ETHNIC IDENTITY:  Psychological and Theological Implications

in an Era of Technology and Globalization

 

 

Rev. Dr. Dean Michael Kucera

 

Minister: Edgebrook Community church United church of Christ, Chicago, IL. USA

Affiliated with the Unitarian-Universalist Association, USA

and the Association of Religious Freedom

 

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I am no heir, no proud ancestor,

I have no friend , no brother, no sister,

       I have never belonged,

                                                 I have never belonged.

I am , lika ever human: Highness,

Iceberg, enigma, strange and timeless,

Distant will-o'-the-wisp,

Distant will-o'-the-wisp.

But, oh, I can't remaig unspoken,

I have to bear myself wide open,

        Behold me, everyone,

Behold me, everyone.

I all self-torture, is every song,

I want to be loved, to belong.

Belong to somebody,

Belong to somebody

                                                                               Endre Ady

 

 

Reflections on Ady ... „I want to be loved”.

In such verse is tbe heart rendered free to love. In our silence we prepare for our great advent of insights. But silence only nurses our ambitions and with sullen heart turns to bitter regret when , like a weight of burden , is carried too long.

May silence house our joys and fears until they find expression in dreams and visions. May visions and dreams carve out a place to house our strong resolves - with action bearing our name we will belong. To a place, a time, a nation, a people .... we will turn our meditation on the past into poems of our present dwellings which house the stories we tell; of times past and now.

Who does not want to belong ?  To know what to love; what to behold end believe in? When all time sweep tides challenge our deeper resolves to live and make us feel an outsider in our own lands, we recall there there is no greater fear then to be made an outsider in and to ourselves.

Our stake is in our self and how we have come a ways along the great chain of heritage. Weaved and linked by a thousand customs and pronounced by ancient tongues. This is our belonging  - ourselves - our heritage no more in simple reverent dust and bone.

 

Rev Dr. Dean Michael Kucera

Such is the purpose of this ... and dedicated thus!

 

 

 

GREETINGS

 

"Hazádnak rendületlennul légy híve, ó magyar , Bölcsöd az, s majdan sírod is, mely ápol s eltakar."

 

                                                                                                                                   Vörösmarty

 

Dear frieads,

 

Thank you for inviting me to meet and speak to you. I share some ideas and thoughts which crop out my own deep love of my Czechoslovakian and Hungarian ethnic heritage. I hope these thoughts will assist you in the work you do among your congregations and communities. Today I wish to speak with you on the subject of Ethnicity and Self Identity in a pluralistic context (both United States) and Central Europe (Hungary). Ethnicity has many subcategories which may be evident, at other times the subject of ethnicity is interwined with more complex themes; and it may not appear as evident as to the relationship ethnic identity plays in these contexts. I speak out of my experience as both an ordained minister and a doctoral candidate in the field of Clinical Psychology.

My goal is to see how psychology and religion or theology can merge and support each other in a common effort to better the lives of individuals and communities through greater understanding of the human condition(s) we share in common as well as those we do not.

I will attempt to frame my thoughts in practical terms - what good is psychology and religion is it does not reach down to our lives where we live day to day ? As leaders in our own respective religious traditions we ere often placed in the role as counselor and advisor to our congregants and communities. They come to us for clarification, preservation of values and traditions, as mell as insight into more effective ways to frame and re-frame our lives.

I ask for your forgiveness if I speak out of ignorance to your unique life-situations. We are separated by many miles and different cultural and ideological world-views. Yet, we also share a cornmon bond as citizens of a larger faith - and of a particular ethnic heritage. Though lived out in different lands, we can feel a tie which makes us home because - of the traditions and customs which we heve preserved. The great Swiss psychoanalyst , Carl G. Jung has reminded us that, while all people have different forms of rituals and customs, they also share a collective consciousness or unconscious. It is my hope that we may discover these cammon themes that ere familiar in their larger meanings to each of us.

 

 

 

 

THE POWER OF SYMBOL AS A MEANS OF PRESERVING SELF

AND ETHNIC-IDENTITY

 

 

" By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof…. How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?"       Psalms 137: 1-2,4

 

„We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. "      Psalms, 44:2

 

 

LANGUAGE AS SYMBOLIC ETHNO-CULTURAL EXPRESSION

 

I begin with a quote from George Faludy's book; „My Happy Days in Hell'. I believe in this passage Faludy captures the essence of language as symbol, a symbol which unites him to his culture and homeland. Faludy also echos the psalmist in his heart-felt lament for the familiar and beloved.

"Then I spoke of the problem of the Hungarian language, which bound me to my fatherland with ties stronger than any other. I described how shocked I had been when, at the air-base in Kodiak, my fellow soldiers told me one morning that I had been talking English in my sleep. At Ft. Leoanardwood, s military camp in the middle of the forest in Missouri, one of my buddies had stopped behind me when I was busy writing a poem in a PX, and had asked me why I wasn't writing in English. I had explained to him that when I pronounced the Word wood, it meant to him the surroanding dense, dark green forest of strangely ­shaped, intertwining trees, a jungly undergrowth full of jiggers, and unfathomable, frightening darkness; when, on the other hand, I pronounced the Hungarian Word for wood, erdő, I saw the thinly seattered, slender young trees of the Matra Mouatains, with fragments of blue sky between their branches and wild strawberry plants and tussocks of grass at their feet. Even concrete words meant different things to us, not to mention abstractions such as political party, ethics, way of life, religion or duty.”

Faludy may have been writing out of his own time and unique experience, yet he conceptualizes a timeless issue embedded in all cultural barriers and those who know these barriers - the power of language as a symbol. Language as symbol can conjour up a host of different images, impressions, feelings, emotions, and ideas. At the botom of this symbolic expression rests the greatest of all measures of a symbols effectiveness and strength - this is its ability to ground the individual in one's past and present. Its effect grants focus and a centeredness in one's view of self; one's identity.

The Psalmist quoted above also shares the human dillemma of how to be happy while in unfamiliar surroundings. The Psalmist also resorts to song and language as a means of grounding himself. By recalling the way of life, the duties of the heart, the sounds of familiar tunes, and the religion and faith of one's ancestor - the Psalmist is able to find relief and joy which transcends one's present conditions. This is not an easy task, but it has been the task of many of you living in Transylvania as well as Hungary proper. It has also been the difficult task of Hungarians living in the United States as one of many ethnic peoples. Either by choice or force those who have lelt their homeland or found their land and boundaries changed radically as to impact their líves and life-styles, have sung this song and have striven to preserve a way of life and an ethnic identity which has been time and time again threatened.

But we are not alone in our struggle to preserve our identities. The scriptures note how Abram too was called to depart from his familiar surroundíngs. ­

 

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing;         Genesis: 12: 1-2

 

Because of Abram's faith he was called `Abraham' and he became a blessing to many. Yet how many of his decendents would struggle to remain faithful to their heritage when throughout most of their history they resided in foreign lands. What kept them afloat in a sea of plurality and diversity of cultures and peoples different from them? .

 

CUSTOM AND TRADITION: THE TIE THAT BINDS

 

Most of us are aware of the impaet tradition and custom play in our líves and the líves of our communities. Traditions are symbolic acts with deep psychological significance. Traditions as symbols are fraught with meanings located in religious, artistic, linguistic, and dramatic expressions. These expressions have as their goal to communicate what is important to the individual and the individual within community. Few cultures are without these symbolic forms. The Jewish traditions with its bar and bat mihzpha uses this rite as a symbol of passage from child to adulthood - a son or daughter of the covenant. Among some Native American tribes the ' Vision Quest' was a rite of passage whereby the young boy went off alone into the wilderness to capture a vision of himself and his role in the tribe; upon his return he was expected to share the vision and contribute to the community as an adutt. The Christian church also has its rites and rituals such as baprism and confirmation. The functions these rites and ritual traditions aim at is to show the individual 'who' one is and 'what' is expected of this one.

