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 and democracy complement each other. Christianity provides democracy with a system of beliefs that integrates its concerns for liberty and responsibility, individuality and community. Democracy provides Christianity with a system of government that balances its concerns for human dignity and depravity, social pluralism and progress. This complementarity has brought Christianity and democracy together, and has placed Christianity in the vanguard of early modern democratic revolutions in the West, and the new wave of democratic revolutions breaking around the world.
Christianity and democracy, however, also challenge each other. Democracy's commitment to religious freedom opens new opportunities to Christianity and challenges the church to extend its mission and ministry. Democracy’s commitment to religious equality forces Christianity to stand on its own feet and on an equal footing with all other religions. Its survival and growth must turn on the cogency of its word, not the coercion of the sword, on the faith of its members, not the force of the law. Christianity, in turn, must challenge democracy to extend its regime against tyrants and autocrats, and to vindicate its inherent promise for peace, justice, and a better life for all. Christianity must also challenge democracy to reform itself. Democracy has stored up many idols in its short life -- the proud cults of progress and freedom, the blind beliefs of materialism and technologism, the desperate faiths of agnosticism and nihilism. Democracy has done much to encourage a vulgar industrialization that reduces both human beings and natural resources to fungible and expendable economic units. It has done much to impoverish the already poor, to marginalize the already marginal, to exploit the already exploited -- all along promising them a better life. Christianity must work to exorcise the idols of democracy and to continually drive democracy to purge and reform itself.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: Christianity; democracy; American Revolution; French Revolution; English Revolution; third wave of democracy; human nature; religious freedom; human rights; liberty; equality; Roman Catholicism; Protestantism; Africa; North America; Western Europe
Date posted: May 26, 2011 ; Last revised: October 3, 2014