (1998): 77.

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the post-war developments and the tragic surrender of the German church to Nazism.61 Yoder was involved in the dialogue with Judaism, as well. Throughout his life, Yoder was an apologist of the peaceful and faithful interpretation of the Scriptures and of the history of the early church, and he judged every philosophical or theological conception, movement, idea, etc., according to its conformity with the teachings and life of Jesus Christ.62 Yoderian theology is thus profoundly Christological – it is fundamentally centered upon Jesus Christ, as the only standard and model for the public engagement of the Christian Community. Therefore, in The Politics of Jesus, and then in The Priestly Kingdom, he disavowed all other sources of social ethics which contradict Jesus’ teachings and actions. Against those theologians and ethicists who argued that Jesus was not relevant for social ethics (especially against Niebuhr’s influential Christian realism, which considered Jesus an impossible ideal and, therefore, irrelevant for the politics of the day, which should be run according to other principles of power than those represented by Jesus), Yoder argued that Jesus is not only relevant for social ethics nowadays, but he is normative, too – he is a “model of radical political action” to be followed by the Christian Community. The latter, which embodies the nonviolent revolutionary politics of Jesus, represents the social structure through which the Christian Gospel changes the other social structures; it is the most powerful agent of social change.63 Therethrough the way of nonviolence becomes God’s gift not only for the church but for the nations of the world, as well – this is the argument advanced by Yoder in a collection of essays entitled For the Nations.

An original revolution. The cruciform nature of “the politics of Jesus” The Politics of Jesus is obviously the best place to begin the assessment of Yoder’s political theology. Published first in 1972, and republished in 1994, the book was ranked as the 5th most important Christian book of the 20th century by Christianity Today and was translated in more than ten languages. In it, Yoder engages in a “translation” of the New Testament’s 61

Wielfried Warneck, “Preface” to the German edition of J.H.Yoder’s, Discipleship as Political Responsability (Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 2003), 11. 62 John Howard Yoder, Theodore J. Koontz, Andy Alexis-Baker (eds.), Christian Attitudes to War, Peace and Revolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009), 7. 63 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 157.


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tenets in the sphere of social ethics,64 and in assessing the powerful message transmitted by the “politics of Jesus” to the political power and church. Yoder employed a thorough exegesis, arguing against those who considered the political relevance of Jesus to be marginal, due to his concerns for a kingdom that is “not of this world” – that Jesus was a political figure, that his work was directly political and his politics truly revolutionary, but it was none the less fundamentally different politics than the world’s politics. Jesus was concerned with social and political issues; he had a social agenda, and he proclaimed a new social order, argues Yoder, although the means he used for building it were different from those used by the powers of the day. According to the theologian, the revolutionary character of the politics of Jesus lies first of all in his rejection of the available political strategies of his time, which are also available to us today:65 Christ rejected both the Sadducees’ and the Herodians’ realism (the acceptance of the situation as it is), and the Zealots’ righteous revolutionary violence (the attempt to overthrow the existing regime by use of violence). He also disavowed the Essenes’ desert option (withdrawal from the society) and the Pharisees’ strategy of separating themselves from the rest of society by their emphasis on proper religion and noninvolvement. Jesus opted instead for an original revolution;66 he created not a new political party, but a new regime, a new social order, a distinct community with a different set of values and principles, and as such, it was perceived as a threat to the existing regime. That was actually the reason for Jesus’ execution by the powers of the day; crucifixion was the punishment reserved by Romans for rebels and insurgents who threatened the existing order and whose suppression was essential for its preservation.67 Jesus’ cross, therefore, embodied his critique and rejection of the status quo, of the existing social, economic and political systems that stand in opposition to God and offered 64

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994), 2, 3. 65 “Time has not changed as much as some think. ... Born a displaced person in a country under foreign occupation and puppet governments, Jesus faced the same logical options faced in 1778 by a Pennsylvanian, or in 1958 by an Algerian, or today by a Vietnamese or a Guatemalan”, argued Yoder in his The Original Revolution, 18-19. 66 See John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism and Nevertheless: A Meditation on the Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism (Scottsdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1971). 67 See also Neil Elliott, “The Anti-Imperial Message of the Cross”, in Paul and Empire. Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society, ed. Richard A. Horsley (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1997), 167.

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a new conception about power and authority, whose fundamental expression was sacrifice and servanthood.68 By identifying himself with the rejected “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”, from Isaiah 53:3, by creating a new social order instead of accepting the available political options of his day and by choosing the cross instead of the crown, voluntarily accepting suffering even to the point of death, Jesus redefined the meaning of kingship, politics and power, and made it clear that “the cross and not the sword, suffering and not brute power determines the meaning of history.”69 Although apparently servanthood implies a position of weakness, of lack of power, it is, in reality, superior to coercive power, argues Yoder. Jesus’ rejection of the sword and the criticism of those who yield it was such a politically relevant act, and his alternative was so politically significant that both Pilate and the Synedrium decided that it was less dangerous to free “the ordinary Guevara-type insurrectionist, Barabbas”, than to free Jesus to whom they “had to deny the right to live, in the name of both of their forms of political responsibility.”70 Therefore, continues Yoder: “Jesus’ way is not less but more relevant to the question of how society moves than is the struggle for possession of the levers of command; to this Pilate and Caiaphas testify by their judgment on him.”71 The new order established by Jesus was, in Yoder’s words, not a detour on the way to the Kingdom of God – it was the Kingdom of God itself, a Kingdom built on different principles than the world’s kingdoms, a Kingdom with different politics, a Kingdom which was subversive for the imperial order and perceived as such by both Jews and Romans: “Here at the cross is the man who loves his enemies, the man whose righteousness is greater than that of the Pharisees, who being rich became poor, who gives his robe to those who took his cloak, who prays for those who despitefully use him. The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come.”72 Therefore, one cannot say that the new order represented by the Kingdom of God is not social or visible – its novelty lies essentially in the alternative pattern of leadership; “The alternative to how the kings of the earth rule is not ‘spirituality’ but servanthood”, argued Yoder.73 68

Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, xi. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 52-3, 232-3. 70 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 105-107. 71 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 107. 72 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 51. 73 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 38-39. 69


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Ecclesiology as politics. The Christian Community as an alternative polis According to Yoder, “Jesus was not just a moralist whose teachings had some political implications; he was not primarily a teacher of spirituality whose public ministry unfortunately was seen in a political light; ... Jesus was, in his divinely mandated (i.e., promised, anointed, messianic) prophethood, priesthood, and kingship, the bearer of a new possibility of human, social, and therefore political relationships. His baptism is the inauguration and his cross is the culmination of that new regime in which his disciples are called to share.”74 Therefore, this possibility of radically new human relationships was not just a new teaching, it was embodied in the establishment of a new polis, namely a structured social body with its own way of making decisions, of assigning roles, distributing powers or carrying out its tasks.75 Although Yoder admitted that “in modern usage the application of the term political to the state rather than to the church is so well established that it cannot be combated”, he argued that this “leads to a distortion, for in biblical thought, the church is properly a political entity, a polis”, and “in both biblical languages, the word church (qahal, ekklesia) refers originally to a deliberative assembly of the body politic.”76 Faithful to the original Greek understanding of politics, for Yoder, “anything is political which deals with how people live together in organized ways: how decisions are made and how they are implemented; how work is organized and its products shared; who controls space, land, freedom of movement; how people are ranked; how offenses are handled.”77 Moreover, observes Yoder, the “biblical language about Christ and the church is more political (kingdom, Messiah, New Jerusalem, politeuma), than cultic. In this root sense, therefore, the church is more truly political, i.e., a truer, more properly ordered community, than is the state.”78 In Yoder’s understanding, the very existence of the Christian Community is political and subversive: the Raison d'être of this alternative polis is to make visible God’s way of ruling the world and his plan for the


Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 52-3. Yoder, Body Politics, viii. 76 John Howard Yoder, The Christian Witness to the State (Newton, Kansas: Faith and Life Press, 1964), 17-18. 77 John Howard Yoder, For the Nations. Essays Public and Evangelical (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 223. 78 Yoder, The Christian Witness to the State, 17-18. 75

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entire world – in other words, to be now what the world is to become ultimately.79 A crucial feature of this new community is the breaking of all barriers between people, regardless of their nature. Jesus proclaimed “the opening of the New Age to Gentiles”,80 and the significance of this proclamation was that the newly inaugurated regime represented the fulfillment of God’s purpose to create a new humanity that could wherefore not be in any way understood in nationalistic or other exclusive terms. The New Age was for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, race, economic and social status, etc.; “This creation of the one new humanity is itself the purpose that God had in all ages, is itself the ‘mystery’, the gospel now to be proclaimed. [...] If what is called ‘the church’ is the religious establishment of a total society, then the announcement that God has created human community is redundant, for the religiously sanctioned community is identical with the given order. The identification of the church with a given society denies the miracle of the new humanity in two ways: on the one hand, by blessing the existing social unity and structure that is a part of the fallen order rather than a new miracle and, on the other hand, by closing its fellowship to those of the outside or the enemy class or tribe or people or nation.”81 On the contrary, the very meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice was to “purchase” for God a “royal priesthood” or a “priestly kingdom” out of “every tribe and language and people and nation”, says Yoder.82 Beside social inclusiveness, another crucial feature of the new polis is the practice of sharing the material resources as part of a jubilee economics. The concept of Jubilee was a constant presence in Jesus’ teachings. We find it beginning with his first sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he stated his platform; that, in himself, God inaugurated a new year of Jubilee, the “acceptable year of the Lord”, which meant “a visible socio-political, economic restructuring of relations among the 79

Yoder, Body Politics, ix. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 32. 81 John Howard Yoder, The Royal Priesthood. Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 71-3. 82 Yoder, The Royal Priesthood, 72-3. See also Michael G. Cartwright, “Sorting the Wheat from the Tares: Reinterpreting Reinhold Niebuhr’s Interpretation of Christian Ethics”, in The Wisdom of the Cross. Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder, ed. Stanley Hauerwas, Chris K. Huebner, Harry J. Huebner, and Mark Thiessen Nation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 359. 80


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people of God” and “the imminent entrée en vigueur of a new regime whose marks would be that rich would give to the poor, the captives would be freed, and men would have a new mentality (metanoia), if they believed this news.”83 Forgiveness, enemy-love, servanthood as a way of exercising power, and suffering the price of social nonconformity represent other guiding principles in the life of the new community. “To be a disciple is to share in that style of life of which the cross is the culmination”, argued Yoder.84 However, the cross the believer is called to share is not “any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension”, but, like that of Jesus, it is the “price of social nonconformity”; it is “the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come” and “the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost.”85 Therefore, for Yoder, it is not coercive power that transforms human society and history; God is the ultimate force in history, and he works in, with and through the community of the disciples of Jesus representing the divine alternative to the existing order. Accordingly, Jesus did not call his disciples to involve themselves in the politics of the world, to seize power, take over society or violently overthrow the old regime. As mentioned above, Jesus himself rejected the Zealot temptation to exercise social responsibility through the use of violent means. But, he also rejected the “spiritualist” and “theocratic” options represented by the Essenes and Sadducees; he called his disciples instead to renounce the dominion of this world, to be rather the center of a restored humanity, to be that part of humanity that is already renewed, to be what the entire world is called to be one day through faith in Jesus and, by being so, to offer an alternative to the watching world. In this respect, Yoder distances himself from the “systematic tradition” which considers that there are only two options one has to choose between - either to be political or to be sectarian: “In the tradition of Ernst Troeltsch, Western theological ethics assumes that the choice of options is fixed in logic and for all times and places by the way the Constantinian heritage dealt with the question. Either one accepts, without serious qualification, the responsibility of politics, that is, of governing, with whatever means that takes, or one chooses a withdrawn position of either personal-monastic vocational or sectarian character which is ‘apolitical’. If you choose to share fully in the duties and the guilt of government, you are exercising responsibility and are politically relevant; if you choose not to, 83

Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 1st edition, 1972, 39. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 38. 85 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 96. 84

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it is because you think politics is either unimportant or impure and are more concerned for other matters, such as your own salvation.”86 Such a disjunction is illegitimate for Yoder, because it denies “the powerful (sometimes conservative, sometimes revolutionary) impact on society of the creation of an alternative social group” and overrates both the power and the manageability of those particular social structures identified as ‘political’.” Just as Jesus “refused to concede that the men in power represent an ideal, a logically proper, or even an empirically acceptable definition of what it means to be political” 87 and chose to redefine correct politics by offering an alternative to the traditional conception of politics and power, that of servanthood, the church represents a counter-politics insofar as it is shaped by the “politics of Jesus” and not by the politics of the nation in which it finds itself. Therefore, the Christian Community does not have to ask itself whether it should be involved in politics or what political option is most appropriate for it. Its very existence, living together as the people of God, as a new visible polis, is itself an alternative politics.88 And, by its everyday worship practices, the Christian Community lives out life to its fullest now, providing a pattern for what the world will become ultimately.

The social role of the sacramental practices of the Christian polis For Yoder, the internal practices of the Christian Community represent its particular form of political witness. There is nothing else that could speak more convincingly and relevantly to the world than these renewed patterns and processes by which the people of God live and organize their lives together. Yoder describes five such Christian practices that he considered mandatory for the church (although he does not take this list as exhaustive89), by which it testifies to the arrival of a New World: baptism, breaking bread, fraternal admonition (confronting and forgiving or “binding and loosing” in biblical terminology), the universality of charisma and the freedom of the Spirit in Christian Community’s meetings. These are 86

Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 105-6. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 111-113. 88 See Bryan P. Stone, Evangelism After Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 179. 89 He made it clear that “The five parallel phenomenon which are all part of our common apostolic heritage […] could be listed in any order, and there could very well be a sixth or seventh.” Yoder, “The New Humanity as Pulpit and Paradigm,” in For the Nations, 43. 87


“Thy Kingdom Come!”

simultaneously worship and political practices - they organize Christian Community’s life as a polis, and each of them has the capacity to offer a pattern of life for other social groups and for the world in general.90 Thus, in ritualistic terms, baptism means entrance into a new humanity, into the body of Christ, which is a tie stronger than family, race, ethnicity or any other belonging. Through baptism, even people that were once hostile – Jews and Gentiles - are brought into the same social body, where they eat and worship together. Christ has broken down all divisions between people and brought them all together in his “new creation.” In social terms, this new society in which one enters through baptism is a model for the relativization of all social, ethnic, economic, racial and other boundaries and for interethnic and social acceptance. Baptism is, thus, a practice by which the Christian Community heralds the equality of all humans and the possibility that they all come together as one people. The practice of breaking bread together signifies economic sharing. Before what we now call Eucharist became the subject of abstract theological questions, such as the meaning of the bread and wine and what they become when the priest speaks the right words over them, in the early Christian Community was a common meal, when the rich shared their food with the needy, and social divisions were broken. From sharing food together, they went on sharing money and other goods, no longer considering their possessions as their own. Thus, the primary meaning of the Lord’s Supper was not ceremonial, according to Yoder, but economic; it literally signified daily sustenance, as believers depended on each other, just like a family depends on each other. Seeing it only as a ritual hampers us from understanding its great potential to change the way we live together as a community, considers Yoder. This should not, however, be understood as Communism, where private property is abolished and the state exercises control over all property, because this would annihilate the voluntary character of sharing, of taking care of the poor and the centrality of Jesus Christ in the gathering. The redistribution implied by the table fellowship of the Christian Community is based on the equality of all in Christ, regardless of social and economic status. Therefore, in social terms, the Eucharist would offer a radical model for social and economic solidarity and redistribution, which disavows the view that some people are better and more worthy than others. Charismatic body ministry, or the multiplicity of gifts in Christ’s body, points to the universality of giftedness; every member of the body is the 90 Yoder, “Sacrament as Social Process: Christ the Transformer of Culture,” in Royal Priesthood, 369.

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bearer of manifestations “of the Spirit for the common good.”91 Christ is the only head of the body; all other gifts are of equal importance and dignity, and this requires that the value of each person in the community/society be recovered, and honor be given even to or especially to those people with less glamorous gifts. Just like in a physical body, as a hand cannot dispense with the foot or any other limb, no part of the body of Christ can afford to neglect other parts/gifts - each of these parts is unique and irreplaceable, but none of them could function independently. They can function only as part of the body as a whole. In social terms, the multiplicity of gifts can serve as a model for the empowerment of the humble and the end of hierarchy in social process. The idea of complementary functions is helpful for any organization. Indeed, as Yoder pointed out, it is proven that those organizations where every worker is involved in policy-making and quality control function much better than those whose structure is hierarchical. The “rule of Paul”, or the open meeting in which the floor is open to all believers and decisions are made on the basis of a consensus reached through dialogue and open conversation rather than through hierarchical coercion, could be the ground floor for the notion of democracy. The main idea of this rule is that the process of dialogue and the participation of each member are crucial for reaching the right decisions. Egalitarianism, socialism and democracy – concepts Yoder uses to capture the meaning of these practices – thus acquire fundamentally different meanings when compared to their secularistic, liberal usages. Finally, binding and loosing – or the “reconciling dialogue”, by which believers resolve their disputes - offers the world a model of dialogue and forgiveness and a way of conflict resolution.92 Just like in the case of conflict resolution, the main purpose of the dual process of “binding and loosing”, of exercising discernment and forgiving, is to restore the offender back into the fellowship through a reconciling, restorative dialogue, to resolve conflict, not to punish the offender. The Christian Community, however, not only implements this practice in its internal life, but it can also get involved in reconciliatory practices in the wider society. In this respect, Yoder exemplifies a successful church-based USA program rooted in these ideas: Victim Offender Reconciliation Program.93 All these practices constitute the Christian Community as an alternative social body, which testifies that a “new world” has come, in 91

Yoder, “Sacrament as Social Process: Christ the Transformer of Culture”, Theology Today 48. 1 (April 1991): 35. 92 For a detailed discussion regarding these practices see Yoder, Body Politics. 93 Yoder, Body Politics, 12-13.


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which old divides have been overcome and a new people is being brought together in Christ. At the same time, Yoder recovers the social and political significance of these practices, by showing how they can serve as paradigms or prototypes for the wider world. Therefore, they are political in two ways: first, they are practiced by the church as an alternative social body, and second, they can be used by other communities and societies as a way to organize their life together.94

Christian witness to the state in light of Pauline exousiology The entire edifice of the political witness of the church is circumscribed by Yoder’s understanding of Apostle Paul’s exousiology (his doctrine of “principalities and powers”). For Yoder, the biblical language of “principalities and powers” can be translated today in terms of the “structures” that order human lives: religious structures, intellectual structures (-ogies and - isms), moral structures (codes and customs), political and social structures, etc.95 The crucial points of Pauline theology with respect to these structures are summarized by Yoder in three propositions: 1. They were created by God, and as such, they were originally “parts of a good creation” (God created universe as “an ordered form and ‘it was good’”, because “society and history, even nature, would be impossible without regularity, system, order”96); 2. They have rebelled against God and are fallen, demanding what is due only to God, namely the unconditional loyalty of individuals and society, whom they enslaved;97 3. Despite their falleness, the powers still exercise an ordering function, and they “cannot fully escape the providential sovereignty of God, who is still able to use them for good.”98 And, because “our lostness and our survival are inseparable, both dependent upon the Powers”,99 94

Yoder, “Sacrament as Social Process …”, Theology Today, 41. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 142. 96 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 141. 97 “They are no longer active only as mediators of the saving creative purpose of God; now we find them seeking to separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38); we find them ruling over the lives of those who live far from the love of God (Eph. 2:2); we find them holding us in servitude to their rules (Col. 2:20); we find them holding us under their tutelage (Gal. 4:3). These structures which were supposed to be our servants have become our masters and our guardians.” (Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 141-142). 98 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 141-142. 99 Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 143. 95

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God’s salvation does not imply the abolition of these Powers, as this would bring forth also the abolition of humanity and history. It is their sovereignty that must be broken, and this is what Jesus did. He broke their power “by refusing to support them in their self-glorification” and choosing instead to manifest an alternative form of power which glorified God, not himself, even with the cost of his life: “Therefore his cross is a victory, the confirmation that he was free from the rebellious pretensions of the creaturely condition. Differing from Adam, Lucifer, and all the Powers, Jesus did ‘not consider being equal with God as a thing to be seized’ (Phil. 2:6). His very obedience unto death is in itself not only the sign but also the firstfruits of an authentic restored humanity. Here, we have for the first time someone who is not the slave of any power, of any law or custom, community or institution, value or theory. Not even to save his own life will he let himself be made a slave of these Powers. This authentic humanity included his free acceptance of death at their hands. Thus, it is his death that provides his victory.”100 Therefore, the victory over the Powers is the work of Christ, and the responsibility of the Church, whose very existence is “in itself a proclamation of the lordship of Christ to the powers from whose dominion the church has begun to be liberated”, is not to attack the powers but to concentrate on not being seduced by them.101 Although the powers were defeated by Christ at the cross, they continue to exist in their falleness until the eschaton, when their decisive defeat will be made manifest wholly. We are, therefore, living now in a historical period “characterized by the coexistence of two ages or eons” with two different directions: one that is marked by sin and centered on man, and the other one that represents a “redemptive reality which entered history in an ultimate way in Christ.”102 The state is one of those Powers or structures that have been defeated but continues to exercise its function until the eschaton. Apart from this short definition, however, Yoder does not insist on a detailed ontology of the state. For him, Jesus’ ministry on this earth has shown that the locus of the meaning of history is the church, not the state: “In spite of the present visible dominion of the ‘powers’ of ‘this present evil age’, the triumph of Christ has already guaranteed that the ultimate meaning of history will not be found in the course of earthly empires or the development of proud cultures, but in the calling together of the ‘chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation’, which is the church of Christ. … The meaning of history – 100

Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 145. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 150. 102 Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 9. 101


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and therefore the significance of the state – lies in the creation and the work of the church.”103 The main function of the state is, therefore, to maintain order in society so that God’s redemptive plan may be accomplished through the church: “The reason for Christian prayer in favor of the political authorities is that ‘God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim.2). The function of the state in maintaining an ordered society is thereby a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world.”104 According to Yoder, the moment when Jesus’ teachings with respect to the problematic of state and power became blurred for some Christians was that of the Constantinian compromise, when Christianity became the dominant religion of empire and an ally of the state. Constantinianism offered credit to the idea that a particular nation, people or government can represent God’s cause, in opposition with other nations, peoples or governments, which had to be defeated for being the representatives of “evil.”105 By doing this, it substituted Christ’s universal reign with state’s particularism, which legitimated the use of force as the only possible way to reach peace and overcome evil. For Christians, however, pacifism, which means to overcome evil with good, is the only approach compatible with the Christological way,106 and it testifies to Christians’ acknowledgement of God as the artificer of history and to their choice in favor of obedience to God rather than their efficiency in changing the course of history. The fact that God is sovereign over the entire human history has important consequences for the way the Church understands itself and its relationships with other political structures of the world. While the state exists as a means to adjust tensions within society, to minimize evil influences, just as the police service does, without acting in its own interest, the Church is called to be the Church, the model of the new restored society, which defeats the dominant structures of the world through servanthood, not through social manipulation, like the sword does. For the Church to act like a police would be the equivalent of the realist option and the abandonment of nonresistance. On the contrary, there is no circumstance that could legitimate the use of the sword by the Church – the only revolutionary option for the Church as a polis is to live as a counter-example to the violent nation-state’s politics. It should serve as a 103

Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 13. Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 13. 105 Yoder, The Original Revolution, 68. 106 Yoder, The Original Revolution, 63. 104

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light to the nations and as a paradigm of how else one can live in the world. For Yoder, this is the only way the Church can relevantly speak to the world and be the most powerful tool of social change.107 We should not conclude from this that Yoder (by his interpretation of Pauline exousiology) somehow argued in favor of a Pietist withdrawal from the world. There will be indeed situations in which Christians will have to refuse certain functions within society, in order to remain faithful morally, but this would be because in those circumstances, says Yoder, “the rebellion of the structure of a given particular power is so incorrigible that at the time the most effective way to take responsibility is to refuse to collaborate, and by that refusal to take sides in favor of the victims whom that power is oppressing. This refusal is not a withdrawal from society. It is rather a major negative intervention within the process of social change, a refusal to use unworthy means even for what seems to be a worthy end.”108 Such situations in which the political witness of the Christian Community will take the form of nonconformity, of a refusal to cooperate with the existing institutions, would be the objection to military service or the refusal to participate in certain social evils. At other times, the political witness of the Church will take the form of a conscientious participation in the life of society, assisting in finding solutions for specific problems and in the shaping of a healthy mentality (here Yoder has in mind especially those professions “which contribute to the organizing of society by defining and working toward moral values at the grass roots level: as a medical or social worker transforming ‘cases’ into persons, as a businessman placing effective community service above immediate profits, as a teacher transmitting to younger generations his sense of what really matters behind the details of his curricular offerings etc.”109). The Christian Community’s witness would sometimes involve what one could call its “pioneering creativity.” Thus, in many areas of social concern, the Christian Community has been a “pilot, creating experimentally new ways of meeting social needs which, once their utility has been proved, […] were institutionalized and generalized under the authority of secular powers.”110 Such was the case with schools and hospitals, or with international relief work in favor of the victims of war and natural catastrophe, for instance, which were originally services rendered by the


J.H.Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 150-1. See also The original Revolution... Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 154. 109 Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 20. 110 Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 19. 108


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church to society and were eventually taken over by the state.111 Therefore, the Christian Community has to understand her mission as “one of constant inventive vision for the good of the larger society” and to “rejoice at the evidence that her witness at a given point has been grasped” and “move on to new realms where her creativity is more urgently needed.”112 Along with the “implicit witness given by the very example of the church, by her own inner life and her service to the world”,113 Yoder makes room also for its active nonviolent direct action in favor of justice, by itself or in alliance with other nonviolent movements for social change. This responsibility of the church involves finding creative ways of subverting unjust structures and building just ones instead, by actions such as: lobby, activism, sit-ins, grassroot mobilization, etc. Under no circumstance, however, should the Christian Community accept violence.114 The Christian Community’s political witness also consists of the crucial dimension of the prophetic critique, of speaking truth to power. It should not only be the model of an ideal society, but it should also serve as a pastoral and prophetic resource for those in positions of power. Above everything else, however, Christians should not forget that the center of God’s activity in history is not in the state or other political movement; it is in the church.

Christians Reconstructionists in dialogue with John Howard Yoder. Concluding remarks The first conclusion one could draw from the analysis of these two theopolitical projects is that there are more than two ways to understand “God's kingdom”, as either a “Christian country”, where the president/queen/government are “Christian” and issue “Christian” laws and decrees (as Reconstructionists and dominionists in general believe), or as an inner, “spiritual” reign over the individual heart (as the Pietists and “otherworldly” oriented Christians believe). Yoder has successfully showed us that the kingdom of God is both in the world and different from the world, and it is embodied in that already restored part of humanity – the Christian Community - which follows the way of Jesus in every aspect of life.


Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 19. Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 20; The Priestly Kingdom, 97. 113 Yoder, Christian Witness to the State, 21. 114 Yoder, Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution, 354. 112

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Second, “politics” is not all about government, or the process of governing, and the choice to not govern is not necessarily apolitical and otherworldly oriented. Yoder showed us that a third way is possible: the Christian Community itself as a political body, an alternative polis with its particular set of deviant rules and its particular coherent way of embodying them.115 According to Yoder, the acceptance, by the early church, of the gift of being the “new humanity created by the cross and not by the sword” instead of accepting the available political options – whether the Zealot and Maccabean patriotism, the Essenes’ withdrawal from society, or the Herodian collaboration with the existing political regime – was a victory of the early church,116 and it should be so for the Christian Community nowadays, too. The internal practices of the Christian Community represent a translation of its political witness and serve as models of a different way of life for the watching world: baptism serves as a model of interethnic and social acceptance, the insistence on the diversity of ministries undermine the hierarchical organization of society, the practice of mutual admonition serves as a paradigm for accountability for other organizations, etc. All these practices or sacraments – to which others could be added – are normative for the church, and although one could argue that they were not always respected by Christian communities in the course of history, it is not the practices per se that are to be blamed, but Christian communities, which have to acknowledge their moral failings and renew or reform themselves.117 Third, an ecclesiological model, which assigns the Christian Community a voluntary character and a marginal position, offers the Christian Community the most adequate position to bring a creative, authentic and healing contribution to social change. The periphery is the most prolific place to seek for alternatives; social change was, actually, throughout history, initiated by prophetic minorities. Such was the case, for instance, with the movement for the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the movement for women’s rights, etc. We believe Yoder was right when he said that, without a strong and adequate ecclesiology, Christians will always be subject to the Constantinian temptation and will look for the primary locus of political witness outside the church. Christian Reconstruction, and Dominion theology in general, fall prey to this temptation, considering that the contribution of Christians to social change lies first of all in an attempt to seize power or seek positions of high office in the state or, at least, to co-opt influential people/elites to advance their 115

Yoder, The Original Revolution, 28. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 149. 117 Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom, 5. 116


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agenda, the ultimate purpose being the Christianization of the world. As the Reconstructionist David Chilton said: “The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law.”118 Despite Reconstructionists’ attempts to reassure us that what they seek is a “dominion by consent”, it is difficult to see how this can be reconciled with Reconstructionists’ affirmations and strategies. If, as Rushdoony argues, “every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare”, we can hardly see any non-violent way of implementing the biblical order, as understood by Reconstructionists, in the current age – and that is hardly “by consent” and hardly Christian. Moreover, a fundamentally weak point of the Reconstructionist project is that in the post-lapsarian world, humans are subject to imperfections, and therefore, one can doubt that imperfect people, be they part of a “spiritual aristocracy” or not, can create a perfect society here on earth, even when they attribute to God their endeavors. On the other hand, the Reconstructionists seek to mete out “justice” by using state action to enforce their particular interpretation of “God’s will”, leaving no room for forgiveness and rehabilitation, two concepts that are central to Christianity. Unlike Reconstructionists, Yoder does not allow Christians to consider themselves superior and impose their vision upon others by force. To attempt to build the ideal polis at the level of the existing society instead of building its own alternative polis would mean to succumb to the temptation of Constantinianism, for Yoder. Jesus forbids Christians to judge others, because judgment belongs to God alone. They are not the ones to decide what is good and what is evil on their own, and they should not compel the world to conform to the Gospel or to conquer it for Christ. They should respect the world’s choice, just like God respects our choice. This is the significance of pacifism; just like God refuses to overcome our violence through violence, so should we. For Yoder, this is the epicenter of the Gospel: pacifism, that is the refusal to respond to evil with evil and the choice to respond instead with the weapons provided by the Sermon on the Mount – love, endurance, servanthood. For Yoder, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – his earthly ministry – was a reconstruction of the social order. Christ established a new order, a new kingdom, and he established the rules by which its citizens should live. The Christian Community


David Chilton, Paradise Restored, 26.

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should follow his politics, his nonviolent way, and it should not share its allegiance to any other Caesar of the world. Therefore, the Christian Community is not ultimately called to manage the affairs of the world, to create a global Christian theocracy, or to bend history in the “right” direction; this is God’s prerogative. It is called to servanthood, not to lordship, to serve people, not to rule over them. As part of a new humanity, Christians are to correct the abuses and “plant signs of the new world in the ruins of the old”,119 by offering creative alternatives exemplified first in its own internal life.

Acknowledgements This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-IDPCE-2011-3-0481.

References Bahnsen, Greg L. Theonomy in Christian Ethics. Phillipsburg, NJ: : Presbyterian & Reformes Pub Co., 1984. Balmer, Randall Herbert. Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, s.v. Reconstructionism. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. Bates, Stephen. A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004. Boston, Rob. “The ADF’s Reconstructionist Ties: Enforcing God’s Law?” Church and State 57. 6 ( June 2004). Carter, Craig. The Politics of the Cross: The Theology and Social Ethics of John Howard Yoder. Grand Rapids, Mi.: Brazos Press, 2001. Cartwright, Michael G. “Sorting the Wheat from the Tares: Reinterpreting Reinhold Niebuhr’s Interpretation of Christian Ethics.” In The Wisdom of the Cross. Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder, edited by Stanley Hauerwas, Chris K. Huebner, Harry J. Huebner, and Mark Thiessen Nation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999. Chilton, David. The Days of Vengeance. An Exposition of the Book of Revelation. Ft. Worth: Dominion Press, 1987. Clarkson, Frederick. “The Rise of Dominionism: Remaking America as a Christian Nation.” The Public Eye Magazine 19. 3 (Winter 2005). 119

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DeMar, Gary. Debate over Christian Reconstruction. Atlanta, Georgia: American Vision, 1988. Elliott, Neil. “The Anti-Imperial Message of the Cross.” In Paul and Empire. Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society, edited by Richard A. Horsley. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1997. English, Adam C. “Christian Reconstructionism after Y2K. Gary North, the New Millenium, and Religious Freedom.” In New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America, edited by Derek H. Davis and Barry Hankins. Texas: Baylor University Press, 2003. Gifford, Paul. African Christianity: Its Public Role. London: Hurst and Co., 1998. Grant, George. The Changing of the Guard. Biblical Blueprints for Political Action. Ft. Worth Texas: Dominion Press, 1987. Hamon, Bill. Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. God’s End-Time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth. Fourth printing, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2002. John Howard Yoder, Theodore J. Koontz, Andy Alexis-Baker (eds.). Christian Attitudes to War, Peace and Revolution. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009. Klassen, William. “John H. Yoder and the Ecumenical Church.” Conrad Grebel Review 16 (1998). Moltmann, Jürgen. “Political Theology.” Theology Today (1971): 6-23. —. God for a Secular Society. The Public Relevance of Theology. London: SCM Press, 1999. North, Gary. Political Polytheism. The Myth of Pluralism. Tyler Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989. North, Gary. “Preface.” In Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn't, by Gary DeMar and Gary North. Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991. —. Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus. Tyler, TX: lnstitute for Christian Economics, 1990. Rose, Susan D., and Steve Brouwer. “The export of fundamentalist Americanism: US evangelical education in Guatemala.” Latin American Perspectives 17. 42 (1990): 42-56. Rushdoony, Rousas J. “Chalcedon Report No. 225.” Chalcedon Foundation, April 1984. Rushdoony, Roussas J. The Institutes of Biblical Law. 3 vols. Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1999. Stone, Bryan P. Evangelism After Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007.

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Tierney, P.J. Theocracy: Can Democracy Survive Fundamentalism?: Resolving the Conflict Between Fundamentalism and Pluralism. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012. Vile, John R. Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments, and Amending Issues, 1789-2002. 2nd. Edition, Santa Barbara, California: ABCCLIO, 2003. Wagner, C. Peter. Apostles Today: Biblical Government for Biblical Power. Ventura, California: Regal Books, 2007. —. Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2008. Weaver, Alain Epp. “After Politics: John Howard Yoder, Body Politics, and the Witnessing Church.” The Review of Politics 61. 4 (Fall 1999): 649-652. William T. Cavanaugh and Peter Scott (eds.). Blackwell Companion to Political Theology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Wills, Garry. Under God: Religion and American Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. Yoder, John Howard. Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World. Nashville: Dicipleship Resources, 1991. —. The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism and Nevertheless: A Meditation on the Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1971. —. For the Nations. Essays Public and Evangelical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. —. “Sacrament as Social Process: Christ the Transformer of Culture.” Theology Today (April 1991): 33-44. —. The Politics of Jesus. 2nd. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994. —. The Priestly Kingdom. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press , 1984. —. The Royal Priesthood. Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994. —. The Christian Witness to the State. Newton, Kansas: Faith and Life Press, 1964.


The high stakes of concept choice This study is dedicated to the Romanian Orthodox Church’s (ROC) continuous pressure on the basic rules which establish the relations between church and state in a democracy. As such, the ROC plays the role of a social actor involved in an extensive process of demodernisation of the Romanian society. The ROC has a negative impact on the values and institutions and will be a long-term danger to relations between Romania and the European community. The negative role played by the ROC stems from a mistrust of democracy combined with racism, xenophobia, antiSemitism and revisionism.1 With its wide social involvement, the Romanian Orthodox Church takes part in creating an auspicious environment for the creation of various types of radical right trends and movements. However, while far right groups carry with them the burden of illegitimacy, the ROC enjoys popularity and recognition. While parties associated with extremism suffer the containment imposed by the state and international institutions, the ROC is treated as a partner. The fact that religious communities with radical political objectives have acquired an additional acceptability during the last two decades, during which ultra-nationalism has been compromised in Europe, is also of consequence. For the purpose of this study, we look at the ROC from a Weberian perspective, which sees the church as a territorial and parochial organization. For a long while now, the ROC has been a “corporate interest group”, and it has negotiated a compromise with those in power so 1

This is characteristic of the radical right, ultra-right, far right, and hard right movements, of right-wing extremism, or ultra-nationalist, hypernationalist, ultraconservative or reactionary–like movements.

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that it would participate in the domestication of its subjects, by nationalizing the religious community and promoting the national ideology through its particular means.2

The Romanian Orthodox Church in the ’90s: the revival of an important nationalistic and anti-democratic force The fall of the communist regime in 1989 allowed people and religious organizations to affirm their faith and religious traditions, which had been controlled for the previous 45 years. During the communist regime, when atheism was elevated to a policy of the state, the obstacles placed before religious manifestations were not the same for all. The repression was directed primarily at the Romanian Church United to Rome/GreekCatholic (RCUR), which became illegal, at the neo-Protestant denominations, and at esoteric, exotic and spiritual movements. During all those 45 years, the majority church - the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) - was subject to state control; at the same time, it was used as a partner of the communist regime in their fight against other religious communities. The Romanian Orthodox Church participated in the destruction of the RCUR3 and the harassment of neo-Protestant denominations. After the anti-communist revolution, the ROC became a central actor of public life in Romania. Its aspiration to achieve a dominant role in social life benefited from the legacy of the former regime: the ideology of national-communism, and the close relationship between the ROC leaders and the former communist authorities, including the intelligence services. Its political authority encountered a few obstacles though. The orthodox-nationalist message found a competitor in extreme nationalist organizations, and especially extreme nationalist parties, which were very vocal and had direct access to the levers of power. Also, the ROC had to face the presence in parliament of the Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party, which had a strong Greek-Catholic tendency. Third, Romania was undergoing a widespread process of democratization, international recognition, and adaptation to European institutions, which resist orthodox social claims. However, during the 90s, the ROC advanced 2

See Constantin Iordachi, “Ortodocúi împotriva greco-catolicilor: De la competiĠie pentru resurse la redefinirea identităĠii naĠionale”, Sfera Politicii 82 (September 2000): 15-20. 3 See Gabriel Andreescu, “The Romanian Church United with Rome (GreekCatholic) under Pressure: The ROC’s Bad Behaviour as Good Politics”, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 32 (Summer 2012): 227- 255.


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considerably in its economic enrichment, its increasing influence on political life and its corruption of state institutions. The transition from the 90s to the 2000s was marked by significant internal and external developments. Due to the complete compromise of hypernationalism following the tragedy in Yugoslavia, and the simultaneous negative reaction of European organizations (Council of Europe, European Union), the nationalist discourse lost some of its political power. In 1999, Romania started negotiations for the accession to the European Union. In 2000, the Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party was virtually eliminated from political life and, with it, the only voice in Parliament that resisted the ROC. Following the beginning of the “war on terror”, in 2001, Romania was asked to follow the road map toward accession to NATO. In these circumstances, the ROC toned down its openly xenophobic policy in order to focus on a de facto control of society. Instead of engaging in a confrontation of ideas, it favored pursuing purely practical interests. Instead of challenging democratic values on philosophical grounds, the ROC chose to follow the path of effective action and undermine these values, while often avoiding public disputes. If the 90s are the years of a resurgence of the ROC, the years 2000s can be thought of as the years of acquiring an overwhelming power, with striking effects on the Romanian society and its future relations with the European community. Through the current actions of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Romania has entered into a process of demodernisation, paradoxically subsequent to Romania's joining of the European Union.

Byzantinism and Nationalism The originality of Orthodoxy among the other Christian religions comes from the fact that it has assimilated and integrated Nationalism within its theological principles. A theory has been developed from the Orthodox religion referring to the relationship between the Church and the State, a theory which is remotely related to the relationship between the Patriarch and the Emperor of Byzantium (hence the label of “Byzantinism”), disregarding the separation between the earthly power and the spiritual one.4 At the same time, the Churches have taken part in the Nationalist movements which resulted in the foundation of the Orthodox states in the


Another qualilification is that of “caesaro-papism.”

Gabriel Andreescu


Balkans: Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia. Subsequently, the Churches have become institutions entirely submitted to the new nations.5 The foundation of Romania as a nation was simultaneous with the zenith of Nationalism: hence, the special status that all constitutions granted to the Romanian Orthodox Church, that of the “dominant religion of the Romanian State” or of the “dominant Church of the State” respectively, (the Constitution of 1866, 1923, 1938) and of “Romanian Church” (the Constitution of 1923 and 1938).6 The Romanian Orthodox Church became officially autocephalous in 1885 and Patriarchate in 1925. The first Constitution after the Union - in 1923 - declared the Roman Church United to Rome (Greco-Catholic), as “the national cult superior to other cults.”7 All developments between the two world wars have been identified with Orthodoxy. Politically, the force that most drew from Orthodoxy was the Legionarism, the Romanian fascist movement of that time. Nevertheless, Orthodoxy has also represented a dominant cultural mark, which placed Romanian identity in opposition to the Western one. The main spokesmen of the Romanian culture identified to a great extend the national spirit with the Orthodoxy, which clearly marked the separation from the Catholic and Protestant West and consequently from the Western models invoked by previous generations. A subtle distinction between the concept of “Romanian” and a “Good Romanian” was promoted during the 30s: a Catholic Romanian could be a “Good Romanian”, in other words, a loyal Romanian; nevertheless, a Romanian with no other attribute, just a Romanian, was only the Orthodox. Therefore, the Transylvanians who


Olivier Gillet, Religie úi naĠionalism. Ideologia Bisericii Ortodoxe Române sub regimul comunist (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Compania, 2001), 19. 6 In Romania, a central place in creating a national consciousness belonged also to the Roman Church United to Rome (Greek Catholic), its cultural and political activity being the starting point for a process that would end in the annexation of Transylvania (where the church was mainly present) to Romania. The creation of Greater Romania in 1918 generated a new situation for the ROC, which was losing its place as the “sole representative of the Romanian nation.” Therefore, a central objective of the ROC was the destruction of the Roman Church United to Rome (RCUR). In 1948, the ROC took advantage of Romania's subjugation by a totalitarian regime, to achieve its historic dream: the suppression of the RCUR. 7 The Law of the general status of the rites defined Roman - Catholic, Calvinist, Evangelic, Lutheran, Unitarian, Armenian – Gregorian, Mosaic and Muslim religion as “historical.”


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launched the national movement have been, as Greco-Catholics, just “Good Romanians” (“after all, this is better than nothing at all!”).8 In order to understand the attitude of the Romanian Orthodox Church after World War II, it is important to mention the fact that “Byzantinism and Nationalism represent continuity elements which we can notice in the Orthodox ideology throughout the 20th century, in relation to the attitude of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the Communist State”9 (emphasis added). Similarly, the ROC attitude after 1989 put in value the status of the Romanian Orthodox Church during Ceausescu’s Nationalism: “The Romanian Orthodox Church has given to this ‘revival’ of the Nationalist theses advocated by Ceausescu a religious meaning, be it as insignificant as it were. During the Communist era, the co-operation of the Church with the regime could inspire ideologically the State Nationalism, adding a spiritual dimension and so legitimizing its nationalist discourse. This discourse led to discrimination between citizens, between Romanians of Dacian-Roman ‘blood’ and ‘co-inhabiting nationalities,’ on the one hand, and ‘Romanians’ pertaining to the Romanian ‘ethnic group’ of different religion – Unitarian, Neo-Protestant and Catholic – on the other hand. In the context of the Romanian Communist regime, National-Communism and its influence on the ideology of the Orthodox Church has caused a drama due to the fact that the identity has been ‘re-established’ based on the totalitarian regime. This aspect can be encountered in the current problems which have appeared after the 1989 Revolution and allow us to better understand the post-revolutionary Nationalist ‘revival’.”10

The 1990s: the ROC`s fight to regain the status of “national Church” Unlike the 1948-1989 period, when the Orthodox Church was forced to serve the Communist government on command, after the Romanian revolution, the ROC has become independent from the State, it is rather a partner in the government for the leading political powers, and an active domestic and international participant with personal interests.11 In this context, its Nationalist dimension becomes a burden, which at some point can be contrary to the interests of the State. This was obvious in relation to 8

Lucian Boia, Istorie Юi mit în conЮtiinаa românească (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Humanitas, 1997), 169. 9 Lucian Boia, Istorie Юi mit…, 34. 10 Lucian Boia, Istorie Юi mit…, 173. 11 See, among others, the dispute between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church in relation to the Metropolitan See of Basarabia.

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the issue of the accession of Romania to European Union. Whereas the European principles protect diversity, minorities, free competition between values and ideas, the ROC still aspires to a Romanian Orthodox homogeneous people. During the 90s, the ROC hierarchy made a continuous effort to be acknowledged as the “national church.” It mobilized a significant part of the written and audio-visual media,12 as well as Orthodox magazines13 and well-known intellectuals and media people who supported the status of “National Church.”14 This goal seemed to be achieved in 1998, when a bill promoted by the ROC, via the State Secretariat of Religious Affairs, enjoyed the Government’s support. Against the critics, a spokesman of the ROC argued that the request to observe the principle of equality between rites would reflect only the “frustration on the part of the minority, but also the politics of the moment which encourages the minority to quarrel with the majority.”15 The Orthodox theologician manaced the Romanian Parliamentarians: “By yielding eventually to the extortion of the logic of equality at all costs and consequently rejecting the phrase National Church, the Parliament will demonstrate its incapability to convey a longterm political will, independent from the result of the elections held every four years.”16 Domestic and foreign appeals on the project have led to its withdrawal. As a matter of compromise, the Law on the Freedom of Religion and the General Status of Denominations of 2006, the Romanian State recognizes the important role of the Romanian Orthodox Church by the national history of Romania and in the life of the Romanian society. The battle for the ROC’s official recognition of the status of “national church” has targeted only the symbolic aspect of the perspective that Romania must remain a country of Romanians and of Orthodox values. 12 Here we refer to Cotidianul, Jurnalul naĠional, Ziua, Curentul, Antena 1, Tele 7 abc, Prima, PRO TV. 13 The most incisive were Vestitorul ortodoxiei – Bucharest, Telegraful roman Sibiu, CredinĠa strabună - Alba-Iulia, Renaúterea - Cluj. 14 Dan Ciachir, Răzvan Codrescu, Costion Nicolescu, Răzvan Theodorescu, Sorin Dumitrescu, Sergiu Buzan, Constantin Bălăceanu-Stolnici, Radu Preda, Adrian Păunescu, Marius Tucă, Dan Diaconescu, Cristian Tabără. See Gabriel Catalan, “Etnocentrismul úi confesionalismul politic ortodox românesc” (unpublished paper). 15 Radu Preda, Biserica în stat. O invitaаie la dezbatere (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Scripta, 1999), 50. 16 Radu Preda, Biserica în stat…, 53-54.


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This view, however, has always had a practical dimension. One example is the AROCS`s (Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students)17 open letter sent to the President of Romania on the occasion of the vote in the two Chambers of the Parliament in 1997 on an amendment meant to replace Art. 30 of the Law of Investments. The Legislative was trying with that law to offer foreign investors the possibility of purchasing land in Romanian territory. According to the open letter, passing the amendment meant a “contradiction of the entire Romanian policy up to present which has protected Romanian land by written or unwritten laws [placing Romania] in the humiliating position of a state incapable of showing the least resistance to the foreign partner”; the lack of “land protection laws will cause serious dysfunctionalities at the level of the entire Romanian society”; launching “the strategic operation of monopolisation of the land, either by the representatives of the state or by the religious centres for propaganda and proselytism,”18 etc. In the same framework of ideas, Icoana din adînc (The Icon from the Deep), a monthly magazine “of Christian-Orthodox attitude, theology, culture and art”19 has promoted, in the November 1997 issue, a memorandum, which condemned: (1) The adjustment of the Romanian legislative system to the sole European legislation (in other words, to the legislation of the European Council, but also to that of other international organizations, such as the European Union), the authors militating for intrinsic Romanian regulations; (2) The renouncement to Bessarabia and Bukovina (the authors have stated their opposition to the accession to NATO and the European Union); (3) Granting unconditional civil rights to immigrants (whom they call “social waste of Asia, Africa and America”); (4) Granting what the authors call “privileges” to minorities; (5) Passing a law which allows foreigners to purchase land (which leads to the danger of “selling our country”); (6) The economical subordination to the foreign capital (regarding the freedom of investments, privatization, etc.); (7) The pressure on the Romanian culture caused by the models launched in America, France, etc. (termed as “the pressure of the empire”); (8) The atheist liberalism, the chaos of rights – the right to free speech, to opinion, to information, etc.;


AROCS is placed under the patronage of the Patriarchate. The open letter was published in România liberă (2nd of April1997). 19 The magazine is published with the blessing of the Patriarch Teoctist and by an Association led by His Beatitude Teodosie Snagoveanul. 18

Gabriel Andreescu


(9) Turning Romania into the action field of the propaganda of schismatic rites and so on. The aforementioned were reflecting the anti-democratic and the antiEuropeanist potential of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Not only associations such as AROCS or marginal authors have given this type of discourses, but also hierarchs having a significant authority within the Romanian Orthodox Church. Given the strict discipline that the Orthodox clergy must follow, displays of this type would be immediately cut short by the ROC hierarchy if they were seen to go against its judgment. As to the different trends within the hierarchy, they collide in their choice of tactics to be followed, and not in their values or basic interests.

Anti-Europeanism within the Romanian Orthodox Church. Fundamentalist tendencies and violence during the 90s During the 90s, overt anti – Europeanist declarations were common to find with high prelates and in the official publications of the Romanian Orthodox Church. During a press conference in Alba-Iulia in the spring of 1998, Archbishop Bartolomeu Anania stated: “Europe demands us to accept homosexuality, electronics, drugs, abortions, genetic engineering.”20 And, the conclusion has been consistent: “It is senseless to argue our accession to Europe, due to the fact that Romania has always been in Europe historically, geographically, culturally and spiritually. Moreover, from the point of view of culture and civilization, we have long outrun Europe […] Europe we are proposed accession to – a Europe exclusively founded on the economical and the political where there is no trace of spirituality, of culture, not to mention religion. A Europe impoverished, spiritless, which is more than awful.”21 And, there is somehow a more diplomatic statement in Deisis: “These attacks [against Romanian identity] represent a sort of non-conformist fashion … they are powerful attacks and I believe they are not so much anti-religious as anti-national, which means that the Church is the leading institution in relation to the preservation of national identity together with all its components. This situation is not convenient for a series of globalization and laicization tendencies and so that the Church will 20

Lucian Dobrater, “In viziunea IPS Bartolomeu Anania, ‘Europa ne propune sa acceptam homosexualitate, electronica, droguri, avorturi, inginerie genetica’” in Evenimentul zilei (16th April 1998). 21 Lucian Dobrater, “In viziunea IPS Bartolomeu Anania…”


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continue to remain the target of this type of attacks so long as it preserves its mission as depository of the entitative identity of the Romanian people in the reunited Europe.”22 The Archbishop of Suceava and RădăuĠi, Gherasim – who has particularly distinguished himself through declarations that convey the traditional political message of the Romanian Orthodoxy: the concept of the theocratic state and of the State Church (“national”)23 – joins his homologous from Ardeal: “How can I accept, as Romanian and ChristianOrthodox, to consent to certain influences which alter our faith. The Holy Scripture is categorical”; “our forefathers who have preserved with such difficulty our Romanian faith shall raise their voice from the grave to us lest we observe it […] We shall make our believers understand that they are Romanians and Christian Orthodox and that they should keep intact our faith and the people and the Church.”24 The number of such radical anti-democratic statements is too large to make an exhaustive list. Anti-Europeanist manifestations are obvious when some of the priests and hierarchs of the Orthodox Church reflect a more general attitude, which can clearly be attributed to an Orthodox fundamentalism. This would be the result of the convergence of four elements: (i) the advocation of a doctrine of exclusivist nature, pushing the two ideas of Orthodox Nationalism to the limit: Romania is the State of Romanian people, to be Romanian is to be Orthodox; (ii) the denial on the part of the Romanian Orthodox Church of the principles of the rule of law, considered as “second in rank” in relation to the principles of Orthodoxy, legitimated by their divine origin; (iii) the fact that the clerics of the Romanian Orthodox Church make use of a number of violent “instruments”, from offensive discourses to threats and physical aggression; and (iv) the incredible development of the means and power of the Romanian Orthodox Church in relation to other social factors.25 The fundamentalist attitude within the ROC was not limited to words. Violence and harassment against other religious groups are a constant in the history of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Among such violent actions, we should list the aggression on Greco-Catholics by the Orthodox stirred up by their priest. Violent actions have taken place in Filea de Jos, in 1991; Visuia (BistriĠa-Năsăud), in 1991; Turda, 1991; Mărgău (Cluj), 1991; Ceaba (Cluj), 1992; in Hodac (Mureú), 1992, Hopîrta (Blaj county), 1993; 22

“Ortodoxia românească ‫܈‬i integrarea europeană”, Deisis 9-10 (2000). See Gabriel Catalan, “Etnocentrismul úi confesionalismul…” 24 Mediafax Bulletin (22nd of April 1998). 25 See Gabriel Andreescu, The Right Wing Extremism in Romania (Cluj-Napoca: Center for Ethno-Cultural Diversity, 2003). 23

Gabriel Andreescu


Salva (Năsăud), January and July 1993; Romuli (BistriĠa-Năsăud), 1994; Pârâul FrunĠii (NeamĠ), 1994; Breb (Maramureú), 1994, Iclod (Cluj), 1997; Botiza (Maramureú), 1998, and so on.26 In addition to the conflicts with the Greco-Catholics, the most familiar manifestations have been the aggressions against Baptists and against the Jehovah’s Witnesses.27 The Ruginoasa/Iaúi case (December 1997) led to international protests.28 The Ruginoasa case is important, because it has emphasized the overt support of violent methods from the Orthodox hierarchy itself. Thus, in connection to the assaults in Ruginoasa on a group of Baptists by Orthodox believers led by their priests, the Metropolitan See of Moldavia and Bukovina made the following official statement: “Neither the Orthodox community nor the Orthodox priest are guilty for what has happened there. The guilty part is represented by those who entered an entirely Orthodox community... and have spiritually assaulted them in their home. They have not observed the Constitution, the good sense; they have whittled Christian and social morality by coming with impudence and impertinence – probably considering the villagers ignorant – and have tried to manifest themselves in a proselyte manner.” The author of this statement, Daniel Ciubotea, was elected in 2007 as Patriarch of the ROC.

The pressure on the rule of law and state institutions in the 90s A common practice of the Romanian Orthodox Church is to pressure the Parliament so as to deter it from solving essential issues related to interconfessional justice, from adopting anti-discriminative attitudes and fulfil its internal and international obligations. Thus, on the 12th of June 1997, when the Senate passed a draft bill regarding the retrocession of several Greco-Catholic churches, which lawfully belonged to the Greco-Catholic Church, the Orthodox Hierarchy has promptly and impetuously obstructed it. The Patriarch called the 26

In many of the listed cases the police did not intervene. Nonetheless, the policemen prevented some unorthodox religious manifestations. 27 The investigations confirmed the co-operation between the representatives of the state authorities and the Orthodox priest with the view to prevent the Jehovah’s Witnesses from manifesting their faith: Roúu Case (1997); Bobiceúti and Laloúu (1997); ğânĠareni, Gorj county (1997); Cluj-Napoca (1997); Piteúti (1997) etc. 28 The Declaration of the “Droits de l'Homme sans Frontieres” organization Brussels, 1997. Several Baptists have been molested by a group of Orthodox believers led by their priest. Once again, the Baptists have been the object of aggression of the villagers of Cornereva, 1997 - subject of a few domestic feature reports Pantelimon (Ilfov), 1998 and Luncavicea (Caraú-Severin), 1999.


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legislative initiative a dictate “which may have unpredictable consequences for the peace in Transylvania for which those who have voted this draft bill will be responsible for.” The Metropolitan of Ardeal declared in his turn: “The law [...] will result in conflicts, rebellions with unpredictable effects.” It will represent “an assault against the life of the Romanian Orthodox Church and against our people”. Andrei, Bishop of Alba Iulia, announced: “I don’t think that the Romanian Orthodox Church will allow anybody to do whatever they please.” While addressing the Parliament, the Romanian Orthodox Church often invokes, as a threat, its capacity to influence the electorate. When, on the 13th of September 2000, the Synod appealed against the decriminalisation of homosexuality, they invoked millions of “Orthodox Christians […] who have elected, with their vote, the members of the Parliament of Romania.” And he concluded: “the legislative […] should hear about the needs of the Romanian people […] who will give their vote this autumn.” Among the most spectacular manifestations of the Romanian Orthodox Church, meant to impose its interests by force, we should mention the procession in Cluj, on the 20th of March 1998. In response to the call of the Archbishop of Vad, Feleac and Cluj, Bartolomeu Anania, a march of approximately 2,500 priests and seminarians was organized, as a protest against the retrocession of the “Schimbarea la faĠă” (The Transfiguration) Episcopal Church to the Greco-Catholic Church following a court sentence.29 At the end, the Archbishop threatened in Esopic terms: “I want everybody to know, friends and foes, that we are standing and that we shall keep vigil and that we shall respond to the fist and to the bat with the cross. Nevertheless, it is good to make known the fact that from this day forth our cross shall be unflinching. I ask them not to take advantage of the Orthodox humility.” It is worth notice that the speech of the Metropolitan stylistically resembled, to a high degree, the speech of Slobodan Milosevic, on the 28th of June 1989, on the “Field of Blackbirds”/Prishtina, the place where they celebrated the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo (Kosovo Polje): “Six centuries [after the Battle of Kosovo Polje] we are again engaged in battles and quarrels. They are not armed battles, but this cannot be excluded yet.” 30 The previous example reflects the overt opposition of the Romanian Orthodox Church to a final court sentence and, in general, its impugnment of the principles of the rule of law. Several times, the Romanian Orthodox 29

His Beatitude Ion MihãlĠan of Oradea, His Beatitude Andrei of Alba Iulia, His Beatitude Ioan of Harghita and Covasna, the Patriarch Vicar Bishop Visarion Rãúinãreanu have joined His Beatitude Teoctist Bartolomeu Anania. 30 Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 35.

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Church had rejected the enforcement of some unfavorable court sentences, and certain Greco-Catholic churches have not been retroceded yet despite the court verdict. Additionally, state institutions have agreed to submit to the arbitration of the Romanian Orthodox Church. A similar case, also very well-known, is that of the prohibition of the International Congress of Jehovah’s Witnesses in June 1996, which was to take place in Bucharest. Several ministries and other public authorities have infringed on the initial contract with the Jehovah’s Witnesses due to the vast campaign against the Congress launched by the Orthodox Church. Various politicians from the governing coalition and from the opposition have rushed to support the position of the Romanian Orthodox Church.31

After 2000: the Romanian Orthodox Church’s overwhelming power The real strength of the ROC has become apparent after the 2000s. For the last decade, the Romanian Orthodox Church has chosen a pragmatic way to achieve its goals. The position of strength that the ROC finds itself in today is based on: (a) gaining a broad capital of authority and influence on the political class, including through the migration of politicians from nationalism to orthodoxism, (b) achieving huge economic power almost entirely by the transfer of state assets to the ROC, and (c) gaining a strong authority over the educational system of all levels, which has lead and is still leading to an indoctrination of generations of students, turning them into intolerant and insensitive people, into enemies of modernity.

The ROC’s authority and influence on politicians Throughout the period of the 90s and 2000s, “the Church” has been at the forefront of public confidence surveys.


However, during an official visit in Bucharest, the wife of the President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, protested against the violation of freedom of religion in Romania by refusing to participate in an official event.

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Oct. 1996

Sept. 1997

June 1998

May 1999

May 2000

2009 IMAS

2011 IMAS


1998200732 Average 84

The Church The Army The Parliament







76 23

84 38

69 19

75 20

73 28

58 18

71.1 18

63,5 17

These figures were presented by the ROC and have been interpreted by public opinion as the expression of confidence that people have in the Orthodox Church. As such, the confidence indicator became a key instrument driving its relations with politicians and state authorities. The role that the Romanian Orthodox Church gained during national communism in the ‘70s and ‘80s became paradoxically a political capital after the Revolution. For some time, the administration of the Romanian Orthodox Church was criticized for collaborating with the regime, while the nationalist and Byzantinist position of the Romanian Orthodox Church was less criticized. After a few years from the 1989 events, almost none of the congress openings started without an Orthodox service. Politicians became practically indebted to attend the great confessional events. Before the 1996 elections, all the candidates for the presidency met the relics of Saint Andrew that were brought to Iaúi.33 For the Romanian Orthodox Church, participating at religious processions and services represents a symbolic assistance given by the political class. There is a complementary practical assistance. President Emil Constantinescu, the representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church and other dignitaries of the state gathered on February 5th, 1999 to sanctify and put a cross on the place where the Romanian Orthodox Church wanted to erect the Cathedral “Mântuirea Neamului”, although the General Council of Bucharest – the only one that had competence in the field – had refused to authorise the location requested by the 32

Public Opinion Poll (“BOP” in Romanian) 1998-2007: “Romania – Tara de nemultumiti optimisti”, available at (accessed on August 14th 2012). 33 On 13th October 1996, the following runners for the Presidency were present in Iaúi, at the ceremonies related to the arrival from Greece of the relics of the apostle from the Metropolitan See of Patras: Emil Constantinescu, Ion Iliescu, Petre Roman, Nicolae Manolescu and all the other candidates. All of them made pious declarations and insisted on their presence there.

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Patriarchate.34 In 1999, President Emil Constantinescu participated alongside the Teoctist Patriarch at the sanctification of the church built by LukOil, in the Petroli‫܈‬tilor Cemetery in Ploieúti, though this was not a positive sign for Romanian international policy.35 Although, at the beginning of 1990, Teoctist Patriarch Arăpaúu was forced to retire from the Romanian Orthodox Church because of his collaboration with the Ceauúescu regime, in 2000, he became one of the most respectable personalities. Around him was created a real cult of personality, which in Romania had happened only with Nicolae and Elena Ceauúescu. He received medals and state distinctions; he became a member of honor of the Romanian Academy; different professional associations decorated him; the Minister of Culture handed him the Eminescu medal; the National Peasant-Christian and Democratic Party offered him the votive medal and so on and so forth. For a long time, among the Orthodox clergy, the direct involvement in politics was a strong temptation. From the first free elections, priests were nominated as Party candidates and won seats in the Parliament. In 1998, Archbishop Bartolomeu Anania demanded that in the next parliamentary elections, anticipated or not, the Romanian Orthodox Church should give up discretion, which it had imposed on itself, and recommend, at the parish level, the persons to be promoted in the Parliament, irrespective of their political affiliation. In his turn, the Bishop of Argeú and Muscel, Calinic, asked the political parties for an eligible position on the lists of candidates for the local elections and even for the parliamentary elections.36 Moreover, almost all the political parties in Argeú, of the right or of the left wing, accepted priests on their lists of candidates.37 In the


The State Secretariat for Religious Affairs had announced on January the 4th, 1999, through a press release, the beginning of the works in Unirii Square. 35 The great firmament symbolizes the solidarity between the Russian Orthodox Church – led by ex-KGB officer, Alexei II, “speaking trumpet” of the conservative forces from Russia – and the important Russian oligarchy, which paid about 2-3 billion dollars for the reconstruction of the Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow. 36 Since the Orthodox Church represents 87% of the population of the country, it wouldn’t be normal not to have clergy representatives within all the administration structures of the country. See Evenimentul Zilei (April 28th, 2000), 6. The most important orthodox priests from the Argeú candidates for PDSR: the archpriest of Pitesti, Iulian ChiriĠa, for the municipal council Piteúti, archdeacon Cristian Ichim for the district council in Arges, priest Nicolae Mărgăritescu, the counselor of bishop Calinic, for mayor of Curtea de Argeú. See Gabriel Catalan, “Etnocentrismul úi confesionalismul…” 37 See Gabriel Catalan, “Etnocentrismul úi confesionalismul…”


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2000 presidential elections, the high hierarchs expressed themselves publicly in favor of one candidate or another. A group of archpriests and laic priests from the dioceses in Maramureú and Satmar, Harghita and Covasna and from the archdioceses from Cluj, Alba-Iulia and Bucharest addressed the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church and every priest from the country or from abroad an open letter, which proposed that the Romanian Orthodox Church should designate one of its bishops to become a candidate for the presidency of Romania.38 This attitude regarding the position of the Romanian Orthodox Church in political life is not new in the history of Romania. On May 10th, 1926, Nae Ionescu wrote the following: “Today and tomorrow, the biggest chances of victory belong to the church. Because the modern formula of the state proved to be deficient when facing reality, and the people are fighting for a new spiritual equilibrium. Here, as well as in other parts, the great truths of the Church can rebuild this equilibrium. All the signs say that people seek it. The question is whether our Church will comprehend its new calling and, especially, whether it will be capable of speaking a language of that time or not. So, let the Church shape the new state we need. If it is able to. If not, the complaints and the accusations are useless.”39 The Orthodox hierarchs subsequently specified their position through press releases40 or television shows,41 saying that the Romanian Orthodox Church will not form a clerical Orthodox party.42 During the elections, they will represent only a “factor of electoral orientation, especially for the category of the irresolute citizens; the priests in a specific area will convene, will examine the candidates, establish which of them are the best and assume the role of advisers. They announced that the decision belongs to the Holy Synod, and the Synod decided, thus excluding the idea of a confessional party. 38

“A New Idea. A Group of Priests Asks that a Bishop Run for the Presidency of Romania” in Cotidianul (25th February 2000), 3; “The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church Facing a Crucial Political Problem: A Priest – Candidate for the Presidency of Romania” in NaĠional (25th of February 2000), 5; “With God towards Cotroceni. The Holy Synod is Asked to Reflect on the Possibility of the Designation of one bishop as Candidate for Presidency” in Ziua (25th February 2000), 5. 39 Nae Ionescu, “Sectan‫܊‬ii”, in Cuvântul (10th May 1926), apud. Nae Ionescu, Roza vânturilor (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Editura Cultura Na‫܊‬ională, 1937), 7. 40 “Jurnalul NaĠional” (14th May, 1998). 41 “Întâlnire cu presa” – PRO TV (14th May 14, 1998) 42 See Gabriel Catalan, “Etnocentrismul úi confesionalismul…”

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The debate on the direct involvement of the Orthodox clergy reached into the middle of the 2000s. On February the 12th 2004, the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) decided unanimously to ban the priests and bishops from being members of any political party, local consultants, mayors or parliamentarians. “Anyone who will violate these regulations will have to choose between the political carrier and priesthood without the right to return to the clergy” – this is stipulated in the Synod’s press release.43 Consequently, the paragraph dedicated to the involvement of ROC into politics must be re-evaluated from the perspective of the most recent evolutions. The entire discussion demonstrates, even in the new context of the Synod’s decision, the intention of using the confessional authority to influence political life.44 In relation to the degree in which the state authorities involved the Romanian Orthodox Church in public affairs, the request made by the Prime-Minister Radu Vasile towards the Orthodox Church to arbitrate the negotiations between him and the miners led by Miron Cozma during the attempt of a coup d’état in January 1999 is worth mentioning. His request was answered positively; the Romanian Orthodox Church used this opportunity to state: “The Cozia example represents a great honour and glory for our Church […]. After the procession from Cluj, the peace achieved at Cozia is a great victory for the National Church.”45 There is a question to be asked: how can the intense involvement, direct or indirect, of the Romanian Orthodox Church in problems that are directly related to politics be allowed? All data suggest that the main motivation is obtaining advantages – such as the enlargement of the patrimony, institutional safety – especially in relation to the demands of the Romanian Church United with Rome – and personal protection of the clergy.46 The contesters of the Romanian Orthodox Church generally have more severe qualifications: “Practically, the Orthodox hierarchy wishes to use the Romanian Orthodox Church as an immense group of pressure 43

“Synod’s press release”, Adevărul (13th February 2004). See Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). 45 See Gabriel Catalan, “Visul unităĠii” in The Messenger of Saint Anthony 35 (July –August 1997): 16-17. 46 The Patriarch and the Synod protested against the revealing of the collaboration of the clergy with the Security. The Teoctist Patriarch himself faced the evidence when he declared, in Curtea de Argeú: “I can tell you that no orthodox priest disclosed the secret of confession and collaborated with the Security.” See Muntenia Telegraf (June 1st, 1999). 44


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against the political forces (parties, especially) compelling them to undertake the political-confessional objectives of the Holy Synod under the pretext of patriotism, of concern for the country and its people, for the “spirit of the Romanian nation”. In fact, under this traditionalist speech promoted by the Romanian Orthodox Church it can easily be observed that there are hidden the most dangerous extremist tendencies: over-excited nationalism and religious-confessional fanaticism.”47 At the end of the first decade of the XXI century, the ROC’s authority on politicians seems to have become overwhelming. Talks between the state representatives and the Church take place often at the headquarters of the Patriarchy, a fact which marks the reports between “the partners.” On June 20th 2012, at the Patriarchal Palace, Patriarch Daniel was visited by members of the Constitutional Court of Romania in celebration of 20 years of existence and activity. On this occasion, the Patriarch sent to the constitutional Court judges a message of blessing and greeting in which he stressed the role and importance of this institution by expressing the will of the people and ensuring proper functioning of the rule of law. The ROC clergy is present at national and local celebrations. In 2011, Crin Antonescu, the president of the National Liberal Party (NPL), held a speech before the liberal youth using, not less than ten times, the creator's name. The liberal leader called on the divinity to support the political alliance to which NPL belongs.48 But, the most impressive expression of the ROC’s authority on political life is the list of personalities who attended the funerals of the Metropolitan of Transylvania, Bartolomeu Anania, on 3 February 2011. The persons attending the ceremony included the president, prime minister, foreign minister, prefect of Cluj County Council president, Cluj County Police Inspectorate chief, former president of the Superior Council of Magistracy, former secretary of the Romanian Embassy to the Vatican, the director of Children's Palace, generals, the head of the Gendarmerie Inspectorate Cluj, the Romanian Academy Chairman, Minister of Culture, the Patriarch, and so on. Let`s highlight that the Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania is one of the ROC’s hierarchy known for his Legionnaire past, for his collaboration with the communist regime, for his anti-European and anti-democratic statements already quoted in this volume.


See Gabriel Catalan, “Visul unităĠii…” Mircea Marian, “Harul sfânt pare să se fi pogorât asupra preúedintelui PNL, Crin Antonescu” in Evenimentul zilei (August 31st, 2011).


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Transfer of public goods to the ROC: the Orthodox luxury in an impoverished world Throughout the Middle Ages, there was a strong connection between the Orthodox Church and the secular power. Consequently, numerous dioceses, monasteries and parishes have been endowed by the rulers of the Romanian Principalities and by the nobility with a fortune: thousands of hectares of land, Roma serfs, mills, and precious cult objects. Almost a fifth of the territories of Walachia and Moldavia came to be under the possession of the monasteries.49 Hundreds of villages and even urban settlements50 were placed under the property of the Church.51 The endowment of the monasteries with those immense properties also implied a series of obligations on their part, such as supporting hospitals, schools, the poor (giving alms to them). Nevertheless, the obligations were rarely met, the places of worship and the monasteries were completely neglected, and they did not even celebrate the divine service any more. Often than not, the friars used the incomes of the monasteries for their personal purposes.52 This was the context of the initiative of ruler A.I. Cuza and of Minister Mihail Kogălniceanu, of a “Draft bill for the secularization of the goods of the monasteries.” The Legislative Assembly passed the draft bill with 97 votes “pro” and 3 “con.”53 According to the provisions of the law, “all goods of Romanian monasteries represent and will represent goods of the State” (Art. 1), the Government having the obligation to recover from all Greek Father Superior the armament, the sacred pots and the documents (Art. 6).54 The secularization meant an act of modernization, but it was also accompanied by some brutal and groundless manifestations.55 Following the secularization only the metropolitan sees and dioceses did hold estates, some parishes and monasteries retained smaller areas, whereas the rest 49

By entrusting all monasteries to the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antichia and Constantinopol or some monasteries from the Athos Mountain, they passed over to the administration of the Greek monks. 50 An example is Curtea de Argeú. 51 Nicolae Boroiu, “Patrimoniul BOR úi evoluĠia sa” (unpublished work). 52 A famous case is that of the friars of Gura Motrului Monastery, in MehedinĠi County, arrested in the spring in a bawdy house, while caring with them 5,000 golden pieces stolen from the monastery. 53 The Law was published in the Official Gazette no. 249, of 1863. 54 See Nicolae Boroiu, “Patrimoniul BOR…” 55 Such as the fact the churches were dispossessed of cult objects and religious books.


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was used to appropriate land to the peasants. When the Communism became the governing system, the new authorities nationalized the majority of the possessions of the parishes. Some estates remained under the administration of the Patriarchy, of metropolitan sees and dioceses. Following the revolution, all properties confiscated after 1945 were returned to the ROC, and the dioceses dissolved by the Communists have been re-opened. With the consent of and subsidized by the State, dioceses which have never existed have been established. These new dioceses have been allotted estates, which have never been their property.56 Setting up new dioceses means purchasing new offices, their furnishing, employing counsellors, secretaries and other employees, all paid from the state budget. Based on Law No. 1/2000, the Patriarchy was allotted 200 hectares of land, and each diocese 100 hectares, including the new dioceses, which have never been the owners of the land they were allotted. New monasteries have been set up which, same as the old ones, have been allotted 50 hectares of land each. In 1998, the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has modified the statute of the monasteries. The election of the abbots depends on the local hierarch, the former becoming completely dependent on the latter. The statute of the disciplinary courts of the clergy was modified in 1998. Consequently, the priests, the administrators of the properties of the parishes have also become totally dependent on the hierarchs. In the given circumstances, the hierarchs dispose of the properties of the parishes as they please. The Patriarch and the other bishops, holders of dioceses, have almost all their substitute of prelates. The administration of the prelate substitutes is financed by the budget. The number of counsellors, inspectors, secretaries and other employees is rising in all dioceses. Besides the new dioceses in the country, there are also the dioceses from abroad. They established the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan See for Western Europe, the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan See for Central Europe and the Romanian Orthodox Diocese in Hungary, and new parishes and offices of loci tenens in other countries. Most of the newly created patrimony, the salaries of the priests and of auxiliary personnel, and the faculties of theology are all subsidized from the budget. There is a long series of governmental decisions, which allocate properties from the state patrimony to the private patrimony of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, much subsidization for the Romanian Orthodox Church follows a more devious path: sponsorships 56

They were appropriated with former hotels of the Romanian Communist Party.

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from state banks, thus also from the budget. The amplitude of the patrimonial evolution has been described – although regarding only the worship places - by Daniel, Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina, in 2001: “In Ia‫܈‬i there are 22 church buildings in progress, as well as 10 chapels established in hospitals, military units and penitentiaries, and within the Archdiocese of Iaúi, there are over 170 such churches. We are the country with the greatest number of churches per capita (my emphasis).”57 Today, these figures are completely outdated by the number of religious buildings raised in the meantime. In 1999, a governmental decision was adopted regarding the full payment of the priests’ salary and a draft bill was put forward in the Parliament. In the same period, the salaries of the teachers could not be paid constantly. Due to the fact that the statutory organs of each cult establish, according to their needs, the number of their clerical, technicaleconomical and administrative employees, in theory the religious denominations can develop indefinitely, based on the increasing assistance, which the state is obliged to secure, according to the provisions of the Draft bill. It is almost impossible to accurately assess the overall amounts that are transferred from the state to the ROC. The researcher can verify funding allocated to the ROC by the Secretariat of State and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. But, even greater amounts are feeding the ROC’s wealth from supplements of the central and local budgets.58 In the past 20 years, governments have issued over 200 decisions that allocate money to the ROC, in addition to the budgetary provisions passed by the parliament.59 At the end of 2000s, the Romanian state amplified its support for urban and socio-cultural projects of Romanian Orthodox dioceses abroad: the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate purchased offices in Spain and Portugal, Northern Europe, Australia and New Zealand, construction or restoration of places of parish worship in New Zealand, France and Hungary, complete Bible studies and a pilgrimage center of Jericho, the acquisition 57

***, “Suntem Ġara cu cel mai mare număr de biserici pe cap de locuitor din Europa”, Evenimentul regional al Moldovei (May 21st, 2001), available at : (accessed July 14th 2012). 58 One example discloses the size of the local authorities support for ROC: in February 2012, the District 2 City Council adopted a budget amendment by which seven million euros were donated to the Patriarchate. 59 Dollores Benezic, “România după 1989: o biserică nouă la două zile”, Evenimentul zilei (October 28th, 2009).


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of and adjacent buildings and land for the Orthodox Studies Center “Dumitru Stăniloae” in France and the Pastoral-missionary and social work Centre in Hungary. State funding was obtained for the priests' salaries serving the Metropolitan Church of Basarabia and for Romanian settlements of Mount Athos. Over 200,000 Euro are granted monthly for the Orthodox establishments abroad. Following the crisis triggered in 2009, wages were reduced by 25% and pensions by 15%. The only revenues that have not been cut were those of priests. Today, the ministers of religious denominations are among the most prosperous of Romania’s categories. While funds have been drastically reduced for research, education and health, the state finances the megalomaniac project of the Cathedral for the Salvation of Romanian People, which will cost hundreds of millions of Euro. While many public buildings, particularly schools and hospitals are in a sorry state, Orthodox places of worship are brought daily to a luxury look with luxurious amenities. Romania is the country with the most churches but with the smallest percentage of GDP allocated to health among the EU Member States.60 The increased assistance provided by the state to the cults results in the interconnection between the economic interests of the hierarchy of the religious denominations and the political interests of the decision factors from the Parliament and the Government, as well as of the President. The ROC practically takes part in the budget division and shares spheres of authority along with other specific institutions of public life. The increasing involvement of the hierarchy of the religious denominations, especially of the hierarchy of the Romanian Orthodox Church, in Romanian political life represents a confirmation of this phenomenon. The more the state gives advantages to the Romanian Orthodox Church, the more the ROC increases its demands. This process is enforced and amplified each year and has reached irrational levels. The significance of the ROC property and wealth expansion, as a private religious organization that grows by taking over state resources, it appears in its full extent when compared with the data describing the evolution of specific secular institutions. After 1990, in Romania, over 150 Orthodox churches were built every year using state funds. Thus, today their number exceeds 16,000. By comparison, in 2008, there were 8,230 schools, and the number is decreasing, the percentage of the GDP 60

OECD, Health at a Glance: Europe 2010, available at: &id=id&accname=guest&checksum=0BC63A55077BE9DABF2920C4F48DA35 D (accessed August 20th 2012).

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allocated for education being 3.4%, much less than the standard among the countries in the EU.61 In 2010, there were 450 hospitals in Romania, and a plan was announced to reduce their numbers. Evolution of public and private nurseries between 2000 and 2008 looks like this.62 Year Public nurseries Private nurseries

2000 358

2001 348

2002 288

2003 294

2004 289

2005 291

2006 273

2007 272

2008 280










The number of public kindergartens from 1999/2000 till 2010/2011 has suffered a dramatic decrease63: Year Kindergartens

1999/ 2000 12831

2000/ 2001 10080

2001/ 2002 9980

2002/ 2003 9547

2003/ 2004 7616

2004/ 2005 5687

2005/ 2006 3769

2006/ 2007 1720

2007/ 2008 1731

2008/ 2009 1718

2009/ 2010 1697

In 2009, there were 12,461 cases of domestic violence. The total capacity in shelters for victims of domestic violence in 2010 was 699 places across the country. In eight counties, there is no centre for victims of domestic violence.64

The indoctrination of the young generations The phenomenon of modernization has as its basic pillar education, from the general meaning of “education of the society” (in which adults are included as a substantial category) to its more particular meaning, as an instruction system within the national educational system. This is why the involvement of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the educational system represents a key-subject in the place the ROC plays today in Romanian 61

Ioan Mărginean, „ùcoala în societatea românească de astăzi”, available at: (accessed June 2012). 62 Institutul NaĠional de Statistică, “Activitatea unităĠilor sanitare - 2010”, (accessed June 2012). 63 Institutul NaĠional de Statistică, “Anuar Statistic 2009 úi Tempo-online”, (accessed May 2012). 64 Oana BăluĠă (ed.), Impactul crizei economice asupra femeilor (Bucureúti: Editura Maiko, 2011).

