Christian Democracy

Christian democracy is an understudied and often overlooked political ideology that has roots in 18th-century Europe. It is considered neither conservative nor liberal - but because it borrows ideas and principles from both the conservatism and liberalism camps of political thought, Christian democracy is often difficult to categorise ideologically. 

Get started Sign up for free
Christian Democracy Christian Democracy

Create learning materials about Christian Democracy with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Contents
Table of contents

    So, without further ado, let's dive in!

    Christian Democracy Definition

    Christian Democracy

    At its core, Christian Democracy is a political ideology that attempts to reconcile religion with modernity (liberal democracy), whilst aligning its view of social justice with traditional Christian values of the past.

    Christian Democracy Ideology

    The ideas of the Christian democracy movement originated in Europe during the mid-19th century. During that period it was closely associated with Roman Catholicism and was particularly influential in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. The movement believed that human dignity, which, in its eyes was a unique quality ordained by God, was best achieved through political pluralism and Christian social teachings

    One of the more unique aspects of Christian democracy is that it is an ideology that cannot be easily categorized, as it advocates for both a conservative-minded society based on Christian values and progressive ideas like the establishment of the welfare state.

    Political pluralism

    Political pluralism is a political philosophy that believes peaceful coexistence can be achieved by recognising the diverse nature of a political body and including all in the political process.

    The following table further illustrates Christian democracy's diverse political positions:

    SupportsOpposes
    State economic intervention on behalf of communities in need (social welfare)State intervention in education/social life
    Concept of private property Socialism
    Reserving some role for the state in religious affairsIndividualist value system associated with political liberalism and laissez-faire economics
    Traditional Christian family valuesAtheism

    The History of Christian Democracy

    The foundational ideas, principles, and beliefs underpinning Christian democracy began to form following the French Revolution. As you will see in the next section, the Catholic Church played an important role in shaping many of the ideas and principles that would later become part of the Christian democracy movement.

    The Catholic Church

    After the end of the French Revolution, the Catholic Church maintained a position that radically opposed the rise of democracy. The Church not only viewed democracy as a threat but viewed democracy as being antithetical to its values and rejected out of hand the notion of the separation of church and state. It was especially opposed to the French idea of a head of state deriving authority from the people and not God. In fact, in 1861, Pope Pius XI went as far as to declare that this move toward democracy was not only a mistake, but the notion of the Church even attempting to reconcile its beliefs and values with democracy was also a mistake.

    However, during the latter half of the 18th century it became clear that with the rise of liberal democracy across Europe, the Church faced the risk of being marginalised politically. It knew that if it had any hope of retaining any influence within society, it would have to shift its strategy and carve out a role for itself within the framework of newly formed democratic institutions. Recognising its precarious position, the Church slowly began to reconcile its beliefs with the changing times.

    European Constitutions and the Welfare State

    This shift in the Church's strategy started to pay dividends for Christian democracy by the beginning of the 20th century. Political scientist Carlo Invernizzi Accetti points out that it was Christian democrats that are credited with drafting the constitutions of several countries in continental Europe. For example, it was Christian democrats that drafted Germany's first constitution, which contains both Christian values and basic human rights principles. The rationale behind incorporating these principles into constitutions was to constrict or inhibit the autonomy and self-governing power of the people. This is because, during the inter-war period, Christian democrats recognised that unstable democracy could lead to the growth of dangerous ideologies such as fascism and Nazism. As such, by enshrining these principles in European constitutions, they provide judicial bodies the right to restrict elected majorities from infringing on the basic human rights principles found in the constitution.

    Welfare State

    Christian democracy is also credited with establishing the concept of the welfare state in continental Europe. A key difference is that whilst the welfare states established in the countries of northern Europe are based on principles of equality, the Christian democracy welfare states established in places like Italy and Germany are based on an organic conception of society in which the various segments of society have different functions and roles to play. If these segments are unable to fulfill their roles in society, then the state must intervene and provide the assistance they need to fulfill their roles. The rationale behind this more conservative idea of social welfare was to maintain harmony among the social classes and to prevent revolution.

    Christian Democracy Painting of the Storming of the Bastille StudySmarterFig. 1 - French Revolution-Storming of the Bastille

    Christian Democracy - Political Compass

    In order to see the political compass within Christian democracy, we can look to specific examples of the ways in which contemporary Christian democracy advocates a return to a society that is more in tune with Christian values. We will also look at how Christian democrats lean with regard to economic policies. It is important to note that not all Christian democrats will necessarily agree or disagree on the same things and have an identical political compass.

    Opposition to Abortion Rights

    Christian Democrats are unequivocally pro-life with regard to arguments surrounding abortion. While there are some cases in which it’s acceptable, generally Christian Democracy advocates for a view of retaining life. This is also in line with other life-retaining policies such as opposing assisted dying and the death penalty.

    Strict Law and Order

    Christian Democracy advocates for strict laws against the use and distribution of drugs, as part of a socially conservative viewpoint and support of the individual’s duty to their community.

    Support of Traditional Family Structure

    Christian Democracy advocates for the Christian structure of the family; meaning marriage between a man and a woman (rejection of LGBT+ relationships and marriage), and children being born within wedlock.

