24.1.PioneeringProt - Christianity and Democracy THE PIONEERING PROTESTANTS Robert D Woodberry and Timothy S Shah Robert D Woodberry is assistant

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
THE PIONEERING PROTESTANTS Robert D. Woodberry and Timothy S. Shah T he authority of Christ,” wrote the Scots Calvinist divine William Graham in 1768, “removes all civil distinctions, and all superiority founded upon such distinctions, in his kingdom. All are upon a level equally, as they shall soon be before the awful tribunal of the great Judge.” 1 This stirring fusion of theology, eschatology, and politics not only characterizes Scottish Calvinism but also says much about the relationship between Protestantism and democracy. As an egalitarian religion profoundly opposed to hierarchy, Protestant Christianity would seem to enjoy a powerful affinity with democracy. If the affinity between Protestantism and democracy is powerful, how- ever, it is not automatic or uncomplicated. History and social science show that Protestantism has contributed to the development of democ- racy, yet they also show that the connections are often far from straightforward. After all, Protestantism has at times countenanced the establishment of brutal regimes and antidemocratic movements: The “righteous” dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell enjoyed the overwhelm- ing support of English Puritans; the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa theologized in defense of apartheid; and while some German Protestants (especially in the Confessing Church) fought Nazism, many others gave Hitler their warm backing. Recently, Protestant evangelicals in the Third World have lent their support to “godly” authoritarians such as former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba. In other words, opposing hierarchy and liberating individual con- sciences in religion does not automatically make one a foe of Robert D. Woodberry is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas–Austin. Much of the research supporting this essay is available from him through [email protected] Timothy S. Shah, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is coeditor of a forthcoming Oxford University Press series on evangelical Protestantism and democracy in the global South. Journal of Democracy Volume 15, Number 2 April 2004 Christianity and Democracy
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Journal of Democracy 48 authoritarianism and a friend of liberty in politics. In fact, some Protes- tants, including founding figures such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, favored authoritarian politics as a means of defending or extending the purity of Reformed doctrines and practices. As Michael Walzer argues, it was precisely a zeal for the comprehensive spiritual purification of society that led some Protestants—particularly Calvinists—to pursue a militant and authoritarian politics in seventeenth-century England, end- ing in Cromwell’s Protectorate. 2
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/28/2011 for the course UGS 302 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

Page1 / 15

24.1.PioneeringProt - Christianity and Democracy THE PIONEERING PROTESTANTS Robert D Woodberry and Timothy S Shah Robert D Woodberry is assistant

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online