2010/ 2011 1498


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society. In the long term, the introduction of religious education in public schools “has perhaps been the most notable achievement of religious denominations in post-communist Romania.”65 From this perspective, there are at least three points of interest: religion and legislation regarding education; religion in school; and orthodox religion in the university system.

The legislation regarding religious education In the Protocol signed between the Ministry of Education and Research and the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs on September 11th 1990, regarding the introduction of moral-religious education in the public system of education, it was stipulated, “moral-religious education emphasized ethical and cultural historic elements (…). The elaboration of the curriculum and the teaching process will be done in the neutral spirit, taking into account the principles of the ordinary life in a modern state” (Pct.3)66 It was also stipulated that moral-religious education represents a subject in the curriculum and has the status of an optional and nonobligatory discipline. We can say that, at least, the State Secretariat of Religious Affairs also represented the interests of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which had previously prepared its own strategy related to the introduction of religious education in schools.67 65

See Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics…, 203. The Protocol signed between the Ministry of Education and Research (no. 150052) and the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs (no.7758), September 11th 1990, on Introducing the moral-religious education in public schools. 67 In the address of the Holy Synod of ROC (BOR), no. 5331/14.06.1990 towards the Bishopric of Buzau, the fact of the Holy Synod was brought to light during a meeting on 8.06.1990, analysed the report regarding the organization of methodology and didactic lectures for the priests that would teach religion in public schools in 1990-1991. The Holy Synod decided that: (1) these classes will be attended by one priest from each see of archpriest cultural counselors from the rural dean centres and teachers at the theological seminaries that teach Homiletics and the Catechetic; (2) these classes will take place at the Theological University Institute in Bucharest during the 16th –27th of July 1990, in just one series; (3) in August 1990, the dioceses will organize, in their turn, the seminarization of the debates using the priests, counsels and seminar teachers that attended the methodology and didactic lectures at the University Institute. As a reaction to this, the Bishopric of Buzău gave some suggestions, like officiating in every educational institution at the beginning of the new academic year an Orthodox religious service (Blessing Service and Te-Deum) and the founding, in Bucharest, 66

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In fact, the protocol corresponds to the interpretation through which the Constitutional Court will try to validate, a few years after signing this first document, the stipulations of Education Law No. 84, which was passed after five years (1995): “The study of religion according to the student’s option and the parent’s or the legal guardian’s consent, cannot be considered, like in the case of other disciplines, a method of constraining the subjects to choose a certain religion to the extent in which the subject matter and the teaching method are integrated within the normal educational process and focus on the presentation of some general elements of religious culture, approached in a neutral manner.”68 The decisive legislative step regarding religious education within the educational system was Law 84/1995. This law was modified and republished in 1999. Article No.9 of the republished law integrates religious education in the common curriculum, and stipulates that the choice of studying religion and the confession pertains to the student, with the consent of the parents or the legal guardian. With the parents’ approval, the student may refuse to attend religion classes.69 The possibility of not attending religion classes is the result of a legislative struggle started immediately after the Educational Law was passed in 1995; the initial version of the law defined “religion” as a compulsory subject matter for elementary schools, optional for grammar schools and non-obligatory for secondary schools and the academic level. On June 25th 1995, a group of Deputies informed the Constitutional Court about the fact that one of the stipulations regarding the compulsory character of the study

within the Patriarchate, of a national radio station; the goal of this national radio station – to expose the teachings of our Church and properly inform people about all the events with religious character” (Address no. 3407/12.09.1990). See Emil Moise, “Interpretarea Bibliei, sursă a discriminărilor în practica religioasă. O analiză de gen a trei dintre practicile religioase creútine din România”, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 6 (Winter 2003): 149–164. 68 Decision no.72 from 18th of July 1995 regarding the constitutionality of some stipulations of the Law of Education, published in the Official Gazette 167 (31.08.1995). 69 Article 9: (1) The curriculum for elementary, secondary, high-school and professional education include Religion as subject matter. The student, with the consent of his parents or legal guardian, chooses to study religion and confession; (2) at the written request of the parents or legal guardian, the student may not attend religion classes. In this case the average grade point is calculated without this subject matter. The situation in which the student was not provided with the conditions to attend these classes is solved similarly.


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of religion is in contradiction with the Constitution.70 Decision 72 regarding the constitutionality of some of the provisions of the Educational Law,71 already quoted, is by itself an example of the pressure that the demands of the Romanian Orthodox Church exert upon the institutions.72 The Constitutional Court advocated that the provisions of Art. 9, Paragraph (1), the final thesis of the Educational Law, are constitutional (from the viewpoint analysed hereto), since this article allows an interpretation in accordance with the constitutional stipulations; the student, with the consent of the parents or of the legal guardians, has the possibility to choose to study religion and the confession. According to the Constitutional Court, the right to choose (religion and confession) “also means the possibility not to have a religious option.” Therefore, this “compulsoriness” becomes equal to the “right”, a settlement that under no circumstances can it be explained as judgment in respect to legal reasoning but only as a compromise between the evidence of law and external pressure.73 If the conclusion of the Constitutional Court theoretically saved the freedom of consciousness, it remained insufficient from its practical aspect. How many of the children/parents know and understand enough to make use of the possibilities offered by Decision No.72/1995, even if they wanted to? The situation is even more alarming since the “religion and confession” discussed in the abovementioned Article 9 can only be one from 14 cults acknowledged by the state. The practice of the last years only confirmed Renate Weber’s remark: “A law has to be clear, in order

70 It is about the 57 deputies – a relatively large number for this type of contestations that invoked the constitutional stipulations of Article 1 Paragraph (3), a thesis regarding “the free development of the human personality”, of Art.26 Paragraph (2) which stipulates that “the physical person has the right to dispose of itself”, of Art. 29 Paragraphs (1), (2) and (6) regarding freedom of consciousness and of Art. 45 Paragraph (5) regarding the obligation of the public authorities to contribute and “provide conditions for the participation of the young to the political, social, economic, cultural and athletic life of the country” (see Emil Moise, “Interpretarea Bibliei…”). 71 Published in the Official Monitor no.167/31.08.1995. 72 Among other examples, there is the fact that, on the census sheet, there are only 2 options written: orthodox and other religion. Some interviews showed that some people do not know what to answer at the question about religion and others answer “write what everybody is” or “write what everybody writes” (see Emil Moise, “Interpretarea Bibliei…”). 73 Renate Weber, “The Law of Education between --- and Over-estimation” in The Magazine for Human Rights 9 (1995).

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not to allow any abuse.”74 To act as the Constitutional Court did is a serious mistake with negative effects for Romania. The stipulations of the Educational Law regarding religious education had been adopted at the request of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which wanted a more firm manifestation of religion in schools. This maximal objective was not abandoned until the moment the Law No. 84/1995 had been passed. In December 1996, the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the National Church Assembly presented a civic legislative motion to the Senate, supported by the signatures of 1,049,853 Christians, in order to modify Article 9, Paragraph (1) of the Educational Law No. 84/1995 as follows: “The plans for the elementary, secondary, high-school and professional education include religion as a basic school subject matter. Attendance in religion classes will be realized according to the religious and confessional affiliation.” The Ministry of Education counter motivated as follows: “1. In the Educational Law there is no notion of ‘basic subject matter’.” Article 127, Paragraph (2) stipulates that the curriculum includes compulsory, optional and non-obligatory subject matters; 2. The introduction of religion as a compulsory subject matter will not have negative consequences upon the students who do not belong to any of the approved cults and confessions, according to the law. These students might receive different didactic tasks to solve individually or in groups.75 However, the path opened by this Law regarding the study of religion in public schools was reinforced by the Emergency Ordinance No. 36/1997, which aimed at supplementing and amending Law No.84/1995. Article 9 (1) of this Ordinance sententiously announces the character of religion as a “school subject matter” and nothing more.76 The modified and republished versions of the 1999 and 2012 Education Law preserves the ambiguity of the stipulations regarding the 74

Renate Weber, “The Law of Education…”, 18. Address no. 9.304/ 1997. 76 The curriculum for elementary, secondary, high school and professional education includes religion as a subject matter. The student, with the consent of his parents or legal guardian, chooses to study confession as well. The recognized cults can request the organization of specific education, corresponsive to the qualification necessities of the teaching staff as well as the founding of ecclesiastic educational structures in the national system of education under the coordination of the Ministry of Education. The financial support of these structures is provided by the cult and partially by the state, according to some norms approved by the government. The officially approved cults respond to the elaboration of the curriculum and syllabus, which are approved by the State Secretariat for Cults and the Ministry of Education. 75


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study of religion, despite the opinion of the Constitutional Court in 1995. This is a part of the common curriculum – which would mean “compulsory” – but it is optional, as well, since the student may not attend religion classes and, in fact, non-obligatory.77 However, if we were to make a formal inventory of the new text of the Law of Education and the interpretation of the Constitutional Court in 1995,78 as well as of other sources of the law,79 it can be sustained – still from a formal point of view – that within the educational system in Romania the freedom of consciousness is guaranteed – this includes also denial of religious belief.

Moral and religious education in schools as “education for intolerance” In practice, the population is not aware of all these constitutional complications and, even if it were, it is under too much pressure caused by the institutions and the priests, to be able to speak about free choice regarding the study of religion in schools. The Romanian Orthodox Church has a well-approved strategy of transformation of religion classes into a process of Orthodoxing the students. Neither the Ministry of National Education and Research, nor the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs or other institutions try to stop this process. Pressures from the Romanian Orthodox Church meant to stop religion classes from being 77

This situation is reflected in practice: in the school registers, in line with the optional subject matters, it is mentioned “Curriculum at school’s decision”; this is not mentioned with respect to Religion as a subject matter; also, religion appears in the students’ study program without their or their parents’ consent and does not appear in the offer of optional subject matters. 78 The Decisions of the Constitutional Court are mandatory for any institution. 79 The perspective of the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies by which he defended in 1995 the content of the law disputed with the Constitutional Court, may be considered the meaning the legislative gave to the provisions they had voted: "The study of religion, according to the option of the student and to the consent of the parent or of the legal guardian to the extent to which the curriculum of the subject matter and the teaching method integrate in the common education process and places an emphasis on the presenting of some elements related to a general religious culture, which are dealt with in a neutral manner, cannot be considered, as in the case of other subjects, a constraining method of the students so as to adhere to a particular religion". It is absolutely obvious that the educational process of the “moral-religious education” severely violates the aforementioned interpretation. (Decision 72 of the 18th of July 1995 regarding the constitutionality of some provisions of the Educational Law, published in the Official Gazette no.167)

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scheduled the first or the last in the timetable – which is normal if we take into account their optional character – were, in most cases, successful.80 The stipulations of the above-mentioned MI-SSC Protocol – and later, of the Constitutional Court – were violated by the Romanian Orthodox Church by non-compliance with the ironical character of the subject matter “moral and religious education” starting with the curriculum.81 Thus, for each grade, from the first grade to the 12th, the curriculum starts with the Sign of the Holy Cross (a sign specific for the Orthodox Church and which, within other confessions, is not accepted). In Abecedarul Micului Creútin82 it is explicitly presented, with detailed images, the characteristic way in which the sign of the cross is performed.83 Interviews with students from different grades showed that during all the religion classes they are asked to make this (the sign of the cross) sign, facing an icon belonging to the orthodox confession. The icon remains inside the classroom all the time, not only during religion classes, but also in almost all classrooms. Not only the contents but also the method used by Orthodox pedagogy affects the principles of modern education oriented towards a responsible person endowed with reason and democratic values. It is a current practice for the teachers of Orthodox religion to make the children feel frightened about contact with members of other confessions and to name other religious communities – even those approved as cults - using the pejorative term of “sect.” The type of religious intolerance that, our investigations suggest, is widespread if not systematic in the context of 80

The note of Elisabeta Stănciulescu referring to the situation in Cluj county (The opening Speech: “Sociology and the reform of the educational system/ BabeúBolyai University – Cluj-Napoca, March 2002): “As long as Religion, as a theoretically non-obligatory subject, was enlisted in timetables at the end of the daily program, the students left to lunch. In order to avoid such reactions, the representatives of the subject have managed to place it somewhere during the daily program and to keep silence over the fact that, depending on the parents’ option, the students have the right to participate or not to these classes. The risks of such measures are easy to notice”. According to the investigations, the same scenario was adopted in Buzau, a situation probably similar to that of other areas. 81 Analytic curriculum for teaching religion in schools (published with the approval of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.), Editura Institutului Biblic úi de Misiune al B.O.R., Bucure‫܈‬ti, 1990. 82 *** Abecedarul micului crestin (The Primer of the Little Christian), (Bucharest: Didactic and Pedagogical Publishing House, 1992). 83 Published with the approval of the Educational Commission of the Romanian Patriarchate and with the consent of the Ministry of National Education under no. 32530/ 17.06.1990.


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religious education in this country, is also associated to ethno-cultural intolerance. This is, in itself, hardly unexpected, given the fact that the Orthodox Church has consistently proclaimed itself a “national church.” Limited empirical investigations are also available and they point in the same direction.84 Among the incompatibilities of the Orthodox education practiced by the teachers of Orthodox religion in schools and the principles of modern education, there can be encountered punishable, authoritarian and sexist elements. The children are given – or are intended to be given – as scholastic models passages from the Old Testament in which the woman is mentioned as being one of the man’s properties, alongside the ox, ass and other animals he owns.85 Religious education teachers brought in the classroom videos designed to fight against the interruption of pregnancy; the children were shown pictures of the fetus at the time of traumatic abortion. The conclusion is that the subject matter called “moral and religious education”, which is taught in schools, finds itself in severe conflict with the legislative stipulations and the principles of modern education. The representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church explicitly assume this goal. The sermon of the Patriarchate Professor Nicolae D. Necula requested that religion teachers not only create a religious atmosphere and participate in the divine services celebrated in the Church, but also to make their students participate as well, because besides religious instruction, religious education must take into account religious morals, which means “to shape good and authentic Christians.”86 Additionally, some of the teachers – especially priests – threaten to sanction students who do not participate in the religious services celebrated in the Orthodox churches every Sunday. It was proposed in some education institutions that every school day should start and end with a prayer.


See Raluca Mitroi, “Ethnic stereotypes among primary and secondary school teachers”. The research was carried out between 20 and 30 June 2006 on a group of 20 teachers in one school in Bucharest: 13 upper-secondary teachers, 6 lowersecondary teachers, and one primary-level teacher. Five of them were religion teachers. 85 “Thou shall not want the woman of your fellow man, nor his land, nor his slave, nor his slave woman, nor his ox, nor his ass and none of his animals (…).” 86 See Nicolae D. Necula, “How and what should be the religion teacher”, in Vestitorul Ortodoxiei ( March 31st, 2002).

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If in the urban institutions, certain equilibrium is preserved, in the rural areas the priests practically do whatever they want.87 The state does not meet its obligation to provide optimum educational conditions for the children or a completely free framework to allow them to assert their right to freedom of consciousness. The fact that, among other things, “the representatives of the subject have managed to place it somewhere during the daily program and to keep silence over the fact that, depending on the parents’ option, the students have the right to participate or not to these classes”88 demonstrates that, on the contrary, the state institutions participate in the violation of some principles which are essential for a democratic society.

Orthodox religion in the academic system Orthodox religious manifestations in the academic system vary from one institution to another. Nevertheless, no other situation has, in this respect, the same relevance and the same stake as the situation of Bucharest University. Here, an intense activity of Orthodox propaganda was developed, mainly by the Bucharest University Students’ League and by the Association of Romanian Christian Orthodox Students. These manifestations reached their intensity peak towards the end of 1997. University Hospital was used for the presentation of posters and other Orthodox militant materials under the aegis of both organizations, the amphitheatres hosted debates on confessional themes, and manifestations with a ritual character succeeded in an impressive rhythm. The hostels and lecture rooms were sanctified, votive lights, icons were placed inside study rooms, and the idea of raising an Orthodox church in the courtyard of the Faculty of Philosophy and Law was launched. For the first time, at the beginning of 1998, the actions of the Students League and of AROCS led to some protests from some of the students. 87

An evaluation made by those responsible for religious education within the Romanian Orthodox Church: on the field: “the reality on the field is at present the following: in rural environments, all priests have become teachers and carry on their educational activity without special problems; the more difficult problem is that of the schools in the city – here the activity began with more difficulty due to subjective and objective reasons.” (“Report on the moral-religious educational process and its development in schools within Buzău Diocese” – registered with Buzău Diocese under no. 244/ 25.01.1991). 88 Elisabeta Stănciulescu refers to the situation in Cluj county (The opening Speech: “Sociology and the reform of the educational system/ Babeú-Bolyai University – Cluj-Napoca, March 2002)


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Advocating that the territory of the university is one of free thought, outside religious and political dogmas, four students from the Faculty of Philosophy and Law denounced the intention of “raising an Orthodox church right in the courtyard of the Law School” as well as the “the placing of Orthodox icons in the amphitheatres”; they considered the Students League and AROCS as “two organizations that had been practicing religious propaganda within the University for a long time and which now can afford to make outrageous decisions.”89 Other students protested by talking about the “excessive influence of politics on the academic environment and the enforcement of an ideological monopoly”, “dissemination of the right wing groups”, respectively, the “tolerance and support of fundamentalism”, inviting the students to creates associations which would oppose these evolutions. Because of these manifestations, on March 26th, the Office of the Senate of Bucharest University decided not to authorize “religious manifestations inside the territory of the university.” As a reaction to the decision of the Office of the Senate, AROCS published, under the signature of the president of the association, a document in which they denounced ”the nonchalance with which anti-Christian groups, using some of their colleagues at the Faculty of Philosophy, started to exert pressure on the administration of Bucharest University.” The Students’ League issued a press release on April the 8th 1998, in which it talked about “an uncertainly oriented group” (self-entitled Students’ Association of Bucharest University) and about “a strong offensive of the Communist forces and practices”. The Teoctist Patriarch addressed, in his turn, a letter to the administration of the university in which he complained about “a decision that reminds us of the regime of the atheist dictatorship.” On the 8th of April 1998, the Romanian Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) brought forward to the public opinion a press release meant to elucidate the issues under discussion. The association asserted, mainly, that the “religious manifestations represent a component of the right to freedom of religion […]. These manifestations can take place on private or public territories if they do not affect the rights and freedom of other individuals. […] The existence of some debates on spiritual, religious or other themes is not only compatible with the academic environment but also with the academic spirit. […] The Senate of the University has the obligation to elaborate a code of conduct applicable for

89 “Open Letter addressed to the Ministry of National Education, Andrei Marga”, Revista 22 (1998).

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different events developed on the territory of the university, same as in the majority of universities from the functional democracies.” As regards the transformation of the public academic territory into a confessional environment, APADOR-CH considers it contrary to the stipulations of the Romanian Constitution … a violation of the secular character of the state, of the rights and freedom of the students, of the teaching staff and of the university personnel. Placing icons on the walls of the lecture rooms or of the halls or raising a church within the University estate affects the freedom of consciousness of those who do not share the same religious convictions or the same forms of manifestation of faith. Therefore, “neither the Senate of the University nor other University authority does have the competence to authorize such actions.”90 On the 9th of April 1998, the Senate again allowed conferences and debates on religious themes to be held, but it decided to exclude the icons and other confessional symbols from the academic environment. A commission was appointed to establish the regulations. As a general remark, it can be inferred that the Orthodox propaganda within Bucharest University excelled the limit of what was compatible with the protection of the freedom of consciousness of other participants in the academic environment or with the academic spirit for that matter. Meanwhile, there are still icons on the walls of lecture rooms or hallways, and the academic year starts with an Orthodox religious service. In the late 2000s, many universities have campus churches.91

Special relations between the ROC and public authorities: sharing the power The ROC promoted a change in the standard democratic church-State relationship, toward a greater authority for itself, through a comprehensive combination of informal activities: mobilizing its own “supporters” for political actions, manipulating individuals and interests groups, cultivating the economic elites, investing in its public image, intervening in elections, putting pressure on the courts to obtain favorable decisions. The success of


Gabriel Andreescu, “Pentru o lege a libertă‫܊‬ii de con‫܈‬tiin‫܊‬ă ‫܈‬i religioase”, Romanian Magazine for Human Rights 16 (1998). 91 See Liviu Andreescu, “Double or Nothing: Academic Theology and PostCommunist Religious Policy,” Journal of Church & State 52.3 (2010): 540-570.


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the ROC in the last 22 years is an example of “bad behavior as good politics.”92 During this time, the informal activities were reinforced by legislative changes. The inclusion of religious education as a core subject in public schools was a formal recognition of the special relationship between the Romanian post-communist state and the churches. According to the 1991 Constitution and its 2003 amended version, the president of the country, members of Parliament, the Prime Minister, Ministers, and other members of the Government end their swearing into office with the words “So help me God!”93 Starting in 1993, the Romanian state entered a special relation with the ROC in the area of religious assistance within jails. The first Protocol between the Ministry of Justice and the ROC in the area of religious assistance was signed in 1993 and was followed by a second in 1997, itself rewritten in 2005. The religious assistance is offered under the strict supervision of the Romanian Patriarchate. Therefore, the Protocol has given the ROC the freedom to engage in proselytizing activities incompatible with the detainees’ captive condition.94 The Law on establishing and organizing the military clergy adopted in 200095 resulted in a similarly extensive influence of the ROC over people in the military. The head of the Department for religious assistance is appointed at the proposal of the Romanian Orthodox Church. A military priest is the servant of a church or a denomination recognized by law. Aside from assisting the spiritual-religious needs of the people in the army, the military clergy is also asked to cultivate military virtues, civic responsibility and patriotic feelings among the soldiers. It is involved in the moral-religious, ethical and civic education of military personnel, 92

See Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith, The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2011). 93 Corneliu-Liviu Popescu, “Formula religioasă a jurământului úi laicitatea Republicii”, Revista Română de Drepturile Omului 19 (2001): 19. Members of Parliament may be exempted from using this religious formula according to Law 8/2002, but the law doesn’t cover all public servants. 94 Gabriel Andreescu and Liviu Andreescu, “Church and State in Post-Communist Romania: Priorities on the Research Agenda”, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 8.24 (Winter 2009): 27. Ministry of Justice regulations on religious assistance in detention centers dating from February 2006 formally ensure religious freedom and pluralism, but no empirical studies of the situation either before or after 2006 exist. 95 The Law No. 195 of November 6th 2000 on establishing and organizing the military clergy.

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competence which is obviously an indoctrination of the military. Most military units have today, within their premises, Orthodox churches or chapels. Basically, all the employees in Romanian military institutions (the Army, the Intelligent Services, etc.) live in an environment that is dominated by Orthodox symbols and activities. In October 2007, the Protocol between the State and the ROC for aiding the disadvantaged was signed for a period of 10 years. According to it, the Government commits to ask, through the Ministry of Labor, Family and Equal Opportunities and the other public institutions under its authority, to consult the Church regarding its draft laws in the area of social inclusion. The Government is also required to involve representatives of the ROC in workgroups and meetings dedicated to defining the priorities in the area. The State is required to cooperate with the ROC in joint projects and programs for the national system for social services. The institutions that are involved in providing social services are required to ensure “optimal conditions” for those sent by the Romanian Patriarchate to provide spiritual assistance. In July 2008, the Protocol between the Romanian Patriarchate and the Ministry for Public Health was signed. According to it, the Ministry for Public Health and its subordinate institutions commit to involve the ROC in workgroups and meetings discussing priorities in the area of medical assistance connected with spiritual assistance. The Ministry will cooperate in identifying the necessary resources for developing together with the ROC joint projects and programs for the development of the medical services system. The Ministry for Public Health was required to build appropriate premises within its buildings to be handed over to the ROC for the purpose of providing spiritual assistance. The Law for the establishment of the State-Church partnership in the field of social assistance did not pass in 2011. Its implications for the social services system were felt to be so dire that a coalition of NGOs protested the draft and asked, through a “Public call to action by individuals and the civic society”, to recall it. Convinced by the coalition’s arguments, the Romanian President denied the promulgation of the bill and asked the Parliament to improve the draftlaw.

Conclusions In the 2000s, the relationship between the Romanian state and the ROC went outside the bounds of classic democracy, which is founded on the principle of separation between church and state. The various legislative and public policy measures gave the ROC a certain standing in its


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relationship with the state authorities. The current Romanian political regime has developed a theocratic dimension. It should be noticed that this evolution is similar to the one in the Russian Federation and, more recently, in Turkey. The Russian Patriarch succeeded in bringing Orthodoxy “out of the ghetto” and into every possible aspect of social life, based on “Holy Rus”, and the values of “Russian civilization” rhetoric.96 Since 2008, the Medvedev government has granted federal approval for the teaching of “Orthodox values” in public schools, has moved towards authorizing full restitution of preRevolutionary ecclesiastical property, and the Duma has been considering further legislative restrictions on foreign proselytism. A striking similarity to the Romanian case is the use of orthodox churches in foreign affairs.97 Recently, much emotion was expressed about the increasingly militant stance taken by Turkey's ruling government. It includes rules contrary to the principle of secularism mentioned in the Turkish Constitution. A new law offers to parents the option to send their children to Islamic religious schools when as young as 11 years old. An elective course on the Quran will be available in middle schools and high schools.98 No less than 27,000 signatures were collected on June 4th 2012 against a proposal designed to pave the way towards an abortion ban in Turkey. Many individuals and NOGs in Turkey and in the West speak about a very serious backlash regarding women’s reproductive health and rights.99

96 Dmitry Gorenburg, “The Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Politics: Editors’ Introduction”, Russian Military Reform, January 20, 201, (accessed July 24th 2012). 97 “In fact, the past two years have seen an increasing coordination in the policies of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ROC’s outreach to its parishes outside Russian borders.” See Dmitry Gorenburg, “The Russian Orthodox Church…” 98 *** “EU concerned by authoritarian trends in Turkey” at (accessed June 11th, 2012). 99 Such changes were already expected by scholars even before the last abrupt developments. Ali Rahigh-Aghsan, from Roskilde University argues that “(1) The overall political targets of political Islam in Turkey seem less compatible with the traditional Turkish EU quest than formerly, and (2) The Turkish political Islamic turnaround is contributing to a climate of increasing skepticism in Europe, and presents significant obstacles to EU accession.” See Ali Rahigh-Aghsan, “Turkey’s EU Quest and Political Cleavages under AKP”, Review of European Studies 3.1 (June 2011): 43-53.

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However, the European Union does not appear to ask itself the same questions concerning the evolution of state-church relations in a member state. The only possible explanation is a deficit of attention to and knowledge of the situation in Romania. The previous analysis proves, in our opinion, how urgent is the need to discuss the incompatibility between the theocratic tendencies in Romania and the type of democracy required by the European Union treaties.

