Most of us consider ourselves both Christians and—regardless of our opinion of Pentagon bureaucracy—democrats. But seldom do we try to relate the one to the other. What connection, if any, exists between Christianity and democracy? And what does the Christian message have to say about our responsibility in a democratic society?
In Huysman’s fin-de-siècle novel Là Bas, which portrays the disillusion and degradation of materialist European society on the eve of the twentieth century, one of the characters says, “Conversations which do not treat of religion or art are so base and vain”; yet not long after, the opinion is expressed concerning the probable victory of a democratic political candidate: “This certainly is the age of universal imbecility.” Obviously no connection is seen here between religion—much less Christianity—and democracy.
The great contemporary political philosopher Sidney Hook takes much the same attitude. In his 1959 work Political Power and Personal Freedom he asks: “Does democracy as a way of life rest upon belief in supernatural religious truths in the sense that, if the latter are denied, the former must necessarily be denied?” And true to his pragmatic philosophy, he answers in the negative: “I shall argue that they constitute neither necessary nor sufficient conditions.”
Upon what grounds is a denial of relation between Christianity and democracy usually based? Two arguments are common: First, democracy preceded Christianity (Greece is the cradle of the democratic state) and was restored to Western civilization through the consciously antiChristian doctrine of the rights of man at the time of the French Revolution; second, that Christianity, as represented by the Church, has historically allied itself ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more