Christianity and democratisation

Christianity and democratisation: From pious subjects to critical participants

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 288
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    Christianity and democratisation
    Book Description:

    This book examines the contribution of different Christian traditions to the waves of democratisation that have swept various parts of the world in recent decades. It offers a historical overview of Christianity’s engagement with the development of democracy, before focusing in detail on the period since the 1970s. Successive chapters deal with: the Roman Catholic conversion to democracy and the contribution of that church to democratisation; the Eastern Orthodox ‘hesitation’ about democracy; the alleged threat to American democracy posed by the politicisation of conservative Protestantism; and the likely impact on democratic development of the global expansion of Pentecostalism. The author draws out several common themes from the analysis of these case studies, the most important of which is the ‘liberal-democracy paradox’. This ensures that there will always be tensions between faiths that proclaim some notion of absolute truth and political orders that are rooted in the idea of compromise, negotiation and bargaining. Written in an accessible style, this book will appeal to students of politics, sociology and religion, and prove useful on a range of advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-261-7
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Christianity and democracy have had a long and sometimes troubled relationship. The roots of political pluralism are often seen as embedded within the Protestant historical experience of Northern Europe and North America, though whether this was a direct consequence of Reformed Christianity is contested. Conversely, the Roman Catholic Church has been depicted as a social institution that sought to halt the development of democracy from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century in Europe and Latin America. Very little attention was paid to the neglected third branch of Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the underlying assumption in this case was...

  5. 2 Democracy and the Christian tradition
    (pp. 17-45)

    Historically Christianity’s relationship with the democratic project has been ambiguous, as its theoretical commitment to the equality of all before God has often come up against an institutional and theological suspicion of a doctrine that appeared to locate sovereignty in the people. Though religious thinkers rarely discussed democracy as such prior to the modern era, from the fourth century onwards the Church’s growing links to state power made it wary of a doctrine that fundamentally challenged existing (and thus God-given) forms of rule. Nonetheless, many writers have made a connection between Christian thought and democratic ideals. In De Gruchy’s words:...

  6. 3 The Catholic ‘third wave’: undermining authoritarianism
    (pp. 46-84)

    In the first part of his 1991 book,The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Samuel Huntington asks the question, ‘What changes in plausible independent variables in most probably the 1960s and 1970s produced the dependent variable, democratizing regime changes in the 1970s and 1980s?’ In response he suggests that there were essentially five key changes: the deepening legitimacy problems of authoritarian regimes, the unprecedented global economic growth of the 1960s which greatly expanded the middle class, changes in both doctrine and practice within the Roman Catholic Church, changes in the policies of important external actors, and what...

  7. 4 The Catholic ‘third wave’: creating a new order
    (pp. 85-128)

    If the focus of the previous chapter was essentially negative, exploring ways in which religious organisations may have helped to undermine authoritarian regimes, the emphasis gradually shifts here to the issue of ‘what happens next’. We shall examine in particular the role of religious leaders, who face the problem of combining prophetic denunciation of injustice with pragmatic concerns about keeping their often divided flock united and maintaining lines of communication with the political order. We then turn to some of the ‘structural-situational’ factors helping to determine religious influence, including the relationship of religious actors to other sectors of civil society...

  8. 5 The Orthodox hesitation: Church, State and nation
    (pp. 129-157)

    As in previous chapters, the first aim of this examination of Eastern Orthodoxy is to tell the story of its engagement with democracy, and then to try and explain what I will describe as the Orthodox ‘hesitation’ about democracy. In most studies of democratisation the relatively poorly known Eastern tradition receives little attention, the default assumption being that Orthodoxy has made little contribution to the removal of authoritarian regimes and that if anything it is more likely to serve as an obstacle to democratisation. More recently, however, scholars such as Alfred Stepan and Elizabeth Prodromou have suggested that there are...

  9. 6 The Orthodox hesitation: the ‘liberal-democracy’ paradox
    (pp. 158-188)

    What has become increasingly clear since the collapse of communism is the fact that much of the Eastern Orthodox ‘hesitation’ about democracy stems from the linkage between democracy and ‘liberalism’. Though in principle willing to accept any form of government, many Orthodox leaders and commentators have begun to argue that democracy has to be adapted to local circumstances, that it should not require that they uncritically accept the liberal assumptions that have come to dominate Western democracies and, in a few cases, that perhaps democracy is not appropriate to their societies. In response liberal critics such as Sabrina Ramet have...

  10. 7 The Protestant ethic revisited: conservative Christianity and the quality of American democracy
    (pp. 189-220)

    We have already discussed the role of Protestantism in facilitating the emergence of democratic ideas and practices, but most of this discussion focused on its role in the period from the Reformation until the mid-nineteenth century. After that, the gradual rise of religious pluralism in North America and much of Europe, alongside the fragmented nature of Protestantism as a religious tradition, meant that its political consequences were sometimes downplayed, especially during the ‘third wave’ which occurred primarily in Catholic-dominated countries. True, Samuel Huntington in his discussion of the ‘third wave’ continued to emphasise the modernising and democratising role of Protestantism,...

  11. 8 The Protestant ethic revisited: the Pentecostal explosion as democratic hindrance or support?
    (pp. 221-246)

    The impact of global Pentecostalism on democratisation is almost as hotly debated as the influence of the Christian Right on the American polity, and in some analyses the two movements are seen as connected. Initial studies tended to assume that Pentecostals were politically conservative and quiescent, inclined to other-worldly values that simply accepted the political order in the countries where they lived and worshipped. Several writers pointed to the support that Pentecostal leaders offered to General Pinochet in Chile, or to the comments of preachers who likened Arap Moi’s Kenya to an earthly version of heaven. Some suggested a link...

  12. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 247-257)

    In this book we have offered a description and analysis of some of the complex interactions between the various Christian traditions and democracy, with a particular emphasis on the democratising processes that have been evident since the mid-1970s. Inevitably, in attempting to cover all of the major communities as they work out their relationship with democracy in many parts of the globe and in very different cultural contexts, we have been forced to paint with a very broad brush and consequently risk superficiality and misunderstanding. Nonetheless, at this stage it is worth summing up what seem to be the key...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 258-268)
  14. Index
    (pp. 269-278)