The psychological implications are great when one realizes that these symbolic rites and traditions are purposeful as a vehicle for preserving the identity of a people and or one's own identity as a person of specific ethnic origins. All rituals and traditions are connected to the cultural context in which they exist. They are culturally conditioned and limited in some ways while being timeless in their universal aim to enact the drama of life and one's place in this life in universal ways. They may be more loval as in the case of communities of groups within larger communities such as the church. They may be more universal as the use of 'English' as the language of a nation - binding all together in a common symbolic expression. Without language the symbol lacks the ability to impress and move one to various level of development or personal/emotional expression. Without language the community cannot find its link which bridges the gaps that, otherwise, separate people from others. Language binds people together, its binds specific groups together in a common cultural context. Language is deeply psychological - as in Faludy's case and the Psalmists. The gaps are bridged and the homeland brought closer, but more importantly, language as symbol can preserve one's identity when the cultural context changes or is different - it is here that the ethnic self is challenged most and when we most need to connect. But how do we do this - how do we sing a joyous song when in an unfamiliar land?

 

 

 

Assimilation and Acculturation:

The Melling-Pot theory in America

 

„And now am I to face the odds af man's bedevilment and God's ? I, a stranger

and afraid in a world I never made.”

A.E Housman : The Laws of God, The laws of man', Collected poems

 

 

In the USA ethnic peoples are faced with the struggle to maintain their heritage and identity. There is a particular myth that goes, „is easy to be anything you want to be in AMERICA”. American's boast tolerance as a hallmark of their lifestyles. While it is true that tolerance is much more easy to come by in various part of the US ... it is hot always the prevailing standard. Ethnics face similar challenges as many of you have and continue to do in Europe and Transylvania. The early days when waves of immigrants made there way to the United States found them confronted with having to surrender their beloved native land and those traditions and cultural expressions that they left behind. They were, so to speak, asked to blend in with the prevailing culture and society. This `blending' and assimilating was best achieved and understood through the `Melting Pot' theory. The `melting pot' theory was known to represent the mainline attitude of many who desired a more uniform and cohesive USA. For many ethnics melting ment giving up their traditions and customs. They learned English and were encouraged to speak only English. They were pressured to assimilate so as to become a part and parcel of the great American ideal and dream. As generation upon generation passed , and children of imigrants had children, , they lost touch with their traditions. The process of acculturation and assimilation became more evident as each new generation grew up in America.

For many immigrants faced with having to conform to the prevailing social climate and attitude; their feelings of disappointment and sadness were hidden for the sake of their children and the hopes of a better life for them. But deep inside they ached inside as they saw their way of life become more and more extinct. For others they maintained a minimum of ethnic identity. Passing from one generation to the next - it was their way of maintaining a focus and sense of self in a land dominated by cultural plurality and ethnic diversity. But, as Senator Daniael Patrick Myoiniham of New York wrote in his books, `Beyond the Melting Pot' and `The un-meltable Ethnics' the melling pot theory never really took hold entirely. There was an deep set intuitive need to preserve the customs and traditions which made one unique.

It was, after all; ethnic imigrants which built this New land. It was, and still is, the many cultural expressions which make `America' more an idea and way of life, than an ethnic peoples -­ `america' is a land with many ethnic peoples! Eves today, life in the US is not the ideal dream many think it is. Ethnic and racial intolerance contintues to challenge the very fabric of equality and freedom for alt people. Still ethnic will go to great lengths to deny their etbnic identities in order to `fit-in' and find acceptance. I was saddened to hear of how Asian women have even gone in for plastic-surgery to remove the distinguishing `Asian' features- they want to look like `Americans'. I am amazed at the stories I hear and read of ethnic who ache to hear of their children turning from their families in order to find acceptance in the main-line `american' culture. Still covert oppression and prejudice of blacks and Jews makes the headlines of newspapers and televised reports. Bias and injustice based an one's ethnic identity and race is alive and well in the USA as is the Neo-Natzi groups (skinheads), etc. And of recent, the burning of Mosques has become the latest expression of loyaliy to a country challenged  and threatened  by outside forces. The test of one's loyalty as an `american' has been increasingly evident in the shadow of September 11-02. It seems when groups are threatened the climate changes to that of aggression - ­nationalism, brought to its negatíve extreme, often results in violence, intolerance, and prejudice. If the psychology of institutions, organizations, communities and groups has taught us anything, it has pointed out the very real need to organize as a way of defending against outside forces which threaten its internal stability.