References —. “EU concerned by authoritarian trends in Turkey”, (accessed June 11th, 2012). —. “The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church Facing a Crucial Political Problem: A Priest – Candidate for thePresidency of Romania.” NaĠional, 25th of February 2000. —. “With God towards Cotroceni. The Holy Synod is Asked to Reflect on the Possibility of the Designation of one bishop as Candidate for Presidency.” Ziua, 25th February 2000. —. Abecedarul micului crestin, Bucure‫܈‬ti: Editura Didactică ‫܈‬i Pedagogică, 1992. —. “Suntem Ġara cu cel mai mare număr de biserici pe cap de locuitor din Europa”, Evenimentul regional al Moldovei, May 21st, 2001, (accessed July 14th 2012). Andreescu Gabriel and Liviu Andreescu. “Church and State in PostCommunist Romania: Priorities on the Research Agenda.” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 24 (2009). Andreescu, Gabriel. “A New Idea. A Group of Priests Asks that a Bishop Run for the Presidency of Romania.” Cotidianul, 25th February 2000. Andreescu, Gabriel. “Pentru o lege a libertă‫܊‬ii de con‫܈‬tiin‫܊‬ă ‫܈‬i religioase.” Revista Română de Drepturile Omului 16 (1998). —. “The Romanian Church United with Rome (Greek-Catholic) under Pressure: The ROC’S Bad Behaviour as Good Politics.” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 32 (2010): 227- 255. —. The right wing extremism in Romania. Cluj: Center for Ethno-Cultural Diversity, 2003. Andreescu, Liviu. “Double or Nothing: Academic Theology and PostCommunist Religious Policy.” Journal of Church And State 52, 3 (2010).


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—. “The Construction of Orthodox Churches in Post-Communist Romania.” Europe-Asia Studies 59. 3 (2007). AROCS. “Open Letter Concerning Art. 30 of the Law of Investments.” România liberă, 2nd of April 1997. BăluĠă, Oana (ed.) Impactul crizei economice asupra femeilor. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Editura Maiko, 2011. Benezic, Dollores. “România după 1989: o biserică nouă la două zile.” Evenimentul zilei, October 28th, 2009. Boia, Lucian. Istorie Юi mit în conЮtiinаa româneasa. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Humanitas, 1997. Boroiu, Nicolae. “Patrimoniul BOR úi evoluĠia sa.” Unpublished work. Catalan, Gabriel. “Etnocentrismul úi confesionalismul politic ortodox românesc.” Unpublished paper. —. “Visul unităĠii.” The messenger of Saint Anthony 35 (1997). Conovici, Iuliana. Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă, Vol. I, II, III. Cluj-Napoca: Editura Eikon, 2009. De Mesquita, Bruce Bueno and Alastair Smith. The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics. New York: Public Affairs, 2011. Dobrater, Lucian. “In viziunea IPS Bartolomeu Anania, ‘Europa ne propune sa acceptam homosexualitate, electronica, droguri, avorturi, inginerie genetica.’” Evenimentul zilei, 16th April 1998. Enache, Smaranda (ed.) EducaĠia religioasă în úcolile publice. TarguMures: Pro Europa, 2007. Gillet, Olivier. Religie úi naĠionalism. Ideologia Bisericii Ortodoxe Române sub regimul comunist. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Compania, 2001. Glenny, Misha. The Fall of Yugoslavia. London: Penguin Books, 1993. Gorenburg, Dmitry. “The Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Politics: Editors’ Introduction.” Russian Military Reform, January 20th, 2011, (accessed on July 24th 2012). Iordachi, Constantin. “Ortodocúi împotriva greco-catolicilor: De la competiĠie pentru resurse la redefinirea identităĠii naĠionale.” Sfera Politicii 82 (2000): 15-20. Mediafax Bulletin, 22nd of April 1998. Moise, Emil. “Interpretarea Bibliei, sursă a discriminărilor în practica religioasă. O analiză de gen a trei dintre practicile religioase creútine din România.” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 6 (2003): 149–164.

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Necula, Nicolae D. “How and what should be the religion teacher.” Vestitorul Ortodoxiei, March 31st, 2002. OECD, Health at a Glance: Europe 2010, available at: 315630553&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=0BC63A55077BE9D ABF2920C4F48DA35D (accessed August 20th 2012). Popescu, Corneliu-Liviu. “Formula religioasă a jurământului úi laicitatea Republicii.” Revista Română de Drepturile Omului 19 (2001). Preda, Radu. Biserica în stat. O invitaаie la dezbatere. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Scripta, 1999. Public Opinion Poll (“BOP” in Romanian) 1998-2007: “Romania – Tara de nemultumiti optimisti”, available at (accessed on August 14th 2012). Rahigh-Aghsan, Ali. “Turkey’s EU Quest and Political Cleavages under AKP.” Review of European Studies 3, 1 (2011). Stan, Lavinia and Lucian Turcescu. Religion and Politics in PostCommunist Romania. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Weber, Renate. “Legea educa‫܊‬iei: între contestare ‫܈‬i supraapreciere.” Revista Română de Drepturile Omului 9 (1995): 16-28.


Introduction As the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC)1 had not been excelling in making open statements against the official regime during the communist period – having nevertheless enough grounds, both doctrinal and administrative, for such a bias – shortly after the fall of communism, there was a stringent necessity for a political and ideological repositioning. Following the release by the Saint Synod of a single document that expressed the ROC’s deep remorse, the ample re-branding process began. The ecclesiastical leaders counted on the short-term nature of collective memory and on the fact that people would surely forget their track records. Therefore, it was high time for them to rewrite the past and come up with a manufactured mythical history. The church described the years under communism as “a calvary of our nation” and claimed that the course of events and actions had been preordained: consequently, everything that relates to the past should be accepted with stoicism and empathetic resignation. As for its defenceless and oppressed members, their resistance and sufferings were carefully stored in the ROC’s symbolic account. When speaking about the “liason” between the ROC and the communist system, I have to make an important clarification, namely that I’m refering to the leadership of this institution (at all levels), because it had been responsible for the way the Church has positioned itself during the past decades. This is due to the fact that its blind hierarchism led to the complete obedience of lower level structures. Thus, the full responsibility for the decisions made by the inferior ranks falls on the church leaders. After 1989, perceiving the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies, the ROC started to present itself as “the Church of our Forefathers”, claiming 1

In Romanian, “Biserica Ortodoxă Română (BOR).”

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to be the only deposit of “the nation’s spirituality” (spiritualitatea neamului), which the Church saved from the communist ideological kneading machine. Playing the self-proclaimed conservative card enabled the Romanian Church to secure the highest position on the list of the people’s preferences, alongside the Army. The church began its offensive from this priviledged position, which helped disseminate religious symbols at all levels of society: from the dignitaries’ official oath and from the very specific structure of educational curricula to the habit of sprinkling holy water on almost everything, whether a simple political gesture or a commonplace domestic object (a house or a car). Presently, this new formula ensures that the ROC has a position that is both envied and craved by the political classes. Besides the historical context – namely, the forty years of communism and fierce atheistic propaganda that brought about a justified need to return to real faith – the element that eased its happy repositioning is the fact that, apart from the inherent dogma, the ROC has got a pretty terre à terre ideology. If one tried to identify its political-ideological course, it would not be wrong to assert that perhaps, during the post-communist years, the Church filled in the place that national-communism left deserted. Coming in line with the failure of a regime that, formally at least, raised internationalist claims, the pronounced resurgence of nationalism provided the ROC with an extremely rare occasion: to deliver the message that the Church is the sui generis deposit of “Romanian spirituality.” During the former period, Romanians used to learn a controversial history about the tireless fight against various “yokes” – either that of the “oppressors” or that of “obscurantism” – which culminated with the socialist competition purporting ideals, such as the “multilaterally developed society” or the incessant “march towards communism.” From prehistoric times, Romanians have been having, as books accounted, a good dose of underlining communism. Once the Romanian Communist Party (RCP)2 vanished, together with its circumscribed ideals, the ROC took over the message and broadcasted it further. However, the purpose was no longer the “march towards communism” but the so-called “nation’s redemption.” The red thread of class-struggle was immediately replaced by another one that describes the “millennial history” of the Romanian people, where the Church (that somehow was Orthodox even before the Great Schism!) has been the only “lighthouse” of the national spirit (and that, long before the birth of nation itself). Hence, the position vacated by of RCP national-


In Romanian, “Partidul Comunist Român (PCR).”


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

communism was immediately filled by the ROC’s National-Christian doctrine. In the following, I will scrutinize the short and easy ascent of the ROC, from a blemished image, caused by what the post-communist society perceived as passivity or even apathy during the former period, to the credited image of an institution that nowadays revels in the highest percentage of public confidence in spite of this institution’s policy aims at societal recognition of its status as national church or even as a state church. My essay includes a three-fold scheme: in the first part, there is a report on the post-communist evolution and the patrimonial circumstances of the ROC; the second provides a juridical frame for its legal rights and liabilities; while, in the third, I analyze the ideological coordinates of the public discourse practised by the Church.

The ascent of the ROC in Post-communism. A few essential dates When we inquire into the ROC’s history, one thing should be specified from the very beginning; long before the communist era, the ROC was privileged compared to other religions, as, in Art. 22, the 1923 Constitution provided that “the Orthodox Church and the Greek Catholic Church are Romanian churches. As the Romanian Orthodox Church is the religion of the majority of the Romanians, it is therefore the dominant church in the Romanian State, whereas the Greek Catholic Church has precedence over all the other churches.”3 The same text was inherited by the 1938 Constitution, namely in Art. 19.4 The communist legislation5 explicitly subjected the ROC to the state (a decision signed by the patriarch in office at that date, Iustinian Marina), but in exchange, the political regime ensured the ROC a chartered position. A report of European Commission6 from 2002 states that both Romania and Bulgaria had always had a Church that the majority of the population attended, namely the Orthodox rite, purposely protected by the former regime so as to be used for governing. “Going against the Soviet leaders, Todor Jivkov and Nicolae Ceausescu insisted on the role that the Orthodox Church 3

“ConstituĠia României”, in Monitorul Oficial 282 (29th of March 1923). “Constitu‫܊‬ia României”, in Monitorul Oficial 48 (27th of February 1938). 5 Namely, “Decretul nr. 177 din 4 august 1948 pentru regimul general al cultelor religioase”, in Monitorul Oficial 178 (4th of August 1948). 6 ***, Religion et changement en Europe centrale et orientale, issued by the European Council, Strassbourg, 2002. 4

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played in the history of their countries, making the latter a point of convergence with patriotic convictions and turning its structures into an appendix of state and party ideological services.”7 What communist times witnessed was built on a ready-made reality. As proved by Jöel Kotek, this pattern has been persistent for ages in Eastern Europe, because the political thinking in this part of the continent seems to be configured after the Mongol invasion, thus on radically different grounds from the Western cultural model, the latter “being characterized, among others, by the separation between the Spiritual and Temporal and by the separation between Society and State”,8 on the provision that such separations should have always been effectual. The first of the two stands at the origins of pluralism. The Eastern paradigm comes under the influence of caesaropapism, “that caused the subjection of the Orthodox Church to the Russian State (and also to the Serbian or Romanian States) and its refusal to act as a social agent as seen in the cases of Catholic or Protestant Churches from Central Europe”;9 the second separation had gained ground in Western Europe before the dawn of 13th century, when contractual relationships occurred between the lord and his vassals as between the king and his lords. The very idea of establishing a contract brought to the emergence of a self-contained society, able to assert its independence of the state. Going back to the Eastern world, one can notice that “Society does not form the State, but the State continually reforms Society.”10 The first days in the aftermath of the ‘89 Revolution proved difficult for the ROC. However, the fall of communism did not bear equally on the parish priests or the monks as on the high hierarchs. Especially in the rural areas, the priests were quickly co-opted in the local committees established by the National Salvation Front (NSF),11 while the monasteries became the perfect place for the spiritual aspirations of thousands and thousands of pilgrims. This eventually added to the indisputable authority of monks and, as for the monastic communities, it led to their prosperity and wealth. As for the heads of the Church did, they went through a rather anxious period, with the Patriarch Teoctist himself as a very agitated figure. As a matter of fact, he resigned in early 1990, from his ecclesiastical 7

***, Religion et changement..., 7. Jöel Kotek, “L’Europe avec l’Europe. Le rôle de l’Union européenne”, in Europe contre Europe? L’Union européenne au défi des identités nationales et religieuses de l’Europe orientale, ed. Jöel Kotek, Olivier Gillet, Théo Robichet (Gerpinnes: Quorum SPRL Publishing House, 1999), 187. 9 Kotek, L’Europe avec l’Europe…, 187. 10 Kotek, L’Europe avec l’Europe…, 187. 11 In Romanian, “Frontul Salvării NaĠionale (FSN).” 8


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

office invoking “health problems”, only to return to his previous position once the NSF regime was installed under Ion Iliescu’s leadership. One cannot suppress wondering why the fall of communism scared the Patriarch to such a degree. With the “anti-Christic” regime on its way out, it was perhaps the right time to step in the limelight. Yet, uncomfortable questions had begun to be asked concerning the cohabitation between the ROC and the RCP. Actually, as Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu show,12 His Grace, Patriarch Teoctist was not a total stranger to the communist political life. He occasionally performed public duties and offices: as a Deputy in the Great National Assembly,13 a Delegate to the congresses organised by the the Socialist Democracy and Unity Front,14 and as a Member of the National Committee for Peace.15 Consequently, ever since the early days of 1990, the pressing questions arose regarding the hierarchs’ passivity in the controversial matters of church demolition and monastery liquidation. This is how it was possible for slogans such as “Teoctist, Antichrist!” to be heard during the events. Becoming rapidly aware of the necessity to adapt their discourse to the new political reality, church leaders began to speak of the martyrdom of the Church during the years of the “red Devil”, of the difficulties that the communist regime caused the ROC, of demoliton of churches, etc. since the early days of the Revolution. If up to that moment the Church had been a discreet presence in the life of the Romanian Orthodox, all of a sudden, it laid claims on a public seat which the ROC itself had vacated. Self-proposed as “the Church of our Forefathers”, the ROC inherited the nationalist lines of Ceausescu’s national-communism. Zoe Petre aptly observed that “endless processions and liturgies brooded simultaneously with the wished freedom, all celebrated in the most unexpected decorum, be it right in the street or in public institutions, and chiefly on TV as reality shows. Real faith might not have lacked from these liturgical shows, but their free broadcast together with the old and rusty ritual formalism seemed to alleviate the horror of the void; by replacing the communist propaganda rites, the ‘Facebook’ Orthodoxy brings an enthusiast contribution to the ‘Newspeak’ of a democracy in march.”16 This particular train of thinking caused the 12 Lavinia Stan& Lucian Turcescu, Religie Юi politică în România post-comunistă (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Curtea Veche, 2010), 65. 13 In Romanian, “Marea Adunare NaĠională.” 14 In Romanian, “Frontului Democra‫܊‬iei ‫܈‬i Unită‫܊‬ii Socialiste.” 15 In Romanian, “Comitetul NaĠional pentru Pace.” 16 Catherine Durandin and Zoe Petre, România post 1989 (Ia‫܈‬i: Institutul European, 2010), 146.

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setting and resetting of a whole chain of monastic institutions. As Radu Carp remarked, “there is no history of the ROC up to 1989. However, there are, in Romania, a lot of theology faculties which annually keep on producing armies of unemployed soul-healers, whose scattering cannot be stopped and where the history of the Byzantine Empire is more intensely studied than the last years of the Ceausescu regime.”17 A deep silence, partly unexplainable, covered its past deeds during the years of the „red Devil”, and the ROC expressly refused to initiate a debate where its precise position should be settled and done with. In our view, this very attitude of deliberate obliqueness rallied to a strategy whose merit has been to place the ROC, for 22 years, at the top of trusted public institutions in Romania. The rating scale of success could easily be accounted for through a few dates that I set out below. According to the Public Opinion Barometer (BOP), carried in 2004 by the Open Society Foundation, the Gallup Organization Romania and Metro Media Transylvania, who, in their turn, took into consideration the data provided by five survey institutes,18 the dynamics of confidence in the ROC during October 1996 – May 2004 shows as following: Confidence: High+ the Highest Date

Oct ‘96

Mar ‘97

June ‘97

Sep ‘97

Dec ‘97

June ‘98

Nov ‘98

May ‘99

Nov ‘99

Institute The ROC The Army The Parliament

CURS 83 76 23

MMT 85 80 39

CURS 85 83 34

LUAS 86 84 38

CURS 76 78 27

CURS 85 69 19

MMT 86 74 20

MMT 88 75 20

CURS 83 66 10


May ‘00 MMT

Nov ‘00 CURS

May ‘01 MMT

Nov ‘01 CURS

June ‘02 IMAS

Oct ‘02 MMT

May ‘03 GALLUP

Oct. ‘03 CURS

May ‘04

85 73 9

86 67 9

89 72 33

88 76 36

88 77 27

88 77 29

88 65 19

85 63 14

88 69 23

Institute The ROC The Army The Parliament


Radu Carp, Religia în tranziаie. Ipostaze ale României creЮtine (Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2009), 98. 18 Barometrul de opinie publică. România mai 2004 (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Open Society Foundation, 2004), 40.



Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

In the table above, we chose to extract only the percents gained by the Church, the Army and the Parliament (we also preferred to present only the scores that show the “high confidence” and the “highest confidence”), so as to inquire into the hypothesis if the Romanians confide in those institutions which have a high degree of hierarchism rather than in those with a more democratic profile. When judging the positions of the ROC, one has to bear in mind particularly the axis formed by hierarchy and democracy within the Romanian post-communist society. The 2005 Barometer19 shows that the Church rose to 88%, and it was followed by the Army with 70%, whereas the Parliament scored only a bitter 16%. The 2006 Barometer20 registered that the Church still kept its rates to 85% and had the same trustful companion in the Army, which however lost precious points, dropping to 65%, while the Parliament dropped further to 14%. The BOP 1998-200721 shows that, at least in the matter of “confidence/ trust”, the Church is always on top with 84%, but the priest becomes nevertheless a self-contained institution scored at 72%, whereas the Army falls to 58%; the Parliament gets only 18% of high and very high confidence. The information provided by the survey carried by Grupul românesc pentru studiul valorilor sociale (The Romanian Group for the Study of Social Values) within Institutul de Cercetare a Calită‫܊‬ii Vie‫܊‬ii (The Research Institute for the Quality of Life)22 bears arguments to the fact that, in July 2008, the Church kept its leading place at the top of the confidence poll with a rate of 85%, while the Army and the Parliament had received 76% and, respectively, 25%. According to the same source, up to 1996, the ROC, as well as the Army, had had a good average of 85%; on the contrary, during 1990 and 1994, the Parliament registered a dramatic collapse from 75% to 20% and slightly recovered points in the following two years. Another survey published by IMAS in February 201123 confirms that, from January 2009 to January 2011, the dynamics of confidence concerning the Church looks like the following:


Barometrul de opinie publică 2005 (Bucure‫܈‬ti: The Soros Foundation Romania, 2005), 6. 20 Barometrul de opinie publică (Bucure‫܈‬ti: The Soros Foundation Romania, 2006), 87. 21 Barometrul de opinie publică 1998-2007 (Bucure‫܈‬ti: The Soros Foundation Romania, 2007), 125. 22 Valorile românilor, issued by The Romanian Group for the Study of Social Values, newsletter 5 (July 2009), 1-2. 23 Alina Voaide‫ ܈‬and Romulus Georgescu, “Nici Biserica, nici Armata nu mai sunt ce-au fost”, Adevărul (17th of February 2011),

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Confidence: High + the Highest Date/Inst. The Church The Army The Parliament

Jan. 2009 89.3

May 2009 88.9

Jul. 2009 87.5

Sept. 2009 86.8

Oct. 2009 83.9

Dec. 2009 86.6

May 2010 84.6

Sept. 2010 82.3

Jan. 2011 81.9

71.1 23.7

66.1 17

67 15.5

67.9 15.7

66.2 15.7

70.6 19.8

66.1 7.2

65.3 8.3

63.5 11.4

IMAS came out in March 201224 with a new survey which confirms the high scores the Church has always acquired. Consequently, the picture lays out the same: the ROC had 80%, the Army 67.5% (this time, not the priests but the firefighters that “caused” the Army to drop out of its second position), while the Parliament got 8.2%. If we piece together the figures, it turns out that, between 1996 and 2012, the three institutions got the following rates (where surveys provided more than one score, we formed the arithmetic mean): Year/ Inst. The Church The Army The Parliament





















76 23

81.25 34.5

71.5 19.5

70.5 15

70 9

74 34.5

77 28

64 16.5

69 23

70 16

Year/ Inst. The Church The Army The Parliament















65 14

58 18

76 24

68.15 20.51

65.7 7.75

63.5 11.4

67.5 8.2 (accessed on 16.08.2012). 24 Alina Brebenel, “Românii î‫܈‬i găsesc salvarea în Biserică ‫܈‬i Pompieri,” Adevărul (29th of March 2012), (accessed on 16.08.2012).


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

Should we calculate, only for sheer illustration, the averages of the above data, it would turn out that, during 1996-2011, the Church got 85% for “high confidence” and “higher confidence” indicators, whose margins fluctuated within ± 3%; the Army followed with an average score of 71%, its fluctuations getting to larger rates, sometimes to ± 9 %. The Parliament stood at an average of 20%, in which the margins flapped loosely to ± 13 %. In a still more articulate manner, the rating scales of the three surveyed institutions can be pictured as shown in the following graph:

It is apparent that, besides its astounding leadership in the confidence field where it marched together with the Army and obviously surpassed the Parliament, the Church seems to be the steadiest Romanian institution; compared to the courses of the other two, the fluctuating margins are markedly reduced. A possible explanation for this phenomenon could refer to the fact that, unlike others, the Church does not depend on electoral cycles or on transitory political decisions that common voters may or may not like. Then, what a keen eye could catch might be the fact that, after touching its historical maximum in 2009, the Church level started to turn downwards constantly. The causes can range from the public scandals,

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where Orthodox hierarchs were involved in the issue of those Security files which proved the priests’ collaboration with the political police and, perhaps, to ideological matters, such as the changing of generations. The data gathered in these surveys give general accounts of the Church, regardless of confession, but the 2002 Census clearly proves that “as in the previous censuses, the distribution according to religion/religious confession gives the Orthodox population predominance (with 86.8%, corresponding to the scores in 1992). The Roman Catholics represent 4.7% from the quantum (registering a decrease of 0.4%), the Protestants, 3.2% (decreasing as well with 0.3%), the Pentecostals, 1.5% (gaining 0.5% in comparison to the 1992 situation).”25 Furthermore, the results provided up to this moment by the 2011 Census denote as follows: “The structure of the residing population according to their declared religion shows that 85.9 % pertain to Orthodox Church (that is, 16,367,267 Romanian citizens); 4.6% declared their allegiance to the Roman-Catholic Church; 3.2% were Protestants and 1.9% were Pentecostals.”26 Besides these, the other religious confessions were the Greek-Catholics (0.8%), the Baptists (0.6%) and the Adventists (0.5%). The loss of 1% does not necessarily signify a downfall of the ROC and can easily find an explanation in the Romanians’ massive migration; let us consider the fact that, from 2002 to 2011, the population of Romania decreased from 21,680,974 to approximately 19 million inhabitants and that the majority of the emigrants belonged to the Orthodox Church. Yet, BOR places itself on the top of the list not only in the Romanians’ preferences but also as a very competitive infrastructure.27 Here, one has 25

Recensământul populaаiei Юi al locuinаelor. 18-27 martie 2002, volume IV (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Institutul Na‫܊‬ional de Statistică, 2002), VII,, accessed on 24.08.2012. 26 Dan Strău‫܊‬, “Datele recensământului ies la lumină. Popula‫܊‬ia stabilă este de 19 milioane de persoane,” in Adevărul (24th of August 2012), 925.html# (accessed on 24.08.2012). 27 See (accessed on 25.08.2012). According to a document entitled “Cifre ‫܈‬i date despre Biserica Ortodoxă Română 2011”, issued by the Romanian Patriarchy, the ROC has in administration 9,321 church edifices (as eparchial or monastical seats, etc.) and 15,596 churches as such. Running the situation of convents through analysis, we discovered that, in our country, there are 687 monasteries. The total amount raises to 24,917 buildings. Concerning the employees and church staff, the same source provides the following figures: for the administrative leading offices (Patriarchy, eparchies, parishes, monastieries or cloisters) employ 53 hierarchs


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

to take into consideration a huge number of churches and convents, around 24,917 edifices, and the way it gets distributed to a number of the 16,367,267 Orthodox believers. For pure comparison and contrast, let us have a look to the official reports released by the County Boards of Education and by the Ministry of Education itself. At present, Romania numbers 8,900 education providers out of which 8,825 represent the providers of pre-university education, 56 represent the state universities, while 27 are registered as private universities.28 Bearing in mind that the school population (students between 3 and 24 years old) ranks to approximately 4.5 million, we can determine that the influence of the two institutions within the Romanian society, at least when they are assessed on infrastructure grounds, is almost the same.29 Actually the ROC seems to stand a bit better on this chapter. I dare say that the following data should round up the picture: the student population keeps dropping;30 the rates of school dropouts rose to 15.9% in 2008 and to 18.4% in 2010. We can also notice that the same ascending trend shows up in the scores of

who are assimilated with public dignitaries; still, 1,024 clerics are in charge with other top positions, and they get salaries from the State Budget, as well as the rest of 14,231 priests and deacons. Among the latter, a number of 13,841 members of the clerical staff are paid from the State Budget. However, around central religious residences, such as eparchies, parishes or monastieries, a little entreprise counting to 17,000 lay employees is set in motion, partly with 15,592 salaries drawn from the State Budget and partly with 1,408 stipends paid from Church funds. Consequently, the total of the ROC staff members amounts to 32,308 stipendiaries of whom 30,510 get public money. 28 All the websites of the County Boards of Education were accessed on 25.08.2012. The website of the Ministry of Education does not offer a centralized situation of the education providers from Romania. 29 Without raising any claim about its rigour, my analysis focuses on infrastructural means in order to appreciate the general presence of the two institutions, namely the Church and the School, within community life. Therefore, on the one hand, the division of edifices number to the number of Orthodox population turns to an average of 656 persons per edifice; on the other, the division of education providers number to the school population number (from 3 to 24 years) draws to an average of 512 persons per education provider, without taking into acount the population involved in the lifelong learning programmes. 30 According to the surveys carried and issued by NIS (The National Institute of Statistics), during 2010-2050, the school population in Romania will fall to 2.4 mil. See iei-va-scadea-de-doua-ori-pana-in-2050-1043344 (accessed on 25.08.2012).

