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More and more sociologists and self-identified progressive church leaders have relegated the role of religion to the past. I’ve felt the tug of their influence. Maybe you have, too.

New findings show that we have been too quick in kicking religion to the curb.

A Marxist Economist’s Observations

Clayton Christensen, a former Harvard professor, relates the story of one of his foreign students – a Chinese economist studying democracy and capitalism at Harvard.

Christensen asked him if he had learned anything on these topics that was surprising or unexpected. His response was quite profound:  “I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy and capitalism.”clay christensen2

Religion and Democracy

Around the globe, it is democratic meltdowns, not democratic revolutions, that are now the norm. The “Arab Spring” saw Tunisia and Egypt’s attempts at democracy fall short. From Russia to Venezuela to Thailand, countries that once appeared to be developing into democracies today seem headed in the other direction.

Unless there was already a strong, democracy-enabling religion – those that support the sanctity of life, the equality of people, the importance of respecting others’ property, and of personal honesty and integrity – democracy fails.

Alexis de Tocqueville and Democracy

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, was sent to America by the French government to study its prison system. He spent nine months in America, long enough for the gestation of his two-volume classic, “Democraalex de Tocquevillecy in America.”

De Tocqueville informed his fellow Europeans that “there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.” Education, customs, manners and law were all reflective of a Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

For over a century European philosophers had explained the decay of religion as necessary for the extension of liberty and knowledge.

Two centuries later, similar voices are on the rise about the robust future of North American culture as a result of the decay of religion.

After viewing the video below, think about the trends you see around you in North American culture. What might the future hold for democratic nations?

Clayton Christensen was the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, with a joint appointment in the Technology and Operations Management and General Management faculty groups. He was a Mormon in his faith.

What do you think about Clayton’s conversation? What do you see happening in North American culture when it comes to religion, morality and governance? Please join the conversation below.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers


  • Wayne Loe says:

    Bob, in 1976 Francis Schaefer published his landmark book on the rise and decline of western thought and culture. It was titled How should We Then Live. It influenced me shortly after I became a Christian myself that same year.
    The observations noted here in your post are well documented in Schaefer’s work, beginning with the Roman Empire through to the Scientific age and onward. It’s Works like these that at least a few Christians need to be aware of.
    Even in our responsibility to vote, as citizens we need to understand the worldview behind the political platforms and agendas. This is generally not the case. I see this in Canada and even lately in our provincial politics. However our Bible Colleges and seminaries can at least be part of the solution I think

  • Bob Jones says:

    I remember watching Schaefer’s “films” in 1978 when I was in Bible College. I’ll look back at his content. Thank you for reading and joining the conversation and the work to reverse the trend. Far too often Christian influence today is about critical words about the culture rather than godly action in the culture.

  • Patricia hilpert says:

    My husband passed away a little over a month ago … I never thought I could ecperience this tremendous grief. He was a larger than life person … he mentored many pincluding me

  • Bob Jones says:

    So sorry to hear about your husband, Patricia. The loss must be unimaginably hard for you. I hope you have people close to you who hold you close.

  • Ernie Pudwill says:

    Very interesting perspective by Clayton Christensen and one that has a lot of merit. It made me immediately stop and consider whether I thought this to be an influencing factor in what appears to be an assault on democracy in today’s society. I look at the United States of America and shutter at the demonstration of undemocratic values within their society and their government. Meanwhile many are leaving their institutions of religion and becoming more secular. Never thought of that as a connection.
    But…here in Canada we are not so far behind the United States. There is an erosion of values within government and society that has many people stopping to scratch their heads. Doubt many of us considered what Clayton Christensen has to say.

  • Bob Jones says:

    I like your perspective, Ernie. Often we fail to understand what makes a society successful. The linchpin is sometimes the piece that gets removed because it is perceived as a hindrance not a help. A bit like kite string. A kite falls when the string is cut. What holds it “down” keeps it up. Religion has its oppressive side. It’s easy to see how it would be seen as holding a society back. Canada has never been a Christian nation. It has been shaped by Judaeo-Christian values. The Protestant and Catholic religions have their good and bad sides to them. Secularism has thrown the baby out with the bath water.

  • Adena Lowry says:

    With eroding christian values it is no wonder democracy is on the verge of decay as well. Super interesting.

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