Even in Central Europe and more specifically Romania where many ethnic Hungarians live side by side with Romanians, there is always the potential for racial violence. What has prevented such uprising? Perhaps the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romapia and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), has suppressed such feelings by representation in parliament. The DHAR formed in 1989 fulfills the role of preserving ethnic identity of Hungarians living in Transylvania. But deeper is the organizations role in preserving the ethnic heritage of Hungarians while providing the platform for `interethnic politics' and `consociational democracy'. Consociational comes to mean `working together' for various political and social rights. Even now Romanians and Hungarians are working together to enter the European Union. For many young Hungarians and Romanians living in Transylvania and who have not experienced. the forces of the Communist era, ethnicity is becoming less important as they forge out a new, `Transylvanian identity' thus, "we are not interested in the national debate, we are Transylvanians, we've always mixed cultures here". The task to forge an identity in Transylvania among Hungarians living there is not always clear ... boundary formations are still taking place and thought tolerant neighbors live in relative harmony, there is still the under-girding of strong ethnic feelings which distinguish Romanians from Hungarians. The collapse of Communism brought with it uncertainty - some nations filled in the gaps with nationalism others with creating a new identity.  Perhaps the stability one notes in 'tolerant Transylvania' and which keeps the balance of peace and plurality of co-existence intact, is the transnational representation of ethnic groups. This says much about the depth of ethnic identity indeed. Plurality and diversity are much easier to cope with when we feel represented rather than dissolved in the masses - our name is still heard and it is important to be recognized. Yet, we are indeed afraid and in a world we did not make... a world we have little control over in terme of finding ourselves outsidere looking upon the reconstruction of society as it hammers out the details of its identity - an identity not always consistent with one's ethnic or even personal-spiritual idea of self.  When our name is no longer heard and our voices silenced -what then ?

 

The Un-meltable Ethnic:

Integrity and Preserverence

 

In the United States not all `americans' and U.S Citizens have backed the increased nationalist and patriotic feelings of unease toward specific and general ethnic groups - some have kept sight of the meaning of this country as a pluralistic society (cultural pluralism). For many the ideal is not so much a melting together of people as it is a living together of people of various ethnic cultural expressions. The aim is for cultural diversity whereby one's ethnic expression is intact. Such has proven to be a healthier and more realistic goal and is closer to the ideal that was the founding principles of this new land. For psychology and the contemporary church acculturation and assimilation have not played such a great role in the formation of new approaches to individuals and communities, including congregations which are becoming more and more multi-cultural. More and more psychologists and pastors are realizing the need to understand the particular needs of the culturally different in the therapy office, congregation, and larger  community. More than tolerance psychological training prepares us to struggle further for acceptance of our culturally different neighbor, not so much different from Transylvania during King John Sigismund` s rule and the edict of tolerance at the Diet of Torta. We, as psychologists and pastors, have realized the psychological and spiritual damage which psychology, and the church have wrought. We acknowledge our part and our present in light of our covert and overt bias; what we have done and left undone thus heaping upon people customs and values we believed important while ignoring the differences our those we work to help - in so doing we have threatened their very identities; both spiritually and psychologically. For example, psychological tests and measures; educational materials, styles of counseling and modes of observing behavior have all been tainted by cultural bias. Western ideals and world-views. Often our standards of `doing psychology' has been more reflective of the mainline Westernezed culture with all its intolerance and narrow visions. We have been guilty of prescribing the illness rather than mending its ills.

Now we as psychologist and ministers have and are learning to understand the unique traditions, language, cultural symbolisms, and a range of behaviors unique to ethnic groups as a way of better assisting them in preserving rather than abandoning their ethnic heritage(s). We have learned that people are healthier and better adjusted when they are respected for their difference rather than slowly and deceptively moved into a position of having to surrender their ethnic identity in order to find acceptance. We acknowledge the unique neuances embedded in various ethnic cultures and gain greater ensight to `what' constitutes heath and wholeness through the eyes of our Asean, or Indean, or Magyar clients.

Now, for many United States born people of various ethnic backgrounds - there is a re­emergence of ethnic pride and identity. A reclaiming of our ronts. For others it is enough just to be `american',  for others, we want to be more than this - we want to regain our focus on our ethnic identities while living in a country which fosters acceptance of diverse cultural and ethnic expressions - we want to be citizens of this country but ethnically we wish to reclaim ourselves - for `amaerica' is an ideal, a way of life and a way of thinking, not a people in ethnic terms. Yet some of us do not want to become too `american' when it obscures our ethnic identities - how id the balance achieved ? Being ethnic in `america' is not as easy as the myths you hear may have it. By education of leaders in the fields of psychology and religion we are beginning to forge new avenues of understanding - understanding the importance and place of ethnic identity for many as tenants of a psychologically and spiritually healthier existence. This does not apply to all US citizens but to a specific population who are by immigration or awareness of their ethnic roots, desiring to find ways to connect to their cultural milues as a means of preserving their identities and consequently their mental health and well-being.

