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Christian Church and Totalitarian Governments in Slovakia

Michal Valo and Katarina Valcova


College Lutheran Church April 14, 2013

Geography of Slovakia

Area: 18.842 sq mi Population: 5.4 mil. Capital city: Bratislava (442.000 citizens) GDP per capita: cca. $8.700 USD Gross salary averg.: $13.500 USD Unemployment: 13.9%; currency: EUR agriculture: 3.8%; industry: 35.5%; services: 69.4% (2011 est.)

Religious Landscape in Slovakia

Roman Catholics: 69% Lutherans: 7% Greek Catholics: 4% Reformed: 2% Russian Orthodox: 1% Evangelical: 1% Atheist or agnostic: 16%

Info based on the nation-wide census of 2001


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Post-Totalitarian situation
In some respects, life in a post-communist society resembles the life of Israelites roaming the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. A confused, insecure freedom can go hand in hand with the loss of established social securities. In Slovakia, the rather abrupt switch from a government-directed to a free-market economy meant soaring unemployment and high inflation.

Post-Totalitarian situation
With little or no democratic experience and awareness of political responsibilities, Slovak people often became puzzled about how to use their new freedom, and how to survive in the new system. As a consequence, many have looked back with nostalgic feelings about how easy, safe, and stable (relatively speaking) life was under communism 20 years ago.

Post-Totalitarian situation
Economical structures and cultural patterns underwent great shifts, and along with them, social stratification and general working habits also changed. But worst of all, peoples minds their consciences, attitudes, values, their ways of thinking about the world were strongly affected.

The burden of history in Slovakia


There are four major historical struggles influencing people to the present day:

The inequities from the time of the Reformation and Counter-reformation (16th -18th century) The ethnic oppression of the Hungarian empire against the Slovaks (19th century) The era of Nazi occupation during the WWII (1939-1945) The era of totalitarian regime under the communist rule (1948-1989)

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Post-Totalitarian situation
Nazism (1939-1945) and Communism (1948-1990) deeply impacted the soul of the Slovak nation. The extreme right was replaced by the extreme left--the dictatorship of one race was followed by the dictatorship of one class (represented by one party).

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Radically opposite and yet much alike Nazism

Communism

Hate of race(s) Struggle for pure race and more living space A Will to dominate and rule the weaker nations and races by means of war
Cruelty employed to purify society (ridding it of Jews) and win the war

Hate of class(es) Struggle for pure, classless society and equality A Will to change the current socio-economic system by means of revolution Cruelty employed to purify society (ridding it of capitalists and aristocracy) and win the revolution
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Radically opposite and yet much alike Nazism

Communism

Totalitarian system of political government A more clearly targeted oppression and terror, leaving space for some common sense order in the society A certain respect for the value of human life (unless one was a Jew), certain individual freedoms kept in place

Totalitarian system of political government Arbitrary oppression and terror (anyone could be labeled an enemy of the state) with almost no room for justice No respect for the value of individual human lives, only the masses of the workers and the party regarded as valuable
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Radically opposite and yet much alike Nazism

Communism

Possession of individual property viewed as legitimate and free enterprise encouraged

Victims: more than 22 million in the Soviet Union (cca. 60 million people died around the globe as a result of WWII)

Possession of individual property seen as a potential source of alienation (on the individual level) and evil (on the social level); property could be confiscated if it benefited the state Victims: more than 100 million and counting

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Radically opposite and yet much alike Nazism

Communism

All democratic societies are disgusted with Nazism, depicting it (rightly so!) as a demonic evil; The swastika symbol (a Nazi and fascist symbol formed by a Greek cross with the four ends of the arms bent in a clockwise direction) forbidden from public display

The Stalinist type of terror is officially condemned but not mentioned as often Communist symbols are legal in most countries (with the exception of Poland) and communist parties are often in the parliament or even, in some cases, in a coalition-government (typical mostly for the postcommunist societies).

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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism

Due to its adoration of the power to dominate, and its emphasis on the connection of blood and the soil (nationalistic principle based on racism), Nazism can be described as a renewal of paganism in traditionally Christian European culture. It is a coherent system, a worldview that uses racial chauvinism, social Darwinism and nihilistic existentialism to create the idea of a superhuman the bermensch.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism

There has been competition by the human races in the history of the world to gain adequate Lebensraum (living space). Wars, in this struggle, are the necessary and inevitable mediators of progress understood in terms of a social evolution based on the advancement of one particular race over against other, inferior races. The will and ability of one dominant race to rule and subdue other (inferior) races is a logical and legitimate development.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism

A persons identity under this neo-pagan ideology is an illusion until he or she finds identity in a nation (Volk). This nation, comprised of individuals of pure, that is, German blood, is the new god to whom much has to be sacrificed. Individual human rights are illusory, or even dangerous, whereas propaganda and manipulation of the masses are useful tools in promoting the well being of a nation/race.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism


A summary of Gene Edward Veiths well written book Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo Christian Worldview could be presented in the following points: If the term human person is an illusion, everyone had better find their identity in a Volksstaat (people state); if society creates an individual then let it be and let all the respect toward human rights be substituted by propaganda; let it manipulate humans and make them into what we (the government) want.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism


If it is power alone that stands behind all of the institutions, let us take this power. If there is no overarching truth valid for all people, if race is the determining value, let us evaluate all of the ideas in the light of the racial interests and usefulness; If societies are in essence racial (racially based), let us be racists and let us try to rule over other races and people.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism


Slovak president Jozef Tiso signed a mutual agreement with Hitler, according to which the German empire takes over the defense of political autonomy and territorial integrity of Slovak republic. The price for this protection was a total compliance of the foreign policy with Germany, including a military alliance.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism


Domestic policy in Slovakia was shaped according to the wishes of Germany. This included the infamous discrimination against Jews. At least 70 out of 90 thousand Jews were deported to concentration camps from Slovakia between 1942-45. A vast majority of them never came back

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Totalitarianism of the extreme right: Nazism


Most of Slovak society, including the church, accepted the regime as a smaller evil compared to direct occupation by the Nazis. However, face to face with the atrocities of dehumanization and death in the concentration camps that the Slovak regime became part of in its alliance with Germany, smaller evil became just a plain EVIL at its worst. The haunting effects of this era can be felt in our society even today.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism Factors contributing to its rise and power
1. 2. 3. 4.

Capitalist greed Economic imbalances and exploitation, debasement of humans Horrors of WWI/colonialism Post-war (colonial) economic and social misery Myth of the inevitable and invincible Revolution (represented the Party and its Army Red Army); Myth of the successes of Russian planned economy and happy society
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism Factors contributing to its rise and power
5. 6.

7.

Desperate hopes/dreams of desperate people (educated and uneducated) Exploitation of disasters (economic, natural, military) by solidifying the Partys position in blaming real or fabricated enemies art of propaganda Terror of the secret police and effective, institutionalized brainwashing art of propaganda
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism Factors contributing to its rise and power
8.

9.

10.

Isolation of the Soviet regime from outer influences and very limited mobility of its population Victorious fight against Nazism in 1940s Unwillingness/inability of the West to interfere

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism working methods A violent revolution that will bring about the redistribution of wealth through nationalization of most private property, and the consequent dictatorship of the proletariat (which in reality turned out to be the despicable terror of a ruling communist politburo as helped by secret police) will achieve the goal of a just, classless society.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism working methods Taking history into their own hands, the revolutionaries regain their misappropriated possessions and create their own destiny. Marx thought that he had found the scientific key to the riddle of history. His new science of revolution was not founded idealistically on a moral appeal to conscience, but on the scientific truth about human history.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism working methods Communists had very little use for or appreciation of the dignity and value of an individual human being (individual human life as such). The Marxist ideological writings always speak about the masses, the classes, the proletariat and the future happiness of the classless society. Yet never does this ideology uphold any value for the individual human person, one with intrinsic, inalienable rights and freedoms.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism working methods Hence, for example, the freedoms of: 1) expression; 2) conscience/religion (beliefs); 3) assembly; 4) mobility (freely choosing a place to visit or live); 5) possession of personal property are not valued or even permitted by the communist ideology.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism working methods The reason why is clear. If permitted, they would necessarily erode the political system, expose its weaknesses (and crimes!) and cause it to crumble. We could see this after Gorbachev announced and implemented the new policies of Glasnost and Perestroika in the former Soviet Union.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences This secular ideology has its own salvation history, understood in pseudo-religious terms, which makes man into a potentially free, divine agent, who creates his own history and destiny in the process of overcoming alienation and overpowering nature. In Marxism, the radical program for human liberation directly follows upon a refusal of the First Commandment.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences From this fundamental conviction, grave consequences follow on the level of personal ethics. According to the ethics of the revolutionary praxis, the success of the revolution becomes the highest good for the Marxists.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences Coercive atheization becomes mandatory. In order to build a kingdom of righteousness on earth it is necessary to root out from the mind of humanity the illusory hope of a kingdom of bliss in heaven above. The metaphysical posit that man is the highest being for man is no epiphenomenon, but really the act of initial faith out of which Marxist rationality proceeds (Hinlicky)

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences Marxism made people uncommonly cruel and selfish and committed enormous, monstrous crimes because of a moral illusion peculiar to it: its consequent, systematic atheism. It was precisely as a promise of post-theistic redemption that Marxism worked its unprecedented evils. (Hinlicky)

