"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Religion and the State in Russia and China

If I had a kopek for every time that someone lazily referred to pre-revolutionary Russia as guilty of the apparent sin of "caesaro-papism," I would be approaching kulak status at least. Relations between religion and state in Russia, both historic and current, are so often misconstrued by external observers that I am no longer surprised by the lapse into lazy cliché.

Similar problems bedevil those who open their mouths to comments on relations between the Catholic Church and the state in China today. There are many problems, perhaps most important the appointment of bishops, which the government wishes, tendentiously, to control, and which the Holy See, rightly, wishes to decide without government interference. If anyone knows anything about the history of the Catholic Church, especially since the Investiture Controversy, one knows how often and how vigorously the Church has fought for the libertas ecclesiae.

Russia and China, of course, share a border, and in addition to the Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church has long had a presence in China--along with a Catholic presence, and that of other Western Christians. Along comes a new book to look at Christian relations in both countries:

Christoper Marsh, Religion and the State in Russia and China: Suppression, Survival, and Revival (Continuum, 2011), 288pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

Religion and the State in Russia and China explores the religious nature of man through  the cases of forced secularization in the Soviet Union and China.
The book provides an in-depth account of the failure and successes of both countries’ secularization policies. Starting with the theological innovations that led to atheistic theorizing, it then looks at the policies that were implemented to speed up the suppression of religious beliefs and what ultimately led to today’s resurgence of religion.

Russia and China are ideal cases for a comparative study as both experimented with the idea of eradication of religion under Marxist-Leninist parties and regimes. However, they differ in their relationship with their states, religious denominations, and societies.

The research for this project includes extensive fieldwork in both Russia and China, including participant-observation at rallies and demonstrations as well as interviews with scholars, religious believers/non-believers, and religious leading figures.

Religion and the State in Russia and China offers original research for an in-depth survey that will interest anyone studying politics and religion, policies, as well as theories of desecularization.Introduction: From Forced Secularization to Desecularization
The publisher also gives us the table of contents: 
1. The Theological Roots of Militant Atheism
2. Evicting God: Forced Secularization in the Soviet Union
3. Faith in Defiance: The Persistence of Religion under Scientific Atheism
4. Russia’s Religious Renaissance
5. China’s Third Opium War: The CCP’s Struggle With Religion
6. Keeping the Faith: The Persistence of Religious Life in Communist China
7. From Religious Anesthesia to Jesus Fever
Conclusion: Man, The State, and God

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