The church as well has become more instrumental in advancing cultural plurality - at least my denomination the Unitarian and United Church of Christ. The United Church of Christ is itself a pluralistic and diverse denomination. It's roots lay in the European Reformed tradition as well the  English Free-Church Congregational traditions. In the United Church of Christ we struggle with others to preserve the rights of individuals to live their líves to the fullest potential. We decry intolerance and violence toward those who are culturally different. We march to be seen in opposition to laws that rob people of their selves and their lives because they profess a different creed, are a different color or speak a different language. Is this so much different than the struggle many of you have known and do know to this day? We find fellowship with our Unitarian partners both in `america' and in Transylvania. Our journey toward understanding and responding to the needs of ethnic deversity and cultural plurality are in many ways similar to yours. Is this struggle not like the historic setting in which Transylvania found itself under the rule of toleration in which King Sigismund declared at the diet or Torda ? Has not the historic Unitarianism of Transylvania striven to preserve freedom of thought and tolerance? It has been the cradle which has nursed our dreams and preserved our ethnic heritage. Unitarianism has held within its hands the essence of a people and a way of life for hundreds of years. It has balanced tradition with contemporary understanding of science and technology . It has kept its focus on faith while freeing men  and women to seele the divine within themselves and others. The church can be instrumental in advancing understanding of others while preserving the rights and identities of individuals and groups. It is the medium between secular society and its progress and declines. Its progress is evident in many ways, its declines ara not as evident. For in the USA the church has taken a back seat to secularism, capitalism, materialism - and they have all made their appearanee in the form of world-economy, world-market, and globalization. A technologic explosion has put the church in the background - people ara indeed connected and wired - but they have also experienced a tremendous `discpnection' from themselves, their identities, and their neighbor. When technology threatens to de-humanize society what are we to excpect of our futures, our customs and our traditions - our selves ?

 

 

Globalization:

Our Shrinking Words; Our Growing Markets; Our Ethnic Selves.

 

Now Central Europeans and Hungarians included ara faced with yet another challenge - a challenged not so much in the form of battles and reclamations of lands - the challenge of globalizarion. The world is more than ever connected through advanced technology. The internet offers quick and easy access to any part of the world. The wold is shrinking as we build better and better bridges that connect the expanse of lands and oceans. This is a wonderful thing and certainiy it has benefited many., I can talk to a friend in Budapest in a moment. I can send an E-mail in minutes and get a response in hours or days rather than waiting weeks for a letter through the mail. YES ... technology has advanced the ability for peoples to connect and this is good !

On the other hand technology has posed a threat to the very core and stability of national identity.  As the former Prime Minister Victor Orban stated, `The irresistible drive towards ever greater homogenization; aided and abated by an inundation of quick-fix, junk cultural products, threatens to eliminate national traditions, eroding the collectivity's sense of itself as a unique entity, undermining it's pride and confidence"(ORBAN  VIKTOR). Orban focuses  in on ethnic identity and Hungarian history in the context of globalization and the larger meaning of this process as evident in the European Union with its enlarged market-conciousness. What does globalization and entrance into the European Union mean in this larger context and how does this form of globalization challenge the identity of those entering into it. Again, is such a move and inclusion into this arena suited to the needs of the people and nation ?. At core issue in this globatization debate is the question of national identity - again we see the issue of ethnicity and its importance emerge. Mr. Viktor Orban himself posed this question when he addressed the  Hungarian Nation stressing the dangers of the `trivializing of Hungary` ;it`s culture and traditions for the sake of economic stability: Fidelity to national identity must take priority.