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences The fanatical, messianic self-understanding of Marxism as the redemptive key to the riddle of history made Marxists especially imperceptive of their own sins. Indeed revolutionary morality bestowed on Marxists a good conscience about behavior that from outside the all-absorbing world of Marxism looks, and surely is, sheerly sadistic. (Hinlicky)
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences The success of the revolution is our highest good this was the guiding ethical light. Marxism was uniquely destructive of civic virtue because of its illusions about ushering in a new order of the ages. These illusions, atheistic in content, were the source of its actual use, or rather systematic abuse, of the coercive powers of the state. Paul Hinlicky, The Destruction of Civic Virtue
[online], http://www.roanoke.edu/religion/Hinlicky/Marxism.htm.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences


The very ideology which wanted to overcome human alienation and liberate humanity for creative, social existence instead raped the environment in massive, grandiose acts of mindless industrialization, imposed cultural uniformity of the most deadening kind, debased the understanding of public life to that of animals fighting for survival in a world of total class warfare, drove citizens to wall themselves off psychologically from the absurd world around them. (Hinlicky, Ibid.)
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism disastrous consequences A sobering account of the communist casualties throughout the 20th century speaks for itself: U.S.S.R.: 20 million deaths; China: 65 million deaths; Vietnam: 1 million deaths; North Korea: 2 million deaths; Cambodia: 2 million deaths; Eastern Europe: 1 million deaths; Latin America: 150,000 deaths; Africa: 1.7 million deaths; Afghanistan: 1.5 million deaths; The international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power: about 10,000 deaths.

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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism concluding remarks Social Empathy may be something communism can be praised for! The communist type of social empathy, however, does not give birth to a solid analysis of conditions on an economic and political level. The root of the problem lies in the intrinsic ego-centrism of human beings as individual members of a given society.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism concluding remarks This alienation of human ego from necessary altruistic social interactions cannot be overcome by the nationalization of private property in a state regulated economy under the dictatorship of the Proletariat. A change in social conditions and economic structures does not automatically bring a change of human nature from egocentric to altruistic outlook.
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Totalitarianism of the extreme left: Communism concluding remarks


It is not a poor implementation of an otherwise wonderful idea that worldwide caused the death of over 100 million people. Communists worldwide implemented the main doctrines of the ideology permanent class struggle; violent revolution; dictatorship of the proletariat. But such doctrines caused millions of dead, impoverished, displaced people, all the result of devastated economies, cultures and minds.
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Living in a totalitarian society


How would a world be where a person cant express his feelings or develop her talents? A world without privacy and without freedom of the individual? A world where you are under surveillance from your birth to your death and you cant fully trust even your own children.

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The Big Brother is watching...

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The sad heritage of Communist totalitarianism: Summary

The ideology of atheism led in practice to moral decline (apathy) of the society.
The ideal of a total control over the lives of the citizens resulted in a lack of ownership, motivation to excel and succeed, and a weakened sense of responsibility. The injustice of the monstrous system caused numerous inequities, which helped form a culture of fear, depression, distrust, and suspicion.
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The sad heritage of Communist totalitarianism: Summary

The state-planned economy became an effective economic tool in the hands of the government to make sure everyone was equal and had his basic needs satisfied. However, being equal quickly turned to being equally poor and miserable. Official stores were empty and black market was booming.
The push for equality resulted in dull uniformity.

The bold attempt to subdue nature resulted in polluted environment and devastated ecosystems.
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Church lacks a vision


But above all, the sad HERITAGE OF COMMUNISM can be seen and felt in the overall LOSS OF VISION of the renewal and the development of the church communities.

Low expectations and a low sense of commitment Many Lutherans in Slovakia have gotten so much used to this unfortunate reduction of the life of the church that any active participation in the sense of the lay people assuming the responsibility for the life specific expressions of church ministry, or their participation in the liturgical, catechetical, diaconal, or mission life of their community of faith is perceived (in some cases) as nonLutheran, potentially sectarian.

The Key to a renewed church

The key to a renewed, relevant and mission active church are faithful, adequately trained/educated and by Gods Spirit empowered Christians and Christian leaders ordained and lay.

Mission statement
Motivate people to know the Truth so they can become free in Christ to serve others.
Equipping Gods people for service (Eph 4)

The Bible School experience


The ten-year-long experience of the school shows that with an appropriate approach of the pedagogues and with a theological exposition, which critically but also constructively takes into account the limited terminology and almost unlimited prejudices on the side of our secular students, the programs of basic Biblical Education, Befriender Ministry Program, Religious Teacher Training (BA and MA), and the free time animators program Mission Work with Youth and Children (BA) become an unexpectedly effective, even unique mission opportunity.

The Bible School experience


Another unique opportunity is reaching out to children, their parents, and school teachers through the Lutheran elementary school in Martin, which was founded by the Bible School in 2004 (we have since then added a pre-school, middle school and high school). Some of the same dynamics (as described above) can be seen in this environment. The gospel is communicated non-violently, long-term, in a competent way.

Want to know more?


To

learn more about who we are, what we do, and how you could become part of it, go to:

http://www.cce.sk/
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