Christianity and Democracy: Past Contributions and Future Challenges
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
Emory International Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 55, Spring 1992
Christianity has made several contributions to democratic ideas, helping to foster a democratic metamorphosis. Social ideas such as equality and freedom, and the idea of limited government that are generally used in democratic institutions have their root in religion. However, democracy has no paradigmatic form. There have been three waves of democracy: first, the American, English, and French Revolutions; second, following World War II in African, Asian, and Latin American countries; third, in the 1970s in African, Latin American, and Eastern European countries.
The Christian church has anticipated and accompanied these democratic waves with democratic waves of their own. First, there was the Protestant wave of democracy in the 17th and 18th centuries in Western European nations and colonies. The Protestan leaders described every person as a prophet, a priest, and a king. Social institutions of family, church, and state were described as divine in origin, but human in organization. These theological doctrines of individual freedom and limited human government were then cast into political forms. The second wave of church democracy involved the missionary wave in the 20th century led by political activists in Africa. These activists created zones of liberty within Africa, then helped restore democracy to Europe and extend democracy overseas. Finally, the Catholic wave of democracy has transformed the Catholic Church’s attitude towards democracy since Vatican II. Religious rights of conscience, worship, and assembly have been emphasized and a balance has been struck between individual and institutional rights.
As Christianity moves into the 21st century, the Christian religion and democracy must complement and challenge each other. Religion and democracy challenge each other in spirit and structure. These two institutions must interact in dialectic harmony to bring out the full potential of each.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: Christianity, democracy, American Revolution, French Revolution, English RevolutionAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: May 26, 2011
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