Reformed or not, does it matter for politics?

June 19, 2009

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I found Dr. Grant Havers’ rumination on the relationship between paleoconservatism and Protestantism of interest, though the broad points were not surprising to me. James Kalb at the Traditionalism FAQ notes that “Protestantism often has an uneasy relation to traditionalism,” before adding that “Nonetheless, it is not monolithic and one should distinguish cases.” This is clear from the fact that Mr. Kalb brackets out Anglicanism into its own section from Protestantism more broadly. There are obviously substantive grounds to do this, but it emphasizes that within Protestantism there is a great deal of variation. Though David Hacket Fisher’s thesis in Albion’s Seed is couched in an integrative cultural fashion, it is clear that the “Cavalier” Anglicanism is a distinct Protestant tradition from that of “Puritan” New England. Though I believe that the argument that the Radical Reformation was likely the root of much which is unpalatable, and to be fair, praiseworthy, of the modern world is a strong one, on occasion it seems to me that its opponents claim too much. Years ago I read Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000-Year History (thanks to pointer from Lew Rockwell’s site). An interesting narrative, but it seemed that the author felt that the Reformation was a disaster both because it destroyed the cosmopolitan liberal international order of the medieval world, and, because it ushered in the liberal international order of the modern world!

In any case, instead of offering more opinions on ground well trod, I thought it would be interesting to look at differences between Catholics and Protestants in nations which have a long history of each faction. The World Values Survey has large sample sizes for the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary. These are nations which have a long tradition of both Catholicism and Protestantism, and these confessions do not align with particular ethnic boundaries (both French and German Swiss are Catholic and Protestant). Though there are many variables, I thought it would be informative to look at political self-identification as well as opinions in regards to abortion, a topic where one would assume there might be some difference. In both of these situations individuals could respond on a point scale, so I collapsed them into more compact categories. So for political orientation you see quintiles along Left-Right axis (e.g., Left = 1 and 2, Right = 9 and 10, Center = 5, and so on). For abortion I simply split it between those who leaned toward the practice being unjustifiable and those leaned toward it being justifiable.



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Notes:

1) Dutch Protestantism has suffered a much greater defection rate than Catholicism. There are now more Dutch who identify as Catholics than Protestants, though the category of “Nones” is predominantly Protestant in origin and my personal experience is that these individuals may lack positive religious sentiments, but retain an anti-Catholic stance.

2) Swiss Catholics tend to be more concentrated in rural areas than Swiss Protestants (e.g., the Forest Cantons).

3) Hungarian Protestantism is geographically concentrated in the east of the country.

4) The data is from WVS wave 5, so from 2005.

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