Offence: The Christian Case

Irena Maryniak

Manifestos for the 21st Century


4.25 x 7 inches, 130pp. March 2009

ISBN : 9781906497040

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During the cold-war years, Western Christians basked in a sense that they were living on the right side of the ideological divide, harbouring humane values, freedom, democracy and the right to irrationality, belief and non-belief. The atheist Communist world was seen as intellectually and politically oppressive, dishonest, impoverished and dangerous. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, however, the old division gave way to the spectacle of religious believers vying for ascendancy with sceptics and with each other.


In formerly Communist countries, the sense of sacred identity among newly powerful religious communities has never been stronger. New Russian artists experimenting with religious imagery have faced legal action and been forced to remove their work from public display. In Poland, over 90 per cent of the population is Roman Catholic and smaller communities of believers—Protestant or Jewish, for example—have been exposed to a range of symbolic attacks. In parts of the US, books by Golding, Twain and Conrad have been banned after interventions by the new Christian right. Meanwhile, in the UK, a screening of the musical Jerry Springer: The Opera led to street protests and attempts to prosecute the BBC for blasphemy.


With a look at notions of the sacred, and how Christianity takes offence and gives it, this essay explores what outrages and challenges Christians most in the new world order.

Irena Maryniak is a specialist on religion and Eastern Europe and the author of Spirit of the Totem (1995), a survey of mythological and religious ideas in Soviet Russian fiction. She has worked for Cambridge University Press and lectured in Russian Literature at the Universities of London and Wales. Between 1996 and 2004, she was Eastern Europe Editor for Index on Censorship, based at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. She is currently a freelance writer and translator, living in London.


Culture Studies
Manifestos of the 21st Century
Offence Series