Christianity and Politics

4.1. Christianity and politics, contemporary political theologies


The aim of the research is to explore the complex relationship between Christian political thought and modern political ideologies as its rivals. While this relationship is often portrayed as a contrast between Christianity and its secularized versions in international literature, such politico-theological comparison is practically missing from Hungarian scholarship. The present approach tackles the issue from two different angles: on the one hand, it aims to show how Christianity played a crucial role in the formation of such modern political concepts as human rights, the rule of law, or democracy; on the other, it investigates how these concepts have from time to time been appropriated by ideologies which fashioned their conceptual framework in an effort to distance themselves from the Christian heritage. Although presenting some of these ideologies as “secular” or “ersatz” religions is no novelty in academic literature, the mapping of how extensive the analogy is remains largely incomplete. The project therefore covers a variety of ideologies in order to demonstrate their mostly hidden theological features. It should be emphasized, however, that these features have never been “religious” in a general sense but were mostly inherited from the Christian theology they wished to replace, which may also explain the enduring tension between modern political ideologies and the tradition of Christian political thought.

Research question:

The main research question concerns the concept of political theology and its applications. Is it true that “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts”, or should we rather say that all these are “covertly” theological ones? The first claim, made by Carl Schmitt, implies that despite all similarities, there still remains an essential difference between theologies in the “proper” sense and their “secular” counterparts; while the second – coming from the American Catholic theologian William Cavanaugh – suggests that there is no such difference: political ideologies use exactly the same conceptual and argumentative structure as theology does, even if in a manner not easily recognized. The issue can only be decided by taking a closer look at individual examples: from the ideologies of dictatorships to those of democracy and national sovereignty, or the declarations of certain international organizations. Two further sub-questions to be added are: is it necessary for all ideologies to base themselves on an ultimate absolute; and if it is, is this absolute “religious” in general, or is it more specifically embedded in the Western, Christian context?