Missionaries & Democracy

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.

One Reply to “Missionaries & Democracy”

  1. Robert: I would also want to read up before I say a lot of things. I can see how they correlate but I am not sure we can say which one causes the other. These things I can say:
    1. Rodney Stark has done a lot of research in this area, his books would be a good place to look. He traces the growth of Christianity from the 1st century to Constatine in fascinating ways.
    2. For this to really be a historical factor you have to reach the tipping point in a society, many consider that to be 15% of the adult population, the indigenous church needs to be at least at 2% and moving towards 15% for this to even be concievable. So this has to be followed up before we can make broad conclusions.
    3. Christianity rightly followed makes a difference in society, Christianity done wrong can harm the work for hundreds of years.
    I am looking forward to checking all this out. There are many ways what is being said could be true, but right now I just am not informed enough to comment.

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