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illiterate people;31 it is no surprise that annually dozens and dozens of religious edifices (in 2011, 111 churches were inaugurated and 190 were almost finished, 755 were on the anvil, while still 92 more building sites were opened) are being erected, while many schools are closed for lack of school population; the politicians make a display of interest only when called to support the initiatives of the ROC32 (the pupils do not represent potential voters!); moreover, starting with 2007, the ROC set up its own media trust. National education scores higher than the Orthodox Church only in the field of human resource.33 We have to bear in mind the fact that the national education system provides services for the whole Romanian population, whereas the ROC provides spiritual food only for 85.9% (as shown by the data gathered during the 2011 Census). Finally, one more element that should be reckoned with refers to the paradoxical situation acted on by the Church. In spite of its inherent anticapitalism (which, operating contrasts, insists not on material but on spiritual wealth), the ROC discovered the benefaction of the enterprising spirit that urged the prelates to develop flourishing business in various areas, such as forestry, printing, ritual object production and distribution, religious tourism and so on. Let us not understate other shares of the patrimony owned by the ROC, comprising real estate properties, forests and forestry, manufacturers, etc. This is how the ROC ended up as the most profitable entreprise in Romania, even in the context of the economic crisis. As a matter of fact, the data provided by the Ministry of Finance disclose that the ROC is the most profitable enterprise in Romania. According to ministerial public reports, towards the end of 2011, the budgetary surplus of the Orthodox Church rose to 27.93 million RON (approx. 6.6 million €), which represents 68% more than the “annual previsions.” In 2010, the ROC made a profit of 7.3 million RON (approx. 1.7 million €). Interviewed on the secrets of their economic engineering, the Patriarchy spokesmen revealed that the enviable situation had been 31

Indicatori de dezvoltare durabilă (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Institutul Na‫܊‬ional de Statistică, 2011), (accessed on 25.08.2012). 32 20% from the budget amendments proposed by the Romanian MPs in 2011 focused on drawing money for church building. See (accessed on 25.08.2012). 33 In January 2012, the education field had 367, 000 employees. See “Buletinul Statistic Lunar, 2012” (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Institutul Na‫܊‬ional de Statistică), 103, (accessed on 25.08.2012).


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

achieved by cutting down expenses.34 The episode of “the poor Church” is over anyways; it falls on us to observe this character’s evolution from rags to riches. The data presented above emphasize at least one important idea: even if the rates of the ROC are nowadays in slight deflation, the Orthodox Church still keeps the topmost position in the Romanians’ preferences, and, moreover, the distance between this institution and those ranked second or third is likely to be maintained. Besides the tremendous wealth that ensures its pole position, Rene Remond hinted at the long term duration of any religious deed: “If each and every category of social acts has its specific duration, then the religious acts – only they, probably, among all – are those that endure the most. In reality, they share an enduring longevity with cultural and mentality acts; in the same manner, the ideologies themselves survive to both their founders and their particular circumstances. Religions do even more; any religion is related to a tradition and gets defined through its loyalty to the founder’s word and model, then it refers back to sacred texts on which entire generations of believers meditate. The relationships between religion and society are naturally impressed by the long term consequences deriving from the endurance of the former. In their turn, the political leaders do not easily relinquish the habits already acquired; thus, even those who were carried away by liberal ideas that expressly have given impetus to the separation between the church and political power still pursuit their practices from the old regimes who used to lead their subjects’ religious life.”35 Getting back to the particular case of the ROC, the matter does not lie in its highranked position but in what the Church is meant to do for its own followers.

The legal frame of the ROC For more than sixteen years after the fall of the communist regime, the ROC went on functioning in terms of former communist laws, yet proved itself inexhaustible in rebuking a reality preserved with its assent as well. 34

Loredana Voiculescu, “BANII BISERICII. Patriarhia Română, profit mai mare decât băieĠii deútepĠi din energie, regii asfaltului sau McDonald's. Ce spune BOR că face cu ‘excedentul’”, in Gândul (17th of July 2012). (accessed on 29.08.2012). 35 Rene Remond, Religie Юi societate în Europa. Secularizarea în secolele al XlXlea Юi XX 1780-2000 (Ia‫܈‬i: Polirom Publishing House, 2003), 13-14.

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A new legal frame would not come out, because the ROC insisted on being declared as the State-Church, claim that the politicians dismissed several times. This status would have secured a privileged position as compared to the other religious cults. During the arguments that arose because of the Church Act, the relationship between the State and Church has been recast in various ways, among which Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu36 identified four main paradigms: 1.





The quasi-pluralist-controlled model (preferred by the political elite) by means of which the centralized State kept the reins of the religious life through the strict control of funds on the one hand and, on the other, by relaxing the Communist restrictions on religious life and favoring a privileged partnership with the Orthodox Church;37 The State-Church model (preferred by the heads of the ROC and by those intellectuals who coined ideologies such as national-communism and “proto-chronism”), which combines British, German and Romanian historical elements enabling it to receive favors from the Government and to make itself useful either in the state administration or in the civil society;38 The pluralist model (tendered by all the religious minorities), which mainly consisted of Western practice, that is, to establish as public entities diverse religious groups and to give each of them the chance to get public acknowledgement, budgetary allowances, tax exemptions and other social privileges;39 The separatist model (preferred by a group of new humanist intellectuals, such as Gabriel Andreescu, Mircea Toma, Smaranda Enache, Daniel Vighi, and others, who would rather have a strict separation between Church and State), in which case the Church could be emancipated from statefunding, therefore from political chains, and finally return to its spiritual vocation.40

Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 69-88. Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 69. 38 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 74. 39 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 80. 40 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 86. 37


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

The two quoted authors note that the former two models “need consistent rephrasing so as to surpass the democratic threshold.”41 As for the latter two, they have even lesser chances to be applied in the close future. Up to the present variant, the bill of the Church Act had been seriously criticized by international institutions42 and their main reproaches directed straight to those issues that delayed its passing in Parliament. Among these, we count the following: 1.


3. 4.


In Art. 2 (2), there is an ambiguous phrase, where religious freedom is guaranteed only to a point; the restrictions “are stated by the law and represent necessary measures in a democratic society so as to ensure public security, order and morality.”43 There are no precise provisions on either the conditions of public security infringement or on public morality offence, therefore the bill leaves open the way of abuses against some of the minority religions. Art. 7 (2) specifies that the State acknowledges “the crucial role played by the Romanian Orthodox Church and by the other established churches in Romanian history and social life.”44 But, this phrasing does nothing but discriminate against the new churches that lately gained followers in Romanian society. So as to be acknowledged by the State (see Art. 18-20), the new churches have to comply with unattainable requirements, inspired by those answered by the ROC itself. Art. 40 (1) provides discriminatory conditions for those who want to form religious associations. Whereas, for lay

Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 88. Here, one has to take into consideration relevant documents, such as the opinions formulated by the European Comission for Democracy throught Law (advisory body of the EC), Opinion no. 354/2005 CDL-AD(2005)037, completed by the CSCE reports and by the studies issued by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy from Washington. See,, (accessed on 24.08.2012). 43 Law no. 489/2006. 44 Law no. 489/2006. 42

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5. 6. 7.


associations, only 3 founding members are necessary, religious associations need 300. Art. 27 (2) settles the situation of church’s tenure and ownership that cannot be constituted as grounds for claim and restoration. Art. 31 stipulates that church acquisition and procurement procedures cannot be contested. The State cannot provide shelter and protection for those who leave a Church against its virtual pressures.45

As “offence” and “slaughtering” are difficult to define, at least within a Romanian legal frame, we also find some debatable points in Art. 13 (2). It stipulates that “in Romania, any forms, means, deeds and acts of religious slaughtering and teasing are prohibited, as well as a public offence against religious symbols.”46 In the absence of clear criteria, just any church at any time can consider itself slaughtered or offended. But, the weakest point of the present Church Act seems to reside not in its principles but in its proceedings. The intricate procedure regarding the registration and the establishment of churches makes it impossible for them to receive public admission, so they cannot apply for the protection of authorities against the virtual menaces of the majority. After the former Prime-Minister Radu Vasile had attempted to introduce in 1999, without the consent of his ministers from the Government, a draft which promoted the State Church model, in 2006, the Parliament came to pass an act47 where the quasi-pluralist-controlled model is prominent. It is obvious that the present legal frame has not absorbed the observations formulated by the two foreign commissions, and these drawbacks can lead to ECtHR cases. As Stan and Turcescu consider, our problem is not the same as in Greece where they established a StateChurch: “the democratic project does not ask for the separation of Church from State; on the contrary, it needs to discharge those segments of Church authority that are not democratic or represent drawbacks in the democratic political process.” 48 Nevertheless, the high demands that the ROC has raised all along (a compulsory church tax, lifetime MP seats for around 30-50 high priests, and more) makes the State-Church an objectionable model. 45

Opinion no. 354/2005 CDL-AD(2005)037. Law no. 489/2006. 47 “Legea nr. 489/2006 privind libertatea religioasă ‫܈‬i regimul general al cultelor,” in Monitorul Oficial al României 1st Part, 11 (8.01.2007). 48 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 90. 46


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

I share Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu’s opinion that both the State and the ROC have to get along with the diversity of post-communist society, which dismisses both the State’s control over religious life and the State-Church model. “The heaviest menace against the Romanian Orthodox Church does not come from the other churches headquarters – either old or new ones, either local or imported – but from the people’s dissatisfaction on the Church’s failure to fulfil its social mission. The most serious enemy of the Church is the Church itself.”49 There are a few voices that doubt the proper necessity of such a law, considering it an “excess of regulation, typically to a State which is still paying its due to the centralist model.” 50 On the contrary, I would say that, in a still unsteady society as ours, regulation can prevent abusive interpretations. The pressure of the ROC, so as to legalize its model, could have been tempered only when such an act had been passed. Being too loose, the constitutional provisions are just not enough. The initiative to have legislation seems designedly to bar an authoritative trend manifested by the ROC against what the Constitution stipulates in Art. 9 (1): “There is no State Religion in Romania; the State is neutral towards any religious persuasion or atheistic ideology.”51 When the Romanian society would have burned out its Post-communist religious effusion, such a law shall prove its lack of utility; otherwise, the expected moment might be awaited for a long time.

The ideological construction of the “People’s Church” The fall of communism (more precisely, of Ceausescu’s regime) brought along a great popular and national movement of past-belying. All of the sudden, the communists turned into democrats and, subsequently, in anticommunists, and the heads of the ROC were no exception from the general trend. The dominant direction for Romania was to become an “European country.” As we argued elsewhere,52 the ’90s witnessed two main trends: on the one hand, the ex-leaders, grouped around the National 49

Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 92. Dorin Dobrincu, “Legea cultelor : text, subtext ‫܈‬i context” in Revista 22 (19th of January 2007), (accessed on 24.08.2012). 51 Law no. nr. 489/2006. 52 Sorin Bocancea, “Partidele politice din România postcomunistă ‫܈‬i ideea europeană. Pozi‫܊‬ionări politico-ideologice” in Voturi Юi politici. Dinamica partidelor româneЮti în ultimele două decenii, ed. Sergiu Gherghina (Ia‫܈‬i, Institutul European, 2011), 267. 50

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Salvation Front, the parties, which afterwards inherited the NSF political direction: Romanian Social Democratic Party (RSDP) and Socialist Labour Party (SLP),53 and the extremist right-wing parties, the Greater Romania Party (GRP) and the Romanian National Unity Party (RNUP)54 relied either on an ambiguous pro-European discourse or on a stately antiEuropean attitude. Some politicians enrolled in the traditional and historical parties, consecrated before communism: the National Peasants’ Party (NPP) and the National Liberal Party (NLP).55 Then, after the severance of historical parties, they moved to the new political factions and relied on a pro-European discourse, even though their message virtually contained the inter-bellum political and ideological culture, whose dominant trait was exactly the opposite, that is, nationalism. The public discouse strongly insisted on picking up the threads torn by communism. A certain sort of conservatism, supposedly enhanced during revolutionary turmoil, emerged in the Romanian society, too. After half a century of leftist supremacy, Varujan Vosganian engaged into the process of right-wing reconstruction and declared that its mission would be to create “a bridge over times, by rejecting communism and its fallouts as an insert in Romanian history.”56 The idea of a democracy that “recovers” the lost ground also infused the declarations of the NPP (National Peasants’s Party) leaders, yet with more realistic tones: “one of the fundamental errors when speaking about democracy and rule of law restoration would be not to take into account the dramatic transformations, both in people’s mentality as in their daily life, that had been produced in 45 years of communism, and to simply copy the Western world.”57 However, as we have already argued,58 this “accident” (namely, communism) lasted for half a century, which was just enough so as to bring up the dreamed “new man.” Then, the Right was surprised to find out that, under the presumed communist shell, there was nothing left from the former core of Romanian 53

In Romanian, PDSR (Partidul DemocraĠiei Sociale din România – The Social Democratic Party from Romania) and PSM (Partidul Socialist al Muncii – The Socialist Labour Party). 54 In Romanian, PRM (Partidul România Mare – The Great Romania Party) and PUNR (Partidul UnităĠii NaĠiunii Române – The Romanian National Unity Party). 55 In Romanian, PNğ (Partidul NaĠional ğărănesc – The National Peasants’ Party) and PNL (Partidul NaĠional Liberal – The National Liberal Party). 56 Varujan Vosganian, Mesajul Dreptei Româneúti. TradiĠie úi modernitate (Bucure‫܈‬ti, Nemira, 2001), 63. 57 Gabriel ğepelea, “Programul Partidului NaĠional ğărănesc Creútin Democrat,” in Dreptatea (2nd October 1991). 58 Sorin Bocancea, “Oferta ideologică a dreptei româneúti postdecembriste”, in Timpul 110 (April 2008).


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society, from its claimed authenticity. Therefore, communism had had enough time to install, as normality, a particular trait of the “national soul.” Only the old people, a generation already on its way out, and the young people did not align themselves entirely to this human type; all the rest, that is, the middle-aged, took the communist habits of thought, which was quite transparent in their rejection of capitalism (for the most part, directed against capitalists), their disrespect for propriety, their political passivity, their appeal to authoritative political means, etc. If free access to all Romanian cultural productions really meant a sort of restoration, one might not say the same thing about politics. What did Romania have to restore from its former political life? Was it democracy? Was it the rule-of-law society? As a matter of fact, this country had already been an expert in dictatorship when communism settled in: the first was dictatorship of Carol the Second and, respectively, Ion Antonescu’s legionary state. Not to mention the fact that the democracy of the previous years had functioned on anachronical canons and could not be taken as a reference for a third millenium democracy. The strategy of republishing those literary works that had been forbidden by communist censorship became a dominant element of Romanian cultural life. People discovered, read and made comments on titles such as Goga’s Mustul în fierbere (The Boiling Must), Cioran’s Schimbarea la faаă a României (The Transfiguration of Romania), Eliade’s legionary articles, Nae Ionescu’s texts, and so on. The videorecordings with Petre ‫܉‬u‫܊‬ea registered high numbers of audiences; the Romanian philosopher, following Nae Ionescu’s example, used to define Legionarism as “the one and only Messianic extreme-Right movement.”59 Those who had been schooled into the national-communist doctrine were left with nationalism, animated by the rediscovery of famous political works written by prominent Romanian personalities, such as Mihai Eminescu, Nicolae Iorga, and Constantin Noica, whom they considered to be, as the common phrase goes, “more relevant than ever.” The extremeRight movements started to be reconfigured, bringing in “Messianic” leaders such as Marian Munteanu, who, afterwards, proved to be one of Virgil Măgureanu’s best friends, the ex-head of Romanian Security Services and one of the founders of RNP – the Romanian National Party. Moreover, a sort of nostalgia was instilled in the youth, about times they had never seen or which they simply perceived in a romantic halo. Thus, the Messianic buzz of the 90’s created a generation which thought that a 59

Cf. (accessed on 26.08.2012).

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possible alternative to communism was a society based on the Orthodox principles. This atmosphere also served the ROC as a starting point for its ideological and political repositioning; subsequently, the heads of the Church came with rather fundamentalist solutions. In 2003, Gabriel Andreescu remarked that “the attitude of the ROC grows out of four convergent elements: a) promoting a doctrine with an exclusivist character synthetized in the two strong ideas of Orthodox nationalism: namely that Romania is the state that belongs to Romanians, and that to be a Romanian is the same as to be an Orthodox; b) the ROC denied the principles of the rule of law and set it as less important than the Orthodox principles, granted by a divine source; c) the clerics of the ROC did not refrain from using violent “tools”, from injurious discourse to menace and physical agressions; d) the impressive appreciation of the means and power of the ROC in comparison with the other social actors.”60 When underscored, these observations did not indicate either a fulfilling reality or a society on the verge of its acception into EU family. The quoted study also provides us with examples, lists of actions taken by the ROC and declarations made by its leaders. One of them sounds absolutely frightening because it contains all the drawbacks of the integration process, namely the list of “deeds that menace the existence of the Romanian people,”61 published in the first issue of “Icoana din adânc” (The Icon from the Depth), a journal of Orthodox hierarchy introduced in November 1997. In spite of a certain softening of this radicalism, the process of elaborating an ideology meant to impose the ROC as a State-Church still continues. The price paid is represented by a nationalist discourse, framed 60

Gabriel Andreescu, Extremismul de dreapta în România (Cluj Napoca: Funda‫܊‬ia Centrul de Resurse pentru Diversitate Etnoculturală, 2003), 35. 61 Andreescu, The Extreme-Right in Romania, 36. Among these, we mention the following deeds: 1) the agreement between Romanian and the sole continental legislation; 2) giving up Bessarabia and Bucowina (the quoted authors share a position rather reluctant towards both NATO and the European Union; 3) the allowance of unconditioned citizenship rights for the immigrants (also named “Asia, Africa, and America’s social residues”); 4) the allowance of certain “privileges” for the minorities; 5) the enforcement of a law which permits the foreigners to sell and buy land; 6) the economical subordination of foreign capital (with reference to the freedom of investments, privatisation, etc); 7) the pressure of Western models, especially from USA and France, on Romanian culture (also called “the pressure of empire”); 8) atheist liberalism, the chaos of rights and liberties – the freedom of speech, the right to opinion, the free access to information, etc.; 9) the transformation of Romania into a propaganda field for the schismatic churches.


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

in the same manner as in the national-communism times. The following section is focused on the guidelines of the national-Christian doctrine, which were the strongest arguments upheld by the ROC so as to impose itself as the “People’s Church” or as a “National Church.”

Step 1: Inventing an honorable communist past Essentially, this initiative is comprised of two actions; the first refers to a private set of martyrs, and the second represents the obstinate refusal to disclose the names of those priests who collaborated with the Security during communism. As we argued above, since the first days of the Revolution, the ROC was able to concoct a new mythology concerning its martyrdom during communism, which the church called an “anti-Christ regime.” What the Saint Synod declared in January 1990, concerning the compromises of those who, during communism, had not had “the fortitude to be martyrs”62 sounded like a captatio benevolentiae technique. Priests who had their share of suffering from the communists – some of them killed or convicted to endless years of jail, while the ROC remained almost entirely silent – were paraded about in order to support the construction of the new image. The same gallery of martyrs functioned in order to rebrand a new image for the young democratic society. That many priests were truly martyrs is absolutely uncontestable, yet, as I have indicated at some other occasion,63 our discussion refers to how one can prove the existence of a coherent and open opposition upheld by a State institution, namely the Orthodox Romanian Church, which practically employs public officers, paid from the state budget. Nevertheless, a low-profile opposition, irrespective of its manner and mood, cannot be counted as a systematic institutional riot; on the contrary, the priests from the lower ranks absorbed both punishment and marginalization as a part of their own private destiny. On the whole, the ROC cannot be considered a martyred church, and in arguing that, we should mention three reasons: first, a large number of the martyred priests arrested by the communists were also enrolled in other political parties and, consequently, perceived as enemies; a second nuance refers to the fact that, whether anti-communists or regime-opponents, many of the oppressed priests or monks refused to disseminate the new teaching; in the 62 Rompres, the 12th of January 1990, quoted by Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 169. 63 Sorin Bocancea, Ierarhi ortodocЮi în primii ani ai regimului comunist din România, in Totalitarismul. De la origini la consecinаe, ed. Sorin Bocancea and Daniel ‫܇‬andru (Ia‫܈‬i, Institutul European, 2011), 255-256.

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third place, one should take into consideration that many of the jail sentences were signed by the ROC’s high officials against their own brothers. Arsenie Boca, Father Calciu-Dumitreasa’s and other priests’ cases came to be famous, because they were arrested after Father C. Burducea (who was also appointed minister during the Communist regime) had given precise orders concerning the matter. Moreover, these priests were sent to prison after being consecrated by Iustinian Marina,64 also known as the “Red Patriarch”, who, in turn, rose to the patriarchal seat due to Gheorghiu-Dej’s friendship and support (the priest used to shelter the ex-outlaw when Dej escaped the camp in Târgu-Jiu65). Once many loyal servants were sacrificed, subjected or even turned into the Communist power, the ROC took over their personal histories so as to simbolically exploit them for its own ends, namely to use them as proofs of its martyrdom. As to its refusal to obey the law concerning unveiling former collaborators with the Security, Radu Carp adequately observes the secret mechanism of the strategy: instead of an open dialogue about the Orthodox priesthood’s collaborations, the high prelates hid behind the veil of some intellectuals’ public statements, interviews or comments. “Still no one knows who were those that set up the sophisticated mechanism implying a net of guilt between the Orthodox Church and the enemy. These people have not been given a face and an identity, yet. Sometimes, their names or their pensions get published. Yet, we do not get to know them. They are not among us.”66 In other words, the general trend is to reject deconspiration, and when incidentally someone is exposed, he is not appropriated as a part of the church. The church admits only the martyrs and not those who served as help for the executioners. I would like to examine several other reasons for the stubborn refusal in the deconspiration issue: some hierarchs are afraid that their own collaboration, and the ensuing public scandal would cause them to lose their high offices; there is a slight chance that ample research into the priests’ Security files could bring about a dramatic situaiton, which would be quite hard to grasp or imagine;67 furthermore, the findings would 64

Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 66. Lavinia Betea, PoveЮti din Cartierul Primăverii (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Curtea Veche, 2010), 28. 66 Radu Carp, Religion in Transition..., 100-101. 67 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 164-165. Ex-Security officer Roland Vasilievici argued that over 80% from the Orthodox priests had been Security collaborators, a status they acquired according to a precise strategy launched in the 60ies; they were actually the recipients of training sessions where the priests 65


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

reduce the levels of confidence towards the ROC; last but not least, it would go against the tendency to place priests and priesthood in general in an exceptional state, above the common mortals. Beyond the arguments unfolded above, I think that the ideological aspect is the most important one. How can one allow free access to documents that would disclose that, during the “anti-Christ” regime, the ROC did not fight for the nation’s spirituality, but, on the contrary, kneeled down as a submitted vassal?! In fact, such an attitude would undermine the great ideological project to erect a sole “People’s Church.”

Step 2: Re-inventing oneself in a proto-chronistic manner Undeniably, the Orthodox Church accompanied the social and political evolution of the statal entities developed within the present borders of modern Romania. As it happened in the entire region of the former Byzantine Empire, the Church constituted a factor of identity in a compound reality. As Georges Prévélakis shows, things evolved differently from Western Europe, where, endowed with distinctive signs from the very beginning – that is, a state, a territory, a nation – there are at least two patterns of national states (namely, England and France). On the contrary, “the identities within the Byzantine Empire were various, some of them territorial, others, reticular; subsequently, they created an astonishing identitary and cultural landscape, both extremely complex and fluid. The notion of ‘nation’ remained vague, insufficiently defined and of lesser importance than other realities, such as religion, ‘the way of living’ (for instance, the demi-nomad life of Macedo-Romanian shepherds), or family.”68 In all of the historical moments of the modern Romanian State, the Church has had a privileged place, constitutionally granted. The communists were compelled to acknowledge its importance, rewarding its submission with a superior position in comparison either to the other religious cults or to the situation illustrated by the spoliation of the Greek Catholic patrimonial estates. The ROC proved to be a very useful and comfortable friend as long as it did not function as a riotous factor and become outspoken among common people about the nationalist creed, which served as a ground for national-communism as a state ideology.

received “nationalist-shauvin education, in the spirit of the ex-dictator’s politic formula.” 68 Georges Prévélakis, “La notion de nation à l’Est et à l’Ouest” in Kotek, Gillet, Robichet, Europe contre Europe?..., 18.

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Once the communist system was at least institutionally abandoned, the ROC became the sole beneficiary of the communist ideological pursuits. This is almost transparent in the manner it presents itself on the official site: “The Romanian Orthodox Church is an Apostolic Church, founded through Saint Andrew’s misionary work, the Apostle who preached the Gospel in the former Scythia Minor, a Roman province located between the Danube and the Black Sea – present-day Dobrogea (in South-Eastern Romania).”69 Upon a quick examination, one detects the particular manner of the proto-chronist message and, more specifically, the imprints of national-communism. In the same way, the official history textbooks used to describe the formation of the Romanian nation as a blend between the defeated Dacians and the Roman conquerors, therefore completely disregarding a millenium of migrations, the assimilations ensuing the migration phenomenon and the existence of a Cuman empire, which provided the political elites for the first state-structures in the Romanian area. In any case, this Apostle could not have founded the ROC for the plain and simple reason that the present day Romanian nation had not yet been formed. One may discover the beginnings of the ROC in 1864, when a decree was issued so as to ratify, besides the administrative union, the fusion of the churches from the two Romanian principates. Then, the process was ended in 1885, when the ROC gained the right of autocephaly. As Gillet points out,70 this manner of presenting itself serves the ROC in order to show that it had been attending the Romanian people from its early days up to the wars for autonomy and self-governing. However, the hypothesis of the Romanian people’s existence during Saint Andrew’s times seems as unreal as the idea that the Apostle is the real founding father of the ROC. Like the Romanian people, the actual ROC represents a product of political modernity. Up to modern times, this geographical space was inhabited by various peoples and populations, all of them bearing their own organising structures. The majority of the Cumans, the Wallachians, the Moldavians, etc. were Christians, but not Orthodox; we

69 Cf. (accessed on 27.08.2012). 70 Olivier Gillet, Religion et nationalisme. L’ideologie de l’Eglise Orthodoxe Roumaine sous le regime communiste (Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1997), 80 et sq.


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also have to bear in mind the Cuman episode, reeled after the Great Schism from 1053, and the fact that the Cumans were mainly Catholic.71 Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu’s opinion is that, after the fall of communism, the ROC “went on preaching nationalism, both as a routine and as a firm belief.”72 In my opinion, the need to re-brand and relegitimate comes out of a national-communist ideological blanket, well kept and preserved even after the fall of the former regime. The majority of Romanians are convinced that Trajan and Decebal are the true ancestors and do not doubt for a second that Saint Andrew founded the ROC. It is precisely the same meta-narration which legitimates both the history of the Romanian people and the history of the ROC. Maybe in a very short time, people will start believing that their two forefathers were actually three: Trajan, Decebal and Saint Apostle Andrew.