    Economic Policies that Support the Greater Community

    Christian Democrats support neither an unregulated market nor a market heavily influenced by the State. The solution is a strong welfare state that can safeguard the individual, as well as an idea called a social market economy. A social market economy is an economy that strikes the balance between the rights of businesses and individuals, where businesses cannot form monopolies and go unchecked by a lack of regulation. A social market economy doesn’t attempt to guide production in any way like a communist economy might. However, it doesn’t allow for unchecked market powers. It would safeguard the individual and attempt to fulfill the needs of everyone through some regulation and a strong welfare system.

    Opposition to Secularism and Individuality

    As we have touched upon already, Christian Democracy opposes the separation of the Church and State and sees the individualisation of society as being harmful to the greater good. Christian Democrats believe that the individual has a responsibility to the community as it is relied upon by the individual. This also applies to policies surrounding climate change, where Christian Democrats believe that it is humanity’s duty to protect the Earth and support its natural functioning.

    Christian Democracy Strengths and Weaknesses

    Like most ideologies, Christian democracy possesses its share of strengths and its share of weaknesses. The table below highlights some of the most salient aspects of this political movement.

    Strengths

    Weaknesses

    Places an emphasis on involvement in the community

    Some views don't align with modern-day societal thinking which can lead to tension between communities

    Recognises constitutional democracy as the only political model in which the fundamental values of Christian Democracy can be achieved

    Because Christian democracy does not fit squarely in the ideological categories of left and right there can be conflict within the party among Christian democrats themselves

    Takes a pragmatic approach in associating liberal ideas with conservative values and Christian social ethics

    The approach to a social market economy doesn't guide production in a way laissez-faire policies might

    Christian Democracy Examples

    Christian democratic parties can be found in several countries throughout the world. How does the ideology manifest in the modern-day? Next, we will briefly highlight a few of the more prominent examples of Christian Democratic parties in Germany and Chile.

    The Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

    The second-largest political party in Germany and the party of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, the CDU is a Christian Democratic party that works as a catch-all for many Christians.

    The party represents Christian conservatives as well as liberals and socialists, making it a powerful political force that can work with a larger voter base to gain influence. The party led the Federal German Government most recently from 2005 - to 2021, and its policies were in line with what we have described earlier: social issues were seen to be more conservative, with the economic emphasis being on a free-market economy with a strong welfare state. Chancellor Merkel was seen to be someone that represented a broad range of voices, echoing the party’s self-description as being Volkspartei, or the People’s Party.

    Christian Democracy Angela Merkel StudySmarterFig. 2 - Angela Merkel

    The Christian Democratic Party of Chile (CDP)

    The CDP of Chile is a part of the ruling coalition in Chile currently, and they have had three presidents elected since 1964. In South America, Christian Democracy can be said to be more ‘left-leaning’ than in Europe, having been partly influenced by Liberation Theology which seeks to liberate the poor from exploitation and oppression. The CDP of Chile looks to combine socialist values with the free market, echoing their European counterparts but with more of a focus on Christian ethics, such as recently opposing on-demand abortions.

    Christian Democracy - Key Takeaways

      • Christian Democracy is a political ideology that attempts to reconcile religion with modernity (liberal democracy), whilst aligning its view of social justice with traditional Christian values of the past.
      • Christian Democracy along with the Catholic Church had to shift its position on modernity if it wanted to avoid being politically marginalised.
      • Christian Democrats lean left economically but right socially.
      • Rejecting secularism, Christian Democracy advocates for a combined church and state.
      • The individual is seen to have a moral duty towards their community under Christian Democracy.
      • The free market is still supported, however, government regulation and a strong welfare state feature heavily in a Christian Democracy.
      • Socially, communities should be made up of strong, traditional families through marriage, and on-demand abortion is usually prohibited if not strongly discouraged.
      • Economically, Christian Democracy looks to bridge the gap between the free markets and socialised markets that are controlled by the state. This is called a social market economy.

    References

    1. Fig. 2 - Angela Merkel - CDU Fulda 2017 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angela_Merkel_-_CDU_Fulda_2017.jpg) by Bernd Zucker (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Mr._Anonym_500&action=edit&redlink=1) licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    Christian Democracy Christian Democracy
    Learn with 0 Christian Democracy flashcards in the free StudySmarter app

    We have 14,000 flashcards about Dynamic Landscapes.

    Sign up with Email

    Already have an account? Log in

    Frequently Asked Questions about Christian Democracy

    What is unique about Christian democracy?

    One of the more unique aspects of Christian democracy is that it is an ideology that cannot be easily categorized, as it advocates for both a conservative-minded society based on Christian values and progressive ideas like the establishment of the welfare state.

    What was the Catholic Church's position on democracy after the French Revolution?

    The Catholic Church maintained a position that radically opposed the rise of democracy. The Church not only viewed democracy as a threat but viewed democracy as being antithetical to its values and rejected out of hand the notion of the separation of church and state. It was especially opposed to the French idea of a head of state deriving authority from the people and not God. 

    What is the Christian democracy ideology?

    At its core, Christian Democracy is a political ideology that attempts to reconcile religion with modernity (liberal democracy), whilst aligning its view of social justice with traditional Christian values of the past. 

    What is Christian democracy credited with?

    Christian Democrats are credited with drafting the constitutions of several countries in continental Europe, as well as the conception of the welfare state. 

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Politics Teachers

    • 10 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner