Christianity "theirs" and "ours": What happens tomorrow?
In the West, Christianity is pushed to the periphery – temples are closed, the number of believers is falling. Ukraine has taken off for Europe. Will we follow the path?
The question posed in the title of the article is by no means idle. The West, for at least the last few centuries, is considered much more progressive, successful, rich, and so on. It is customary to take cue from it; it is customary to look up to it, while to unite with the West is generally the limit of the dreams of most of our citizens. However, in terms of progress, it is not only who is ahead that matters, but where he is leading to in the end. And if there is an abyss ahead, it is probably better to be lagging behind. For believers, the indicator of the well-being of a society is not the level of material life, but how society approaches God and the Church. What is the difference between Western and our religiosity? Let's try to sort it out.
Europe: The number of believers is declining every year
The concept of religiosity includes several components: religious consciousness, religious behavior and religious relations (rules, laws, customs). Since both the conditional West and our country rest on Christianity as a basis of civilization, religiosity should not be addressed in a general way but as Christian religiosity.
The American Institute of Public Opinion Gallup International conducted a survey of religiosity in the world in 2008, 2009 and 2015, asking respondents: "Do you consider yourself religious?" The findings show that the countries of Western, Northern and Central Europe are the most non-religious in the world, although there are exceptions, such as Poland, where 86% of respondents identified themselves as religious, or Italy – 74%. But the countries that so to say represent Europe are largely non-religious: Germany 34%, France 40%, Sweden 19%. The religiosity of US residents is estimated at 56%. At the same time, the religiosity of the population in Ukraine is 73%, and in Russia – 70%. It is clear that this survey cannot be considered as revealing the true state of affairs, but it also says a lot. By the way, the most religious are the countries of Africa and the Middle East.
In 2009, US psychologist Gregory Paul published the results of the study of how the level of religiosity correlates with indicators such as crime, material well-being, alcohol consumption and so on. These results were quite unexpected, as they did not reveal the relation between the level of homicides and suicides, as well as alcohol consumption and the religiosity of the population. But as for the general well-being of citizens, there is a clear relation: the higher the standard of living and social security, the lower the religiosity, and the improvement in economic performance leads to more and more people moving away from faith in God. To some extent, this is confirmed by the Gospel words: "You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24).
According to such an indicator as the average age of sexual intercourse, Europe is also in the lead: Iceland – 15.6 years, Sweden – 16.2 years, Portugal – 16.9 years, Germany – 17.6. For Ukraine, this figure is about 18.9 years. These studies by the University of Cambridge were conducted in 2009, now these figures might be even more "rejuvenated".
Christianity in Europe: Path to LGBT Acceptance and Mass Temple Closures
The dynamics of a decrease in the number of churches and nominal parishioners in Europe demonstrates the current trends even more clearly. For example, in Germany, about 220 thousand people leave the Protestant and Catholic Churches every year. In the Evangelical Church of Germany alone, over 500 temples have been closed in recent decades, and about 100 of them have been destroyed.
In Germany, about 220 thousand people leave the Protestant and Catholic Churches every year. In the Evangelical Church of Germany alone, over 500 temples have been closed in recent decades, and about 100 of them have been destroyed.
Spiegel magazine cites data that in the coming years, German evangelists will have to abandon about a thousand church buildings. The reason is simple: the number of parishioners is decreasing, they cannot and, probably, do not want to bear significant financial costs for maintaining churches. A few years ago, the Evangelical Church of Germany began talks about giving up regular Sunday services altogether, and instead holding services when a certain number of people would gather. The German Catholics are no better off. Over the past decade, 515 Catholic churches have been closed, and in the coming years it is planned to get rid of another 700 also due to the lack of funds for their maintenance.
The German newspaper Deusche Welle reports that the famous German economist and marketer Heribert Meffert, who in Germany is called the "god of marketing", has developed a set of recommendations for the Catholic Church in Germany on how to keep parishioners and attract new members. In particular, he recommends: "to develop and implement more original and creative projects that can interest people and revive their faith that the Church really cares about them." According to Meffert, these should be social projects of various orientations, in the implementation of which youth should be necessarily involved. As you can see, this is a purely secular approach.
It means Catholics should not intensify fasting and prayer, should not return to reading patristic literature, should not pay more attention to fighting with passions in the soul – no! They must come up with "original and creative projects" to meet the consumer needs of the society. And then, perhaps, consumers will reach out to churches for social assistance.
In the society of German Catholics and Protestants, there are requests not only for social assistance, but also for the recognition of the rights of LGBT people, liberalization of sexual morality, introduction of the female priesthood, and so on. One can only be surprised, but the German episcopate took the path of satisfying these requests. The head of the German Episcopal Conference, Georg Batzing, said some time ago: "In moral theology, we have long been moving towards saying that if true love and faithfulness live even among same-sex partners, we must admit it." The same position was held by his predecessor in this post, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. And in early 2020, an assembly of the "Synodal Way" took place in Frankfurt to discuss and revise the Church's teachings on homosexuality and sexual morality. The purpose of the event is the recognition of LGBT people at the Vatican level. In 2019, the Maria 2.0 movement emerged in Germany, whose members, in an ultimatum, seek recognition of the full equality of women in Catholicism, including the priesthood and the bishopric. More than 35 people have already signed the corresponding petition.
"In moral theology, we have long been moving towards saying that if true love and faithfulness live even among same-sex partners, we must admit it."
Cardinal Reinhard Marks
Most European countries follow the path of Germany. Hundreds of churches are being closed, and the leadership of religious denominations, hoping to attract parishioners, declares the need for an ever greater liberalization of the moral doctrine of the church. It is generally not customary to even mention doctrinal norms.
At the level of legislation, gay marriage is recognized in almost all Western European countries. Gay pride parades gather millions of people. A sad record belongs to London, which attracted 1.5 million participants to the 2017 gay pride parade.
At the same time, about 4 thousand Christian churches had ceased functioning in the UK by 2020, according to the Christian Research organization. In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers of this country banned the British from wearing pectoral crosses during working hours.
Mention of the Christian roots of European civilization and of Christianity in general has been erased from all strata of society. Crosses and other Christian symbols are removed from the streets, schools, public buildings. The traditional Brussels Christmas market has changed its name to Winter Joy. The Slovak government has decided to remove the halos from the images of Saints Cyril and Methodius on the euro coins minted in this country. Greeting cards are gaining more and more popularity in the West not depicting Merry Christmas but "Winter Holidays" or even as shown below.
To please migrants from Muslim countries, Europeans not only abandon Christian traditions and customs, but also simply generally accepted norms of behavior. In Germany, a lot of school canteens have banned the serving of pork sausages, sausage and pâté or even bring such sandwiches from home so as not to offend the religious feelings of Muslims. Many German companies urge all their employees not to eat or drink anything until sunset in Ramadan so as not to embarrass their Muslim colleagues working nearby. The apogee of this attitude can be considered the case in Sweden, where the first “lesbian bishop” in the Lutheran “church” Eva Brunne called for the removal of crosses and other symbols from the temples to establish the premises for Muslim migrants.
German companies are urging all their employees not to eat or drink anything before sunset in Ramadan, so as not to embarrass their Muslim colleagues working nearby.
What do we have?
In our country, the picture is completely different. At least for now ... If we take 1988 as a starting point, when the state lifted all restrictions on religious activity on the 1000th anniversary of the Christianization of Rus, statistics show that in Ukraine in thirty-two years more than 8,500 churches have been restored and built. That's about 280 temples a year or two temples every three days. In 2019 alone, amid continuing seizures of churches, threats from radical nationalists, harassment in the media, legislative pressure and so on, the number of church communities in the UOC increased by 246.
Additionally, the Russian Orthodox Church over the years has increased by more than 32 thousand church communities. In 2019, during a visit to Strasbourg, Patriarch Kirill announced that the Russian Orthodox Church was building an average of three churches a day. Even more interesting from the point of view of the construction/destruction of churches is the situation in Ukraine whem Orthodox communities, attacked by supporters of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and having lost their temples, are building new ones for themselves.
Blinded by malice, the Church's ill-wishers simply burn down churches, but the believers still rebuild them.
A natural question arises: why is there no money for the maintenance of churches in rich Europe, while in poor Ukraine people find it not only for maintenance, but also for construction despite the fact that in Ukraine the state does not bankroll the construction projects of temples with extremely rare exceptions. There is no church tax in Ukraine as in Germany. Temples are built and supported by donations from parishioners.
A natural question arises: why is there no money for the maintenance of churches in rich Europe, while in poor Ukraine people find it not only for maintenance, but also for construction?
Of course, religiosity is not limited to the construction of temple buildings, but this is an indicator that strikingly distinguishes the state of affairs in our country and in Europe, where temples are destroyed, rather than erected. In fact, the number of those wishing to become priests and monks is quite a telling indicator. Whereas in Europe and the USA Catholics sound the alarm because of the lack of clergy, whose number is decreasing even more rapidly than the number of parishioners, then in Ukraine there are more people wishing to enter theological educational institutions than educational places. In total, at the end of 2019, there were 4609 monastics and 1372 students of theological educational institutions in the UOC on a full-time basis.
Are Ukrainians not ready for "LGBT values"?
Western political circles, which for about 10 years have been trying to push through the recognition of LGBT people in Ukraine, invariably bump into the refusal of all Ukrainian governments – from Azarov to Shmygal. Some with regret, some without, they all give one argument: Ukrainian society is not ready to accept this. This point there is thought-provoking. Ukrainian society was ready to accept an increase in utility tariffs by 6-8 times; it was ready for the closure of enterprises and a decrease in living standards; it didn’t oppose en masse a decision to sell land and so on – but it is not ready for same-sex marriages.
The question of which society is more religious is not a question of some kind of competition. This is a question of our future prospects. True, the Western world is materially more successful, the standard of living is higher there, science, medicine, education are developing better there. But at the same time, we can see the Western world having even officially renounced Christianity as such. In the place of Christ, other “gods” have been put there: tolerance, liberalism, human rights, and servility to migrants. For the sake of these "gods" the crosses are removed from the churches, the bell ringing dies down, the temples are destroyed, and the believers are afraid to quote the "politically incorrect" Gospel.
Ukraine has adopted integration into Europe and various European supranational structures as a strategic goal of its development. However, the cost of such integration may well be the rejection of Christianity. Of course, it will be gradual so that our consciousness can get used to it and the process is not spooked. We may be able to maintain our religiosity, but most likely we will have to choose. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).