In the Third Millennium

JIS XIII 2001: 1-14


Gaylen J. Byker
Calvin College

This essay proposes that a healthy civil society and a fair and effective free market economy constitute the bases of a well-functioning democratic polity. For civil society and free market economy to function well requires citizens with good moral character. Religious beliefs and practices provide the best foundation for the development and maintenance of the moral norms, virtues, motivations, tendencies, and habits essential for open, pluralistic, liberal societies. Yet liberalism has effectively undermined religious claims to the public domains of freedom and the goals of society. The separation of church and state was extended to an even deeper separation of secular, public thought, from religious thought and influence. This has contributed to the weakening of families, churches, schools, and communities, and their interest in and ability to train virtuous and responsible citizens, which a free society needs to sustain itself.

JIS XIII 2001: 15-30


Michael E. Meagher
University of Missouri-Rolla

The American experiment with democracy faces challenges due to the waning of the moral and religious underpinnings of the original social contract. Religion has played a key role in the development of an American civil society from the pre-revolutionary era to the present. The lessons of historical interpretation have much to offer in illuminating the nation’s civil society. This essay evaluates Gordon S. Wood’s thought, contrasting it with Alexis de Tocqueville and others, in light of the American tradition of political thought. Wood is a proponent of the civic republican approach to history, which advocates an expanded public sphere and is sceptical of the private realm of civil society. This approach, however, is outside the mainstream of American thought, for civil society has formed an essential component of American life from the earliest days of the colonial and national periods. A promising way to repair the breach in the American social contract is through a renewed awareness of the role of Christianity in the nation’s genesis.

JIS XIII 2001: 31-50


William H. Jeynes
California State University-Long Beach

This essay reviews the literature on the effects of religious commitment on adolescent behavior. While the body of research on the effects of religious commitment of adolescents on their overall lives is still relatively small, that literature indicates that religious commitment tends to be associated with higher educational outcomes and a lower incidence of illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, and premarital sex. Some are reluctant to acknowledge these effects, while others champion desirable qualities in adolescents, especially educational excellence and socially responsible behavior, without incorporating their true source–religious convictions. Many of the reasons for this reluctance are rooted in the general culture, which since the 1960s marginalizes religion in America, and seeks to exclude it from the public square. Yet, based on research findings, contemporary society would benefit from encouraging adolescent religious commitment.

JIS XIII 2001: 51-72


Enamul H. Choudhury
University of Cincinnati

Religion has an enduring presence in the moral discourse of the “civic culture,” but is unwelcome in the governing discourse of the institutional order. This essay focuses on two underlying reasons for the disconnection: the secular episteme and the nature of religious convictions. The secular episteme brackets religion by defining away its presence, while religious faith maintains its integrity by relativizing the secular institutional order. Yet religious convictions can offer a more inclusive basis for public discourse than secular reason. Paradoxically, while religious convictions can value secular reason, secular reason cannot even acknowledge religious convictions except for what it outwardly sees as socially shared symbols or myths sustained in rituals or uncritical social conventions. Since religions differ in their truth-claims and demands on public conduct, an inclusive public discourse requires the democratic contestation of truth-claims and their exemplification in civic conduct.

JIS XIII 2001: 73-96


Brian M. Lowe
University of Virginia

The United States and the former Soviet Union offer pertinent case studies for an application of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s conception of “civil religion.” This essay demonstrates that in both societies phenomena akin to Rousseau’s civil religion emerged, which included the generation of myths about the history and destiny of the nation, the celebration of historical dates and persons, the production of sacred writings, and the presence of civil “religious virtuosos.” Civil religion emerged in historically and culturally diverse contexts via two major dynamics: spontaneously by the population; and more consciously, promoted by various elites. The major difference between the Soviet and American models in this respect is that in the United States civil religion emerged with little input from the state. Despite important differences, Rousseau’s conception of civil religion is helpful in that it enables us to recognize how modern states evolve forms of civil religion which serve to create some degree of social unity.

JIS XIII 2001: 97-116


Olga Kazmina
Moscow State University, Russia

The religious situation in Russia has changed greatly following the collapse of communism in 1991. Although the process was more difficult and contradictory than expected in the early 1990s, Russia has made considerable progress on its way to religious freedom. Now, people can openly profess their faith. To evaluate the degree of religious freedom in contemporary Russia, it is necessary to examine legal acts such as the Constitution and laws on religion, and how they are implemented, the dynamics of the denominational structure of the population, and the status of different denominations in society. During the 1990s, there were crucial changes in such spheres as the principles of church-state relations, religious legislation, and the role of religion in the social, political, and cultural life of the country. Religion is recovering its place in society lost during the Soviet period, and can play a significant role in overcoming the social crisis and contribute to building a civil society. The growing interest in religion can be reconciled with freedom, pluralism, and tolerance.

JIS XIII 2001: 117-134


István Kamarás
University of Veszprém, Hungary

How can the churches in Hungary today help in building civil society without becoming politicised or submerged in a secular world? This essay focuses on the different roles and activities of larger and smaller churches in Hungarian civil society, especially Catholic congregations and smaller communities, new religious movements and groups, the “official church,” and the “civil church.” Churches and religious communities in Hungary are still too rigid in their institutional forms to become an organic part of civil society. To preserve their unique calling, churches have to play the role as a participant of a special form of civil society–the “contrast-society.” Only churches institutionalized in an appropriate way will be able to accommodate civil society without being assimilated by it. Thus, churches can become part of civil society mainly in the form of a dialogue. Hungarian churches, religious groups, and movements are just at the beginning of a promising process.

JIS XIII 2001: 135-154


Alexander L. Gungov
Sofia University, Bulgaria

The great dreams of dissidents for civil society as a guarantee for a just life confront many economic, social, and political dilemmas. This state of affairs worsened in the Balkans following the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the United Nations sanctions against Yugoslavia. Initially, the resolution of all problems was associated with market values, while ascribing only secondary importance to civic virtues. A market economy depends on civil society, but market values do little for strengthening civic virtues in the region, leading to a vicious circle of rudimentary civic virtues and an underdeveloped economy. The growing non-governmental sector within civil society remains an artificial appendage, since it relies heavily on international financing, and is likely to disappear if this support ceases for any reasons. The only probable way out of this predicament is for citizens not to abandon the ideal of civic, classical, and religious virtues, and be hopeful despite current conditions.

JIS XIII 2001: 155-174


Oskar Gruenwald
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research

Belgrade University student demonstrations, 1996-97, represent a turning point in the emergence of a democratic civic culture and civil society in the former Yugoslavia. Large-scale student demonstrations were triggered by the regime’s cancellation of the November 1996 municipal election victories by the united opposition, Zajedno, in more than a dozen cities throughout Serbia. Demonstrating independently of political parties, student demands concerned not only narrow issues of university education, funding, and governance, but also much larger society-wide issues concerning democratic prospects for Serbia. Student demonstrations helped achieve several important goals, including the reinstatement of the 1996 opposition victories, and hastened Milosevic’s departure. Belgrade students sought consciously to transcend Serbian nationalism, effectively challenging the regime, while distancing themselves from all political parties. Crucial in terms of overcoming the virulent nationalisms, exploited by political leaderships throughout the Balkans in the 1990s, was the students’ quest for universal human rights, democracy, pluralism, tolerance, and an open society. Following Milosevic’s demise, the student movement became institutionalized in Otpor as a genuine civil society public-interest group and unofficial watchdog.

JIS XIII 2001: 175-196


Marlene R. Breu, Western Michigan University
Ronald T. Marchese, University of Minnesota-Duluth

This essay examines extant religious textile artifacts in the Armenian churches of Istanbul. The churches are not only social links, but also repositories for highly perishable material expressions of religious life, which enhanced the community. The pieces, most of which were donated to individual churches by the resident Armenian community, feature intricate designs and rich embellishment. They exhibit a remarkable level of technical sophistication and skill both within the professional artisan class and the lay community, especially Armenian women. The textiles are significant in the study of late Byzantine and Ottoman art, and the movement of Armenians in the Diaspora. The Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church has long been an anchor of a minority people, and the caretaker of its artistic expression. It continues as an important link between the religious, cultural, and civil life of Armenians in Istanbul and all Turkey (View Art).