Step 3: Equating the Romanian and the Orthodox identities The ROC supports the idea of equating the Romanian and the Orthodox identities not only implicitly but also explicitly. Its Statute stipulates, in Art. 5(2), that “the Romanian Orthodox Church is the Romanian people’s Church”,73 and, among others, one of the titles the Patriarch of the ROC is “the Patriarch of Romania.”74 From this standpoint, the ROC judges that belonging to other churches is regretable for a Romanian citizen, even if that church belongs to the Christian “brotherhood.” Issued by Saint Synod in 2010, The Appeal for Romanian Union and Dignity states clearly that, considering the membership of Romania in structures such as the EU and NATO as well as the whole process of the ROC’s restructuration, “there are no longer any grounded reasons to reject the call for Romanian Orthodox unity and communion. We are confident that this resurrection and reconciliation in the bosom of the Romanian Orthodox world shall consolidate and intesify the pastoral-missionary, social-philantropic and cultural-educational work of the Romanian Orthodox Church from everywhere, by strenghtening, at the same time, the Romanian Orthodox dignity and saving the Orthodox Romanians from the search of indentification with foreign canons. We are desolate that, due to multiple 71 See Neagu Djuvara, Thocomerius – Negru Vodă. Un voivod de origine cumană la începuturile Яării RomâneЮti, 3rd edition revised and enlarged (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Humanitas, 2011). 72 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 109. 73 Statutul pentru organizarea ‫܈‬i func‫܊‬ionarea Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, (accessed on 24.08.2012). 74 Statutul pentru organizarea....

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reasons, some of our brothers gravitated towards other Orthodox jurisdictions during the communist period; yet, that which was perfectly pardonable in the past, is no longer justifiable and brings sorrow at present, that is, the way Romanians become estranged from each other”75 (the emphasis and the inverted commas belong to the original variant). It is easy to spot here the fundamental contradiction between terms, such as “brothers” and “foreigners”, engendered by the clash between the dogmatic universalism and the particularism or even “tribalism” presented by the ROC’s specific ideology. As a matter of fact, for the nationalist ideology, the notion “foreigner” occupies a central position in the whole construction. It acts as a solidarity catalyst for a national community, and in the quoted source, it is used in order to point at the Orthodox brothers from other churches. In other words, the foreigner is neither the nonChristian nor the Christian belonging to a different church but the nonRomanian. In fact, the text speaks neither about an Orthodox nor a Romanian dignity, but simply about “the Romanian Orthodox dignity.” During the inter-bellum period, the extreme-Right doctrine thinkers used to overlap the meanings of “Orthodox” and “Romanian.” “We are Orthodox, because we are Romanians, and we are Romanians, because we are Orthodox. Can we be Catholics? Becoming Catholic, we would change spiritually in order to achieve this Catholicism. And, this transformation would cause us to lose our history and spiritual structure. In other words, this would mean to give up our Romanian identity. There are only two solutions: either we stick to our Romanian identity and, then, our Catholicism cannot be considered a reality, or we turn into Catholics and, then, we cannot be named Romanians anymore”;76 this is what the most vocal ideologist of Garda de Fier (The Iron Guard), Nae Ionescu, used to say. Most surprisingly, the same idea appears in Dumitru Stăniloae’s speeches and interviews: “the highest law of our people is to be a Romanian... What is the Romanian way of uniting with the transcendent spiritual order? The history says that this is Orthodoxy proper. For Romanians, Orthodoxy is that eye which looks at the sky. Orthodoxy is an essential and vital function of the Romanian identity. Our perennial


Sfântul Sinod al Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, Apelul la unitatea Юi demnitatea românească (Bucure‫܈‬ti: 2010), (accessed on 25.08.2012). 76 Nae Ionescu, Îndreptar ortodox (Wiesbaden: Fră‫܊‬ia Ortodoxă, 1957), 88.


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

national ideal cannot be conceived outside the relationship with Orthodoxy.”77 We can notice that this ideological strategy is not new and not an invention of the ROC; unfortunately, the European world has already surpassed and amended it. There is a similar case of nation-religion assimilation, namely the Poles fighting against Bismark and the Tzar’s offensive at the end of the 19th century. They equated their Catholic creed with their nationality, a position adopted by the Cardinal Jozef Glemp later, in 1995, when he accused the West of conspiracy against the spiritual potential of the ex-communist countries; in 1991, another prelate (Goclowski) declared that the public schools represent public spaces where the children of the nation should follow religious teaching in order to preserve the nation’s Catholic identity and the Polish history. The same scheme was applied by the Greek people who, until 1999, would assimilate Orthodoxy with Greekness and discriminate against the Greek citizens belonging to other churches.78 This would be a great occasion for the ROC to understand that such strategies are anachronistic in a boader European context, as the document quoted above tries to say.

Step 4: A salvation for the “nation’s spirituality” One of the elements which upholds an ideology is the necessity to save something, either property, freedom or order. After the fall of communism, the ROC auto-proposed itself as a savior of the “nation’s spirituality” during the severe conditions imposed by the former regime. For the majority of the Orthodox practicants, it seems difficult to perceive the value of this precious treasure that the Church had saved and guarded. Dwelling within ambiguity, the ROC left the word unexplained. Naturally, the following question ensues from the topic above: what is spirituality? If one looks for definitions, dictionaries provide us with some: “the state or the character of a thing to be spiritual; (for scholars) what characterizes a human community from the point of view of its spiritual life, of its cultural specific”;79 “a people’s spirituality, the particular character of its spiritual and cultural life”;80 “a set of ideas and feelings which characterize a 77

Dumitru Stăniloae, “Idealul na‫܊‬ional permanent”, in Telegraful român 4 (1949):



Kotek, L’Europe avec l’Europe…, 190-191. Dicаionarul Explicativ al Limbii Române (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Editura Academiei Române, 1998). 80 Noul Dicаionar Explicativ al Limbii Române (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Editura Academiei Române, 2002). 79

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people or a nation from the point of view of its spiritual life and cultural specific”;81 “1. A set of ideas and feelings which characterize a community; 2. (religious meaning) The spirit’s passing beyond the material surface of the world, assisted by the Holy Ghost in its prayers and contemplation so as to get in touch with God. 3. Everything related to an individual or a people’s spiritual life, general notion about world and life, sensitivity towards the spirtual-moral and cultural-religious values, as well as their relation with Divinity.”82 All Romanian dictionaries indicate that the term is of French origin. Le Petit Robert 2012 defines “spiritualité” in this manner: “1. (Philos.) The character of things spiritual, independent from matter. The spirituality of the soul; 2. The set of beliefs and practices which are related to spiritual life; the particular aspects of these beliefs and practices. The Franciscan Spirituality; Spiritual life, attachment to the spiritual and moral values.”83 All types of nationalism rely on the spirituality of those communities they intend to shelter and safeguard. Either we speak about the state constitution on an adminstrative foundation already established (as in France), or we bring into discussion the constitution of a state on strictly cultural grounds (as in Germany), nationalism mentions spirituality among its top priorities in such a political enterprise. In post-communist Romania, none of the political parties or public institutions posed as a savior of the people’s spirituality. None, except the ROC. Actually it is rather difficult to determine who and what was saved. Like any other institution (namely schools, libraries, and all cultural institutions), the ROC preserved a segment of spirituality, yet not “the Romanian spirituality.” If we refer back to folk customs pertaining to the ethnology of Christian feasts (those which are typical for the Romanian spirituality), then I would say that it is the family who was the best agent of salvation. For instance, let us remember the fact that the ROC did not protest against the exchange of a Christian figure (“Moú Crăciun”, the equivalent of “Santa Claus”) with a communist surrogate (“Moú Gerilă” means, in a rough translation, “Santa Cold”). The point is that the ROC, justified by dogmatic reasons, did its best to save some of the Christian elements; pushed by an ideological impetus, it nevertheless claims that it saved “the Romanian spirituality.” Nowadays, the struggle to preserve “the people’s spirituality” has been drawing public attention on various occasions as there are some who believe that Romania is actually being assaulted by European imperialism. 81

Dicаionar de Neologisme (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Editura Academiei Române, 1986). Ion M. Stoian, Dicаionar religios (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Garamond, 1994). 83 See Le Petit Robert 2012 (Paris: SEJER, 2011), 2423. 82


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

In 2007, when he was visiting Putna (one of the oldest Orthodox convents in our country), Radu Carp witnessed a worrying scene acted out by a monk delivering nationalist speeches to a group of visiting children: “We lost Moldavia neither during Stephen the Great’s reign, nor during the communist and the transition times. We really lost Moldavia once Romania joined the European Union.”84 In his later studies, the testimony explains that such problems were caused by a lack of communication inside the different levels of hierarchy; the lower ranks did not understand the importance of adhering policies. Gabriel Andreescu points out the fact that the Orthodox convents served as meeting places for the new extreme-Right movements.85 For example, in the summer of 2000, the clerics sheltered such extremists in Sâmbăta de Sus Convent, located in the Făgăraú Mountains, so as to sketch together the strategies of a legionary revival. Maybe, in Patriarch Teoctist’s times (who allegedly was an ex-legionary86), this could have had a reasonable explanation. Yet, similar meetings are being held even nowadays; here i refer to the pilgrimages to “Petru Vodă” Convent, in Neam‫ ܊‬County, a place where the superior Iustin Pîrvu (himself an exlegionary) hosts their meetings. In 2011, a video recording that was posted on the internet showed young nuns singing legionary hymns on the occasion of the superior’s birthday.87 In the same way, with the permission of “Sfântul Spiridon” Church from Ia‫܈‬i, the representatives of the extremeRight gather every year to celebrate Saints Michael and Gabriel and to organise a liturgy celebrating personalities, such as Corneliu ZeleaCodreanu, Mo‫܊‬a, Marin, and others (the extremists prefer this precise place, because, in their time of glory, the legionaries used to gather here and attend church ceremonies). The present status that Romania gained within the Euro-Atlantic structures does not contribute to the clerics’ tranquility; ironically, they stick with a cause nobody claims anymore. Moreover, if we are true to the definition of “spirituality”, we have to admit that it pieces together not only ideas, feelings and practices in general, but also those experiences acquired during communism. I find Gillet’s observation very pertinent: “this ‘spirituality’ died out to the same degree the ‘identity’ religious foundations were perverted during the fourty years of dictatorship.”88 The 84

Carp, Religion in Transition..., 82. Andreescu, The Extreme-Right in Romania, 37. 86 Stan and Turcescu, Religion and Politics..., 148-152. 87 Cf. (accessed on 22.08.2012). 88 Gillet, Religion et nationalisme..., 2. 85

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ROC knows this well: consequently, one has to say that it not so much a “savior”, but more of a skillful “manager” of “the nation’s spirituality.” Yet, people need to know that the “church saves.” If there was no enemy, no vampire craving to take over this spirituality, no fiend, even at an imaginary level, the church would be condemned to remain simply Orthodox, thus losing tis chance orf being „the nation’s church.”

Step 5: The exceptional-ism Lastly, another ideological pillar erected by the ROC could properly be called “the exceptional-ism”, an ideological construct of the communist times. The Romanian intelligentsia got used to working with dichotomies, the most notorious distinction having been made made by Noica when he spoke about “the butter Europe” (i.e., the Western part) and “the cultural Europe.” It is no wonder that this mental scheme remained appropriate after the fall of communism. Here, we have to mention the statements the now Patriarch delivered on the public TV channel, in May 1995. When asked about his solutions for coping with crisis, His High Sanctity answered: “Yes, we should see the link between the moral and the economical crisis. The more developed countries, with strong economies, should ask themselves the question: how could they get to a moral crisis if they have such strong economies? It seems that we ellude the matter; we have to overcome our economical crisis, but the West also has another crisis to overcome – that is, the spiritual crisis – and maybe God wanted both of us to be in crisis so as to listen to each other and help each other.”89 As we can see, even if the high prelate asserts that there is a connection between types of crises, towards the end of his declaration, he cannot refrain from saying that the Western civilization is confronted with a spiritual crisis, whereas Romanians have to face only the economical crisis. The same idea runs through a booklet issued by the Patriarchy on the importance of religious education: “The Christian dimension of present day Europe is denied, minimized or even ignored, especially in the Western world, where many Europeans already consider that they live in a post-Christian society.”90 There is no proof to support this value judgement, and I strongly doubt its truthfulness. For those who know just a little about the Western civilization and the passion invested in Christian 87

Valeriu Ioan-Franc, Din lucrările Comisiei de la Snagov. Martie-iunie 1995 (Bucure‫܈‬ti: CIDE, 2000), 33. 90 Gheorghe Holbea et al. Apostolat educaаional. Ora de religie – cunoaútere úi devenire spirituală (Bucure‫܈‬ti: Basilica, 2010), 9.


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

issues, it is obvious that this assertion seems a bit daring. Moreover, we are bound to consider it a common figure of rhetoric, relying on the same dichotomy which pushes us to think ourselves lucky to be born in a country blessed with abundant spirituality and not in the decadent Western Europe.

Conclusions It might be said that the ROC is now in the best situation of its whole history. First of all, even if it missed the chance to be proclaimed as a State-Church, the difficult conditions imposed by the actual laws on the other churches provide the ROC with a comfortable, privileged position. Second of all, its considerable patrimony and wealth has grown, because the wages and also the expenses for building and maintenance are paid for by the State or or out of local budgets. In conclusion, though the legal status is not of State-Church, the ROC is factually one, because it draws benefits from public authorities at all levels. As for the “confidence” levels, the ROC fares well. The strategy to fill the empty seat of the communist ideology proved to be a good call. Actually, I believe that the Romanian Orthodox Church could not have taken another position in the actual political context: if, politically speaking, parties such as the NSF were perceived as the inheritors of communism, ideologically, the ROC stands as a lawful inheritor. Looking at the People’s Salvation Cathedral, one can get a very clear image about the importance of the ROC for our post-communist society. It strangely happens that, after prolonged quarrels, the location for this project was established right beside the actual Palace of Parliament and the former “House of the People.” No one could have found a better place. It is going to be like a family picture: the Church and the State; the Church on the Right of political power; the ROC and the post-communist State. Whether we like it or not, “the Romanian spirit” expressed itself by erecting “the House of the People”; the post-communist Romanian spirit expresses itself by erecting the so-called Cathedral of the People’s Salvation. “We continue together”; this is what an old slogan used to say. As we have shown, instead of its strict dogmatic issues, the ROC assumes a role and a mission which go beyond religion. Its claims are significant: the Romanian Orthodox Church wants to configure the identity of a majority. We can easily find that, immersed in post-modern matters, our “the Church of our Forefathers” remains anchored in modernity. To forge the national identity of the Romanians represents a priority for the ROC. Is it possible that our modernity has not ended yet or

Sorin Bocancea


has the ROC proved its sheer inability to draw a plan for the actual conditions of a post-national society? We wonder if the the heads of the church have ever asked themselves such a question as we witness that the ROC engages itself in an effort which we thought was long gone defends something that nobody attacks. Meanwhile, the Romanians have become part of the European Community where their famous “spirituality” seems to be sheltered more than ever. As our children are taught to understand pluralism and tolerance, it is rather difficult to think that either they will take the “righteous way” of Orthodoxy or if they will perceive their Western partners as “lost sheep.” Perhaps it is time for a reform within the ROC; perhaps it is necessary for the Orthodox Church to become aware of the fact that they are building a cathedral when the time for building cathedrals is long gone.

References Andreescu, Gabriel. Extremismul de dreapta în România. Cluj Napoca: Funda‫܊‬ia Centrul de Resurse pentru Diversitate Etnoculturală, 2003. Betea, Lavinia. PoveЮti din Cartierul Primăverii. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Curtea Veche, 2010. Bocancea, Sorin. “Oferta ideologică a dreptei româneúti postdecembriste.” Timpul 110 (April 2008). —. “Partidele politice din România postcomunistă ‫܈‬i ideea europeană. Pozi‫܊‬ionări politico-ideologice.” In Voturi Юi politici. Dinamica partidelor româneЮti în ultimele două decenii, edited by Sergiu Gherghina. Ia‫܈‬i: Institutul European, 2011. —. Ierarhi ortodocЮi în primii ani ai regimului comunist din România. In Totalitarismul. De la origini la consecinаe, edited by Sorin Bocancea and Daniel ‫܇‬andru. Ia‫܈‬i, Institutul European, 2011. Carp, Radu. Religia în tranziаie. Ipostaze ale României creЮtine. ClujNapoca: Eikon Publishing House, 2009. Djuvara, Neagu. Thocomerius – Negru Vodă. Un voivod de origine cumană la începuturile Яării RomâneЮti, 3rd edition revised and enlarged. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Humanitas, 2011. Dobrincu, Dorin. „Legea cultelor : text, subtext ‫܈‬i context.” Revista 22 (19th of January 2007). Durandin, Catherine and Zoe Petre, România post 1989. Ia‫܈‬i: Institutul European, 2010. Gillet, Olivier. Religion et nationalisme. L’ideologie de l’Eglise Orthodoxe Roumaine sous le regime communiste. Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1997.


Repositioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Post-Communism

Holbea, Gheorghe; Dorin Opri‫ ;܈‬Monica Opri‫ ;܈‬George Jambore. Apostolat educaаional. Ora de religie – cunoaútere úi devenire spirituală. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Basilica, 2010. Ioan-Franc, Valeriu. Din lucrările Comisiei de la Snagov. Martie-iunie 1995. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Center for Economic Information and Documentation, 2000. Ionescu, Nae. Îndreptar ortodox. Wiesbaden: Fră‫܊‬ia Ortodoxă, 1957. Kotek, Jöel. “L’Europe avec l’Europe. Le rôle de l’Union européenne.” In Europe contre Europe? L’Union européenne au défi des identités nationales et religieuses de l’Europe orientale, edited by Jöel Kotek, Olivier Gillet, Théo Robichet. Gerpinnes: Editions Quorum SPRL, 1999. Le Petit Robert 2012. Paris: SEJER, 2011. Prévélakis, Georges. “La notion de nation à l’Est et à l’Ouest.” In Europe contre Europe? L’Union européenne au défi des identités nationales et religieuses de l’Europe orientale, edited by Jöel Kotek, Olivier Gillet, Théo Robichet. Gerpinnes: Editions Quorum SPRL, 1999. Remond, Rene. Religie Юi societate în Europa. Secularizarea în secolele al XlX-lea Юi XX 1780-2000. Ia‫܈‬i: Polirom, 2003. Stan, Lavinia and Lucian Turcescu. Religie Юi politică în România postcomunistă. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Curtea Veche, 2010. Stăniloae, Dumitru. “Idealul na‫܊‬ional permanent.” Telegraful român 4 (1949). Stoian, Ion M. Dicаionar religios. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Garamond Publishing House, 1994. ğepelea, Gabriel. “Programul Partidului NaĠional ğărănesc Creútin Democrat.” Dreptatea (2th October 1991). Vosganian, Varujan. Mesajul Dreptei Româneúti. TradiĠie úi modernitate. Bucure‫܈‬ti: Nemira Publishing House, 2001.

Documents Apelul la unitatea Юi demnitatea românească, issued by the Saint Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2010. Barometrul de opinie publică. România mai 2004, issued by the Open Society Foundation, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2004. Barometrul de opinie publică 2005, issued by The Soros Foundation Romania, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2005. Barometrul de opinie publică, issued by The Soros Foundation Romania, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2006.

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Barometrul de opinie publică 1998-2007, issued by The Soros Foundation Romania, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2007. Buletinul Statistic Lunar, 2012, issued by the National Institute of Statistics, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2012. Cifre Юi date despre Biserica Ortodoxă Română 2011, issued by the Romanian Patriarchy, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2011. “ConstituĠia României.” Monitorul Oficial 282 (29th of March 1923). “Constitu‫܊‬ia României.” Monitorul Oficial 48 (27th of February 1938). “Decretul nr. 177 din 4 august 1948 pentru regimul general al cultelor religioase.” Monitorul Oficial 178 (4th of August 1948). Indicatori de dezvoltare durabilă, issued by Institutul Na‫܊‬ional de Statistică, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2011. “Legea nr. 489/2006 privind libertatea religioasă ‫܈‬i regimul general al cultelor.” Monitorul Oficial al României, 1st Part, no. 11 (8.01.2007). Opinion no. 354/2005 CDL-AD (2005), European Commission for Democracy through Law. Recensământul populaаiei Юi al locuinаelor. 18-27 martie 2002, volume IV, issued by The National Institute of Statistics, Bucure‫܈‬ti, 2002. Religion et changement en Europe centrale et orientale. Strassbourg: Conseil de l’Europe, 2002. “Statutul pentru organizarea ‫܈‬i func‫܊‬ionarea Bisericii Ortodoxe Române,” Bucure‫܈‬ti, Patriarhia Română. Valorile românilor, issued by The Romanian Group for the Study of Social Values, newsletter no. 5, Bucure‫܈‬ti (July 2009).



After the fall of the Communist regime in Romania, religion returned to the public space. The Romanian state supported the move, and the issue of the specific place of religion therein remained open to negotiation for more than a decade and a half. A law on religious freedom and the general status of denominations could not be adopted until 2006, as the public institutions involved were unable to reach an agreement with the majority Orthodox Church and the minority denominations on the exact terms of this legislation. Several projects were discussed and dropped. However, when finally adopted, the new law marked a change of perspective: recognised denominations would henceforth become privileged partners of the State on social and educational issues and would be officially recognised as “providers of social services.” These concepts were later developed in a number of bilateral protocols that were to structure ChurchState cooperation in these areas. This study focuses on the relations between the Romanian State and the majority Orthodox Church. Our exclusive focus on the majority denomination is a deliberate choice which does imply, however, that relations between the Orthodox Church and State institutions are representative of the entire dynamics of Church-State relations in postCommunist Romania. The Romanian State’s dealings with the various religious denominations each have their own specificities and should be 1

This work was supported by the strategic grant POSDRU/89/1.5/S/62259, Project “Applied social, human and political sciences” cofinanced by the European Social Fund within the Sectorial Operational Program Human Resources Development 2007-2013.”

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looked at independently. However, as is the case elsewhere in Europe,2 the Romanian public institutions’ relations with religious denominations are, to an extent, determined by the specific configuration of religious affiliation in Romania and their dealings with the majority Church. That is why our analysis may also be considered doubly relevant and worthy of examination. I will start with a brief presentation of the post-communist evolution of Church-State relations in the area of charity or philanthropy and social assistance. I choose not to insist in this paper on the early post-Communist evolution of the situation of Church-State relations in Romania, as it has already been presented elsewhere,3 but focus instead on the latest legal developments in the field. I argue that the legal concept of the “social partnership” between Church and public institutions, as devised in the 2006 law on religious freedom and the general status denominations, and developed in subsequent protocols of cooperation functions as a means for the State to retain significant control over both the social and the educational fields and to reclaim some of its rights of oversight over the operations of religious denominations. A comparative examination of the language used by public institutions and Church bodies to describe and construct the “social partnership” 2

Francesco Margiotta Broglio, “Il fenomeno religioso nel sistema giuridico dell’Unione Europea”, in Religioni e sistemi giuridici. Introduzione al diritto ecclesiastico comparator, ed. Francesco Margiotta Broglio, Cesare Mirabelli, Francesco Onida (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2000), 87-252, demonstrates out that the current diverse configuration of Church-State relations in Europe is in every country based on implicit assumptions generated by each country’s respective confessional structure – and history. See also comments by Francis Messner, “Les relations État-religions dans les pays membres de l’Union Européenne”, in Faculté de Droit et de Science Politique d’Aix-Marseille, Religion, droit et sociétés dans l’Europe communautaire. Actes du XIIIe Colloque de l’Institut de Droit et d’Histoire Religieux (IDHR), Aix-en-Provence, 19-20 mai 1999 (Aix-en-Provence: Presses Universitaires d’Aix-Marseille [Droit et Religions], 2000), 31-47. That is also clearly visible in the Romanian case, where the Church-State discourse has been fundamentally – but not entirely – shaped by the public institutions’ methods and choices in dealing with the majority Orthodox Church. The case for the earlier construction of the model is presented by Paul Lucian Brusanowski, Stat úi Biserică în vechea Românie între 1821-1925 (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2010). For the post-communist period see Iuliana Conovici, Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă: ReconstrucĠia unei identităĠi publice, vol. I-II (ClujNapoca: Eikon [Theologia socialis 8], 2009-2010). 3 Conovici, Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă, vol. II, 546-567.


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

between Church and State helps us understand the distinctive perspectives that these bring to the negotiation table. The discourse used by each of the actors involved in this process in the negotiation of this “social partnership” puts forward their respective agendas. On the other hand, the designation of religious denominations as social services providers and education experts not only induces changes in the public status of religions but, possibly, also in the religious denominations’ own understanding of their place in the public space. Thus, as actors of civil society, religious denominations are endowed with a powerful legitimating argument for their presence in the public sphere. This, however, entails a camouflage of the Church’s transcendent legitimacy, and we argue that this may act as an internal agent of self-secularisation.

Constructing a social role for the Orthodox Church: early 1990s In January 1990, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church asked the provisional government of the Council for National Salvation Front to allow the institution of spiritual assistance (chaplaincy) in social and medical institutions and to allow the Church to operate its own charity system, as it had done before 1948.4 By September 1990, the Holy Synod also withdrew the Romanian State’s right of direct intervention in its internal (religious) affairs. Despite the fact that this type of intervention went against the 150 year tradition of the modern Romanian State, the latter gave up its right to the “control” of religious affairs, confining itself to a more vague supervision and support role, and the rule of State confirmation for the new bishops would still be respected, but representatives of public institutions would no longer be de jure members of any administrative body of the Orthodox Church.5


Decision of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church no. 439/1990, Biserica Ortodoxă Română (BOR), CVIII, no. 11-12, 1990, 97-98. 5 Government Decision no. 939 of May 14, 1990 reorganised the Ministry for Religious Denominations into a State Secretariat, yet still with extensive attributions (detailed comments in Conovici, Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă, vol. I, 86-88). On September 26, 1990 the National Church Assembly confirmed the Holy Synod’s September 25th Decision (BOR, CVIII, no. 11-12, 1990, 62).

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Chaplaincy and the establishment of the Romanian Orthodox Church’s social care system In the same year, several Orthodox associations were established and several were reactivated, such as the “Christiana” social-medical foundation and the National Society of Orthodox Women in Romania, respectively (which had been active primarily in the fields of education and philanthropy during the first half of the XXth century). In 1994-1995, the first central Bureau for social assistance of the Romanian Patriarchy was established, and similar structures were created by all Orthodox bishoprics in order to help supervise and coordinate the Church’s philanthropy and social assistance initiatives. In 1995, a bilateral Protocol of cooperation between the Ministry of Health and the ROC created the legal basis for the institutionalisation of chaplaincy in medical institutions and granted a clearer status to the Orthodox priests that were already active in such establishments. The Protocol also alluded to some charitable functions that chaplains might perform but did not dwell extensively on the topic.6 It did however set the tone by proclaiming that “the presence and the activity of priests in health establishments can only be beneficial” (paragraph 3). In 1997, the Holy Synod provisionally set out norms for the creation of a centralised service of mission and social assistance, dealing with social work and chaplaincy in public institutions. Revised, these regulations were given full normative power in 2001. These set out the frame for a multilevel system of social assistance articulated on the existing Church structures – parishes, deaneries, bishoprics, metropolitan sees, and Patriarchate. The structure followed the specificity of Orthodox ecclesiology, making the parishes and bishoprics the main actors of the process, while deaneries and metropolitan sees, which in the Orthodox Church hold intermediate, administrative functions, were invested mostly with coordination and supervision powers. Other existing Orthodox charitable structures would be either integrated in or linked with the respective local (parish, bishopric, chaplain, etc.) charitable structure. Meanwhile, the official Orthodox discourse on the Church’s social activities progressively shifted from the language of traditional philanthropy/charity to that of social assistance.


