Protestant missionaries cause democracy

I’ve generally resisted the widespread belief that Protestantism is to blame for democracy, but here at Christianity Today is some evidence for it:  an alleged strong correlation between third world countries being evangelized by Protestants and becoming a democracy.

8 Responses

  1. What an appalling article – cringe-inducing style.

    But I get the feeling that it categorized Anglicanism as Protestant.

    But at this time (post the Oxford Movement – from mid 19th century) the Church of England was substantially Anglo-Catholic, and Anglo Catholics trained and set out very large numbers of missionaries – for example Kelham Hall as set up for this purpose in response to the great demand:

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/kelham-theology-teaching-methods.html

  2. From the article:
    “For [him] to suggest that the missionary movement had this strong, positive influence on liberal democratization—you couldn’t think of a more unbelievable and offensive story to tell a lot of secular academics.”

    Oh, I could think of a more offensive story to tell secular academics…simply by telling this story and then noting that the spread of democracy was a bad thing.

    Still, though, I don’t see how Protestants are more responsible for the spread of democracy than Catholics. There aren’t a lot of Catholic monarchist countries where the sovereign has any actual power, are there? Just Liechtenstein, I think.

  3. Hi Bruce,

    I haven’t read it carefully enough to say, but I’m guessing you’re right. What’s more, I suspect that many alleged Protestant correlations are actually English correlations–England being the main Protestant empire and the epicenter of Whiggery.

  4. Catholics never spread democracy, and they only just recently got out of the explicitly-extemely-anti-democracy game. I’m given to understand Vatican II had a lot to do with that, specifically the typical misreading of Dignitatis Humanae.

  5. France supported every Republican Irish movement that sprung up till World War 1, with Spain they supported the American Revolution, and the only one of her colonies to remain a monarchy is Cambodia. Nor did Simon Bolivar content himself with his own territory. Furthermore, wasn’t it the Italian Renaissance that created the love of the old Roman Republic and Athenian democracies that set the foundation for liberalism’s rise.

  6. It seems Brazil is another good example of the symbiotic nature of Protestant culture and Enlightenment-liberalism. As evangelical Christians convert huge swaths of the population away from “decadent Catholicism” the end result seems to be an American style consumerist society. I think Dr. Charlton, who in a recent post, actually celebrated this fact (claiming that evangelicals are more devote ect). Well what are the fruits of the evangelical’s devoutness in Brazil? Brazil has recently legalized same sex marriage and abortion. I am not saying that they are necessarily direct causes but who can really deny that where Protestant culture took root those same places nowadays seem to be the epicenters of liberalism?

  7. Skeggy,

    While I think Proph was maybe too broad in saying Catholics never supported democracy on the whole, I think we can say that Catholics have been the most consistent in this regard.

    In some of the examples you cite, it should be important to note that the Holy See itself famously opposed the nationalist revolts of Irish and Polish Catholic nationalists, in favor of schismatic and heretical monarchs. Contrary to the narrative of “Tea Party-Catholics,” the Catholic Church has historically been a friend of legitimacy seeing sovereigns as God’s viceroys on earth, even if the monarchs were pagan, heretical or schismatic. The quasi-Catholic German Jurist Carl Schmitt also famously noted this tendency.

    I think it was disastrous for the French and Spanish to support the American revolution, and their mistake came to haunt both of those powers. The French monarchy it should be noted, stupidly supported Protestantism in Germany during the 16th and 17th centuries over and against the Hapsburgs. In regards to America was it a foregone conclusion that America would be a democracy during the revolution? Some of the founders did not think so. Politics makes strange bedfellows I suppose, but France’s ideological pragmatism seems to have directly resulted in its catastrophic revolution. I tend to see the French Revolution as divine punishment on the Bourbons who should have, and perhaps could have reunited Christendom. Instead they frittered away their power in luxury and in disastrous foreign misadventures.

    The origins of Renaissance political ideology is interesting but one could argue that while it was rekindled in Italy, it came to fruition in Protestant countries.

  8. It was not my intent to argue that pro-democracy views are intrinsic to Catholicism. Merely that some of them did sometimes try to spread democracy. Also on the other side it could be mentioned that protestantism lead to absolutist rule in the Scandinavian countries and Prussia.

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