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, offering an 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 which proclaim some notion of absolute truth and political order, and which are also rooted in the ideas of compromise, negotiation and bargaining.
This chapter presents a brief digression on the traditional pro-authoritarian tendencies of the Catholic Church, reporting a series of critiques of social, economic and political injustice that challenged authoritarianism. The practical measures aimed at supporting the development of ‘civil society’ are addressed. It is noted that while the voices for social justice and human rights were strong, both religious ‘radicals’ and ‘conservatives’ were sometimes quiet in their support for liberal democracy. The Catholic Church was the dominant voice in many countries, and others were active in defending human rights. The forefront in most ‘third wave’ countries was the Roman Catholic Church, which promoted a broader understanding of social justice and human rights. Religious institutions provide physical symbols and rituals that offer a focus for resistance to the oppressors but also allow religious consolation in the face of oppression and give some sense that the sacrifices are not in vain.
This chapter covers the advent of Christianity. Particular emphasis is placed on the real and imagined Protestant contribution to the evolution of democratic politics; the post-revolutionary Roman Catholic reaction and opposition to democracy; and the mid-twentieth-century Vatican conversion to the merits of democracy. One of the products of the Reformation was religious fragmentation. The debates of significance for future democratic development are explained. Religion plays a key role in ensuring the survival of the young republic and the maintenance of a civil polity. The Christian Church tends to lose sight of its original egalitarian impulses and to take on board the hierarchical and monarchical characteristics of the temporal order with which it has co-existed and which it has come to legitimate. The Catholic Church in many developing countries has shifted its position from defender of authoritarian rule to promoter of human rights and democracy.
This book presents a synthesis of existing work and offers new insights into the engagement of Christian traditions with the democratic experiment, concentrating specifically on countries in the process of transition to a democratic order or those that might be prospective candidates for democratisation in the future. There are some core defining features of ‘democracy’. Some Christian groups would raise questions about the necessary separation of Church and State. There will almost certainly be occasions when the teachings of the churches come into conflict with the political or societal consensus. The reasons for the changing Catholic attitude towards democracy lay in religious change that affected the ideas and actions of national hierarchies. The approaches in explaining religious activism are explored. The book can hopefully offer a resource for those interested in exploring and thinking more about the complex relationship between Christianity and democracy.
This chapter investigates the role of individual leaders and the peculiarly Catholic transnational dimension in bringing about change, and some of the ways in which religious organisations contributed to the negotiation of transition. It explores how Catholic hierarchies and churches have coped with the realities of democratic politics. The ability of the Catholic Church to play the ‘defender of the nation’ role was aided by the fact that the ‘occupying’ power was perceived to be of a different religious tradition. The process of democratic consolidation is explored. In most of the ‘third wave’ countries, the dominant religious institutions have made public their commitment to democratic politics and acceptance of democratic norms. The limits of religious contributions to democratic consolidation are then assessed. The hegemonic theory and rational choice theory perhaps offer slightly more insight into why national hierarchies adopted a primarily supporting or constraining position with regard to political change.
This chapter examines the developments in Anglo-Protestant culture, with particular reference to its likely consequences for the evolution of American democracy. The factors contributing to the emergence of the Christian Right correspond to those underlying the wider rise of political religion in various parts of the world. The Christian Right threatened American democracy. It promotes a socially conservative agenda. The argument of the Christian Right is that post-war ‘judicial tyranny’ has reinterpreted the First Amendment in such as way as to distort the intention of the founders by creating ever-larger hurdles to religious involvement in politics. There is an interesting parallel between Samuel Huntington's argument that Anglo-Protestant culture is somehow central to American identity and Christian Right claims that good governance requires Christian input into the political process. Christian Right leaders are concerned with their loss of power and authority.
This chapter addresses liberalism and pluralism. It explains how traditionally dominant churches have handled the acceptance of a wider range of sexual difference, with the focus on homosexuality, and the growth of religious free markets. The chapter then investigates the role of Orthodoxy in civil-society-building in Russia and the experience of minority Orthodox communities in the USA. For all religious institutions, the pluralism associated with democratic political orders creates real problems. It is suggested that Eastern Orthodoxy has struggled with the democratic experiment in countries where it has traditionally been dominant. An impressionistic survey of the Orthodox experience in America largely mirrors that of the much larger Catholic community. The Russian Orthodox Church's political presence and anti-pluralist stance in a context of incomplete or ‘managed’ democratisation has been one of a number of factors that have hindered the full acceptance of social and political pluralism in Russia.
This chapter discusses the engagement of the Orthodox tradition with democratic ideas, specifically assessing the issues relating to the relationship of the Orthodox Church to the State and to the nation. Orthodox churches have been able to live with a variety of political regimes. The traditionally dominant Orthodox churches tend to look to the past, focusing at the institutional level on developing close ties with the State and arguing that this was perfectly legitimate in countries where the majority of the population identified, however loosely, with the Orthodox tradition. The chapter also shows that Orthodox churches have to some degree sought special rights in terms of access to education, some degree of state funding and provision of religious support in prisons, hospitals and army units. The Orthodox churches have been hampered by the more limited range of theological and intellectual resources dealing with socio-political issues.
This chapter investigates some of the political implications of the global Pentecostal phenomenon. It then turns to the claim that the movement essentially acts as an apolitical, conservative force in societies where it is successful. The chapter also concentrates more on Pentecostal engagements with the public realm and the extent to which these can be said to be promoting or hindering democratic development. Several studies show the shift towards authoritarianism that affects many Pentecostal groups as charismatic leaders. Pentecostalism provides women with a sense of community and belonging. Its long-term impact might be the promotion of a liberal-capitalist and democratic ethos, and it is more likely to be found in the ranks of the forces favouring globalisation than those resisting its more questionable impacts. Pentecostalism might encourage the sort of work ethic that might promote liberal capitalism.
This chapter aims to tell the story of how the Christian churches have responded to democracy. There can be little doubt that during the ‘third wave’, the Catholic Church did become an institution which tended to support those arguing for an end to the abuse of human rights and the bringing down of authoritarian regimes. The Roman Catholic Church may not have been the primary contributor to democratic governance in Latin America. The question of the political implications of the Pentecostal explosion ties in with a second issue that relates to what has been called the ‘southernisation’ of Christianity, as the traditional ‘West’ ceases to represent the core of the ‘Christian world’. Over the last half century, Christianity has had to engage with the democratic experiment as never before.