"The impact of Hungary's conversion to Christianity and St. Stephen's deeds in founding the arian State a thousand years ago can still be felt today and marked out our country's place on the cultural map of European civlization. Now, on the threshold of a new millenium, integration from a certain vantaga point is nothing more than an expression of fidelity to this tradition. At the same time , it is a clear manifestation of our desire to occupy a place in the community of Western democracies appropriate to us as equal partners." (ORBAN  VIKTOR)

 

For Orban globalization stimulates commercial expansion indeed - the `Hungary' as perceived by businesses and tourists may be different from the `real Hungary' as viewed from within. There must be a clear distinction between the `unique' qualites which make Hungary a reflection of its ethnic pride and identity, otherwise, "traditions become trademarks, quaintness and uniqueness are at a premium, exoticism, specticle and a romanticized version of the past predominate in the gypsy serenade" (ORBAN). Ethnic identity originates in Hungary from its history bound up in its religious and cultural traditions. For those living in its boarders, out of them, or abroad, it is this history which provides a focus when all around the world is changing and becoming smaller and less interested in the unique ethnic contributions which ere often the distinguishing qualities of a people - a way of life.

Change is inevitable - the world is changing rapidly around all of us both in Hungary, Transylvania; and the United States. It is easy to beeome usurpd by the techno-explosion, communication blasts and world-wide-web.net-village. The task of creating an image suitable for Hungary and Hungarians within the boarders is as challenging for those outside its borders and abroad - the task begins with the nations which exists as the model of what one is and how one fulfills one's loyalty to this image without resorting to inflexible; dogmatic or fanatical means -  balance is possible when wisdom is used - a wisdom born in the very fabric of the Hungarian nation; its people, its culture. This is where ethnic identity and image will either fail or flower and blasom. If one fails to instruct a child at home how can this child expect to know who and what this one is and expected to do when they grow into adulthood? For many who do not live within the borders of Hungary, they see the parent nation as the onIy image they can focus on for instruction; instruction in away of life that must be preserved in this and other lands.                                                                                                                           One can progress without loss of one's essential identity. We have little choice in a world we have and have not made - we are afraid in the United States as many are here that our traditions will give way to an increasingly de-humanizing technology. We are afraid because we too are forced to create an image and identity that is challenged by both overt and covert forces. Ethnic identity is indeed deeper and more psychological than we have known when what we have known is threatened.

I have no right to speak on such issues - yet in so far as they relate to diversity, plurality and ethnic identity they do bear an important position in this context. To grasp the depth of what ethnicity implies and how it is acted out we must consider the many contexts which force it to the force of many debates, discussions and dialogs - both in Central Europe and the United States. Perhaps the limits of our wills when it comes to our unique heritage is best excpressed in the words of the Jewish-Russian farmer in the Play, `A Fiddler On The Roof”,

"I can accept a lot of change, bot how far do I bend before I break?"

As leaders in the spiritual sense you may begin to see the great respansibility that is placed upon you to preserve a way of life that is challenges while moving ahead into new areas. Is it always neccessary to give up our cultural expression  through symbols and traditions to do this ? How far must we go befare we brake?

 

 

 

TECHNOPATHOLOGY

 

The Mental and Spiritual Illness of our day.

 

There is a new illness - an illness of man's alianation from fellow human. An illness that de-humanizes and places humans at the mercy of a new language and culture ... the culture of high ­technology - a culture which has made many subject to its allure - we have become servants to that which was and should serve humankind.

With all the technologic advances being made, we continue to witness a deficit in peoples psychological and spiritual nature. For all the connectedness technology boasts, we ponder the increase in our alianation from each other. As technology advances we see the diminished place of the human in a amidst the enlarged vision of a world united .. a common language and a unified humanity. Sounds good to the ear - but the heart remains suspicious as technology forces its way into our corporate, comtnunity, and personal lives. Traditions have given way to more safisticated activíties - chíldren have forgotten their roots and generations have ceased passing from one generation to the next the myths and stories of  our past, our present and our future. Churches and houses of worship have become token presences in many towns and cities around the world as more and more peogle place their faith in what they can see, touch, and know for certain. Faith, after all, is illusive - and, in `america' the church has become for many, a museum relic to be looked upon as primitive myth , out-warn and equally outdated ! We have forged a new myth of ourselves; a new identity - but we're not sure yet what that identity is and as for the new myth .... it is that technology is the hope for all of a better future - not tradition or custom - but technology. We have lost our focus and thus our balance and it has a high price in terms of the spiritual, social, and psychological implications for peoples well-being and mental health.

Along with this price comes the inevitable loss of self. Who are we, our children cry ? Where have the myths and tails which once bound us to our past and present gone ? We have bought into the new myth of progress and world unity, but at the expense of losing ourselyes. A high price to pay indeed.

In America especially we can see the effects of this neglect of the soul. Perhaps more than ever we can begin to see as care-givers and spiritual leaders the importance of tradition, cultural ties, ethnic identity, and customs. We want to see them; however, in balance. Not all traditions are good, not all custpms serve the needs they once had, not all culturally based setting are healthy. But the transition of these elements as they relate to ethnicity does not mean a loss of ethnic identity. For those of us born in the United States we will continue to find ways of expressing our ethnic selves as Hungarians , Czechs, Slovaks, or whatever else backgrounds we come from. For Hungary and Hungarians living in Transylvanla you, too will have to forge an identity that does not sacrifice the core of who you are. For immigrants to the U. S. A. of Hungarian origin, it is possible to continue to find avenues to keep alive the customs and traditions that form the bedrock of one's ethnic identity. Our struggles are shaped. by our unique histories but they are in many ways similar. It is possible to sing a joyful song in a foreign land ­as long as we never forget `who' and `what' we are from generation to generation. Technopathology is essentially the same in all lands to a greater of lesser degree. But when we fail to give reasonable thought to the many ways the balance is tipped in either direction, we do harm to our and others well-being. Such is the case of globalization and technologic advances. They are here to serve us - not us them! To loss sight of this fact is to allow a process of mass chaos that will effect the lives and communities of peoples for a long time to come. While it is true that progress is certainly advisable as stated by Gusztav Kosztolanyi when he states:

"Globalization holds out the prospect of development and expansion in business, and paves the way for unprecidented opportunities in cultural exchange, which are as likely to kindle a renaissance as they ere to extinguish the unique heritage and identity of a nation. The virtual space of the internet overcomes the physical barriers of distance, allowing for the disseminatian of information and knowledge. Rather than wollowing in depression about the hard graft and difficulties that lie ahead, we Hungarians should look with confidence to what the future holds in store for us, employing the engenuity of inventives for which we are renowned”. (Gusztav Kosztolányi, 12 Feb, 2000)

 

It is also wise, as Mr.Orban states, to remember that progress must be suited to the needs of the nation - it is not wise to neglect the many people who will not benefit from massive technologic and global-marketing - the very people who make it possible to preserwe a way of life that fuels the nation as a whole. Perhaps you may see how ethnic identity is tied into larger contexts. How psychology and Theology can make a difference in peoples lives when it takes an interest in undersrtanding and preserving the best of one's cultural expressions, be it language, various traditions, or the simple sound of a favorite and beloved hymn or song. In the United States and for both Hungarians born here and those which have come here; this song needs to be heard. It must be heard in Hungary as well and for those who live outside its boarders. In the United States there must be continued avenues offered to ethnic Hungarians to grasphold of their customs and keep them alive for their children and themselves a way of life that is so easily by the impact of technology and the need to fit-in and assimilate by newer generations. Churches can ofer this place where one may focus again and regain one's center. The Unitarian heritage has always been progressive while preserving tradition - it has been a bastion in an ever-changing world ­- it has always moved ahead when moving ahead was wise - while never forgetting its past and how that past has and continues to shape its present and future. In the United States it is easy to be anything - it is difficult  sometimes to be something - something unique, something distinguished, ethnic somebody , self-­identity, ethnic identity; etc. In `america' to melt is easy for some. Yet for others, to stand out and preserve a way of life as best one can is important as well. It is important to move forward yet keep in touch with our past. It is important to create a living heritage to pass down to future generations. It is important to have myth, legend, story and narrations of our heritage because they are a reflection of ourselves. For both you and I as pastors , our task is to be a presence in our respective communities - now more than ever. An old Mennonite Hymns states, 'we are alas, like scattered sheep, the Shepherd out of sight'. This is no time to be out of sight when so much is required of us in this world we did not always create. Move forward in this frightening world we did not create - afraid but not alone. Strangers no more so long as you and I remember `who' we are and `what' we are called to become.

 

 

 

Thank you