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CHAPTER 27. Protestantism and Politics, Economics, and Sociology

J. Philip Wogaman

Subject Economics, Politics, Religion, Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405157469.2003.00030.x


In relating Protestantism to sociopolitical thought and development, one is struck by a paradox: Protestant churches, movements, and thinkers have played and continue to play important roles on all sides of most issues. Protestantism was a significant influence in the development of modern capitalism, but was also important in the evolution of socialist thought. Protestantism has been a major force in the struggle against racism, but it also helped provide legitimation for racial segregation and apartheid. Protestantism has been a principal support for pacifism, but it has also been in league with nationalistic movements and war efforts of one kind or another. Protestantism has encouraged human rights and political democracy, but it has in some instances been a factor in the emergence of totalitarianism. Protestantism has been on both sides in the great debates over abortion and homosexuality that have troubled Western societies in recent years. Why the paradox? As a preliminary observation, the very fact that Protestantism was a movement toward religious freedom made it also a force toward religious and social pluralism . Roman Catholicism was never as monolithic as often supposed, but as a revolt against the authoritarian tendencies in that faith tradition, Protestantism could be expected to produce a rich variety of ecclesial styles and teachings. It may be a mistake to attribute ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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