Protocol of cooperation between the Romanian Patriarchy and the Ministry of Health, March 1995, in Hotărâri ale Sfântului Sinod al Bisericii Ortodoxe Române referitoare la activitatea bisericească (1986-2002) (GalaĠi: Editura Episcopiei Dunării de Jos, 2003), 45-48.


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

While the legal basis for Church-State relations remained precarious, the Romanian Orthodox Church continued its engagement with public institutions, as well as with various NGOs and private businesses on several pressing social issues, such as migration and human trafficking (2001), aiding Roma survivors and families of victims of the Holocaust (2001), AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns (2003, 2005), domestic violence (2005), children’s rights (2005), etc.7 Successive cooperation projects on these issues involved the Patriarchate and the various Church structures in a wide variety of social campaigns.8 The projects also helped raise awareness about these various issues within the Church itself and even occasionally change some misguided assumptions held by part of its clergy, such as in the case of the 2003 AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns.

Partnership and the normalisation years Meanwhile, the legal process for a new Law on the status of denominations was slowly moving forward. This project, which eventually became Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general status of denominations, while preserving the existing framework of Church-State relations, introduced several new concepts that cast recognised denominations in a new public role. Drawing on various European models of Church-State relations, the new Law acknowledged these religious denominations as “public-utility legal entities” (art. 8. (1)). Furthermore, it helped legally construct their social role: they were to be potential partners of the State “in domains of common interest” (art. 9 (5)) and recognised “providers of social services” (art. 10 (7)). Representatives of religious denominations could participate “as guests” in debates over legislation on “educational, social, and national heritage issues.” Furthermore, they were acknowledged as “factors of social peace” (art. 7. (1)). Thus, the Romanian State committed itself to “supporting” religious denominations in their social role.9 7

Conovici, Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă, vol. II, 565-567. The establishment of bilateral Protocols of cooperation on such topics was not specific to Orthodox Church-affiliated structures. Such a document was signed, for example, in 2001 (renewed 2005) between the Catholic, Vatican-owned Children’s hospital “Bambino Gesù” and the Ministry of Health and the Family in Romania in the field of paediatric sanitary assistance ( The hospital was also involved in AIDS prevention/awareness campaigns. 9 Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general status of denominations, online at: (accessed: June, 2012) 8

Iuliana Conovici


“Social partnership” between recognised denominations and the State would henceforth become the key concept of Church-State relations in social and medical areas. It signified an official recognition of the social role of religious denominations and created new possibilities of cooperation between Church and State in public areas. In the following years, it would lead to the elaboration of a new framework for Church-State cooperation in public areas and also brought Church-State relations into a “normalisation” period. On October 2nd, 2007, a new 10-year protocol for cooperation in the field of social inclusion10 was established between the Romanian Government and the Romanian Patriarchy. The two institutions announced their intention to work together in promoting various measures for the social inclusion of the disadvantaged as part of the “national mechanism for the promotion of social inclusion” (“Objectives”). The text signified the State’s intent to “promote social dialogue”, i.e. to involve the Church in consultations on prospective legislation in the field (the Government’s obligation, points 1. a, b and c), explicitly casting the Church as a civil society institution to facilitate religious assistance in social assistance institutions (1 f) and to involve Church-based organisations and personnel in its social inclusion projects and activities (1 g, h ). On the other hand, the Church fully took on its “social dialogue partnership” with the State (points 2. a, b, c) and articulated its role as a resource and information centre and facilitator (2 d, h, i), as well as a direct partner/participant (through the Church-based institutions) in the States’ social inclusion programs (2 e, f, g). Though the text had probably been discussed beforehand, the Protocol was the first tangible result of the newly instated (September 30th) Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) of the Romanian Orthodox Church and has been taken by the mass-media to signify the latter’s commitment to a more active involvement of the Church in the social field. This perspective would be further reinforced the following year, in July 2008, by the signature of another 10-year Protocol of cooperation,11 this time in the field of social assistance proper, by the Romanian Ministry of Health and the Romanian Patriarchy. The protocol was to function, technically, as an extension of the 1995 document on chaplaincy, yet it brought forth quite a new concept. It established rules for cooperation and 10 Online at: ntropica_2.html (accessed: June, 2012). 11 Online at: (accessed: June, 2012).


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

the creation of partnerships and common programs, as implied in Law 489/2006. The document was drafted in a socio-medical jargon whose only concession to the theological language proper was an acknowledgement of a “spiritual” dimension of health, alongside the “physical, psychological and social” ones. Though medical and social assistance were “integrated” with spiritual assistance as well, the latter was only a marginal institutional addition to the State’s efforts to integrate the first two. Its aims were to “create a healthy community” by preventive actions, awareness building, and direct action against health-damaging practices. The protocol had a threefold dimension. The first was strictly medical and social; the Church would support, by its own means and personnel, a number of the State’s healthcare and welfare programs and projects (education for health, the environment, vaccination campaigns, the promotion of regular medical examination programs, preventive and active measures in calamity situations, as well as social counselling, development of voluntary work, social assistance and employment support for disadvantaged persons and families, etc.). The second, like the 2007 Protocol, was to set the rules for making the Church a “social dialogue” in the field of social and medical assistance – social facilitator, resource and information centre, etc., as well as to help it build the institutional capacities of Church-based organisations to get involved in social-medical programs and projects sponsored or initiated by the state (by project management and fundraising training, the establishment of good practices, etc.) on a national as well as on a local level. The third practical purpose of the protocol was to complete the institutional framework for chaplaincy in State institutions by extending it explicitly to social assistance and also by explicitly correlating public support for spiritual assistance in these institutions with a “respect of fundamental rights and religious freedom” clause. The same year, the new Statute of the ROC functioned as a “normalisation” tool within the Orthodox Church itself by making the social assistance network an integral part of the organisation and functioning of the Church itself and by acknowledging its fragmented character. Thus, the Church’s social assistance dimension was to include the top-down capillary network introduced in 2001, the 2005-created Philanthropia Federation (which aimed to federate Orthodox charitable associations) and the faith-based and Church-based Orthodox charitable associations and foundations that had not yet become a part of either.12 12

English version available online at:

Iuliana Conovici


Despite the reorientation of State-Church cooperation in the field of social and medical assistance to include wider information, education and prevention components, direct aid has remained an integral and, indeed, a crucial part of the Church’s social work. Thus, for example, in July 2010, the Holy Synod adopted a “Pastoral and social program for a time of economic crisis” that was almost entirely focused on direct aid to lowincome families (senior citizens and families with numerous children) and persons (needy medical patients).13 It addressed first and foremost the need to meet basic needs of these categories.

Recent developments – current debates In September 2009, several Romanian MPs proposed a Law project that was effectively to extend the framework of partnership between the ROC and the State in the field of social services to all recognised religious denominations. Furthermore, the proposal was to set limits to public funding of common projects (up to 80%) and to devolve considerable decisional authority for these cooperation projects to local authorities. Though it was an initiative by members of the governing party (PDL), the projects seems to have been drawn up without consultation of the interested religious denominations.14 In 2011, the project was adopted by the Senate and then by the Chamber of Deputies (there with 254 votes for, 7 against and 5 abstaining) and received the support of MPs of at least the two largest parties (PDL, PSD), but apparently without the Government’s cooperation.15 At this point, both the Romanian Patriarchate and several civil society actors seemingly became aware of the project and issued critical public statements on the project.16 (accessed: June, 2012). 13 Notification of the Romanian Patriarchy to the Metropolitan centres, available online at: (accessed: June, 2012). 14 At least, as it would later emerge, the Catholic Church had not been consulted on the project, and, considering the ulterior reactions of the Romanian Patriarchy, neither had the Orthodox Church (see references below, n. 16). 15 As indicated in the Project’s legislative process file, online at (accessed: June, 2012), the Government gave a negative assessment of the project, largely on terminological grounds. 16 On civil society reactions, but also reactions from politicians and theologians, see: riat-stat-biserica-vezi-disputa-tema-unei-legi-mize-mari-care-ajunge-presedintele-


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

Thus, when the law was sent to the President of Romania for promulgation, the latter required a re-examination of the project by the Parliament on the grounds that it introduced discriminations in the financing of cooperative projects and the danger of politicising financing.17 The terminology of the project was also inadequate; it repeatedly mentioned “the Church”, while in fact it was referring to all recognised religious denominations. This misled some critics of the project into believing that it had been construed to benefit only the Romanian Orthodox Church and to accuse the instatement of an Orthodox “monopoly” in the field.18 Under fire from all sides and lost in the political conflict that almost paralysed the country, the law project now seems most likely to fail. Adopted in 2010, a law on public-private partnerships, based on a PDL proposal, made no reference to religious denominations as possible private partners (Law 178/2010) of the State, nor did, the following year, a project of law of the social entrepreneur. More directly connected to social assistance, several law projects introduced in 2011 on contracting social services (PL 421-x /20.06/2011), on the organisation and functioning of social services (PL-x 558/24.10.2011), and the Government’s proposal for a law on social assistance (Law 292/2011) all mentioned religious denominations as partners of the Government in its social assistance projects. Less restrictive than the abovementioned 2009 law proposal, the law on social assistance did not set clear limits to the financing of cooperative projects. For specific objectives, on local, departmental and national levels, all authorities were authorised to provide funding for social assistance basescu-pentru-promulgare-cine-contesta.htm (June, 2012), and also the Address of H. B. Patriarch Daniel to Gyorgy Frunda, President of the Commission for Human Rights, Religious Denominations and Minorities of the Senate, no. 2972 of May 29, 2011, online at elui_icomisiei_pentru_drepturile_omului_culte_si_minoritatii_a_senatului_romani eib_3365.html (accessed: June, 2012). 17 See the President’s letter requesting the law to be re-examined by the Parliament, online at: (accessed: June, 2012). 18 An extensive critique of the project’s terminology is to be found is in the Government’s opinion on the legislative project (online at, accessed: June, 2012), but also in the abovementioned address of the Patriarchy. The latter pointed, for example that such terms appeared to exclude the Jewish and Muslim denominations.

Iuliana Conovici


projects. The law on social assistance (later completed by Law 197/2012 on guaranteeing the quality of social services) fully and distinctly acknowledged the status of Church-based organisations as providers of social services to be organised under the same legal framework as other providers.19 The law managed to preserve both a special acknowledgment of the social work function of religious denominations and to avoid accusations of discrimination that had marred the 2009 project. In this respect, it may function as a further tool of legal normalisation of the status of religions in the field of social and medical assistance. Last, but not least, in April 2012, a new 3-year (renewable) Protocol signed by the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth, and Sports, the Romanian Patriarchy and the Ministry of Administration and the Interior gave the Romanian Orthodox Church the possibility of using closed school buildings for educational (mostly religious and human rightsrelated education) and “philanthropic” purposes.20 The text broke with the practice of a highly bureaucratic and technical jargon in previous documents in favour of a values-charged, normative language. Thus, the main goal of the protocol was to “the formation of youths in the spirit of Christian values, by the promotion of national and universal culture and by stimulating inter-cultural and inter-confessional dialogue.” “Dignity, understanding, and the respect of human rights,” solidarity and communion, the formation of good social and moral attitudes and behaviours, as well as “the reduction of the levels of tolerance towards pseudo-values and towards school abandonment” were among the document’s main objectives. The Church would be allowed, under certain conditions, the use of the closed school facilities, ensuring their maintenance, for a number of purposes – from catechetical to the generic educational and recreational activities. Surprisingly, though, this Protocol drew a lot less public attention than previously discussed projects.

Social partnership: a few remarks on State and Church discourses The texts of the successive Protocols of cooperation, as well as the opinions expressed by various public and ecclesiastical actors, testify that “social partnership” is a field of encounter between two types of 19

The Law projects (text and legislative process) were consulted via the Chamber of Deputies’ legislative database, online at 20 Online at (accessed: June, 2012).


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

(occasionally contrasting) discourses. Both are meant to support and give added value and legitimacy to this partnership, but they are not always easy to harmonise. The fundamental values fostered by the State are human rights, tolerance, and non-discrimination, as well as the principle of subsidiarity. Public discourse revolves around these first and foremost, and practically all the laws and protocols of cooperation include references to these overarching principles. The discourse of the public institutions focuses on subsidiarity; it is by virtue of these principles that the State decides to devolve some of its previously held responsibilities in the field of medical and social assistance, social inclusion, etc. to private bodies – including religious institutions. This is explicitly recalled, for example, in the 2011 Law on social assistance: art. 3 (4) mentions the “transfer [by the central administration] of the attributions and financial means necessary to social assistance actions [...] to the local public authorities and to the civil society, including the religious denominations recognised by law.” On a more practical level, in public institutions’ discourse, we also register a change of focus from direct aid and institutionalized assistance to prevention and prophylactic measures, with an emphasis on information and education measures, raising awareness campaigns, local community development, etc. The protocols do recognise the value of a spiritual dimension added to social and medical care, and that is the one constant of bilateral documents signed by State and ecclesiastical institutions throughout the postcommunist period. They also implicitly acknowledge the Church as a welfare expert by virtue of its traditional charity dimension. The language of this recognition remains, however, reserved, and the protocols do not inquire indepth on the nature of the Church’s expertise and on the significance of this spiritual dimension. Orthodox Church representatives, on the other hand, started by framing its commitment to social involvement in the traditional discourse on the fundamental charitable mission of the Church: “The Church’s involvement in social and medical assistance is at the same time a spiritual vocation and a practical necessity. The social work of the Church originates with the Christ’s Gospel of love for all people and from the Holy Liturgy of the Church, where Christ’s merciful and sacrificial love for the salvation of the world is celebrated. [...] In the sick, the poor, the hungry, the naked man, humiliated or deprived of freedom, Christ

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Himself is spiritually [tainic] present, the all-loving, who calls us to be merciful like our Father in Heaven.”21

In that sense, the Church’s social work is seen as an intrinsic part of its mission, as part of a deliberate commitment of the Church – and of individual Christians – to serve their fellow men, by seeing in them a living image of Christ. It is in this commitment that the charitable dimension of the Church should be grounded.22 To that purpose, the principle of subsidiarity, which emerges in ecclesiastical language in the 2000s, is translated as a need for the Church to play a “support” role to the State that, in its turn, needs to help the Church in its mission. In a formula that summarised the Orthodox Church’s entire approach on Church-State relations, (then) Metropolitan Daniel Ciobotea of Moldova and Bucovina argued that: “The Church is not actually a State institution, nor is it to be a substitute to the State, but, while preserving its identity and its own, unmistakable identity and vocation, it cooperates with the State for the common good.”23

The peculiarity of the Church-based system of social care, which combined medical and spiritual assistance in order to heal the human person in its entirety, is presented as the key element adding value to Church-based initiatives. As Patriarch Daniel argued in 2007, “the major contribution of the Church must be to emphasise the connexion between spiritual life and social activity.”24 The more modern argument of the Church’s charitable service as “service to the Nation” – a political as well as a spiritual commitment – played a key role in supporting its social commitment particularly in the 1990s. It was, for example, part of the argumentation in the 1995 Protocol 21 Address of H.B. Patriarch Daniel on the occasion of the signing of the 2008 Protocol on social and medical partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, July 24, 2008, in Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Misiune pentru mântuire. Lucrarea Bisericii în societate (Bucureúti: Basilica, 2009), 485. 22 Metropolitan Bartolomeu (Anania) of Cluj, “Iisus Hristos se identifică cu suferindul úi cu suferinĠa în decursul istoriei” (2007, sermon at the Ascension of Christ), Mitropolitul Bartolomeu, CorupĠia spirituală. Texte social-teologice (ClujNapoca: Eikon, 2012), 144-146. 23 “Lumină de profesori úi duhovnici” (interview, 2005), in Daniel, Mitropolitul Moldovei úi Bucovinei, Dăruire úi dăinuire. Raze úi chipuri de lumină din istoria úi spiritualitatea românilor (Iaúi: Trinitas, 2005), 296. 24 Address of His Beatitude, Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) at the signature of the 2007 Protocol of cooperation between the Romanian Government and the Patriarchy, October 2, 2007, in Patriarch Daniel, Misiune pentru mântuire, 382.


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

between the Romanian Patriarchy and the Ministry of Health, which implicitly refers to it when recalling “the mission of the Church in the social life of the people.”25 It was never entirely abandoned and reemerged again in the second half of the 2000s, when the Orthodox Church eventually accepted to privatise (but not de-emphasise) its claim to the status of a “national Church.” Yet, as it has been shown elsewhere, Church discourse on service to the nation would be reserved more and more to contexts where references to the nation would still be de rigueur: national and cultural celebrations, chaplaincy in the military, etc., or where the national connexion played a crucial role in the construction of a project – such as the new Cathedral in Bucure‫܈‬ti.26 To some extent, this discourse was disconnected from that of the Church’s social and medical service, which is rather more frequently connected to precepts of the Gospel and to the philanthropic tradition of the Church itself. The common ground for Church and State discourse on social and medical care would eventually prove to be the human rights discourse, progressively and more and more fully endorsed by the Orthodox authorities. It was however recast in the theological mould of Orthodox anthropology.27 This endorsement of the human rights discourse, as well as the State’s commitment to support the Church’s involvement in social projects, also made it easier for Orthodox representatives to accept the discursive shift from direct aid and care to prevention, education, and information, though without entirely leaving aside the first.


See n. 6. Conovici, Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă, vol I, 303-355 and vol. II, 546550. 27 A transcendental anchoring of human rights in God’s plan for the humanity He made in His image is added; this essentially changes the nature of the human rights discourse (Conovici, Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă, vol. I, 171-210. This phenomenon has also been documented for the Russian Orthodox Church (for example in Alexander Agadjanian, Russian Orthodox Vision of Human Rights: Recent Documents and Their Significance, Erfurter Vorträge des Orthodoxen Christentums 7 (Erfurt, 2008), as well as in other Orthodox Churches, though some were more prudent than others in endorsing it. As Evert van der Zweerde argued in “Uneasy Alliances. Liberal, Religious and Philosophical Human Rights Discourse”, in Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights, eds. Alfons Brüning (Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Eastern Christian Studies 13, 2012), 35-67, this places secular and faith-grounded human rights discourses in tension, but does not make them incompatible, though they have different implications in some specific areas. 26

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In fact, the key question that remained unresolved throughout the postCommunist period was this: if religious denominations were to play a role in the public space, what would this place be, and how would the Romanian State be able to acknowledge it? Were religious denominations, and particularly the Orthodox Church, to be considered public institutions, members of the civil society, or were they to be treated as a separate category? At the end of the 1990s, Alexandru DuĠu had correctly identified this ambiguity and noted that the Church was reconstructing its place somewhere “between the State and the civil society.”28 The tension between these various perspectives is to this day still unresolved. On the one hand, Orthodox Church representatives appear to prefer religious denominations to be treated separately from the (rest of) civil society. Thus, in the Address of H. B. Patriarch Daniel no. 2972 of May 29, 2011 to the Senate concerning the 2009 Law project on partnership between Church and State, the Patriarch mentioned as one of the merits of the project the fact that it made “a clear distinction between the social activities of religious denominations and the social activities of NGOs, which are not as durable in time, are not as popular with the masses and do not express a strong spiritual conviction, since their activity is not based on a spiritual experience that has become a tradition.”29

On the other hand, in the legal discourse, notably since the adoption of the Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general status of denominations, there is an increasing tendency to treat religious institutions as a part of civil society – though still a distinct one. This tendency is most evident in the 2011 Law on social assistance.

Functions, implications and consequences of the concept of social partnership The price of the development of religious denominations as legitimate actors in the public sphere seems to pass by their partial redefinition/recasting as civil society actors and downplay religious beliefs as such. Religious actors are thereby defined as social actors only inasmuch as they may demonstrate their public “usefulness.”


Alexandru DuĠu, Ideea de Europa úi evoluĠia conútiinĠei europene (Bucureúti: All Educational, 1999), 222. 29 See n. 16.


The “Social Partnership” between Church and State

In that respect, the development of Church-State partnerships in the area of social care and welfare also functions as a tool of mutual legitimation. Thus, by engaging in social projects, the Church may confirm its “social utility” and justify, in part, the public funding of Church-based projects and, indirectly, of religious institutions in general as a source and laboratory of social projects and promoter of socially beneficial values, such as human rights and solidarity. This also enables the Church to develop and justify in terms of social utility its own advocacy networks and to use its status as a privileged partner of the State in social projects as an argument for the development of its own public intervention capacities. The same practices of partnership enable State institutions to demonstrate their own capacity to act in partnership with institutions of civil society: a practice of governance deemed more “European” and more in line with “progressive” developments in the field. Thus, the consultation of religious denominations on specific points of legislation also becomes a part of the same effort of “Europeanisation” and “modernisation” of Romanian practices of government. However, one should note that, though in this relation the Romanian Orthodox Church is defined and legally constructed as a partner of the State, the Church’s competence in the legal sphere remains limited; the Church is not necessarily called upon to examine legislation (consultation of religious denominations is not mandatory for socio-medical legal projects but only possible), and is only one of a plurality of the (social and political) actors involved. It is seldom, if ever, the decisive one. I also argue that it further entangles Church and State in a precarious relationship. The practice of bilateral protocols and bilateral negotiations between State institutions and the various religious denominations make it difficult to establish coherent practices in the field of social Church-State partnerships. A legal effort to give a common legal grounding to these practices – the 2007 Law project – has stumbled into legal difficulties and is likely to be abandoned. The result of this evolution is the perpetuation of a curious tension between the de-privatization of the Church and a sort of an implicit privatization of belief. While the Church is institutionally ever more present and active in the sphere of social and medical care, the negotiation of its status in this area is conducted in an ever more secular and religiousvalues-free language. The Church is thus encouraged to keep its own religious language and reflection for internal use only and to articulate its role in the public sphere in the latter’s dominant jargon.

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Furthermore, the multiplication of Church-State partnerships also has more practical and equally contrasting economic consequences. As most programs, projects and social actions conducted in partnerships between State and Church institutions are usually undertaken with a significant portion of public funding, this very funding functions both as a means of empowerment for the religious denominations that may thus expand their field of action and as means of perpetuating control by the State over the Church’s public actions. Thus, while developing its own capacities, the encouragement and perpetuation of public funding for Church or ChurchState projects may also stimulate a perpetuation of a degree of financial dependence of the Church on the State for its social action. Finally, the return and growing re-installation of the Church in the public sphere also induces it to accelerate its ongoing internal professionalization and bureaucratisation process that should enable it to efficiently fulfil its newly-acquired public role. Indeed, the notion of efficiency is a recurrent theme in the Patriarch’s discourse when discussing partnership between Church and State in the social and medical fields.30 But, as Grace Davie has convincingly argued, that may also function as a factor of implicit organizational secularization of the Church itself.31 (Then) Metropolitan Daniel Ciobotea, in a 2005 interview, had acknowledged this possibility as he warned against the danger for the Church of letting itself be seduced by passing fads and fashions in contemporary society. He insisted that “the aim of the true Christian mission is bringing the world into the Church, and not the secularisation of the Church.”32 However, recent developments prove that this tension remains unresolved.

References Address of H. B. Patriarch Daniel to Gyorgy Frunda, President of the Commission for Human Rights, Religious Denominations and Minorities of the Senate, no. 2972 of May 29, 2011, online at e_presedintelui_icomisiei_pentru_drepturile_omului_culte_si_minorita tii_a_senatului_romanieib_3365.html (accessed June 2012). 30 For example in his addresses on the occasion of the signature of the 2007 and 2008 Protocols (see nn. 18, 21). 31 Grace Davie, Religion in Modern Europe. A Memory Mutates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 32 Metropolitan Daniel, “Lumină de profesori úi duhovnici”, 293.


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Agadjanian, Alexander. Russian Orthodox Vision of Human Rights: Recent Documents and Their Significance, Erfurter Vorträge des Orthodoxen Christentums 7, Erfurt, 2008. Bartolomeu, Mitropolitul. CorupĠia spirituală. Texte social-teologice. Cluj-Napoca: Eikon, 2012. Brusanowski, Paul Lucian. Stat úi Biserică în vechea Românie între 18211925. Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2010. Conovici, Iuliana. Ortodoxia în România postcomunistă: ReconstrucĠia unei identităĠi publice. Vol. I-II, Cluj-Napoca: Eikon [Theologia socialis 8], 2009-2010. Daniel, Metropolitan of Moldova and Bucovina. Dăruire úi dăinuire. Raze úi chipuri de lumină din istoria úi spiritualitatea românilor. Iaúi: Trinitas, 2005. Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Misiune pentru mântuire. Lucrarea Bisericii în societate, Bucureúti: Basilica, 2009. Davie, Grace. Religion in Modern Europe. A Memory Mutates. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. DuĠu, Alexandru. Ideea de Europa úi evoluĠia conútiinĠei europene. Bucureúti: All Educational, 1999. Hotărâri ale Sfântului Sinod al Bisericii Ortodoxe Române referitoare la activitatea bisericească (1986-2002). GalaĠi: Editura Episcopiei Dunării de Jos, 2003. Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general status of denominations, online at: (accessed: June, 2012) Margiotta, Broglio; Cesare Mirabelli Francesco; Onida Francesco. Religioni e sistemi giuridici. Introduzione al diritto ecclesiastico comparator. Bologna: Il Mulino, 2000. Messner, Francis. “Les relations État-religions dans les pays membres de l’Union Européenne.” In Faculté de Droit et de Science Politique d’Aix-Marseille, Religion, droit et sociétés dans l’Europe communautaire. Actes du XIIIe Colloque de l’Institut de Droit et d’Histoire Religieux (IDHR), Aix-en-Provence, 19-20 mai 1999. Aixen-Provence: Presses Universitaires d’Aix-Marseille [Droit et Religions], 2000. Pastoral and social program for a time of economic crisis, df (accessed: June, 2012). Protocol of cooperation in the field of social inclusion between the Romanian Government and the Romanian Patriarchy (2007),

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325 _social_filantropica_2.html (accessed: June, 2012). Protocol of cooperation on the „Social and Medical Assistance” Partnership (2008), (accessed: June, 2012). Protocol on the collaboration between the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports, the Romanian Patriarchy and the Ministry of Administration and the Interior, for the use in the interests of pupils of schools that were closed through the merging process (2012), (accessed: June, 2012). Statutes for the organisation and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church, (accessed: June, 2012). van der Zweerde, Evert. “Uneasy Alliances. Liberal, Religious and Philosophical Human Rights Discourse.” In Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights, edited by Alfons Brüning, Evert van der Zweerde. Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Eastern Christian Studies 13, 2012.

Internet sources The legislative database on the website of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies,