Pam pointed this article out to me and it is quite cool. Robert Woodberry has done compelling research indicating a connection between non-state supported, conversion focused missionaries and the development of the elements of strong democracies. To quote Woodberry:
Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.
Cool thing is that these conversionary missionaries (Woodberry’s term for evangelistic missionaries) brought with them the desires for social justice and education that led to greater freedom and stability for those countries whose people they were trying to reach. The missionaries’ influence planted the seeds that decolonized the colonies they went to. This speaks of a kingdom priority that was different from the nations the missionaries came from. The article discusses some of the statistics associated with his research. I’m interested enough that I will have to find more that he has written.
You should read the entire article. It is quite interesting. Here’s Christianity Today‘s article discussing Woodberry’s work. I just found Woodberry’s original article here and will be reading it after I finish Miroslav Volf’s Embrace & Exclusion (which could be a while because while it is great, it is also not a page turner).
I would be intrigued to hear what my missionary (talking about you Andy & Arnold) and political science (talking about you Kirby & Clint) friends think about this.