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Christianity and Democracy

GCF supports religious liberty for all religions that promote peaceful co-existence between individuals.  Of course, throughout American history, Christianity has played a leading role in sustaining our democracy.  Christian values have served as the foundation of civic life in America and have inspired millions to serve their fellow citizens. During the first half of the twentieth century, Christians and their church communities provided most of the social, educational, and health services present in American life. Unfortunately, during the second half of the twentieth century, the government expanded into these areas and many faith-based groups were pushed to the sidelines.

Absent a healthy respect for the vital role that Christians and other people of faith play in creating voluntary associations that serve those in need, the fate of American civic life hangs in the balance. This is especially the case as depleted government budgets result in the reduction or elimination of social welfare programs.

In regard to the symbiotic relationship between Christianity and democracy, GCF is inspired by the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America and to the writings of the French-Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. During the middle of the 20th century, Maritain wrote many books in which he warned about the radical secularization of American and European societies and explained the ways in which Christianity is essential to democracy.  In 2006, GCF Founder Jim Kelly published Christianity, Democracy, and the American Ideal, a collection of writings from the works of Jacques Maritain organized around modern-day themes of social, spiritual, and political importance. Some of Maritain’s observations include:

•    The primary concern of political society is to develop the conditions of human life, which will enable each person to be positively aided in the pursuit of his spiritual freedom and completion.

•    Social scientific planning, which deals with the means of human life, fails to take into account the ends of human life. Without religion, a scientific approach to social order is unable to meet the demands of the democratic faith such as freedom, love, and justice.

•    The common good aids in the development of citizens and is the foundation for authority in society. It requires the development of virtues in the mass of citizens.

•    The practical principles forming the common good include a multitude of personal, political, and social rights and duties of persons who are part of a family society. Though citizens can agree on the practical principles of the common good, they cannot be required to abandon the various philosophical or religious creeds upon which they base their agreement.

•    Christians should not have to separate their private religious life from their public activities. By participating in a democratic society, citizens can integrate the natural and supernatural and complete themselves in service to the common good.

•    Small groups, which are able to embrace love of wisdom and of the intellect, have always been the ones who performed the great work.

•    The presence in America of a multitude of voluntary associations has enhanced the notion of community and increased the charitable spirit of the nation.

•    Christian-inspired political initiatives are more likely to take a long-range view toward social action and transform society through respect and love for the person.

•    Religion can make an authoritative intervention in politics for the protection of the spiritual good, but should never surrender its independence by linking itself to a particular political party.