Hungary’s progressive Christian resistance

Viktor Orbán has tried to buy the loyalty of the churches, but not everyone is selling.

As Hungary’s right-wing strongman Viktor Orbán begins his fourth term as prime minister, a younger generation of Christian leaders is taking up the mantle of resistance. They face long odds: their attempts to organize against authoritarianism are complicated both by infighting and by the government’s dirty tricks.

Hungary is a Central European country of 10 million people; most of them reside in Budapest, the capital on the Danube River. According to the European Parliament, Hungary is no longer a democracy. Experts call it a mafia state and an electoral autocracy. With the help of his political party, Fidesz, Orbán has rewritten the country’s constitution, taken over the judiciary, and turned over entire sectors of the economy to his oligarch friends. By the 2018 election, Fidesz was able to win a 67 percent parliamentary majority with just 49 percent of the vote. He hasn’t gotten rid of elections altogether; he’s rigged the rules so he’ll never lose.

But “mafia state” and “electoral autocracy” don’t give the whole picture, because Orbán has extended his control far beyond elections and the economy. American Christians should be alarmed by Orbán’s manipulation of Hungary’s churches. While Orbán spews hateful rhetoric against refugees, ethnic Roma, and LGBTQ Hungarians, he claims to be making Hungary into a bastion of Christianity in Europe. His rhetoric has won him the allegiance of American right-wing culture warriors like Tucker Carlson. Carlson broadcast from Hungary last year and lauded Orbán’s system. In August, Orbán traveled to Dallas for a headline speaking engagement at the Conservative Political Action Conference.