The religious landscape in Ukraine

Peter Berger writes about Pentecostalism and Messianic Judaism in Ukraine, and how it fits in with his thesis that “that modernity, while it does not necessarily lead to secularization, does to pluralism—unless the state intervenes coercively to arrest this process.”

His post is partially based on this New York Times article on Rev. Sunday Adelaja (a Nigerian immigrant in Ukraine) who has a huge church in Kiev. Adelaja is a Pentecostal minister who, according to the article, is influenced by the prosperity gospel (which Berger believes can mean a number of things).

Berger also notes that there is a growing segment of Messianic Jews who, according to one researcher, are mostly Ukrainian Gentiles. This is notable, Berger says, because of the history of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. He has noticed a different type of “Jewish chic,” as he calls it, in Poland.

Berger’s post included this description of religious diversity in Ukraine:

The overall religious situation in Ukraine is decidedly pluralistic—unusual for eastern Europe. The majority is Orthodox, but split into three mutually hostile factions: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the UIkrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church. Please do not count on me to explain all these differences, except that the split is politically significant in terms of pro-Russian versus pro-Western groups.  There are Uniats (who practice eastern rites but recognize the primacy of Rome) and also standard Roman Catholics, especially in the western part of Ukraine (which until 1918 was ruled by Austria; the eastern part was under Russian rule—the old frontier is still relevant). The number of Protestants is hard to estimate, as many may still belong formally to the other Christian bodies, but Protestantism has been growing, especially in the aforementioned Pentecostal version. According to one estimate, Protestants of all kinds make up about 10% of religious adherents. There is (still or again) a sizable number of Jews—non-“Messianic” ones, that is. Not surprisingly, Jewish organizations have been especially vigorous in their opposition to the Messianic movement. There is also a sizable population of Muslims in the Crimea region. 62% of the population say that they are “not religious”, but this could mean any number of things. In any case, the religious situation in Ukraine is very different from that in Russia: There is no parallel to the united and dominant Russian Orthodox Church, or to the support given to the latter by the Russian government. The Ukrainian government is religiously neutral, allowing an efflorescence of religious pluralism.


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