Churches and politics: the case of Budakeszi

While the Catholic church has close ties to the Fidesz, the Hungarian Reformed (Calvinist) Church has a few prominent churchmen who have a soft spot for the antisemitic, far right, nationalistic MIÉP (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja). You can learn more about the MIÉP in English here:

Among those who got a bit too involved with the MIÉP were the father and son duo, Lóránt Hegedűs and Lóránt Hegedűs, Jr. The elder Hegedűs until 2002 was the bishop of the Danube region (the center of which is Budapest). His presence became such an embarrasment to the church that the synod, in order to get rid of him, simply changed the retirement age from seventy-five to seventy, having Hegedűs’s age very much in mind. His supporters collected signatures on his behalf, but the church’s synod didn’t change its mind. But there is the son who is just as active as ever. He is no bishop, but he is the minister of an important downtown Budapest church. Although between 1998 and 2002 he became a member of parliament as a delegate of the MIÉP, he didn’t have to resign his job as minister. At one point he was sued for antisemitic writings, but the Hungarian courts didn’t find him guilty. His supporters triumphantly carried him on their shoulders from the courtroom.

Well, the family is large and although the younger Lóránt no longer can spread the word in parliament but only in his church, he has a wife who is deputy mayor of Budakeszi, a picturesque suburb of Budapest in the Buda Mountains. Budakeszi is becoming, thanks to the presence of the Hegedűs family, a stronghold of the extreme right. If you want to know more about the town in English the town has a home page (in Hungarian, English and German). The English version can be found here:

I became aware that something was brewing in Budakeszi about a year ago when I read about the unveiling of a monument that is supposed to be a statue of the Hungarian national anthem. It is the most awful looking hodge-podge one can imagine. It even includes the face of God itself. How does God get into the picture? Ah, the Hungarian national anthem is called "Himnusz," that is, it is a religious hymn, a prayer to God to look kindly on the Hungarians. Here is a picture of the National Anthem Statue for all to see:

But it seems that this statue was not enough. A couple of days ago an apostolic double cross was set up to memorialize Keszi, one of the original seven migrating Hungarian tribes that settled in the Carpathian basin in the ninth century. It is possible that today’s Budakeszi was the center of their settlement. The new statue doesn’t get history quite right. St. Stephen received the apostolic double cross from the pope; it was a symbol of Christianity. But the text under the new sculpture of the apostolic double cross is in an alphabet that the Hungarians used prior to the introduction of Christianity. One can see this alphabet here: Once Christianity was introduced in Hungary, the priests, viewing the old "rovás írás" (notch writing) as a remnant of paganism, tried everything to stop its use. Oops! History is obviously not a strong point of the Hegedűs family,

At the unveiling, to make things worse, a group of young extremists lowered the official Hungarian flag and in its place hoisted the so-called Árpád flag. The Árpáds, the first kings of Hungary reigning until the beginning of the fourteenth century, never used this flag; it was used only by later kings. However, this flag in a modified form was picked up by the Hungarian Nazi movement, the Arrowcross party. Admittedly, only the background is the same, but the extreme right groups chose this flag not because of the Árpáds but because of the hungarist movement of Ferenc Szálasi. Apparently, the young Hegedűs even blessed this flag.

It is hard to estimate the strength of the extreme right in Hungary, but it is somewhat worrisome that a town votes for people like Mrs. Hegedűs whose political views must be very well known to the people of the town although cleverly she didn’t run as a MIÉP candidate but as a representative of a local civil organization. Otherwise, as can be seen from the local election results, the town’s council is solidly on the right, with one or two socialist/liberal members from the "compensation" list. For those who are interested: